Christmas Eve Buffet Cheese Ball

So I think this year, I might subject friends and family to my odd sense of nostalgia and hope I, the one who has this in my memory, am not disappointed.

For some reason, known only to herself (she never did explain it), my mother left me in charge of deciding the food for Christmas Eve. Not the making in all, or even most, cases, but the deciding. In our family which was rather large even though is was just my 3 siblings, me, my parents, and our older siblings kids, we opened presents from each other on Christmas Eve, so it was a night of perpetual snacking and in my case eating enough vanilla taffy to almost (almost, but not quite), make myself sick. Oh, and fudge too. And I don’t even like fudge (Groundhog Day.)

D&D_1499This was one of the things that I wanted every year and also made myself – not exactly difficult even though we had no food processor or mini chopper. You just did it the old fashioned way, by hand – no harm in that. I have no idea where this came from, but in my made-up back-story for it, it was a contribution to a local newspaper from some woman who would call herself by her husband’s name, you know what I mean. Instead of Mary Smith, she would be Mrs. John Smith, like she didn’t have an existence outside of him – yes, going off the rails here a bit, but that kind of thing just makes me slightly crazy.

Here for posterity’s sake.

8 ozs  cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, room temperature
3 Tbs well-drained horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped dried beef

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, horseradish until well blended. Make into a ball and chill. Roll in dried beef until covered. Chill several hours. Let sit at room temperature before serving. Serve with Triscuits or whatever crackers you like, but when I was 12, Triscuits is what I did. And everyone else did too.

Several questions arise – the first being do they still make dried beef in those odd little jars (not that I could tell, and I looked), where is it in the store if they do and what are my other options? I’m thinking pan fried proscuitto minced.
Also – only 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar. First, must be Cabot seriously sharp, but needs to be orange for color contrast and it will most certainly be more than 1/2 a measly cup. Please.
I will taste and check the horseradish level, but must be careful not to blow everyone’s palate. I tend to like just a click more horseradish than most people.

What I did make –

8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1 cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded at room temperature
3 Tbs well drained horseradish
1 cup minced dried cranberries
3 scallions minced
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Coating:
1 Tbs chives, minced
3 scallions, minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries, minced

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, and horseradish until well combined. Add in cranberries, scallions, and pecans. Roll into a ball and cover with plastic and chill until firm.

When ready to serve, mix coating ingredients in a wide bowl, and roll cheese ball in to cover, pressing in as necessary. Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

23 December 2017 – for Christmas Eve.
Never hurts to try something new, esp. if it is really good – and um, it was.

Haystacks

I have no idea why my mother made these for Christmas. None whatsoever. Another thing that will never be explained, but somehow this came back into my memory this fall and I thought I would at least make it once as an adult and decide if it was as good as I remember. And to also see what the Boy would think of it. I am sure the MotH will not touch it with a ten foot pole. No surprise there really. **

This isn’t so much a recipe but a method really, but so many recipes included chocolate in the Haystacks and I can damn sure tell you that was not in my mom’s recipe. Peanut butter was not involved either. Can we say, ugh? Sometimes simple, really, is best.

D&D_2559This recipe uses nuts and I can see how some salted dry roasted or honey roasted peanuts would be good, but I think I am going to go with some chopped up pretzel bits. It is all about the salt, especially when you are dealing with something as cloying sweet as butterscotch morsels.

24 ounces butterscotch chips
5 ounces chow mein noodles – what to do w/the rest of them??
1½ cup chopped nuts (dry roasted peanuts, almonds, or cashews are a few good choices)
1 1/2 cups chopped pretzel pieces –  dipping sticks – what else can I do with them??

Melt butterscotch morsels gently in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not let bowl touch water or get water in chips – not good juju.

Combine noodles and nuts in a large bowl. Pour melted butterscotch over noodle/pretzel mixture and combine until everything is coated.

Drop heaping tablespoons onto parchment or wax paper and let cool. Serve or store in airtight containers.

Source She Wears Many Hats

** Strange thing, both the MotH and the Boy said I have done this before, and I honestly think they are both imagining things. Much as I *love* butterscotch, I really think I would remember it. That said, I know I have never done this with pretzel pieces.

And now I have more pretzels to play with – more chocolate dipping might be involved. But no chocolate in haystacks – um, ever.

Banana Nut Bread

I just cannot stand bananas. It is the texture I think, but, let’s just say, ugh. But here I am making banana nut bread from my mom’s recipe again. Just like so many years before.

I miss that I can’t make it for my dad anymore. But this, to me, more that just about anything else, is Christmas.

It would not be Christmas without toasted (under the broiler) banana nut bread slathered in too much butter for Christmas Day breakfast/brunch. Sausage balls are the close second.

D&D_2576This keeps well. And if you make a loaf and split it and put half wrapped in two layers of heavy duty foil in the freezer you can pull it out in March and it is still amazing.  That is what I did for my dad – half a loaf to eat now and the other have to save for a couple of months. You can make this anytime of year, really, but – it is just Christmas. And my family’s tradition.

8 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
3 1/12 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans (I upped this – my mom only used 1 cup)

Grease and line a 9 x 5″ loaf pan with parchment paper and spray again with baking spray.  Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and baking soda – typically, I do this on a piece of waxed paper. In the stand mixer, blend the butter and sugar together. Then add the eggs, one at a time until blended. Add the mashed bananas and blend until combined. Mix in dry ingredients. Add pecans and mix well.

Turn into loaf pan and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and increase temp to 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

21 December 2017 – post procedure – funny, that – that is a story for a whole different day.(said in the voice of River Song from Dr. Who – the Matt Smith version). Dear lord, I am a dork of the nth degree. And obviously, the drugs are still having an impact of sorts.

300 degrees 1 hour – turn 1/2 way through
345 degrees 15 minutes – turn
20 minutes more – check with long wooden skewer – damnation – perfect.
9 x 5 inch Williams Sonoma gold-ish large loaf pan

D&D_1599

Work Hack – good for breakfast or lunch as long as you have Kerry Gold butter.

Spinach Dip

I did not make spinach dip this year for Thanksgiving since it was just a family meal and no need for any more leftovers than we already had, so I made this for Christmas Eve. Because for the Boy this is a requirement. You know when he runs out of Hawaiian rolls, he will use regular sandwich bread and make a sandwich out of this.

Not sure how I feel about that, but now that I am thinking on it. This might make a base for a pretty good grilled cheese (w/some cheddar or something) sandwich on some crusty Italian bread from the good old Publix. Might need to give that some more thought and surprise the Boy with it.

D&D_14958 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, drained and all the liquid pressed out
1 can water chestnuts, minced*
King’s Hawaiian Rolls

Mix together cream cheese and mayonnaise. Add vegetable soup mix, and mix to combine thoroughly. No, I mean it. This is important.
Add spinach and water chestnuts and mix. Refrigerate overnight.
Let sit at room temperature for about an hour or so before serving. You do not want it to be ice cold – not good eats. Serve with Hawaiian rolls. Sliced horizontally and then vertically, so you get 4 pieces of Hawaiian bread from each roll.

Serve and make a total pig of yourself. It is just inevitable.

*I think you can get minced water chestnuts at the store, but I like sliced and then I mince them myself. I am not sure the Boy knows they are in there, but …. we’ll just keep quiet about it then, won’t we.

There is nothing terribly special about this, but it is another of those traditions that started back in my trouble youth, as Jimmy Buffet would say – read: early 20s. Another recipe that my mom let me add to the Christmas eve tradition and it just stuck. Nothing wrong with it being vegetarian and I do not do much mayo or any sour cream – the original recipe was overloaded with it. Again my friend Marie is the one that said, put the cream cheese it – have been doing it ever since (like the late 80s – oh, lord).   I added the Hawaiian rolls a few years later and that really works well.

That said, any holiday is better with a great dip. Or two, or ten.

Buttery Sugar Cookies

I have my favorite sugar cookie recipe that I make every Christmas and on a lot of other holidays (Mardi Gras, St. Pat’s, um, and other stuff, I’m sure – don’t do anything for the non-holiday Valentine’s Day – blech.) But it is always my favorite Christmas cookies and I’ll be damned if they do not stand the test of time.

That said, I wanted to give this new-comer a chance. And hello, and hell, yes. Excellent cookies – different, but still very very good.

D&D_255716 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup coarse sanding sugar – more colours the better

Beat together butter, sugar, and salt in a large bowl of a stand mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. Slowly mix in flour.

Half the dough and press each half into a disk, then wrap in wax paper. Put each disk in a resealable plastic bag and chill until firm enough to roll into balls, about 1 hour. I left mine in for 2 days – worked just fine. Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking sheet with parchment

Work with 1 piece of dough at a time and roll a tablespoon of dough into a ball, then roll that ball in coarse sanding sugar in a shallow bowl to coat. Move fast and don’t let dough get soft – if it does – back the fridge it goes. Place balls 2 inches apart on a lined baking sheet. With the flat bottom of a glass, flatten balls into 2-inch rounds. Add more sugar. I did.

Bake cookies until bottoms are golden, 12 to 15 minutes total. Cool on sheets 2 minutes, then transfer with a spatula to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough on cooled (important) baking sheets.

Source: Gourmet

I really liked these cookies. They were different than the typical roll-out sugar cookies and that, in my opinion, is not a bad thing. I love to bake, but rolling out cookie dough – not my favorite thing to do. I am kind of lazy that way.

Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles

New in the Christmas Eve cookie/treat rotation – salted caramel snicks. It is basically a thumbprint cookie and you fill the little divot with a home made caramel sauce. Once again, I made the dough, refrigerated it, baked the cookies a couple of days later, again stored in the fridge and made the caramel sauce a day later. Worked out pretty good. Before I went forward with the caramel, I had the Boy test the plain snick and he really like it.

D&D_2523This was really pretty easy to do and when you sort of divide the labour over a couple of days, it is even more so. I like working like this so I can bake/prep a little bit after work each day – gives me some fun without being too terribly stressful. And thinking ahead when baking is always a good thing.

Snickerdoodle Dough:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
12 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Salted Caramel Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Make the snickerdoodle cookies: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar and kosher salt in a medium bowl until evenly combined. Whisk 1 cup of the sugar, the butter, vanilla and egg together in a large bowl until well combined. Pour in the flour mixture and stir with a spoon until the dough just combines.

Stir together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Using a 1/2-ounce ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, portion and roll the dough into 30 (1-inch) balls. Roll each ball in the cinnamon-sugar to coat, and then transfer to the prepared baking sheets, spacing the balls 2 inches apart. Using the end of a wooden spoon or your index finger, press each dough ball in the center to create a deep divot. Refrigerate the dough balls on the baking sheets for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through, until light golden brown on the bottom, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 1 minute on the baking sheets, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the salted caramel filling: Pour the sugar in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook the sugar, stirring occasionally, until it turns liquid and deep amber brown. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until smooth. Add the cream and kosher salt and stir until incorporated. Fill the divot in each cookie with the hot caramel and sprinkle with sea salt. Let the caramel cool for 30 minutes to set before serving. [I just need to make this again to just eat w/a spoon.]

21 December 2017

Source: Ree Drummond

Stupidly – Easy Chocolate Fudge

My mom always made fudge for Christmas. She would put them in her Christmas tins, and me, being me, do the same thing. I would have a bit or two, but – again – not a chocolate person – even then, as a kid. Well, it is what it is. D&D_2579

I have tried to recreate my mom’s fudge with not a whole bunch of success.  I do not like recipes that use marshmallow stuff (fluff, cream, um, whatever), or, heaven forbid, peanut butter – dear lord, who thinks either one of those things are a good idea. Also, all fudge needs nuts and as usually, I prefer walnuts.

While this made shite-loads of fudge (in my opinion), it was also pretty damn good and it recalls my mom’s fudge – and that was enough just to make me happy. So here it is – stupidly good, really easy, chocolate fudge.  Sometime, simple is just best. Yep.

4 Tbs unsalted butter
16 ozs semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Spray 8 x 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment, with an overhang on two sides for easier removal from pan.

Place a large glass bowl over a pot of barely simmering water – do not let bowl touch water or get water in chocolate mixture. Combine all ingredients except walnuts until just melted and well combined. Mix in nuts – sorry – required.

Put fudge mixture into prepared pan and refrigerate until set – 4 hours, but best overnight. Using parchment sling, lift fudge out of pan and cut into small pieces (this is rich, so smaller is better.)

D&D_2585

Source: www.cookingforengineers.com via the New York Times