Sunday, December 6, 2009

Easy Ideas for Xmas Foods & Entertaining over the Holidays!......

I started doing my homework for the holidays and began going through my old notebooks (yes, I collect old recipes and then customize them to suit me or make them faster, easier, cheaper, whatever is needed....), my collection of cookbooks (our favorite reading material - we read then discuss....), the Net and anyplace else I could find to get ideas for great food to have on hand over the holidays which will be amazing yet still give you time to enjoy the season. I'm looking for do-ahead dishes as well that you can make, say over a weekend and leave in the fridge or freezer almost ready to serve, this way you'll only have to stick them in the oven or on the stove and they'll be done! TA DA! This year too, more than others I will be taking into consideration the cost involved in food so that they will fit anyone's budget.....

You might also consider that during cold weather, comfort foods not only feed the soul and nourish the body but help heat up the house too so you'll be helping to conserve energy as well. (We must all do our part and go "green" and limit our "carbon footprint" after all. But, if the oven is working you might be able to lower the heat some and enjoy not only the aroma but warmth the food will bring, and I kind of like this.....

Figuring most people will either have friends and family over or participate with other's in holiday celebrations (pot lucks or whatever), I'll include food that will serve this double duty. I am a firm believer in not having any kitchen utensil or recipe that can't at least do double duty if not more..... plus, I also support the using one recipe, adapting it and making it serve lots of purposes as well. So here we go in what might be the first in a series of postings on Holiday Foods.

Snowball Cake.- An old recipe I tried when the kids were in Grade School and I needed something quick and cute for a Bake Sale. You can use box cake mixes if you like or make your own version (I've done both)

1 Devil's Food Cake Mix (or Double Chocolate Cake Recipe)
1 Cream Cheese brick, softened
1 egg
2 tbl sugar
1 Jell-O Vanila Instant Pudding Mix (3.4 oz)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup whipped cream (or you can use Cool Whip, 8 oz)
1 cup coconut, flaked or fresh

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cake batter as directed on package or following your recipe; in a Pyrex round ovenproof bowl; (I would spray some non-stick spray lightly too; scrape side of bowl. Beat cream cheese, egg and granulated sugar until well blended; spoon into center of batter in bowl (yes, right on top and center it). Bake 1 hour 5 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, keep checking, might be more time. Cool cake in bowl 10 min. Loosen cake from bowl with knife; invert onto wire rack. Remove bowl. Cool cake completely!. Meanwhile, beat dry pudding mix, powdered sugar and milk in medium bowl with whisk 2 min. Stir in COOL WHIP gently. Refrigerate until ready to use. Place cake on plate once it's completely cool or the frosting will melt; frost with pudding mixture. Cover with coconut. Keep refrigerated.
NOTE: There are fancier variations for this too, like adding Amaretto or Expresso, making a Cream Cheese Frosting or similar, etc.

Cream Cheese and Cucumber Appetizers.- A very old recipe which you can play with and change around for your taste, but it's always tasty, easy and you can keep in the fridge covered with plastic wrap and then just put out to munch.

4-6 cucumbers, usually served unpeeled but you can peel them too
1 cream cheese brick, softened
2-4 carrots, shredded
1 cup Pico de Gallo (tomato/cilantro/onion/Serrano chile finely chopped)
1/4 cup Sun Dried Tomatoes or Sweet Red Peppers (if you don't use the Pico de Gallo)
1/4 cup raisins, optional
1/4 cup nuts, optional
1/4 cup corn kernels, drained
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Cut and de-seed the cucumbers; cut in half length wise and then across so you have little "boats" to fill. You can also "peel" with a fork and leave lines on them. In a bowl, whisk the cream cheese so it's workable and add any or all of the rest of the ingredients, depending on your taste and fill the cucumber boats. Cover well with plastic wrap and put in fridge until ready to use.

Mediterranean Style Dip.- Another easy dip you can serve with chips, crackers or crostinis that everyone will love.

1 Cream Cheese brick, softened
1-1/4 cups Feta Cheese, crumbled
2 tbl milk
1 pkg.(10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained (or use fresh, cooked)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup green onion slices
1/4 sliced pitted ripe black olives

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup of the feta cheese and milk in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Spread into 9-inch pie plate. with layers of spinach, tomatoes, onions and olives; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup feta cheese. Cover.
Refrigerate several hours or until chilled, keep well covered with plastic wrap until needed. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, bread, etc.

Margarita Dessert Fruit Dip.- Here's a little sweetness to have on hand which is healthy and the kids will love!

1 Cream Cheese brick,softened
1/4 cup frozen limeade concentrate, partially thawed (or make your own and freeze)
2 tbl orange juice
1/2 cup Whipped Cream (you can use Cool Whip)

Beat cream cheese, limeade concentrate and orange juice in medium bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Gently stir in whipped topping; cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until ready to serve, you might need to mix it a little before serving. Serve with cut-up fresh fruit and Vanilla Wafers, cookies, etc.

Mushroom and Sausage Mini Muffins.- A great idea for a brunch or easy party offering. Change the ingredients too!

8 oz turkey breakfast sausage , removed from casing and crumbled in small pieces
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup Swiss cheese, grated
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
5 eggs
3 egg whites
1 cup milk

Preheat to 325F. Coat a nonstick muffin tin generously with cooking spray. Heat a large nonstick skillet, add sausage and cook until golden brown, 6 to 8 min. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Add oil to the pan. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 5 to 7 min. Transfer mushrooms to the bowl with the sausage. Let cool for 5 min. Stir in scallions, cheese and pepper. Whisk eggs, egg whites, and milk in a medium bowl. Divide the egg mixture evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Put a heaping tbl of the sausage mix into each cup. Bake until the tops are just beginning to brown, 25 min. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 min and place a rack on top of the pan, flip it over and turn the quiches out onto the rack. Turn upright and let cool completely.

Red Fruit and Wheat Berry Salad.- Here's a super nutritious and tasty salad for any day but extra special over the holidays. Keeps well and looks fantastic!

1/3 freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3 cup Cooked Wheat Berries (cook for 1 hr in enough water, drain)
1 large apple, unpeeled, diced
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
3 tbl raspberry vinegar
3 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Combine orange juice and cranberries in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 min. Combine wheat berries, apple, and pecans in a large bowl; stir gently. Drain the cranberries, reserving the juice. Stir the cranberries into the wheat berry mixture. Whisk the reserved orange juice, vinegar, and oil in a small bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and stir gently to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 min to allow the flavors to combine. Cover really well with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Serve cold or at room temperature either alone or on top of a bed of lettuce or greens.

Breast of Turkey with Mustard Crust.- Not only looks good on the table, but let's everyone serve themselves! Fancy or in sandwiches, everyone will love it!

1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp dried sage
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tbl melted butter
3/4 tsp salt
2-4 lb boneless, skinless turkey breast
1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
1 tbl Dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 450F. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, sage, parsley, butter and 1/4 tsp of the salt. Season the turkey breast with the remaining 1/2 tsp salt and the pepper. Set the turkey breast in a roasting pan and then brush the and the sides of the breast with the mustard. Pat the seasoned bread crumbs onto the mustard. Roast the turkey for 20 min. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F and continue to roast the turkey breast until just done, 15 to 20 min longer. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and leave to rest in a warm spot for about 10 min. Cut the turkey into slices. Can be served hot or cold.

Spicy and Tangy Lemon Glazed Ham.- Ham prices will go down for the holidays and this makes it a great offering for your holiday table. Easy to prepare and serve plus the leftovers will help you after and the glaze can be made 3-4 days ahead!....

1 (7-1/2 pound) bone-in smoked ham, or your choice
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
3 cup chicken stock or low-sodium (fresh or canned)
3/4 cup lemon-lime marmalade, 17 oz jar or make your own
1/4 cup seeded, chopped pickled peppers, such as Italian cherry peppers or jalapenos
1/4 cup grainy mustard
3 tbl fresh lemon juice
2 tbl bourbon
2 tbl cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbl water

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Using a sharp knife, remove the rind from the ham, leaving a layer of fat all around that is at least 1/4 inch thick. Deeply score the fat in a criss cross pattern at 1/2-inch intervals. Transfer the ham to a large roasting pan and scatter the lemon and onion slices around it. Add the chicken stock or broth to the roasting pan. In a bowl combine the lemon-lime marmalade, pickled peppers, mustard, lemon juice and bourbon and mix well into a coarse puree. Brush the top of the ham with 2 tbl of the lemon-and-pickled-pepper glaze. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove the foil. Brush the ham with a scant 1/2 cup of the glaze and bake for 1 hour. Brush with another scant 1/2 cup of the glaze and bake until the ham is browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 155 F, about 30 min longer.

Transfer the ham to a cutting board to rest. Strain the pan juices into a large glass measuring cup and skim off the fat. Transfer the juices to a medium saucepan, and boil until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 5 min. Whisk the cornstarch and add it to the juices in the saucepan along with the remaining 1/2 cup of glaze. Simmer over moderately high heat, stirring, until thickened, about 3 min. Slice the ham and serve with the sauce. Glaze can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Easy and Foolproof Best Cheesecake.- Classic New York Style Cheesecake that anyone can make. You can also add any toppings you like, fresh fruit, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, etc. Truly easy and fantastic results!

33 graham cracker squares, crumbled (I use vanilla cookies or ?)
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus additional, for brushing the pan
1 tbl sugar (optional if you use cookies)

20 ounces cream cheese (2 1/2 bricks) softened
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 yolks
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 300 F. Brush some of the melted butter around a 9 by 3-inch cake pan. If you have a spring form pan, use it. Adhere parchment to the bottom and the sides I use aluminum foil).

In a small bowl, combine crumbled graham crackers (in the blender), the remaining melted butter, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the parchment-lined pan. Place remaining crumbs on a sheet pan and bake both the crust and the remaining mixture for 10 minutes. Cool. Reserve additional crumb mixture for sides.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat sour cream for 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and sugar and mix on low for 30 seconds and then turn up to medium. Scrape the bowl. In a separate container, combine vanilla, eggs, yolks, and heavy cream. With the mixer on medium, slowly pour the liquid mixture in. When half of it is incorporated, stop and scrape. Continue adding the mixture until the rest of the ingredients are incorporated. Once completely combined, pour into the cooled crust. Lower oven temperature to 250 degrees F. Place cheesecake into a preheated water bath, (Bain Marie) in the oven for 1 hour (my oven takes double this, check to see it "jells" in the center before taking it out, edges look dry and when you touch the center you can feel it getting solid not liquid anymore).

Turn the oven off and open the door for one minute. Close the door for one more hour. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours to completely cool before serving. Do not eat unless you've cooled it in the fridge. Better if overnight.

When ready to serve, place the entire cake pan into a hot water bath for about 15 seconds. Unmold onto a cake round or serving dish. Take the remaining graham cracker mixture and press into the sides of the cake so it's even. To slice, place your knife into a hot water bath and wipe dry each time you make a pass through the cake.
NOTE: You can add toppings or flavorings; you can even use sprinkles for the sides or toasted coconut, chopped toasted almonds, etc.
Hope you will get some ideas from the recipes I've posted here. If you have a problem or need some clarification, let me know and I'll do my best to help. Or if you've dreamed of serving something specific and need a recipe or variation, let me know too. Hope everyone will have a safe and lovely Holiday Season! Keep warm and have fun.....

No comments:

Post a Comment