holiday fare 2 colorful and tasty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many folks serve lasagna on Christmas Eve. Prepared ahead, it’ll feed an army. Instead, I like to make a colorful pan of stuffed peppers, and keeping all those holiday treats and calories in mind, I make it vegetarian, served with a nice salad. Double them if you’re entertaining. Here’s your complete, mostly red and green, Christmas Eve (or any eve) supper from breakfast with Overnight Coffee Cake, an appetizer, salad, and entrée for dinner, and a classic Wassail that you can make ahead.

cranberry orange cheese ball   A lovely combination and a great way to start a meal.

Ingredients for the Cheese Ball

  • 1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • ¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 pkgs (8-oz ea) cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar

Ingredients for the Caramelized Pecans

  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs sugar

Directions

  1. Chop cranberries in a blender or food processor. Add cream cheese, juice, and sugar, and blend till well mixed.
  2. Use a rubber scraper to turn mixture out onto a piece of wax paper and shape into a ball as best you can. Place in a bowl and wrap with the wax paper. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. add pecans and sugar and stir about 3-5 minutes. Do not let it burn! Spread on sheet of wax paper or parchment to cool.
  4. When ready to serve, remove cheese from ‘fridge and shape into a ball. Pat pecans on to cover. Serve with crackers, celery and carrot sticks, or pita chips.

broccoli salad   This is Trisha Yearwood’s recipe. It is very good, and the sunflower seeds are a nice touch.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cups broccoli florets, blanched for 3 minutes, shocked in icewater, and very well-drained
  • ½ small sweet onion, minced
  • ¾ cups golden raisins
  • 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ jar pimentos, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 slices bacon, diced and browned
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix mayo, sugar, vinegar, raisins, onions, and salt and pepper to taste. Add broccoli and pimentos to coat.
  2. Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with bacon and seeds just before serving.

saucy stuffed peppers   I make these with tempeh, a fermented soy product found in the vegetarian section of your store. Healthy, tasty, and very good for you, you won’t miss the meat. (Of course you can use ground meat if you wish.) You can make these ahead without placing in sauce, wrapping the stuffed peppers individually in clear wrap or a plastic bag. 

Ingredients

  • 3 colorful bell peppers (I use red and green this time of year!), halved lengthwise, and seeded
  • 1 8-oz block of tempeh (I like the one with flax seed), crumbled
  • 6 lg or 12 sm fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 3 Tbs Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 24-oz can Hunt’s Original spaghetti sauce (or your own homemade—even better!), divided
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Blanch seeded pepper halves by boiling five minutes. Handle carefully with tongs. Shock in icewater. Drain well.
  3. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish with sauce reserving ½ cup for filling. Nest all six pepper halves into sauce, cut side up. Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, place olive oil, and heat on medium till shimmering; add onions and garlic,, stirring often, for about four minutes till soft. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Add tempeh and press with a fork to improve the crumble texture.
  5. Add mushrooms and ½ cup reserved sauce, stirring to coat.
  6. Add bread crumbs, ¼ cup of the parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir well.
  7. Fill pepper halves with tempeh mixture, dividing evenly. Cover with foil and bake 20-25 minutes or till sauce is bubbling and peppers are tender..
  8. Mix mozzarella with remaining parmesan. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheese mixture; return to oven till cheese is melted and browning. Serve orzo pasta topped with a pepper half or two and a dollop of sauce.

Variation: If you need to double the servings to six peppers (12 halves), you can increase the filling without needing more tempeh by adding 6-8 more mushrooms, a can of well-drained petite diced tomatoes, and a half bag of washed baby spinach. Increase oil to 3 Tbs and double the breadcrumbs and cheese. Cooked rice can also help stretch it.

no-hassle wassail   Serve this tasty hot drink when the carolers come home from a frosty night of song. Or just anytime you’re in the mood for a sweet, spiced treat. You can cut ingredients in half for a smaller crowd. The rum is optional, of course!

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • ½ gallon apricot nectar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
  • 3 cups dark rum
  • 6 cinnamon sticks

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Simmer until a heavenly aroma fills the kitchen.
  3. Transfer to a crockpot and keep warm while serving. For a fancier look, float orange slices decorated with cloves among the cinnamon sticks.

overnight coffee cake   Serve this to overnight guests or your family on Christmas morning. They’ll think you’re wonderful!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped nuts
  • ¼ nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Grease a 9×13 pan. Set aside. Place flour, white sugar, sour cream, butter, half of brown sugar, eggs, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  2. Beat at medium speed till blended. Spread in prepared pan.
  3. Combine remaining brown sugar, nuts, and nutmeg. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
  4. Next morning, preheat oven to 350°. Remove cover from pan and bake 35-40 minutes until it tests done.

Very aromatic, warm, and delicious.

Holidays are the perfect time to share food and fun with family and friends. I hope yours are blessed.

PRINT THIS PAGE: CJ-HOLIDAY2BLOG

mother’s day breakfast

CooksJ_logo

Most of the dishes I feature are personal favorites, some are new, and many come from family and friends. I pull recipes from all kinds of sources, including you! Just comment at the end of any post if you have any suggestions for additions or improvements to my recipes, or drop off a note to me at the Aroostook Republican office in Caribou, and I’ll get back to you.

These are the recipes that appeared in the newspaper this week, May 7, 2014. I’ve also added two bonus recipes that weren’t in the paper and will probably do that every time. I have found a way for you to easily print these from online. Just look for the link at the end of the post. This blog is still emerging, and the layout might change over the next few weeks as I get a feel for the formatting tools, but my goal is to make it as easy to navigate as possible. —Connie

MOTHER’S DAY RECIPES
Kids and Dads love to prepare breakfast on Mother’s Day. These recipes are so easy but so delicious. The first two recipes are similar but one is savory and the other sweet; both start out with a Yorkshire Pudding or “popover” kind of base.

Warning: Do not use skillets that cannot go into the oven, like teflon-coated or pans with plastic handles! Cast-iron or Guardian aluminum are best.

Toadinthehole
toad in the hole
Kids will get a giggle out of the name of this dish, which originates in England and is thought to get its name from how it resembled a toad poking its head up out of a hole. Serve it with a nice fruit cup or sliced strawberries on the side to provide a bit of texture variation and some acid to counter the richness.

1 scant cup flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
½ cup water
2 eggs
Half a pound of uncooked breakfast sausages (I like Jones brand)
1 Tbs butter

Preheat the oven to 400°. Mix the batter first so it has time to sit: Put the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl and pour in the milk and water. Whisk together, then beat in the eggs. Whisk until completely smooth and set aside.

Place a cast-iron skillet over medium high heat and put in the sausages. Cook, turning often, until they are browned on all sides. Put in the butter and let it melt; make sure the pan is well coated with fat (you might be able to skip the butter if your sausages are fatty enough). Arrange the sausages evenly in the pan, then give the batter another stir and pour it over. Pop the pan in the oven and bake 20 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350° and bake another 10 minutes.

Serves four if everyone behaves, but you might want to double it.

gigantic apple popover
This is a fun dish that will delight any mom!

2 apples, peeled and sliced
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup sugar (or substitute Splenda)
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp oil
2 packed Tbsp brown sugar (or substitute Splenda)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 425°. Melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet and saute the apples over medium heat until they begin to soften. Add the sugar and cinnamon and cook just a little more, until soft but not mushy. Scrape them into a pie pan, arranging them to cover the bottom, and let cool.

Place the eggs, milk, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and beat well, then stir in the flour and salt. Whisk vigorously, and make sure it’s smooth, or you can use a blender or a hand mixer.

Pour the batter over the cooled apples and put the pan in the oven. Let bake 20 minutes, then turn down to 350° and bake another 20 minutes or until golden on top. DO NOT open the oven door while the popover is baking!

Cut in thick wedges, and serve hot or cold.

BONUS RECIPES

overnight coffee cake
This was my mother’s recipe. It is easy for kids to make the night before, and it will create a tantalizing aroma in the morning!

2 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar (divided)
1 cup sour milk, buttermilk, or sour cream (if available, but regular whole milk will do)
2/3 cups butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans, your choice)
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Grease a 9 x 13 pan. In a large bowl place flour, white sugar, milk, butter, ½ cup of the brown sugar, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed till combined, then add eggs. When well-mixed, pour into prepared pan.

In a small bowl, combine remaining brown sugar with nuts and nutmeg. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Next morning, preheat oven to 350°. Uncover pan and bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Top should be golden brown.

Not just for Mother’s Day. This is great for Christmas morning or to serve to overnight guests. They’ll think you’re amazing. And you are!

PBSmoothie

peanut butter banana smoothie
This dish will intrigue and surprise Mom, but be sure to make enough for everyone!

2 bananas, broken into chunks
2 cups milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbs honey, or to taste
2 cups ice cubes

Place bananas, milk, peanut butter, honey, and ice cubes in a blender; blend until smooth, about 30 sec. Makes 4 servings. This one is addicting.

PRINT THIS POST CJ-MothersDayRecipes