Monthly Archives: December 2010

Christmas Cupcakes Made Easy!

These Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting & Holiday Sprinkles are made from Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix and Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting. I added 3 tablespoons Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder to the cake batter for added chocolate flavor. The cupcakes taste great, but also look great thanks to the beautiful cupcake liners.

As a props stylist, I am sometimes stopped dead in my tracks when I discover a new product that I could only have dreamed of in years past. While other people may be excited by, say, advances in technology or medical science, I get excited when I see products perfect for photo shoot propping, and I am always on the lookout. Colorful straws that bend, square plates, tiny glass Christmas balls in unusual colors…well, you get the idea.

Cupcakes have always been hard to shoot because the see-thru thin paper liners were so unattractive that they ruined the shot. The foil liners were a bit better, but not by much. (Seriously, I have been known to handpaint cupcake liners because what we needed for a shoot simply did not exist.) For many years, cupcakes were pretty, cupcake liners were not. It was common knowledge. At least in my world.

Therefore, I was recently blown away when I came across Reynolds’ line of decorative foil cupcake liners that change seasonally. The red and green ribbon swirl pattern practically jumped off the shelf as I browsed the baking aisle of my grocery store. The liners are paper on the outside and foil on the inside. They hold their color and their shape; in fact, you do not even need a cupcake tin to use them. Pretty & practical…now that’s genius.

Happy cupcaking!

Heather

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Filed under Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert, Entertaining, Holidays

Christmas Morning Muffins

Ah, a warm muffin and a hot cup of coffee.  That’s a near perfect winter breakfast!

We think you’ll love these Cranberry-Orange Streusel Muffins. The sweetness from the drizzled icing nicely balances the tartness of the fresh cranberries and the orange flavor comes shining through. The beautiful red of the cranberries makes these muffins especially pretty for Christmas morning.

Cranberry-Orange Streusel Muffins

(makes 8 muffins)

Streusel Topping:

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons softened butter or margarine

Muffins:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2/3 cup  milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 cup cranberries (whole or coarsely chopped)

Icing:

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons orange juice

– Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease 8 muffin pan cups.

– Prepare streusel topping:  In small bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Add butter, stirring, until coarse crumbs are formed. Reserve.

– Prepare muffins:  In large  bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder,  baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  In small bowl, using wire whisk, lightly beat egg, milk, oil and orange peel.  Stir into flour mixture just until combined.  Stir in cranberries.

– Divide batter among prepared muffin cups.  Sprinkle reserved streusel topping evenly over muffins. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from muffin cups.

– Meanwhile, prepare icing:  In small bowl stir together confectioners’ sugar and orange juice.
Drizzle over warm muffins. Garnish muffins with extra grated orange peel if desired.



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Filed under Berries, Breads, Breakfast, cranberries, Holidays

25 Easy Holiday Appetizers

Need a quick holiday appetizer recipe?  We’ve compiled a list of easy, no-recipe-required appetizers that combine a little of this and a little of that to give you an arsenal of hors d’oeuvres that you can serve now and all through the year.  Print the list so it will be at your fingertips. You’ll be ready for anything!

mixed olives, roasted garlic & fresh rosemary (#16.)

1.  Spoon cranberry chutney over a block of cream cheese; sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts.  Serve with crackers.

2. Wrap a cracked-pepper bread stick or lightly steamed asparagus spear with prosciutto.

3. Pipe your favorite hummus onto cucumber slices and sprinkle with chopped toasted nuts.

4. Pipe flavored cream cheese onto quartered pumpernickel bread slices or party rye slices; drizzle with warmed fig preserves.

5. Toss 2 cups of your favorite nuts with one beaten egg white; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and your favorite spice blend. Spread on baking sheet and bake 300°F for 25 minutes.

6. Spoon finely chopped pears tossed with small amount of chutney onto ends of endive leaves.  Sprinkle with gorgonzola cheese.

7. Cut your favorite store-bought pizza into bite-size pieces.

8. Brown sliced, fully cooked kielbasa in butter with a sprinkling of brown sugar; add drained, canned pineapple chunks.  Serve warm with toothpicks.

9. Toss mozzarella balls (bocconcini) and grape tomatoes with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette. Serve with toothpicks.

10. Stir chopped sun-dried tomatoes and a small amount of basil pesto into neufchatel cheese.  Serve with toasted bread slices.

11. Heat store-bought breaded chicken tenders. Serve with a dipping sauce made from warm apricot preserves combined with a dash or two of chili powder and a splash of BBQ sauce.

12. Sprinkle cooked baby back ribs with toasted sesame seeds; cut into individual ribs and serve with duck sauce.

13. Spread a large flour tortilla with store-bought salmon spread; sprinkle with capers and minced red onion; roll up, then cut crosswise into 3/4 inch slices to make spirals.

14. Stir chopped mango into your favorite salsa.  Serve with tortilla chips.

15. Split dried apricots. Fill each with a small piece of brie and drizzle with raspberry preserves.

16. Toss store-bought mixed olives with roasted garlic cloves, fresh rosemary sprigs, sea salt and red pepper flakes; heat, covered with foil, until warm. Serve with toothpicks.

17. Serve cooked, peeled shrimp with chipolte mayonnaise mixed with a splash of BBQ sauce and a spoonful of honey mustard.

18. Cut steamed tiny red or fingerling potatoes in half; top with a dab of sour cream, and sprinkle with finely chopped cooked bacon, minced chives, sea salt and cracked pepper.

19. Top a warmed brie wheel with a warm mixture of canned apple pie filling and a dash of balsamic vinegar; sprinkle with toasted pecans.

20. Spoon your favorite warmed chili into Tostitos Scoops; sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese and minced scallions.

21. On toothpick, thread a chunk of Black Forest Ham and a small cornichon. Serve with whole grain mustard for dipping.

22. Cook  frozen cocktail meatballs. Serve  with store-bought tzatziki sauce.

23. Toss chopped dried cherries and chopped pistachio nuts with enough honey to bind mixture.  Spoon over goat cheese log.  Serve with crackers.

24. Top a cucumber slice with a thin smoked salmon slice;  add a dab of sour cream, capers, and minced chives.

25. LAST BUT NOT LEAST!!!  Lightly brush frozen soft pretzels with water.  Sprinkle with your favorite seasoning.  Bake and cut into serving pieces.  Serve with mustard, or, if seasoning topping is sweet, caramel or chocolate sauce.

Cathy

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Filed under Appetizer, Entertaining, Holidays

Dangerously Good Chocolate Mint Meltaways

It’s true….these Chocolate Mint Meltaways should come with a warning. They’re that good!

Have you ever noticed that the best looking cookies are not always the best tasting cookies? This is especially true when it comes to Christmas cookies. That adorably decorated sugar cookie might look like it should be on the cover of a fancy food magazine, but it can be dry as dust with little flavor save the traces of food colorings used to tint the frosting. No thanks!

So, when I discover a pretty cookie or bar that actually has awesome flavor and texture, it makes the “A” list and goes into my recipe file to make every year. I wheedled this recipe out of my friend Janet, and she said I could share it with all of you. But don’t say you weren’t warned. They truly are addictive!

Chocolate Mint Meltaways
(makes about 6 dozen bars)

Brownie Layer:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 can (16 ounces) Hershey’s chocolate syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup flour

• Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13 x 9 baking dish with aluminum foil. Grease foil with a little butter.
• Using mixer, cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Gradually beat in eggs, chocolate syrup, vanilla and salt. Using wooden spoon, stir in flour until just combined.
• Spread mixture in pan and bake 30 minutes. Cool completely.
• Grasping foil, carefully lift brownie layer from pan and invert onto large cutting board. Peel away foil.

Mint Layer:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 TB  Creme de Menthe liqueur
• Using mixer, cream butter and sugar, then beat in Creme de Menthe.
• Reserve 2 TB mixture, cover and set aside. Spread remaining mixture evenly over cooled brownie layer.

Chocolate Topping:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 TB butter

• In heavy saucepan, stir chocolate and butter over low heat until melted. Cool.
• Gently spread chocolate topping over mint layer. Chill until chocolate is set.
• Using large knife and wiping blade frequently, cut into bars about 1 inch by 1 1/2 inches.

Mint Drizzle
Place reserved mint filling in small Ziploc bag and snip a tiny piece from the corner. Drizzle filling over each bar.

Note: Store bars covered, in refrigerator, for best results.

Heather

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Filed under Chocolate, Cookies, Dessert, Entertaining, Holidays, Sweets

Classic Holiday Eggnog

Every holiday season, the same question comes up: Do the eggs need to be cooked in an eggnog recipe?

My answer is…definitely! Even refrigerated eggs with clean, uncracked shells can still be contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria, and  eggs must be cooked to 160°F to kill such bacteria.  There is a popular misconception that adding alcohol to eggnog will kill the bacteria.  Not so!

Here is an easy-to-follow, delicious cooked eggnog recipe.  You’ll have one less thing to worry about during your holiday season!

Classic Holiday Eggnog
Makes about 10 servings

4 eggs
1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup bourbon or rum
ground nutmeg
cinnamon sticks for garnish

– In medium saucepan with wire whisk, gently beat eggs, 1/3 cup sugar and salt.  Gradually stir in milk.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

– In large bowl, beat heavy cream and 1 Tbs. sugar until stiff peaks form.  Fold into chilled custard, then stir in bourbon.  Pour into large serving bowl or pitcher.  Sprinkle with ground nutmeg.  Serve with cinnamon sticks.

Tips

– When making the custard, be sure to cook over low heat, stirring constantly.  Trying to speed it along by increasing the temperature will most likely curdle the custard.

– For an even richer eggnog, substitute half-and-half or light cream for some of the milk.

– For a non-alcoholic eggnog, substitute 1/4 tsp. rum extract for the bourbon.

– Recipe can be doubled.

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Filed under Drinks, eggs, Entertaining, Holidays