Category Archives: Holidays

Sweetest Witch Ever!

Looking for a spooky Halloween snack ? Check out this adorable witch that we recently  shot for The Popcorn Board. It’s easy to make & fun for kids —you just need grocery store ingredients and your imagination. Trick or Treat!

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of The Popcorn Board.

Witchy Popcorn Balls

Yield: 8

  • 16 chocolate wafer cookies
  • 3 quarts popped popcorn
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or
  • margarine
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 3 tablespoons (1/2 of a 3-ounce box)
  • lime gelatin dessert mix
  • Green food color, optional
  • 8 chocolate ice cream cones
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • Orange sugar sprinkles, placed in small bowl
  • Jelly beans, candy corn, licorice string
  1. Spread a sheet of wax (or parchment) paper over a work surface and place the wafer cookies on it.
  2. Spray a large mixing bowl with cooking spray and place popcorn inside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in marshmallows and gelatin dessert powder until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. If desired, adjust color with a drop or 2 of food color. Pour over popcorn and mix well until coated.
  4. Spray hands with cooking spray and press firmly to form into 8 balls. Place balls on 8 of the wafer cookies. Press candy decorations into popcorn balls to form eyes, nose and mouth.
  5. Place chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cover and heat for 10 seconds. Stir chocolate to aid melting. Repeat as needed until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  6. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon melted chocolate onto the top of each popcorn ball. Press a few licorice strings into chocolate to form ‘hair’.
  7. Make hats: dip cone edges into melted chocolate and then into orange sugar sprinkles. Using melted chocolate as the “glue,” attach cones to remaining wafer cookies to form hat with brim. Place hats onto popcorn balls, again using melted chocolate as the “glue.” Allow chocolate to set for about 45 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve or seal individually in plastic wrap for storage.
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3 Comments

Filed under Halloween, Holidays, Popcorn, Sweets

Please Pass the Sangria!

Is there anything quite as refreshing as a cool glass of Sangria on a hot summer evening? Try this white wine version I recently concocted for a studio party. It’s delicious!

Sangria is not an exact science. Try experimenting on your own with various fruits and sweeteners….the combinations are endless. And let us know if you come up with your own signature Sangria!

Sparkling White Sangria
Makes 8 servings

1 bottle white wine (such as Chardonnay, Reisling, or Chablis)
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup orange brandy (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
2 plums, pitted and sliced
1 peach, pitted and sliced
1 mango, peeled and sliced
2 cans (12 ounces each) club soda or seltzer
fresh mint

• In large pitcher, stir together wine, sugar and brandy until sugar is dissolved. Add fruit. Cover and chill for at least an hour (the longer the better!)

• Just before serving, stir in club soda. Serve over ice with mint. Sip!

Cathy

4 Comments

Filed under Drinks, Entertaining, Foodies, Fruit, Holidays, Vegetarian

Easy Easter Cookies

Looking to channel your inner Martha and whip up some professional looking Easter cookies? It’s easy!

• Pick up a few cookie cutters at your local kitchen shop, or order from our favorite source, The Cookie Cutter Shop.

• Place one package refrigerated sugar cookie dough (such as Pillsbury) in a large mixing bowl. Mix in about 1/4 cup of flour to make a stiff dough. (The extra flour will help the cut-out cookies hold their shape while baking.) Now, just roll dough to 1/4-inch thick, cut out shapes, and bake according to package directions.

• To decorate, use your favorite frosting, icing or melted chocolate to cover cookie.  Royal icing is the best choice if you want a very smooth surface, and it colors beautifully. Royal icing typically uses raw egg whites.  To eliminate the risk of salmonella when using raw egg whites, meringue powder is recommended.

Royal Icing with Meringue Powder:  In large bowl, stir together  4 cups confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons meringue powder.  Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup water and beat on high until a ribbon of icing falls back into the bowl and remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing.  This is the best consistency to cover or “flood” the entire surface of the cookie. Tint icing with a tiny bit of food color or paste. Place cookies on cooling rack over a cookie sheet, and “flood” by gently spooning the icing over them. If icing is not thin enough, add water, a teaspoon at a time, until it spreads easily.

Before cookie dries, sprinkle with your favorite sugars and sprinkles.  Check out Wilton Decorating for more creative decorating ideas & tips.

Note: You can purchase meringue powder at large party stores, kitchenware shops and some supermarkets.

 

7 Comments

Filed under Cookies, Dessert, Easter

Valentine’s Tiramisu for Two

When planning a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for two, dessert is a must!  An indulgent combination of mascarpone cheese, coffee liqueur, cocoa and ladyfingers, Tiramisu is perfect for special occasions. For an elegant presentation, I serve the Tiramisu in wine goblets. Ladyfingers (spongecake cookies) may be hard to find in grocery stores, so I substitute Walkers Shortbread Cookies. They  have a uniquely rich texture and a melt-in-your-mouth buttery flavor, plus they do not get as mushy as ladyfingers in a Tiramisu recipe. Look for Walkers’ signature red plaid packaging in the cookie aisle.

Tiramisu for Two

Makes 2 servings

2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur
1 tablespoon brewed coffee
8 shortbread cookies, such as Walkers Pure Butter Vanilla Shortbread
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 container (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese
1 square (1 oz) semi sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

– In small bowl stir together coffee liqueur and coffee.  Brush both sides of  6 of the shortbread cookies with coffee mixture.  Cut each cookie in half.

– In medium bowl beat heavy cream and 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form.

– In separate medium bowl, beat mascarpone cheese and 1/4-cup sugar.  Fold in whipped cream.

–  In each of two wine goblets, place 3 cookie halves.  Spoon 1/4 of cheese mixture over cookies. Repeat layers.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours so that cookies soften slightly.

– Meanwhile, in small bowl, microwave chocolate on High 40 seconds, then stir until melted.  Using a small spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over remaining 2 cookies.

– Just before serving, use a fine sieve to lightly sprinkle each dessert with cocoa.  Garnish each dessert with a chocolate-drizzled cookie.

Cathy

4 Comments

Filed under Dessert, Holidays, Sweets, Walker's Shortbread Fingers

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

3 Comments

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.



12 Comments

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

5 Comments

Filed under Appetizer, Entertaining, Holidays