Hearth & Home

Hearth and Home by Daphne Ross

Joy in the Christmas Kitchen

I have been busy in my country kitchen, but it has yet to see any Christmas sweet treats be baked in its oven, yet, no batter spoons to lick, yet, no bowls of finger lickin' goodness, yet.

I have toasted two roaster batches of traditionally seasoned party mix, so far, one batch for Thanksgiving and one batch for home. Another two batches will get fifteen minute oven tumbles before the Ross Family Christmas Eve gathering and then again for the Bob Miller Christmas celebrating on New Year's Day. It's perfect for pre-dinner munching and card playing crunching.

My husband's choice party mix lacks the cereals my Grandma Barton used to put in her Nuts & Bolts such as Kix, Chex (wheat, corn, and rice), and Cheerios. Grandma also added pretzel sticks and mixed nuts. His crunchies of choice; Planter's brand Spanish peanuts, Nacho cheese Bugles, potato sticks, cheese crackers, small butter pretzels, ranch pretzel bits, and rye chips. Of course for a large turkey roaster one needs to triple the seasoned butter coating.

One good thing about snack mixes you can mix it up, breaking away from the traditional ingredients. It's a known fact that party mix snacking folks will pick at the mix; sifting thru the crunchies, shaking up the container, replacing the lid and flipping it over. They're looking for their favorite bites and the most saturated pieces. So no matter what they specifically want in their party mix they will still pick thru it. True fact!

I did stock up on brown sugar, knew I was getting low, and I did need a new bottle of molasses. These items were hints to the ones unpacking groceries; there is a holiday sweet tooth plan in the works. I have to make frosted cut outs, both sugar and ginger, I just have to. Crunchy at first but softened when frosted and air-tight stored.

Milk may or may not be in any of the recipes, but you do need milk in the refrigerator for cookie eating, and for cookie dipping, and of course fresh brewed coffee or stove-top stirred hot cocoa should be available choices as well.

Fudge is made in a Christmas kitchen, or in mine I make Grandma Barton's Pudding Candy, some for me and some for mom, and yes some for others. Oven-baked caramel corn with, yes, more Spanish peanuts will be roaster toasted as well, only there is no surprise in the box. The surprise here are second containers of more sweet and salty treats. Who wants to see a sad face on Christmas when one finds the bottom of the bowl, unless of course it's the finger lickin' kind of bowl.

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy Snacking!

Joy in the Christmas kitchen begins with you; send your family favorite recipes to Hearth & Home, 5973 Blachleyville Rd., Wooster, OH, 44691. Emails are always welcome:
the writecook@sssnet.com

Cheesecake Christmas Cookies
1 1/4 cups (1 sleeve) finely crushed graham crackers
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, separated
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a large bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, flour and baking powder. In a medium bowl, beat together butter with brown sugar using an electric hand mixer. Add egg white; beat until well combined. Add to graham cracker crumbs; blend until just combined. In a separate medium bowl, beat together softened cream cheese with sugar, egg yolk, lemon zest and vanilla until well combined. Set aside. Using small ice cream scoop, scoop out cookie dough; place on a nonstick or baking sheet. Flatten slightly, press thumb in center of ball to create a small bowl shape. Repeat with remaining dough; spoon cream cheese into the indents in the cookies. Bake at 350 degrees until filling is barely set and cookies are lightly golden, 12 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes on baking sheets before removing; cool completely on a wire rack

Mushrooms the Christmas Appetizer
1 tablespoon olive oil
24 large mushroom caps, stems removed
Salt and pepper
Stuffing:
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 pound Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, chopped
20 finely chopped mushroom stems
1 rib of celery and leafy top, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 (10 ounce) box chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeeze dried
3 slices white bread, toasted and buttered, chopped small
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and mushroom caps; season with salt and pepper. Saute 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly browned and tender on edges. Drain juices from caps. Transfer caps to a small nonstick baking sheet. Wipe out skillet and return to heat. Add a touch of oil and sausage to the hot skillet. Brown and crumble sausage for 3 minutes. In a food processor pulse and chop garlic, add stems; pulse to chop mushroom stems. Add celery, onion and red bell pepper to the mushrooms; pulse to chop. Remove mixture from processor and saute veggies and mushrooms over medium high heat another 3 to 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir into stuffing. Add chopped bread and cheese to the pan and toss stuffing until bread is moist and stuffing is combined, 2 or 3 minutes. Fill caps with stuffing. Bake at 500 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes to crisp edges of stuffing and set stuffing in mushrooms.

Festive Banana Pecan Cake
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
3 large ripe bananas, mashed (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups raisins
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar and butter, creaming until light and fluffy. Add oil. Beat in eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Combine mashed banana and milk; add to creamed mixture alternately with flour mixture, beating until smooth after each addition. Stir in nuts and raisins. Turn batter into a greased and floured 10 inch fluted tube or Bundt pan. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for one hour and 10 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack to cool. Dust powdered sugar lightly over cooled cake or frost with confectioners icing.

Apples-in-the-Snow Salad
1 (8 1/2 ounce) can crushed pineapple
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cup apple, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1/2 cup sugar
Dash of salt
2 eggs, beaten
Drain pineapple, reserving syrup. Add enough water to pineapple syrup to make 1/2 cup. Combine pineapple syrup, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and eggs in a saucepan. Mix until smooth and thickened. Chill syrup mixture thoroughly. Fold in pineapple, apple, celery, and whipped cream. Spoon into an 8 inch square pan; freeze until firm. Cut into squares to serve. Yields: 9 servings.

Fun-in-the-Snow Candy
1 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
Fresh snow
This recipe works best with 2 people. Fill 2 (9-inch) pie pans with fresh snow; set outside in snow to chill. Combine molasses and brown sugar in large glass saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. After 5 minutes, begin testing the syrup by dripping some from a spoon into a glass of cold water. If the drops dissolve and make the water cloudy, continue cooking and testing with fresh water. If the drops form soft balls (245 degrees), remove from heat. Pour half the hot candy into 6 ounce heat-proof pitcher and leave other half in saucepan. Quickly get pans of snow from outside. Working quickly pour hot syrup onto pans of cold snow (1 from pitcher, 1 from saucepan). When candy has hardened, break into bite-size pieces. Yields: 3/4 pound of candy.

Hearty Winter Meal Corn Mac & Cheese
2 (8 ounce) cans creamed corn
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch ground nutmeg
Salt and black pepper
3 dashes hot sauce
2 cups macaroni
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
1 (12 ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup croutons
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a small pan, for 5 minutes simmer corn and milk, add onion powder. Combine cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water; stir well. Add cornstarch to corn mixture; whisk over medium heat for 3 minutes. Season corn cream with a little nutmeg, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm. Cook macaroni in salted water for 6 minutes. Drain well and add to the corn cream. Add the Cheddar, half of the mozzarella and egg. Stir well. Pour into a 4 cup size casserole dish or 12-inch cast-iron skillet; top with remaining mozzarella. Crush croutons and stir together the oil and crushed croutons; spread over top of the macaroni and corn mixture. Bake at 350 degrees, on the top rack for 15 to 20 minutes.

Shrimp Filled Deviled Eggs
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup Miracle Whip
1 teaspoon French's mustard
Dash Tabasco sauce
Salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
6 medium cooked shrimp, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
Cut peeled eggs lengthwise into halves. Slip out yolks; mash with fork. Stir in Miracle Whip, mustard, Tabasco, garlic powder and salt; taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in shrimp and minced green onions. Fill whites with egg yolk mixture, forming a slightly rounded top, or pipe through a decorative pastry bag or cookie shooter; arrange on a serving dish. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Garnish with paprika and chopped fresh parsley before serving, if desired. Yields 12 deviled eggs.

Give-Away Christmas Oat Bread
3 cups oat flour
3 cups white/or whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 packs active dry yeast
2 Rome apples diced.
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup crushed walnuts or pecans (or both if you like)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ginger
2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons soft butter or nonfat butter spread
1/3 cup lukewarm water
In a large mixing bowl soak oats in the boiling water for half an hour. Put the yeast in the lukewarm water when the oats have been soaking for almost half an hour. While waiting for the oats to soak, peel, core and dice the apples into fine chunks. Mix the dry ingredients together. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. When the oats have soaked long enough, mix in the honey, butter and yeast to the mixture; then add the dry ingredients 2 cups at a time, mixing as you go. Once the oats and flour are thoroughly blended, add the nuts and apples. The mixture will be stiff so slowly add the cider to the dough to help make it easier to knead. Put a towel over the bowl and let the mix rise. Once it has doubled, put the dough into a pair of well-greased 9 X 3 X 5 baking pans and put them in the oven for 55 to 60 minutes.

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