Roast Beef and Avocado Finger Sandwiches

What is up with me and finger sandwiches for the holidays? Strange.

I haven’t made this appetizer in several years. I remember it being good and that the Boy likes it and that’s about all based on my meticulous notes. I wanted something simple this year for the holidays and while these flavors don’t scream “holidays” at all, they are good nonetheless.

D&D_1493The first time I made this was in the summer and it worked then as well. The important thing with this recipe is to make it at the last minute and not let the bread get dry. Cover with a damp paper towels and some cling film until time serve.

1 ripe Hass avocado
juice of a lime
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 slices white bread, very thin slices – White Mountain
2 Tbs Duke’s mayo
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, more if you like
1⁄2 lb thinly sliced rare roast beef

In a small bowl mash avocado. Stir in lime juice, chives, salt, and pepper.
Spread avocado mash over 6 slices bread, dividing evenly.

Mix mayonnaise with prepared horseradish.
Spread other 6 slices bread with about 1 teaspoon each horseradish-mayonnaise.
Top with roast beef, dividing evenly.

Gently press avocado-topped bread slices onto each sandwich.

Using long serrated knife, trim off crusts and cut each sandwich lengthwise into thirds.

Makes 18 or so.

16 August 2008 – v.g.

If you have more filling, make more sandwiches. They will not go to waste.

This is just such a great flavor combination and you think the horseradish might over power, but it does not. The creaminess of the avocado and especially the sharpness of the lime all mix together with the roast beef.

You can also toast the bread before you make these and that is good, but don’t go overboard with damp paper towels then or the bread loses it crunch.

Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

I’ve been meaning to do this for donkey’s years, but finally got around to a first round this week. Trying to get some practice in before Christmas, because I was thinking I might make some for little Christmas treats for friends and what not. Not a big deal, but a handmade treat that I think most people would like. I am, as mentioned ad nauseum, not a chocolate person, but give me a pretzel with a simple chocolate coating, especially if semi-sweet or white chocolate and I am so all there. Need to work on the decorating, but that will come and I also see how you could make this work for lots of different holidays by changing colors.

D&D_2402I suppose you could do the same with other kinds of pretzels, but this seems to make the most sense for now, at least until someone convinces me otherwise. Chocolate pretzels in a pint glass – something about that makes lots of sense – to me anyway.

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
16 pretzel rods
And lots of different kinds of toppings

Line a baking sheet with wax paper or silpat.

Heat chips and vegetable shortening in small, dry, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on medium high power for 1 minute; Stir. The chips may retain some of their original shape but just keep stirring. Microwave at additional 10 – to 15 -second intervals, stirring just until chips are melted.

Dip pretzel rods as far as you can into melted chips, using a spoon to help coat each pretzel rod. Sprinkle with toppings. Place on prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until set. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Best when eaten within a few days.

These are so stupidly amazing. I cannot make them again, because if I do, I think I might eat them all. In this case, I only ate the little stubby pretzels that I dipped in just the chocolate and that made me happy. But that should be as far as it goes. I bought the strange white sprinkles for these, especially. That is, again, just so sad. Or maybe just so very cool. Not sure.

Yep, but you know I am going to come up with even a better way to make them and that will just be a bad thing for me.


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

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.


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


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.