Friday, December 27, 2013

Holiday Recipe Ideas

Cookie Plate 1
I finally got all my cookies finished, just in time to make up all the gift plates for handing out as gifts to family. I ended up making more varieties of cookies than usual, and certainly more iced cookies than usual. I created 3 new cookie recipes and one new fudge recipe. The new cookie recipes are Gingerspice, Cardamom Almond and Chocolate Hazelnut Pepperballs, (these last recipes were featured in my last blog post). The new fudge recipe was for Pecan Praline Fudge, though that was a last minute switch. I originally meant to make it maple and walnut flavor. I just happen to have Pecan Praline flavoring in my cupboard so I used that, but either way it would be excellent. Other cookies I made were Springerle, Rolled Butter Cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies, Cherry Bon Bons and Pistachio Tea Cookies. I also finally got around to making my Grandma's Nut Pita recipe.

Grandma Hromish's Nut Pita
Grandma Hromish's Nut Pita

Grandma Hromish's Nut Pita

Makes two 9 x 13 inch pans

4 cups flour
1 package dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
½ pound unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1 cup cream, (evaporated milk will work)

12 large eggs, separated
4 cups ground walnuts
2 cups sugar
¼ cup whiskey
Vanilla for brushing
Powdered Sugar for dusting

Mix the yeast into warm water to soften. Mix together and blend well (by hand or machine) all ingredients for dough and then divide dough into four parts. Roll out one part and line a 13 x 9" pan.

Make the filling by beating together all of the egg yolks plus 2 of the whites, the sugar, whiskey and nuts. In a separate bowl, beat the rest of the egg whites and fold this into the yolk mixture. Pour half of this mixture into the dough-lined pan.

Now roll out the second part of the dough and lay it atop the filling. Repeat with the other portions of dough and filling in a second pan. Slash tops of dough with a knife or prick with a fork and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until done. When done, sprinkle the top with vanilla, or use a pastry brush. Slice into diamond shapes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

NOTE: If you want to try this, but 2 (9 x 13-inch) pans seem too much, I split the recipe in half, using these measurements:
DOUGH: 2 cups flour,1¼ teaspoons instant yeast, 2 tablespoons water, 1 stick unsalted butter and ½ cup cream or evaporated milk. Divide dough into only 2 parts.
FILLING: 6 large eggs, separated, 2 cups ground walnuts, 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons whiskey. Follow the same directions as above, using one of the whites with all the yolks, then beating the rest of the whites for the meringue.

Cookie Plate 2
All that done, I had to put my thoughts on what to make for Christmas Eve. In our house, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are both times for lots of little nibblies. Tidbits and appetizers of all sorts are set out and we graze the evening away. This year I made a few things; some new and some old. I set out a cheese and salami tray, with an applewood smoked Gruyere and some Swiss cheese. I also set out a little round of Boursin with garlic and herbs. This is such a spectacular flavored and textured cheese, though it is 60% butterfat. Be prepared. I had made some quince paste a month or so ago so I also set out some Manchego cheese with slivers of the quince past on them. Cheese seems to play a large part in appetizers, for sure, and it didn't stop there.

Manchego & Quince Paste
I made my Bean and Cheese Dip as it is my husband's favorite (and just plain GOOD).

Bean and Cheese Dip

Makes about 3 cups

1 (11.5 ounce) can Bean & Bacon Soup
1 (5-ounce) jar Kraft Processed Cheese (Bacon flavor is great)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
¼ teaspoon hot sauce, optional
1 cup sour cream

In a deep 1-quart casserole, combine soup, cheese, brown sugar, Worcestershire, mustard, onion and hot sauce (if used). Cover and microwave at high for 4 - 5 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring twice during this time.

Stir ½ cup of bean mixture into sour cream, mix, then return all to the casserole and mix in well. Cover again. Microwave at medium low (30%) for 2 minutes or until heated through, stirring once. Serve with crackers of your choice.


Also made were: Smokies in Puff Pastry, a ready-made pizza flat bread with Spinach Dip spread over top and then covered in a mixture of shredded cheeses and baked. I first learned of this at my sister's house in October, where she used a Boboli crust. Where I live no store carries Boboli, but there are other brands available. She also had made an appetizer using those little bags of Mini Sweet Peppers. I liked the concept, so what I did instead is to make what started off as a cheese ball, but then I thought of just stuffing the little peppers (cut in half, stems and seeds removed) with the cheese ball mixture. So, that cheese ball never made it to a ball shape after all, though it is simple enough to roll into a ball and then in some nuts or herbs and chill. This is the mixture I made for my cheese ball:

Cheese ball mixture in Sweet Pepper halves

A Cheese Ball Variation

2 (8-ounce) blocks of cream cheese, at room temperature
6 ounces freshly shredded Parmesan and/or Romano cheeses
2 teaspoons dry onion soup mix
1/3 cup caramelized onion (or substitute with chopped scallions)
4 slices (thick-slice) bacon, fried, drained, chopped finely
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup craisins (dried cranberries)

Place the cream cheese and Parmesan/Romano into a large bowl and add the dry onion soup, caramelized onion (or scallions), bacon, rosemary and Worcestershire. Using a mixer, combine these ingredients. Add in the pecans and craisins until well blended. If making this into a ball, chop more pecans or fresh herbs and roll the cheese ball into this and then wrap in plastic wrap and chill until needed. If using this mixture to stuff the mini sweet peppers, you will need about 1 pound of them. The bag I bought was a 1-pound bag and it was just about perfect for the amount of cheese ball mixture. 

By the way, if you, like me, dislike the fact that all the dry soup mixes and bouillons seem to have MSG, I created my own mixture of a Dry Onion Soup Mix. I use the stuff in things like oven roasted potatoes, Herbed Onion Bread, and now the cheese balls (plural, because I made some to take to my sister-in-law's for Christmas Day snacking). The recipe is simple, and far more flavorful than store-bought dry onion soup. It makes about 1/4 cup worth, which is equivalent to one pouch of store-bought. It is simple to make multiples of the recipe, though be careful to stir it well before using smaller portions, such as the 2 teaspoons called for in this cheese ball recipe. The onion flakes tend to accumulate at the top of the mixture, and the other spices settle. Just mix all the ingredients together and store in a tightly sealed glass jar. I did not use any bouillon in the mixture, as most of them have MSG, which I am avoiding. To make this into a soup, either buy a good stock or make your own to use as the liquid base.

My 2013 Christmas Eve Table

Dry Onion Soup Mix

3 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon celery seeds, crushed or ground
¼ - ½ teaspoon black pepper

I hope I have given some ideas for making creative appetizers for the holidays or for any party. I love making all these little things. With help it is even more fun. I wish all of you the very best of the holiday season.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.