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

holiday fare 1 cookies

[My sincere apology for the delay in posting this blog. It was just one of those weeks where urgent jobs kept surfacing, stealing time from my writing. Hope these additional recipes arrive in your inbox on time and will provide some inspiration for you to create some new and unusual holiday treats. –CMT]

Kitchen assistants taking a break.

kitchen assistants taking a break. I usually start my serious holiday baking this week, especially since my feline kitchen assistants are eager to pick up some odd jobs like diving after anything that falls on the floor and licking the bowls, of course. Just kidding, but really, I need a solid two weeks to get all my sweets and savories planned and prepared.You can print these recipes using the PDF link at the end of this post.

I won’t bore you with the typical chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie recipes. My treats are special, and will add a festive and delicious touch to your table. This week it’s cookies.

golden cups  So delicious, these tiny little pies will melt in your mouth. If you prefer, you can substitute chopped slivered almonds or pecans for the walnuts.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • Salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. On the day before (or within a week of baking, make dough), soften the cream cheese. Sift flour with ¼ tsp regular salt.
  2. Blend butter with cream cheese till streaks are gone; add flour. Shape dough into a ball, wrap in foil, and refrigerate.
  3. Early on the day, preheat oven to 375°
  4. Beat eggs in medium bowl on medium speed, add sugar, melted butter, and pinch of salt. Stir in nuts and vanilla.
  5. Divide dough in 4 parts (each fourth will make 12 cups). Refrigerate all but one. Pinch off and form into 12 balls.
  6. Press each ball into ungreased 1 ¾-inch muffin tins, forming slightly rolled edges at top. Fill half full with nut mixture (about 1 heaping teaspoon).
  7. Bake 20 minutes till light golden and filling is set. Cool a minute or two before removing to wire rack.

Cool pan between batches. Makes 48 cups. Recipe can be doubled or halved according to your needs.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

aunt olga’s christmas cookies  In Philadelphia, our neighbor across the street would send a platter of cookies over to our house every Christmas. She was descended from the Pennsylvania Dutch. “Deutsch” (pronounced doitch) means “German,” and they are famous for their amazing food. Anyway, these cookies don’t look like much, the ingredients are rather common, but they have that certain “umami,” an indescribable flavor that keeps you reaching for more. Follow directions to a tee for best results.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cups softened butter
  • 3 eggs (divided)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3¼ cups flour

Directions

  1. Cream butter and sugar, add 2 of the eggs. Mix well.
  2. Stir soda and cream of tartar into the flour. Add to butter mixture. Dough will be stiff. Cover with wax paper and chill for at least an hour. Or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°. Pinch off dough and roll into small balls the size of a walnut. Arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet 3-4 inches apart.
  4. Once arranged, cover a flat-bottom tumbler or jar with a flat lid with wax paper, Secure with a rubber band. Use to flatten each cookie as flat as possible.
  5. Brush tops with beaten whole egg and decorate with colored sugar, confetti nonpareils, or cinnamon and sugar. Bake 10 minutes till lightly golden and egg is set.
  6. Cool on wire racks. Store in tight-lidded cans or plastic bags. Crisp and amazing!

 

marina’s wonder cookies  I worked with a young woman who brought these into the office one Christmas. I had to have the recipe—they taste like expensive chocolate-covered toffee, but you won’t believe the simple ingredients and ease of making them. If you’re careful, you can break these up pretty evenly, but they will often break randomly. It’s okay. They taste so good, no one will complain!

Ingredients

  • ¼ box of saltines (1 sleeve)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ large package chocolate chips (dark or milk—your preference)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a large cookie sheet (with sides!) with cooking spray. Arrange saltines in a single layer to cover the bottom of the cookie sheet.
  2. Place butter and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat.
  3. Carefully pour boiling mixture over crackers to cover evenly. Place in oven for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven to wire rack. When bubbling stops, sprinkle chips over top and spread with an offset spatula as they melt. Cool and refrigerate.

 

old-fashioned no-bake cookies  This the closest thing to fudge without all the work. I have a friend who folds in mini marshmallows at the end. That sounds good!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 Tbs cocoa
  • ¼ lb butter or margarine
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 3 cups oats (the old-fashioned kind are most nutritious—just sayin’)

Directions

  1. Line a couple of cookie sheets with wax paper. Measure out oats in a bowl.
  2. In a large saucepan, place sugar, butter, milk, and cocoa. and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla, peanut butter, then the oats. Keep stirring and work quickly or mixture will begin to dry out.
  4. Drop by teaspoon onto wax paper or use a small cookie scoop. Keep them small so they dry evenly.
  5. Stack in containers in the ‘fridge between sheets of wax paper.

 

no-bake apricot coconut candy cookies  Make anytime up to one week ahead. Nice to tuck in among the regular cookies on your cookie plate or gift boxes.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs butter, softened
  • 1 Tbs water
  • ½ cup Light Karo Syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup dry (powdered) milk
  • 2 cups finely snipped dried apricots
  • 2 cups flaked sweetened coconut

Directions

  1. In a large bowl mix butter with syrup. Stir in water, vanilla, and dry milk and mix well.
  2. Add apricots and coconut and knead until thoroughly blended.
  3. Roll into 1-inch balls or use a small cookie scoop.
  4. Store in a loosely covered container at room temperature.

 

TIP: If you can’t find bulk apricots, the Dollar Tree has very good, reasonably priced bags of dried apricots.

 

ALSO, cookie scoops will make your life SO much easier. I don’t know how I ever lived without them before a couple of years ago! My first two, a 1-teaspoon and a 1-tablespoon size, were from Pampered Chef, a gift from my son, but they were pretty expensive. Here in Maine, we have a discount store, Marden’s, where I was SO fortunate to find meatball size scoop, same quality, for $4.00! Don’t you just love bargains???

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAconnie’s currant cookies  Currants are small, round, seedless dried berries related to gooseberries. I call these Connie’s because I had to come up with this recipe myself after losing the one given to me by a coworker many years ago. Her name was Michelle, but everyone call her “Mitch.” She was a big woman, built like a football player, but she was a kind and gentle soul who baked me a batch of her currant cookies the Christmas before my first son was born. These are great with a hot cup of tea and a good book!

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 4 cups flour
  • ½ – ¾ cup milk
  • 1 cup Zante currants (next to the raisins in the grocery store)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until very fluffy and light in color. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on high for two minutes.
  3. Sift together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Gradually add dry to wet, combining slowly, including ½ cup of the milk. If batter is too stiff, add remaining ¼ cup milk.
  4. Stir in currants and mix till distributed.
  5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 11 minutes.
  6. Remove to cooling rack. This makes 11 dozen.

PRINT THIS POST CJ-HOLIDAY-1PDF

fruit

Fresh fruit, preserved fruit, frozen fruit, canned fruit—it’s all good because fruit is sweet, always available, and versatile as an ingredient in savory dishes, like ham and pineapple or pork and applesauce, as well as desserts. And now we can enjoy fresh berries and watermelon in January! My first recipe is especially for the cook who hates heating up the kitchen in the middle of summer!

no-bake berry crisp
You can use fresh or frozen fruit of any kind. No need to thaw. Serves 6.

Topping:
¾ cup sliced almonds, divided
2/3 cup flour
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
6 Tbs butter, melted

Filling:
1/3 cup white sugar, divided
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 lbs berries, apples, peaches, or frozen sweet cherries
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt

Optional: If using sweet cherries, add ¼ tsp almond extract and 2/3 cup dried cherries; for apples, add 2/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries.

Finely chop ¼ cup of the almonds. Mix them with flour, both sugars, cinnamon, salt, vanilla in a bowl. Stir in melted butter till it looks like wet sand and no dry flour remains.

In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, toast remaining ½ cup almonds over medium-low heat until just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add sugar mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool and wipe out skillet.

Prepare the filling. Mix 2 Tbs of the sugar with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Combine fresh or frozen fruit with lemon juice, vanilla, salt, and remaining sugar in the skillet. Cover and cook over medium heat until fruit thaws and/or releases its juices. Stir about halfway through. If adding any dried fruit, do it at this time. Time will vary depending on the kind of fruit you are using, but 5-7 minutes should do it. Uncover and simmer till fruit is very tender.

Sprinkle in cornstarch mixture and stir till thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and distribute topping evenly over filling. Return skillet to heat and cook till filling is bubbling around edges. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

nathalie’s apple squares
Nathalie Lagerstrom was an incredible woman. She spoke fluent Swedish and was a passionate gardener and volunteer. When my mother died, Nathalie brought these to the reception at Faith Lutheran Church. Of course I had to ask her for the recipe, which she knew by heart! Now Nathalie is gone, and we will miss her spirit. This is quick and easy to prepare using stuff you already have around. Apples can be substituted with any other fruit, and this can be doubled to fill a 9×13 pan for a crowd.

Ingredients
1 egg, well beaten with 1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup canned milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup peeled, chopped apple

Topping
2 Tbs sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, place ingredients in order given and mix well. Grease an 8×8 pan. Pour batter into pan. Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle over batter. Bake about a half hour or until golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into squares.

granny cake
This is so delicious. Keep in the refrigerator—IF any is left, that is!

2 cups sugar, divided
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup evaporated milk OR coconut milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 20-oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9×13-inch pan. Mix 1½ cups of the sugar, flour, salt, soda, eggs, and pineapple in a medium size bowl, pour into the pan, and top with a mixture of the brown sugar and pecans. Bake 45 minutes.

Mix ½ cup of the sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. As soon as cake is out of the oven, pour the mixture over entire cake.

one-dish apple pudding
This is from the Shakers of Sabbathday Lake, Maine. I met these wonderful folks when they came to Caribou to do a history presentation at the Nylander Museum in 1986. Part of the program was a cooking demonstration. It was so much fun. Now you can enjoy this great recipe, which I make often. It’s so easy, but my family thinks I spend hours on it. Yours will, too!

2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
3 Tbs flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla or rose water
Dash of salt
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup finely chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans (optional)
2 medium apples, peeled and finely diced
Plain cream, whipped cream, or ice cream

Break eggs into a 1½-quart casserole and beat well. (Do NOT use a smaller dish as mixture rises and will go over in the oven.) Stir in all remaining ingredients except cream. Bake at 350° for about 35 minutes till golden on top. Might take up to another 10 minutes if needed. Serve warm with cream of choice.

Other ideas:
Substitute brown sugar for white.
Top with wheat germ, drizzle with melted butter, and sprinkle on nutmeg or mace for more flavor
Serve with lemon yogurt or sour cream.

blueberry lemon pound cake
Just right for your holiday celebrations, big enough for a crowd, and blueberries are local and fresh right about now. Can be made a day or two ahead to save you rushing around at the last minute. Historical factoid: pound cake recipes go back to before colonial days when a pound of butter, a pound of eggs, a pound of sugar, and a pound of flour was mixed to create a cake. I like the modern measurements much more. And not many of us has a scale in the kitchen anymore nor do we cook over an open fire either!

For the cake:
1/3 cup whole milk
6 large eggs
1 ½ Tbs vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour plus more for flouring baking pan
1 tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp salt (double if using kosher salt)
3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, softened plus more for greasing baking pan
½ cup white sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup freshly grated lemon zest
3 cups picked over blueberries, tossed with 1½ Tbs flour (Wild blueberries are preferred and frozen is fine if fresh is not available.)

For the syrup:
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup white sugar

TIP: One medium lemon yields approximately 1 tablespoon of lemon zest (rind) and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Be sure your lemons are at room temperature for maximum juice.

Make the syrup while cake is baking:
In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice and sugar, stirring till dissolved. Let cool a bit.

To bake the cake:
Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt or tube pan with butter. Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla. Into another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter with the sugars and zest till light and fluffy. Next, add the flour and egg mixture alternately, beating after each addition until just combined. Fold in 1½ cups of the berries.

Spoon one-third of the batter into the baking pan, spread evenly, and then sprinkle ½ cup of remaining blueberries over it.

Spoon half of remaining batter into pan, spreading evenly over blueberries on top. Sprinkle ½ cup of remaining berries over it. Repeat to finish with last layer of blueberries on top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour and ten minutes or till golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle of cake is clean.

Remove from oven, and immediately poke top evenly all over with a wooden skewer or cooking fork and brush with the prepared syrup. Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, invert on to rack, remove pan, and poke all over with the skewer or fork. Brush with remaining syrup. Yummy!

PRINT THIS POST  CJ-6-18-14-FRUIT