Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Watching for Christmas Elves

As my family gathers to celebrate Christmas together, it's crazy around here. We will have 8 adults, 3 children from 8 to 2, and a sweet doggie on Christmas morning. I'm doing as much food prep ahead as I can. Tonight it pasta with Bolognese sauce and salad. Fudgy chocolate pudding cake with ice cream will be dessert.

For Christmas Eve we usually have appetizers and finish with English Trifle and Danish Aebleskiver. The trifle is a favorite of mine because it can be made a day ahead and we will have enough left for Christmas dinner. I finally found the recipe for Spinach Artichoke Dip that we all like. After searching for hours, I emailed my friend and asked her to send it again.

Espinacha Dip

1 (10 ounces) package frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry
1 can (10 ounces) chopped tomatoes and green chiles
1 (14 ounces) can artichoke hearts
1 (8 ounces) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1 (4 ounces) can sliced ripe olives, drained
1 cup grated colby-jack cheese
1 cup light sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Hot pepper sauce, to taste

Corn chips (our favorite are the Fritos Scoops).

Combine all the ingredients but the corn chips in a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are chopped and well mixed. Place in an oven safe baking dish and heat at 400 degrees F. about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with corn chips.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Keep It Simple

We're going to have lots of activity around here the week of Christmas so I'm trying to plan ahead and enjoy it all. When my children were younger I read in a magazine that by asking everyone their favorite treat I could reduce the amount of baking I did. No kidding! All three of them chose the same thing, Buckeyes (chocolate dipped peanut butter balls). This is now a favorite of my grandsons.

Back to keeping it simple. This is the house where my husband always chooses Birthday Pie- Pecan is his favorite.I'm going to make Pecan Bars- they are a cross between pie and Pecan Tassies.

Here's the recipe from Baking Basics and Beyond (Surrey Books, 2006).

Pecan Pie Bars

If pecan pie is one of your favorites, you’ll love these easy-to-make bars. For a fast, fabulous dessert, cut the bars into 2- or 3-inch squares, heat them slightly in the microwave, and top the warm squares with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a spoonful of caramel sauce.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, cut-up

2 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle.
Combine flour and brown sugar in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add butter and beat on Medium speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Press the crust into bottom and slightly up sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 12 minutes. The crust will be lightly browned.

Beat brown sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla in same mixer bowl on Low speed until smooth. Stir in pecans. Pour into crust.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until set in center. A knife inserted in center will come out clean but wet. Cool on wire cooling rack before cutting. Refrigerate bars.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bake with the Best Ingredients

Last Thursday the Taste section of the Minneapolis Stray Tribune ran an article I wrote on baking ingredients. I've posted the link below.

If there is one hard and fast rule I go by it is to use high quality ingredients. I always use butter and am starting to use unsalted butter more. I like the flavor it gives and have found that I need to adjust the salt in the recipe slightly (add a little more).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Showcase MN with Holiday Tips

I appeared on Showcase Minnesota yesterday. We talked about ways to make holiday entertaining easier. My best suggestion: Plan Ahead. Here's the link.