a holiday to-do list & nutella-stuffed pumpkin spice biscotti

did you guys know there's only 98 days until christmas?!?!  i realize it's difficult to get in the mood for the holidays so soon, especially when it's still 90 degrees outside... but let's face it, they will be here before we know it!  besides the obvious, like gift shopping, there's plenty you can do right now to prepare for the holidays and prevent scrambling around at the last minute.  i myself, have been guilty in years past of procastinating when it comes to things like meal planning and decorating.  while sometimes those things are inevitable... i came up with a short list to help get a head start on preparing for the holidays:

  • begin the deep cleaning process:  if you're hosting family for the holidays, you can start tackling someof those deep-cleaning projects, like cleaning your baseboards and blinds.  you can also pull out those old quilts in your linen closet and give them a good wash with some febreeze-infused detergent to get rid of that stale closet smell.
  • seasons greetings:  now is usually the time i begin to think about our annual christmas card photo.  my husband and i have so much fun coming up with a new idea for our christmas card picture each year.  start thinking of ideas now (pinterest is a very helpful tool if you need some inspiration), and browse different card layouts as well.  the photo/card process can take several weeks to complete, so getting this out of the way now can be a real time saver.  paperless post has so many cute, original, and reasonable options (including my favorites from rifle paper co.)!  they offer online and paper cards.  i'm old fashioned and like to send the paper cards via snail mail.  in fact, i even ordered our thanksgiving dinner invites from paperless post, and can't wait to get them in the mail and send them out to family!
  • tie up loose ends:  again, if you're hosting family... now is the time to wrap up those summer projects you began, or fix any broken household fixtures.  go ahead a get that piano tuned, or have that nonfunctioning sink in the guest bathroom fixed!  my own personal goal is to finish sanding/staining an antique china cabinet by the end of this month (yah... it's been sitting in my garage since last november).   
  •  shop for yourself first:  order your decor now (yes... it's already in the stores).  i can't tell you how many times i've been to the store several weeks before christmas, and they've been sold out of the particular lights, garland, or decorations i needed.  chances are, you already know what your "wants" are (and if you don't, start brainstorming), so go ahead and make those purchases now.  this will allow you have everything you need out to the way, so when it comes down to it, you can begin to budget and focus on what you would like to purchase for your family and friends.
  •  practice your recipes:  for those recipes that you haven't made many times before, you may want to use this low-stress time to practice making some of them.  this may seem like overkill, but to me, there's no worse feeling than having your name behind a dish that leaves something to be desired.  don't get caught with your pants down at your holiday dinner... get your apron on now and start experimenting!  as one of my yearly christmas traditions, i like to bake various types of biscotti to give to friends and family.  i figured i would brush up on my biscotti-baking skills with this delicious fall recipe... nutella-stuffed pumpkin spice biscotti (if you know me at all, you will know i'm a freak for nutella, and try to incorporate it into as many recipes as i can)! 


 preheat oven to 350 degrees.  mix the butter, granulated sugar, spices, baking powder, and salt until smooth and creamy.  beat in the egg and pumpkin until blended.  on a slow speed, add the flower until the dough is smooth and sticky.

scoop the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. 

press the dough into a 8x12 inch rectangle (sprinkle with flour to prevent dough from sticking). 

spread the nutella in a 10x4 inch rectangle in the middle of the dough. 

 fold one side over to the middle (parchment paper may be helpful with the folding/flipping process).

 fold the other side, so that it slightly overlaps the first fold.

 press to seal the seams on the top and ends of the loaf.

 flip the loaf over, so the seam is facing down.  i placed mine diagonally on the pan to allow room for expansion during the baking process.  sprinkle the top of the loaf with the raw cane sugar.

 gently press the sugar into the loaf.

bake the loaf for 25 minutes.  remove from oven and lower the oven temp to 325 degrees.  after cooling the loaf for 5 minutes, slice diagonally into 1" slices with a sharp serrated knife.  *tip: the corner pieces that don't contain any nutella make great dog treats  :)

place each piece side-down and bake for 20 minutes.  remove from oven and flip so that the opposite side is down.  bake for another 15 minutes.

remove from oven and allow to cool.  enjoy! 

nutella-stuffed pumpkin spice biscotti
makes approximately 20 pieces of large biscotti


4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4-1/2 cup nutella
1/4 cup raw cane sugar


  • preheat oven to 350 degree.  lightly grease and flour a large baking sheet (only lighty flour if you're using a silpat).
  • in your mixer, beat the softened butter, sugar, spices, baking powder, and salt until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  • beat in the egg and pumpkin purée. at low speed of your mixer, add the flour, stirring until smooth; the dough will be sticky.
  •  scoop the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  press out into a 12×8-inch rectangle with your hands (sprinkling with four as you work to prevent the dough from sticking).  spread the nutella down the middle, leaving a 1-inch border on the 8-inch sides and about a 2-inch border on the 12-inch sides.  fold the top and lower sections of dough towards the center, overlapping the edges in the middle.  pinch the edges and seal the sides.  carefully flip it over, seam side down onto the prepared cookie sheet.

  • sprinkle the top with the raw cane sugar, pressing it in gently.
  • bake for 25 minutes, and remove from oven. reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees.
  •  wait 5 minutes, then use a sharp serrated knife to cut the log crosswise into 3/4" to 1" slices. (i like to cut the biscotti on the diagonal, for fewer, longer biscotti.  also, i think it looks fancier).  as you're slicing, be sure to cut straight up and down, perpendicular to the pan.   (*if the top is slightly "puffy" or if there is a bit of a gap between the layers, gently push down on the top of the loaf, to seal the layers back together).

  • place each piece of biscotti on it's side back onto the baking pan, and return to the oven for 20 minutes.  remove from oven, flip the biscotti opposite side down, and return to the oven for 15 more minutes.
  • remove the biscotti from the oven, and allow to cool. store airtight at room temperature for several days.


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