Family gatherings and holiday celebrations are occasions that revolve around food – and it’s a time when cooks pull out all the stops to express creativity through flavor. In fact, Americans will stock up on more than 540 million ounces of spices, seasonings and extracts this holiday season, saysMcCormick & Company Inc.

This fervor for flavor will be taken to new heights over the holidays with five pairings and fresh new trends, according to the McCormick Flavor Forecast® 2010: Holiday Edition. McCormick, Hunt Valley, Md., says foodies can expect to see brunch become the “in” festive get-together and cookies get inspiration from favorite cocktails. Even the ubiquitous bird becomes an opportunity for cooks to strut their stuff with a flavor-crusted turkey.

“People are looking to make a statement at the holiday table this year and spice things up a bit – especially now that we are entertaining at home more than ever,” said Kevan Vetter, an executive chef at McCormick. “Flavor combinations like roasted cinnamon and bacon or bay leaf and pear will help take holiday dishes to the next level in everything from breakfast flatbread to pear upside-down cake.”

With the holiday season soon approaching, McCormick identified five festive and flavorful pairings that it says "reflect the country’s passion for flavor."

Pumpkin Pie Spice & Coconut
The sweet, refreshing taste of coconut and the warming blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice add a touch of the exotic to holiday favorites and grown-up, contemporary sweets.
Sage & Citrus
Long revered as turkey’s most famous flavor companion, fragrant sage is brightened by the zing of tart citrus. This year, expect the pair to show up in everything from appetizers to desserts.

Almond & Caramel
The toasty notes of caramel enrobe the bittersweet and nutty flavor of almonds. A holiday match made in heaven, the duo inspires updated ideas for brunches, baked goods and even beverages.

Roasted Cinnamon & Bacon
Roasting robust cinnamon brings out its rounder, richer flavors – an unexpected partner for bacon’s distinctive smokiness.

Bay Leaf & Pear
Aromatic bay leaves co-star beautifully with the sweetness and subtle floral notes of this popular winter fruit. The delicate yet classy duo invigorates new adaptations of savory and sweet heirloom recipes.