Holiday Goodies

Black-Eyed Pea and Kale Soup

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by Joseph Erdos

blackeyedpeasoupNew Year's would not be complete without the traditional foods that celebrate the start of a new year in a somewhat superstitious way. Many cultures eat foods that are symbolic of luck, progress, prosperity, and wealth. Ham and pork are often eaten because pigs root forward with their snouts. Stay away from chicken, because they scratch backward. Legumes double in size when cooked and thus represent prosperity. Lentils look like tiny coins. Leafy greens resemble paper money and symbolize wealth. Even if these food customs seem superstitious, they are rooted in culture, tradition, and history.

In the American South especially, black-eyed peas have a history that is important to remember. The legume has been grown in the South since Colonial times. It was originally domesticated thousands of years ago in Africa and arrived in America on slave ships. Black-eyed peas are a staple in soul food. Typical Southern New Year's foods include such dishes as black-eyed pea cakes and Hoppin' John, which is a combination of peas and rice with smoked pork. Boiled ham hocks and cooked greens, such as collard greens, mustard greens, or kale are also eaten. This simple soup holds true to tradition to include a bit of each symbolic food.

Holiday Cranberry Phyllo Baskets

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by Elaine McCardel

cranberryopenshot.jpgThese just scream Christmas, don't they?  I wanted to show you this recipe to give you plenty of time to include this in your holiday entertaining.  I love cranberry desserts at the holidays - they are so pretty, with the cranberries looking like little jewels. These phyllo baskets are simply scrumptious and you can make the components of these ahead of time, making it a breeze to assemble right before you want them.

I've had this recipe for years, way before you could buy prebaked phyllo baskets in the grocery store.  If you absolutely don't have time to make the phyllo baskets yourself, you could use the frozen kind. I've never tried them, so I cannot tell you if they are any good. But if you buy phyllo sheets and make your own little baskets, I guarantee they will be wonderful and crisp and light and so worth the small effort it takes to make them. And you can make the baskets way ahead of time and keep them at room temperature.  The filling and topping are practically afterthoughts, they are so easy.

Brie pairs up with Spiced Pecans

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by Sue Doeden

spiced-pecans-and-brie-cups-013-1024x682.jpgCrunchy. Flaky. Gooey. Sweet. Tart. Salty. Delicious. And, as if that weren’t enough to get you completely hooked, I must add one more thing. Super easy.

When I spotted frozen mini fillo shells in the freezer case at the grocery store last week, visions of melted Brie studded with sweet and tart apple chunks topped with spicy pecans all in a light, flaky cup ran through my head.

Baked Stuffed Brie was still fresh in my mind, all  creamy and gooey and chewy with apples and spice and dried fruit. That recipe came from the new cookbook written by Carmela Hobbins, Celebrations with Carmela's Cucina

Having a few ingredients on hand during the holidays that allow you to create a delicious snack or appetizer to serve with cocktails, wine or holiday punch helps a busy cook remain joyful amidst all the hustle and bustle and stress of the season.

Pat Loud's Classic Holiday Cheese Log

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by James Moore

cheeselog.jpgThis is a fantastic and easy recipe from my friend Pat Loud which was passed down from her mother. She serves it at nearly every party that I’ve attended and it’s always a big hit.

As with most good recipes, the amounts are somewhat flexible – in other words, feel free to use more or less of any of the ingredients. Key to success, however, depends upon quality sharp cheddar cheese. I used Cabot Private Stock Extra Sharp Cheddar.

Any favorite bleu cheese will work – Roquefort, Danish Bleu, or English Stilton. Make sure that the cheeses are not too cold, or the mixture will not blend in the food processor.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

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by James Moore

xmascookies.jpgThese have to be one of the quintessential Christmas cookies. They are known by many names but Mexican Wedding Cookie seems to be the most common.

There are several variations of this cookie in many countries – Biscochitos in Mexico (always made with lard), Kourabiedes in Greece, Polvorones in Italy and Spain making them a universal holiday cookie treat. It’s important to use the highest quality butter when making these melt-in-your-mouth morsels.

Mexican Wedding Cookie

2 cups whole pecans or walnuts
2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened (preferably Plugra)
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups confectioners' sugar for rolling cooled cookies

Cashew Linzer Cookie Wreaths

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by Joseph Erdos

apricotcookie.jpgSome of the best pastries and sweets come from eastern Europe and I'm not just saying that because my family is Hungarian. Though I am biased. The Linzertorte is one of the most famous treats in Austria and Hungary. It's basically a lattice-topped tart made of pastry crust that is filled with jam, either apricot, raspberry, or plum. Linzer cookies are the miniature version. These little round sandwiched cookies have such a festive look. Cut them out with a fluted cookie cutter and they take on the look of Christmas wreaths. Dusting them with powdered sugar is practically required to give them a true winter wonderland look.

Traditional Linzer cookies include ground nuts in the dough. This recipe does not make an exception. Instead of the traditional ground hazelnuts or almonds, I use ground cashews, which creates a cookie that is super soft and buttery in texture. The combination of cashews and apricot jam brings to mind one of my favorite sandwiches from Bouchon Bakery called the CB&J (cashew butter and apricot jam). Like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but even better, the CB&J hits all the comfort spots. I recreate that blissful flavor match in these delicate cookies for a slight twist on tradition

The Best Make-Ahead Finger Food

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by Big Girls, Small Kitchen

From the Huffington Post

easyappetizers.jpgWith the holidays near -- er, here -- holiday party season is in full swing. We're sure you've already labored over festive meals and decadent desserts to serve to your loved ones when entertaining at home. If you're still hosting, for New Year's Eve, perhaps, you deserve to take a break. Or at least appear to in front of your guests.

These awesome appetizers require almost no moment-of work or attention. Some need to be pulled out of the oven or gently reheated, but other than that, they're purely make-ahead. For the most part, they're easy too, requiring no more than a few hours of work a day or two before.

That means when you throw a finger food party, all you've really got to do is relax, dip your pita into some hummus, and toast to the new year with friends.

Read article...

Mocha Kissy Cookies require no kissing before eating

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by Sue Doeden

mocha-kissy-cookie-blog.jpgEach year just before Christmas, we had a holiday gathering for all the children and their families at the campus child care center I worked at for several years. Each family contributed a plate of holiday treats.

One year, as I moved around the Center visiting with parents and siblings of the preschoolers I spent time with each day, I happened upon a conversation between two preschoolers. They each held one of those peanut butter cookies with a Hershey kiss in the middle.

“Kiss me,” said the little girl as she looked at the confused little boy in front of her. “You can’t take a bite of your kissy cookie until you kiss me. That’s what my mom and dad do,” she said sweetly. I pictured her young parents sitting on the couch in their living room at home with a tin of Kissy Cookies resting on their laps, sharing a quick little peck as they ate cookies together. I held back a little giggle.

Chocolate Chip, Cherry, and Pistachio Cookies

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by Susan Russo

choccherrychip.jpgAmericans in particular love a good chocolate chip cookie. That's in large part do to Ruth Wakefield, a home baker in Massachusetts, who in 1930 opened a lodge call The Toll House Inn.

One day as she was making her Butter Drop Do cookies, she tossed some Nestle semi-sweet chocolate into the dough expecting it to get all melty. It didn't. In fact, the cookies were tantalizingly creamy and chocolaty, becoming an instant hit at the Inn. Eventually Ruth ventured into a partnership with Nestle and, lo and behold, the famous Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie was born. Nearly 80 years later, they remain one of America's favorite cookies.

So for all of my fellow chocolate chip cookie lovers out there, I've got a special Christmassy chocolate chip cookie for you: Chocolate Chip, Cherry, and Pistachio Cookies. When you bite into the slightly crisp exterior, you'll discover a soft chewy center studded with sweet chocolate chips, tart dried cherries, and rich pistachios.

Dream Bars-An Old Family Favorite

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by Susan Russo

dreambars.jpgI have been making dream bars since 1990.  It is a recipe I discovered in my Rose Levy Beranbaum Rose's Christmas Cookies (still, one of my favorites).

Prior to making these I had made a bar similar to this one, called a “7 layer bar”.  It had butterscotch chips and white chocolate chips plus other things.  And they were good, but I am not a huge butterscotch fan.

When I came across this recipe I had to try them. They immediately were a hit. I make them all year round and 75% of the time you can find some hidden in the back of my freezer.  They were always and still are included in my holiday baking which I have done every year since 1990.


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