Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Fare - Christmas Wreath Cookies

This is a variation of rice krispie treats. The rice krispies are replaced with plain cornflakes and then formed into wreath shapes. This recipe makes about 20 wreaths.

1 cup butter
6 cups miniature marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla extract
Green food coloring
8 cups corn flakes cereal
Red hot candies (red cinnamon balls)
licorice whips

This can be made on the stove or in the microwave (I prefer micro myself). Make sure you use a microsafe bowl.

Melt butter
Add marshmellows and continue heating until marshmellows are incorporated into butter...stirring constantly over stove, occasionally when cooking in the microwave
Add vanilla a few drops of food coloring, stirring in
Add corn flakes and stir until they are covered in marshmellow

CAUTION! - mixture may be HOT, allow to cool some

Cover work area with well buttered wax paper (or can use a buttered cookie sheet)
Grease hands well with butter and have butter handy to regrease as needed.
Take a ball of mixture and form it into a wreath shape on work surface. Don't make them too thin or they'll break apart.
Make a bow with a licorice whip.
While still tacky, place licorice bow and 3 cinnamon candies on the wreath.
Allow to set until most stickiness is gone before serving.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Fare - Buckeyes

This is a homemade peanut butter cup but in the shape of a ball. The kids love to help roll the I get request for these every year. They make a great homemade gift. This recipe makes a lot.

1 lb butter
2 18oz jars peanut butter
3 lbs powdered sugar (also known as confectionery or 10X)
2 12 oz bags of semi sweet chocolate chips
1 bar of paraffin (found with the canning supplies)

Cream together butter and peanut butter until smooth
Add in powdered sugar and mix well
Roll mixture into small balls with as little handling as possible

In a double boiler (or a pan placed into a larger pan of boiling water) melt chocolate chips and paraffin until smooth. Remove from heat.
Dip peanut butter balls in melted chocolate mixture
Place on waxed paper until chocolate is set

Note...Melted Chocolate mixture will thicken as it cools and will need to be reheated through the dipping process. I use two pans of water, one heating on the stove and the other holding the pan of melted chocolate. Switching them as needed.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Fare - Melting Moments Cookies

These are one of my all time favorite cookies. They're crispy to bite into and immediately melt in your mouth. And who can resist buttery goodness? I tried to make a mega batch of these in the past and the cookies didn't come out well. So I tend to make a bunch of batches of these. The trick is to make more before you finish the previous batch so there's cookies to serve holiday company! :o) This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup powdered sugar (also known as confectionery or 10x)
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
powdered (confectionery or 10x) sugar to roll cookies in after baking

In a separate bowl combine flour, cornstarch and salt...set aside
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy
Add in vanilla
Mix in flour mixture and combine until smooth
Refrigerate for an hour or more
After properly chilled roll dough into 1" balls
Place on cookie sheet 1" apart
Bake in a 350°F oven for 12-14 mins until edges of bottom start to brown
Cool for a few minutes and then roll warm cookies into powdered sugar.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Cooking Prepping

I never did my report on how my Thanksgiving planning chart worked out. I am happy to say it worked great, but not perfectly. Problem is, some of my helpers ended up getting up late which pushed us behind. Then a guest called and said they would be late. Then another individual who we thought wouldn't show up called and said they would. And...

Bottom line, it was great having a timeline, but even the best laid plans can be thrown off. Sometime (oftentimes) unexpectedly. That said, the one HUGE advantage I found with the planning is that I had more than enough time to clean as I went, meaning I didn't have the sinkful of dirty prep dishes at the end of the day that I normally do.

That said, we still did pretty well. Instead of 2:00, we ended up eating at 3:30. The appetizer spread went out on time, which meant everyone had something to munch on until the main course, so it wasn't a disaster. Everything else went smoothly, with only a few mishaps. Of course, even with the chart we ended up not putting out the cranberry sauce until everyone had filled up their plates. That is like the one area we can never get right!

As I readily admitted back at Thanksgiving, I am usually a one-day cook. However, for Christmas I am planning to doing something different. I am going to pre-cook most of the meal. The main motivation for this is we are not sure really what the schedule will be, who will be coming, if we'll be going somewhere else, or what. Nothing like indecision a week before the holiday! Since I will be doing most of the cooking regardless, I have planned to prep everything.

Our tentative menu:

Bacon Waterchestnut wraps
Cheese and Meat tray
Fruit tray

Pork Roast
Sausage/Apple Stuffing (big hit, requested again)
Mashed Pots
Sweet Potato Casserole with Carmelized Bananas
Rotini Lasagna (another repeat request)
Cheese Fries
Baked Veggie Medly

Banana Split Pie
Double Chocolate Pie
Pumpkin Pie

The goal of prepping was/is not only to spare myself a lot of hassel on Christmas day, but to avoid any type of marathon cooking situation. Part of that meant planning my regular meal-chart to compliment the holiday cooking. Such as making a pasta dish on Tuesday, which would allow me to make a double batch of rotini and use one for the meal, and one for the holiday dish. Same for the stuffing. Tonight I will be making Chicken Stuffing Casserole. I'll make extra stuffing for Christmas.

This is the first time I have endeavored to make a full meal ahead. Aside from a few small things, I plan to make everything--even the turkey--beforehand. The mashed pots are done, as is the lasagna. Tonight I tackle the stuffing and sweet potato base (the banana topping cannot be made ahead). Some thing cannot really made fully ahead, but they will be prepped so that the dish will simply have to go into the oven.

Not really sure how this will all turn out, but I do have to admit I like the idea of spreading it out. In years past, I usually spend so much time in the kitchen, I don't really get to enjoy all the package-opening and such. It will be nice change to be able to relax. Well, relax as well as I can. I don't think I will ever relax when hosting a gathering!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cranberry Nutbread

This is my absolute favorite nutbread! Over Thanksgiving I discovered a sweetened cranberry relish in the deli section of the local grocery store. It has whole cranberries, pineapple & walnuts. It was too sweet to eat as a side dish, but when used instead of the fresh cranberries in my nutbread it was AMAZING! This recipe is for standard cranberry orange nutbread, but I will note the modifications I made in case anybody feels like experimenting.

2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar (1/4 cup if using sweetened relish)
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 cup softened butter
1 T grated orange peel (omit if using sweetened relish)
3/4 cup orange juice (substitute water if using sweetened relish)
1 egg
1 cup fresh or frozen chopped cranberries (or 1 cup sweetened cranberry relish)
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (omit if using relish that contains nuts)

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray two 8X4 loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda, stir in butter until crumbly. Add orange peel, orange juice and egg. Fold in cranberries and nuts. Fill loaf pans half full. Cook @ 350 for one hour or until wooden tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. When it is completely cool, wrap nutbread in foil to store. This recipe also works great for mini loaves to give as gifts.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pumpkin bread

Pumpkin (nut) Bread is a favorite at my house. All three of my sons LOVE pumpkin, so just about anything pumpkin will be devoured. A while back I saw a post on Cooking with Anne about preparing fresh pumpkin for use in recipes. I knew I had to try it. I used my mixer to puree it rather than dragging out the food processor or the blender. It worked really well.

2 cups pumpkin puree (large can if using canned)
2 2/3 cup sugar
1/2 t allspice
1 t cinnamon
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup shortening
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray two 8X4 loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, spices, eggs, water and shortening. Mix well until there are no lumps. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Fold the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Add nuts &/or raisins if desired. Fill loaf pans half full. Cook @ 350 for one hour or until wooden tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. When it is completely cool, wrap nutbread in foil to store. This recipe also works great for mini loaves to give as gifts. Bake mini loaves for about 35 minutes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Banana Nut Bread

Now that it is December, it is time to start thinking about holiday baking. Banana's are very popular in my house, but just about every time I buy a bunch the last 2 or 3 don't get eaten. They get "too ripe" & the kids won't touch them. So, into the freezer they go. Frozen bananas work well in any recipe calling for fresh banana. Mini loaves wrapped in foil are also perfect for gift giving. The recipe is a modified version from my Betty Crocker Cookbook. This will make 1 standard size loaf or about 3 mini loaves...foil pans are GREAT for baking mini loaves & can be reused over & over. When I'm making mini loaves for gifts, I double or triple the recipe depending on how many I need & put all the mini pans on a cookie sheet to make getting them into & out of the oven easier.

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
2 eggs
4 over ripe fresh or frozen bananas (thawed enough to smash easily if using frozen)
1/3 cup water
1 2/3 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 cup nuts

Preheat oven to 350. Cream sugar & butter together in medium mixing bowl. Stir in eggs, then add mashed banana & water. Mix the dry ingredients (except nuts)in a separate bowl then slowly add to wet mix. Fold in nuts. Pour into greased loaf pan & bake until tooth pick inserted in middle comes out clean....approximately 1 hr for standard size loaf. If making mini loaves, fill greased loaf pans 2/3 full. Cooking time will be between 30 & 45 minutes depending on size of mini pan. Let them cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then on a wire rack until completely cool before cutting or wrapping in foil.