A New Season


After a long sabbatical, I plan to post new snippets with some holiday recipes from around the world. May your upcoming holiday preparations be interesting and fun. Stay happy and healthy until I write again.

Mushroom Holiday Appetizers


Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought I would share this recipe that we’ve used at holiday parties and at Christmas Eve and New Years Eve buffets.  These are nice either served cold or warm and can be kept hot in a chafing dish.  I prefer them cold.  Put them on a nice platter that is lined with a colored foil and some sprigs of herbs such as thyme or rosemary for a nice presentation.  They’re a little work, but well worth it.  Puff pastry in different brands can be found in the frozen section of your supermarket.  It usually comes four large rectangular sheets to the box.

INGREDIENTS:

2 packages frozen puff pastry
1 pound mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup of butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (white or Vidalia)
1/4 cup white wine
1 large egg, beaten together with 4 Tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
celery seeds (in jar in spice section of market)
1 garlic clove or two teaspoons jarred chopped garlic

Defrost the puff pastry according to package directions.  Saute the mushrooms and garlic in butter; add the parley and onion.  Season the softened mushroom mixture with salt, thyme and pepper.  Saute further until the liquid evaporates.  Add the wine and cook the mixture until it becomes dry.  Let cool.  On a floured rolling surface, roll out 1 pastry sheet to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut out 24 circles with 2 inch round cookie cutter (if you do not have one, use a glass with a 2 inch rim dipped in flour).  Place teaspoon of mushroom mixture on each piece of pastry dough leaving a 1/4 inch edge.  Using a second piece of pastry, roll out and cut 24 more circular 2″ pieces.  Use these for covering the first batch of filled rounds.  Press down the edges and use a table fork to seal the edges.  Put pastries on large ungreased baking sheets and brush with beaten egg, cream mixture. Cut a slit on top of each pastry to vent the steam.  Repeat the process using the second package of pastry.

Bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 14 minutes or until mushroom appetizers are puffed up and golden.

When lightly browned, remove to wire baking rack to cool.  Serve warm or cold, but not do not refrigerate unless you are planning on serving them a few hours later.  You may also freeze these in between sheets of waxed paper after they have cooled and reheat in a conventional oven.  They do not microwave well.

I hope these are a big hit at your next holiday gathering.

Open House Antipasto Salad


antipasto

antipasto (Photo credit: freakgirl)

Whenever it is time for a holiday gathering, especially for those open house parties that are held at the end of the year, we like to serve up a variety of salads.  One of our favorites is this Italian style antipasto salads of which you can mix and match the vegetables and meats to suit your own tastes.  This one features traditional Italian cold cuts that can be obtained at your supermarket deli counter or in Italian food specialty shops.  Sometimes, I switch the ingredients around, using julienned turkey or reduced salt ham and cheeses for the saltier Italian cold cuts and replace the plain iceberg lettuce base with varied leafy greens to line the platter as a base.  It’s you choice whether to make the traditional Italian style salad or whether you would rather have the reduced-salt, lower calorie version.  As long as the vegetables are the marinated version, the taste should remain close to the original.  I often use leafy greens like iceberg,  romaine, red leaf and Bibb lettuce as well as the mixed greens like Mesclun, spinach and Italian blend that come in large bags at warehouse stores.

The amounts of ingredients in this salad can be increased so the measurements are not exacting.  Change the ingredient amounts to suit your taste.  We use less cold cuts and more vegetables to make a colorful display.  Serve up with a fancy spoon and fork set and a colorful platter. (We sometimes use a turkey platter).  The recipe is as follows:

INGREDIENTS:

Lettuce (of your choice)
Large jar marinated mushrooms
Black olives (Sicilian, Greek, black pitted, or green olives)
2 large jars artichoke hearts – drained and cut in half
2 jars roasted peppers, slice in strips
one jar anchovies, drained (amount used to your taste)
1 small onion – peeled and cut into rings
1 pound Genoa salami – sliced into strips or matchsticks
1 pound prosciutto – sliced into strips or matchsticks
1/2  pound capiccola – sliced into strips or matchsticks
1 pound Provolone cheese
(your may also use turkey, any cheese desired, ham, or other deli meat as desired)

Line a large platter with layers of lettuce or greens making salad as large as you like.  Place in order on top of greens – peppers, artichokes, olives, mushrooms, onion,  peppers, and anchovies.  Decoratively top with sliced cold cuts.

I use a homemade Italian dressing to top this, but some like just a bit of olive oil and vinegar with the addition of a bit of oregano.
You may use any dressing that suits you or serve with a variety of dressings presented with holiday spoons and bowls.

I hope your holiday parties are fun and festive.  Happy Holidays from my house to yours!!!

Chafing Dish Meatballs


Meat Balls - Lion Hotel

Meat Balls(Photo credit: avlxyz)

Here is a good little recipes that will leave your guests raving.  It tastes great and can be kept warm either in a chafing dish or just use your crockpot to keep it warm.  These come out best when done on the stove top and really aren’t too difficult.  We’ve used them a lot for Christmas Eve buffets and they go over just as big on New Years Eve. These can be made ahead and refrigerated of frozen with the meatballs held in one container and the sauce in a different one.  Thaw sauce and meatballs and put the dish together at the last-minute.

INGREDIENTS:

3 lbs. lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs
1 cup onion chopped
1 cup canola oil
12 ounces evaporated milk
2 teaspoons salt
3 medium green peppers – diced
1 cup chicken bouillon granules
8 chucks canned pineapple – juice drained
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (such as accent)
pepper

Mix the ground beef, cracker crumbs, evaporated milk, onion and salt together until thoroughly blended.  Shape mixture into tiny meatballs.  Brown in frying pan in canola oil.  Remove from heat.  Drain oil from skillet reserving about 2 tablespoons of the oil.  Add bouillon, green peppers and pineapple.  Cover and cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes until softened.  In the meantime, mix cornstarch, soy sauce, seasoned salt (accent) vinegar, pineapple juice, sugar, salt and pepper.  Add the mixture to the pineapple, bouillon, and green peppers in skillet and simmer, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.  Return meatball to sauce.  Serve in chafing dish or keep warm in crockpot.  Use cocktail picks to serve.  These go good with cocktail bread or tiny croissants.

Yields:  Approximately 25 servings

May your holiday season be a joyous one.  I hope you like these as much as we do.

Holiday Fruit Cake


An American version of a fruitcake which conta...

An American version of a fruitcake which contains both fruit and nuts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve decided to broach the subject of the dreaded Christmas fruitcake which I know is not all as popular as it was years ago.  I’ll start by giving a brief history of the lowly fruitcake’s origins.

Fruit cake originated, it is believed, in ancient Rome in a much simpler form.  It started to be called ‘fruitcake’ in the Middle Ages when spice, honey and preserved fruits were added to it.  With the discovery of America and the sugars that were produced in the colonies and the abundance of fruits and nuts, the fruitcake began to come into it’s own.  It was now possible to obtain inexpensive sweeteners and many different types of ingredients to add to the cakes.  In the 1700’s nuts were often added to the fruitcake to celebrate good fortune and the abundant harvests.  A great many different types of fruitcakes were produced, varying from light to dark, according to what type of fruits, flours, and nuts were used.  Traditional fruitcake are soaked in liquor to flavor and preserve the cakes,  with brandy and rum being most often used for soaking.  Many fruitcake recipes have been handed down through generations of a family.

The following fruitcake recipe is at least seventy years old.  It is up to you whether you want to further soak the cake with brandy by drizzling it slowly over the top until it is moistened:

1/2 lb. dates, chopped
1/2 lb. dried apricots- chopped
1/2 lb. red and green candied cherries- chopped
1/2 lb. red and green candied pineapple- chopped
1/2 lb. dark raisins
1/2 lb. walnuts – toasted and chopped
1/2 lb. pecans- chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup softened butter
1 orange, juice and grated rind
1 lemon, juice and grated rind
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons brandy
2 Tablespoons Curacao
2 Tablespoons dark rum

Measure out ingredients in advance for easier preparation.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Thoroughly grease two 8″ x 5″ x 3″ loaf pans.  Dredge the fruit and nuts with flour and set aside.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Sift the remaining flour with spices, baking soda and salt.  Add to the creamed butter and sugar mixture alternating with adding the liquor, spices, and vanilla.  Fold the floured fruit and nuts into the batter.  Pour into prepared loaf pans – put the loaf pans into a large pan of hot water and bake for about 2-2  1/2 hours or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool ten minutes and gently remove cakes to a wire baking rack to further cool.

When cool, fruitcake can be further soaked in brandy or rum by drizzling liquor onto cake and letting it seep in to moisten.
Wrap cakes thoroughly in plastic wrap.  They can be aged for several weeks for flavors to meld.  Good served with cream cheese or butter.

HAPPY BAKING AND HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON.

Gail’s Cranberry-Orange Sauce


Cranberries popping

Cranberries popping (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you who are having diabetic friends or family to your home for the Thanksgiving holiday dinner, or if you are a diabetic yourself and trying to cut down on sugar consumption, here is a nice cranberry sauce recipe that you might find useful.  Instead of using gelatin or a cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce up, I’ve substituted a sugar-free marmalade or jelly that does the trick and lends the sauce a nice flavor.  You could try substituting a different light flavored jelly for the sugar-free marmalade I use here for a unique taste.

GAIL’S CRANBERRY-ORANGE SAUCE—

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 dry white  sugar substitute (Splenda or other cup for cup substitute)
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar-free orange marmalade or jelly (or apricot, lemon or strawberry is good, too)
1 twelve (12 oz.) ounce package ‘fresh’ cranberries

In a 1  1/2 quart saucepan, mix sugar and water and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Bring to a boil, then add the cranberries.  Bring mixture back to a boil and simmer on reduce heat.  Cook on low simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until cranberries pop and are softened.  Liquid should be reddened.  Add marmalade or jelly and simmer slowly for approximately 4 minute, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and takes on a sheen.  For a thicker sauce, add a bit more jelly to taste.  Remove pan from heat.  Cool sauce completely to room temperature.

Place in container and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Makes about 2  1/2 cups.  Recipe can be doubled.

This is just a little snippet for you before I start cooking my thanksgiving desserts.  I expect to be too busy to add much in the way of wisdom and light between all the fussing, cleaning, cooking and fidgeting that we’ll be doing before our Thanksgiving repast.

“I hear the tread of
pioneers of nations yet to be,
The first low wash of waves where soon
shall roll a human sea”

—WHITTIER

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL.

Italian Ricotta Pie


Ricotta cheese.

Ricotta cheese. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Usually during this time of year, holiday tables are full of dessert pies made of a variety of fruit fillings.  On our table for Thanksgiving Day is a variety of ethnic dishes including one for this Italian basic ricotta pie.  It’s very rich, but it can be made with part-skim ricotta to cut down a bit on calories.  This is a quick and easy pie to make and should add a very distinct flavor to your holiday meal.

Crust:

 

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg yolks (from large or extra large eggs)

Filling:

2 pounds Ricotta cheese (or part-skim_
1  1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 egg whites (from large or extra large eggs)
2 teaspoons lemon and rind
1  1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (not imitation)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

 

 

For the crust, place 2 cups flour in large mixing bowl with baking powder, stir dry ingredients to blend.  With fork, cut in margarine until small balls form.  Add vanilla and slowly put milk in while blending with fork until ball forms.  Add egg yolks and continue stirring until a large ball forms.  If it is too dry to roll, add just a small amount of milk until of rolling consistency.  Roll out dough onto waxed paper – one for top and one for bottom.  Put half of dough into bottom of 10 inch pie plate.  Reserve other half for top of ricotta pie.

For the filling, in mixer bowl place ricotta cheese, egg whites,  lemon and rind, mix.  Then add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract.  Blend for approximately 7 minutes of medium speed or until smooth.  Pour into pie crust.  Place reserved pie crust on top of filling and crimp the edges as desired.  Brush top crust lightly with egg white and place four small cuts to vent steam.  Cover edges with aluminum foil to protect rim of pie.

Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.