Healthy version of cassoulet with flavor and comfort

This October 26, 2015 photo shows lightened cassoulet in Concord, NH. This recipe evokes some of the comfort of a classic French cassoulet, without quite so much heft. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

If you’ve ever spent any winter time in France, you’ve undoubtedly indulged in what I consider the ultimate comfort food of the French — cassoulet.

Reach for prepared pie crusts with confidence

This October 19, 2015 photo shows apple tart with cinnamon creme fraiche in Concord, NH. When you add a little sugar and cinnamon to creme fraiche, it turns this tart into something that feels restaurant-fancy. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

I am an unabashed fan of refrigerated pie crusts. I am certain that the number of pies I would make if I was only allowed to make crust from scratch would be about 15 percent of my current pie output. And I know that my friends and family would be very sad should that happen.

DIY hot sauce as holiday gifts

This Oct. 5, 2015 photo shows homemade boozy hot sauce in Concord, NH. Start a spicy new holiday tradition by making batches of hot sauce as gifts. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

The weekend before Thanksgiving usually is my holiday gift-making weekend. Most years, my mother and I make wild persimmon fruitcakes, which we wrap in bourbon-soaked cheesecloth. They are so delicious.

Fresh Christmas trees are best

Stock photo of a Christmas tree farm.

Question: My artificial Christmas tree is looking sad. I would like to use a real tree this year, but I have had problems with them losing needles before Christmas. How can I make sure my tree stays fresh through the holidays.

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