Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Slow Cooker Recipes 2" - Bourbon-Mustard Brisket (Crock Pot)

Date I made this recipe: December 25, 2010

Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Slow Cooker Recipes 2 by Sandra Lee
Published by: Meredith Books
ISBN: 978-0-696-23815-4
Recipe: Bourbon-Mustard Brisket – p. 162

The other day, one of my best friends and I had a small disagreement about my math skills. When I said (yet again) that math was not my strong suit, she got mad and said she was tired of me saying that I didn’t do well at math. Based on her observations, my math was fine.

Yes, well, I hate to disappoint you honey, but this recipe showcases why I went to law school instead of getting an MBA (no math required!): The cooking time for this brisket was 12-14 hours and somehow I got it in my head that if I put it in by 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve that it would be done by 6 p.m. on Christmas Day! “Perfect,” thought I. Six p.m. is a great dinner hour, especially for someone like me who pushes the envelope with 8 p.m. (or later) meals.

For those paying attention, and who can count, you can see where I erred, right? Because there I was, about 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, watching some stupid movie with a stupid plot and a horrible ending when all of a sudden I had a “wait a minute…” moment.

So I counted on my hands (yes, my hands!) and shoot—my roast would not be done by 6 p.m. but rather by 6 a.m.!!!

Well now what was I supposed to do? I contemplated pulling the plug on the crock pot and refrigerating it until morning but was unsure if that was a good thing for the meat or a bad thing and then I thought about waking my husband to discuss (because unlike me, he is really good at math!) and finally decided that since he is an early riser, I’d leave him a note to pull the plug on the meat at 7 a.m. and then I’d deal with it later.

By the time I hauled ass downstairs on Christmas morning, the roast was saved and our house smelled delicious. And I was actually pleased that my meat was done and all that was left was salad and potatoes – like I meant to do that!

More disturbing than my lack of ability to count though, is why Sandra Lee called this book “Semi-Homemade” Slow Cooker Recipes 2? Yes, I know that’s her brand and yes, I know she uses cake mixes in her desserts but this was a slow cooker book for Pete’s sake! What on earth is “semi-homemade” about a slow-cooker recipe? And if the answer is “because she often calls for you to use frozen, chopped onions instead of chopping them yourself, then I call foul: did she expect you to grow the onion yourself in order to change this from “semi”-homemade to “homemade?” Ponder that one for a while, will you?

Lucky for me, my husband and Sandy, nothing else about this recipe was confusing or confounding. You dump the stuff in the crockpot, plug it in and hours later, you look like a regular Julia Child when you pull the sucker out of the pot.

I made some Yukon gold potatoes to go along with this dish, adding a little milk, butter and creamy horseradish. Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about for an easy-peasey holiday dinner. So enjoy!

By the way, I am equally challenged by geography and directions. Last week, I dropped a friend off at her home during a snowstorm and promptly got turned around by the directions she gave me for a shortcut home. Long story short, I should have been going toward Minneapolis and ended up in an unfamiliar part of St. Paul. So I called my husband and after giving him the names of a couple of cross streets said “Where the hell am I?!”

Turns out I was close to our state capitol in St. Paul. And the state capitol is great and it certainly was a beautiful beacon through the snowstorm, but it was in the exact opposite direction of where I needed to be. A few turns later, and I was on the right track, crawling through the snow on my way home…during rush hour…oh yeah.

Bourbon-Mustard Brisket – serves 6
2 large sweet onions, peeled and sliced thick
4 pounds beef brisket, rinsed and patted dry
2 teaspoons garlic salt, Lawry’s®
2 teaspoons salt-free lemon pepper, McCormick®
¾ cup spicy brown mustard, Gulden’s®
½ cup honey brown sugar BBQ sauce, Jack Daniels®
¼ cup bourbon
½ cup light brown sugar, C&H®

Place onions in a 5-quart slow cooker.

Season brisket with garlic salt and lemon pepper and place on top of the onion, cutting to fit if necessary.

In a small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients and pour in slow cooker over brisket. Cover and cook on LOW setting for 12 to 14 hours.

Strain and defat cooking liquid. Serve as sauce on the side.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Anna Del Conte's Italian Kitchen - I Dolci (Sweet Things)" - Sauteed Apples with Almonds and White Wine

Date I and my husband made this recipe: December 17, 2010

Anna Del Conte’s Italian Kitchen – I Dolci – Sweet Things by Anna Del Conte, Illustrated by Flo Bayley
Published by: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0-671-87032-7 (copyright 1993
Recipe: Sauteed Apples with Almonds and White Wine (Mele Alle Mandorle E Al Vino Bianco) – p. 40-41

‘Tis the season to indulge and indulge I did on this yummy dessert my husband and I made for a dinner party we hosted on Friday night.

The menu was Italian. I made my recipe for Italian wedding soup (it’s actually a Good Housekeeping magazine recipe that I’ve made 100 times now so I consider it mine, all mine!) and my family’s recipe for homemade manicotti shells and filling (and sauce) and I wanted something to finish off the meal.

Believe it or don’t, I have a cookbook of Italian dessert recipes and so I flipped through that and found this recipe for sautéed apples and whipped cream…and damned if this wasn’t good.

What I loved about the recipe was that it was pretty easy and light. Italians are not big on dessert and most of the well-known recipes are rather heavy – tiramisu being the biggest offender. We never, ever had tiramisu in my family growing up and honestly, I don’t feel deprived. Now Italian cookies, on the other hand, (and cannolis) are another story!

So anyway…besides being light (and sorry- whipped cream is light, right?) this recipe used white wine as well as Calvados (apple brandy) and since it ‘tis the season to indulge in food and alcohol, I decided that Hic!

All I’m going to say is that coring the apples would have been a whole lot easier with a melon baller but did I have one? No! I must rectify this ASAP. Let me also just say that you would think that whipped cream with Calvados would clash with a dry martini but you’d be wrong! (Sure, the cocktail hour was in full swing but I had to sample the dessert, didn’t I?)

By the way, we spread the whipped cream on a beautiful glass plate we got for a wedding gift 20 years ago and with the apples and caramel sauce on top, it was photo-shoot worthy. And we should have taken a photo but hey, we had eating to do!

Happy Holidays!

Sauteed Apples with Almonds and White Wine – serves 6
6 equal-sized large apples such as Granny Smith
1 unwaxed lemon, scrubbed and washed (You will need to zest the lemon using a vegetable peeler)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves
2/3 cup Calvados or applejack
¼ cup granulated sugar, or more according to the sweetness of the apples
½ cup sweet white wine (we had Pinot Grigio on hand and so used that)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sliced almonds
1 ¼ cups whipping cream (we used 1 cup – sue us!)
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Peel the apples, then cut them in half and remove the cores. Make 6 incisions in the round side of each half, taking care not to cut right through it.

Remove the zest from half the lemon using a swivel-headed vegetable peeler, taking care to leave behind the bitter white pith. Squeeze the juice.

Heat the butter in a very large sauté pan in which the apple halves will fit comfortably. Add the lemon zest and voles to the butter and when the butter foam begins to subside, slide in the apples, cut-side down. Saute until golden, then turn the halves over and brown the round side. This will take about 8 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to prevent the apples sticking.

Turn the heat up, pour over one-third of the Calvados, and let it bubble away for 30 seconds. Turn the heat down to low and add the granulated sugar, wine, lemon juice, and 2/3 cup of hot water. Cover the pan with the lid or a piece of foil and cook 5 minutes. Turn the apples over carefully and continue cooking until they are tender. Cooking time varies according to the quality of the apples; do not overcook them or they may break. If necessary add a couple of spoonsful of hot water during the cooking.

When the apples are ready – test them by piercing them with the blade of a small knife through their thickest part – transfer them gently to a dish using a slotted spoon. Let cool.

Remove the lemon zest and cloves from the pan. Add the cinnamon and almonds and sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the syrup is thick and the almonds are caramelized, about 5 minutes. Draw off the heat.

Whip the cream. Add the remaining Calvados and the confectioners’ sugar and whip again. Spread the cream over a shallow serving dish. Make 12 hollows in the cream with the back of a spoon and lay the apple halves in the hollows, cut-side up. Spoon the syrup-coated almonds over the apples. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Everyone Comes to Elaine's" & "Rocco's Italian American"- Parppardelle Bolognese (in memory of Elaine Kaufman)

Date I made this recipe: December 15, 2010

Everyone Comes to Elaine’s by A. E. Hotchner
Published by: Harter Entertainment
ISBN: 0-06-063818-X (copyright 2004)
No recipes – just a darned good read!

Rocco’s Italian American by Rocco Dispirito
Published by: Hyperion
ISBN: 0-7868-6857-0 (copyright 2004)
Recipes: Mama’s Marinara – p. 116 and Pappardelle Bolognese - -p. 141

Today’s blog marks the passing of one of the most famous ladies to ever grace the island of Manhattan…and no, I’m not talking about Lady Liberty. I’m talking about Elaine Kaufman.

Before you all start hooting like owls (Who? Who?) let me head you off at the pass: Elaine Kaufman, owner of the eponymous restaurant, Elaine’s, was the grand dame of the New York restaurant world.

I’m not sure how it was that I came to know of this lady, I only know that I never visited her restaurant because a) I was too lazy to haul ass from the Upper West Side (of Manhattan) where I usually stayed, to go to the Upper East Side to eat and b) I was not star-worthy (and I don’t mean Michelin!) and therefore would have been seated in her self-proclaimed “Siberia” section; it’s cold enough here in Minnesota, thank you very much!

At Elaine’s if you were somebody, you sat up front. If you were a little nobody, and were privileged enough to get the nod to come in, you sat in Siberia, the place where waiters seldom ventured and everybody who was nobody sat.

Elaine was known for a number of things, but most especially for her temper and for her affinity for throwing people out of her place. And for assault charges (later dropped) filed against her. I guess when she said there were no tables available, she meant “No Tables Available.”

In 2004, A. E. Hotchner, actor Paul Newman’s former cooking partner, wrote the book, Everybody Comes to Elaine’s. The book chronicled the fabulous wild ride that was the Elaine’s experience and the rash of stars, politicians and other power people who came to her restaurant in the 40 years (at the time) she ran it.

Sadly, this book did not contain recipes (and I have a few like that in my collection) and so I did some research, found what I think is Elaine’s menu (Italian) and then set out to find a cookbook and a recipe to gap-fill for Elaine. And this is how I came to make Rocco Dispirito’s recipe for Pappardelle Bolognese.

Actually, when you think about it, it’s pretty funny that I cooked a dish in honor of Elaine (I mean really – how many people knew she had a last name?!) with a recipe from a guy named Rocco? (By the way, Rocco had a reputation of his own to deal with. As the young chef and owner of Rocco’s 22nd Street, Rocco and company were filmed for the TV Show, The Restaurant. I only needed to watch half an episode to know I wasn’t interested in seeing such trauma drama on a daily basis but luckily, it appears that Rocco, as well as Elaine, mellowed in their later years!

As to the recipe, the only thing I did different than Rocco was to use my family’s sauce recipe. I tend toward that vein in general and on this particular day, I needed to make some sauce for a dinner party I’m having tomorrow and I figured Aunt Rose’s was probably just as good as (nay, better than) Rocco’s Mama! I also took the lid off and let the sauce simmer a while longer than directed so that it would thicken.

So anyway, a New York institution has gone to greener pastures and the restaurant world will be a little worse off because of it. R.I.P., Elaine!

Mama’s Marinara – 6 portions
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ yellow onion, peeled and chopped fine
3 tablespoons olive oil
Two 28-ounce cans tomato puree
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon sugar
Red pepper flakes to taste

Cook the garlic and onion in the olive oil in a sauce pot over a medium-low flame, about 10 minutes or until garlic is tender and onions translucent, not brown (this is called “seating” because it will draw out a lot of moisture and flavor).

Add all the tomato products. Pour the chicken stock into one of the 28-ounce cans. Fill it the rest of the way with water and add that and the sugar to the pot. Stir and bring to a simmer. Taste and season with red pepper flakes and salt, and cover. Simmer the sauce for about 1 hour. The sauce should be fairly think but not watery and very smooth. Uncover and simmer for 3 minutes if it is too think for your taste; add a little water if it seems thick.

Pappardelle Bolognese – 4 portions
1/8 pound ground veal (2 oz)
1/8 pound ground beef (2 oz)
1/8 pound ground pork (2 oz)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, rinsed and diced
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 glass red wine
2 cups Mama’s Marinara (see page 116)
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and red pepper flakes
¼ cup grated Parmigina-Reggiano
1 ¼ pound pappardelle (As the author notes, “pappardelle is an extra-wide, flat, long noodle, similar to fettuccine but wider.” In Minneapolis, you can get fresh-cut pappardelle at Broder’s Cucina Italiana on 50th and Penn Avenue. Because that was a little out of my way, I got “fresh” linguine pasta out of the refrigerator case at my local grocery store. Note that the cooking time for fresh pasta is 2-3 minutes, tops.)

In a stockpot, over high heat, brown the meat in the olive oil. Lower the heat and add everything else, except the pasta and cheese, cover, and simmer 1 hour.

Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt when it begins to simmer. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water, drain, and toss in the pot with the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ann’s Notes:
 Veal is hard to find so if you can’t locate it, just increase the beef or pork.
 I wish Rocco would have given some guidance to how much wine constitutes a glass. I went with 8 ounces but probably could have cut back as I needed to reduce the sauce.
 Speaking of reducing, I maybe went another half hour with the cover off the pot to thicken the sauce.
 I used Pecorino Romano instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano because I happened to have that one hand and because my family prefers Pecorino. The tastes are vastly different – Parmigiano Reggiano is made from cow’s milk and is sweet and nutty in taste; Pecorino Romano is made from sheep’s milk and is tangy and salty (but not much) in taste.
 You will not be likely to find dry Pappardelle pasta unless you visit a specialty foods store but as I mentioned, Broders Cucina Italiana in south Minneapolis carries sheets of homemade pasta that can be cut to order for linguine, fettucini or pappardelle. You can also use the sheets to make lasagna. Remember to follow the (short cooking time) directions. (Not to be confused with!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Barefoot Contessa Parties!" & "Betty Crocker" & "Adventures in Mexican Cooking" & "Culinary Kudzu" & "Wild Women" & "Complete Book of Dressings"

Dates I made these recipes: December 3-5, 2010

Betty Crocker Party Food – 100 Recipes for the Way You Really Cook by Betty Crocker
Published by: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
ISBN 978-0-470-17349-7 (copyright 2007)
Recipes: Mini Corn Dogs on a Stick – p. 80; Roasted Carrot and Herb Spread – p. 48; Smoky Bacon and Horseradish Dip – p. 58

Girl Food – Cathy’s Cookbook for the Well-Balanced Woman by Cathy Guisewite and Barbara Albright (Cathy Guisewite is a cartoonist who drew the incredibly popular Cathy comic strip.)
Published by: Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 0-8362-3173-2 (copyright 1997)
Recipe: What Was I Thinking When I Said, “Stop by Anytime,” Major Grey’s Marvelous Mango Chutney Cheese Spread – p. 92

Adventures in Mexican Cooking by Ortho Books staff; recipe manuscript by Angelo Villa and Vicki Barrios
Published by: Ortho Books
ISBN: 071549057206
Recipe: Guacamole II (Avocado with sour cream) – p. 77

The Complete Book of Dressings by Paulette Mitchell
Published by: Macmillan
ISBN: 0-02-052962-7 (copyright 1995)
Recipe: Ranch Dressing – p. 112

Wild Women Throw a Party by Lynette Rohrer Shirk
Published by: Conari Press
ISBN: 10: 1-57324-284-5 (copyright 2007)
Recipe: Bar Nuts – p. 108

Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern by Keetha DePriest Reed
Published by: Pecan Street Press
ISBN: 0-9719877-1-8 (copyright 2002)
Recipe: Mee Maw’s Trash (Chex Party Mix) – p. 106

1995 KCMR Cookbook – Cookies, Bars, Candies, Frostings) by KCMR Radio, Mason City, Iowa (a series of these spiral-bound books was given to me by a friend from Iowa)
Published by: KCMR Radio
Copyright 1995
Recipe: Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars submitted by Lorraine Brinkman and Irmgard Becker – p. 47

Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook by Betty Crocker
Published by: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-470-87403-5 (copyright 2010 – Second Edition)
Recipe: Almond Bonbons – p. 132

Barefoot Contessa Parties! By Ina Garten
Published by: Clarkson Potter/Publishers
ISBN: 0-609-60644-1 (copyright 2001)
Recipe: Lemon Bars – p. 200

Well, folks, we’re into December and you know what that means, right? Time for a holiday party!

My husband and I just threw our annual holiday extravaganza, Mistletoe Madness, and as per usual, the two of us were racing against the clock to get things done before the first guest arrived. I told him I felt like we were on Iron Chef America when we looked at the clock and both said, in unison, “10 minutes remaining.” And so we chopped and baked and sweated until time expired, after which we threw up our hands, platted the food and presented it to our “judges” – our party guests.

I don’t want to say that our friends are a tough crowd but we do have a lot of friends who are phenomenal cooks and total foodies and so there’s always a little bit of sweat equity (and fear) in every recipe. We needn’t have worried, though, as everyone seemed to enjoy this year’s offerings.

As I did last year, I started putting recipes and books aside the minute the party was done; I am nothing if not organized. Then I run everything by the recipe selection committee (my husband, Andy) who gives a final up and down vote. After that, I go through each recipe, make a spreadsheet of ingredient categories (vegetables, meat, dairy, dry goods, etc.), cross check the doors, and we have liftoff! I try to get all the dry ingredients early, leaving meat and dairy until the last minute to ensure freshness. (That being said, I suspect that some of my cookies didn’t fare as well as I hoped because the baking soda wasn’t band-box fresh. I hate to throw out ingredients but it’s not for nothing that Martha Stewart keeps harping on this topic.)

Back in the buffet table saddle again were the chafing dish meatballs (with chili sauce and grape jelly) I made from last year as well as my martini dip. (For recipes, see December 2009 on my blog). More recipes from Betty Crocker’s Party Book were also added to the mix, one of which my guests liked but I was lukewarm about (a carrot herb spread) and one that was a home run – Smoky Bacon and Horseradish Dip. And because they were so popular, I’m breaking my rule about posting more than one recipe from a cookbook and will give them to you here so you don’t have to stress about trying to find them. And the reason I mention difficulty in finding them is…

…that Betty Crocker couldn’t find one of the recipes, either!

Actually, it wasn’t Betty but rather LaVone who couldn’t find the recipes; Betty must have been out that day. LaVone manned the B. Crocker Hotline (of course there’s a B. Crocker hotline!) and when I asked a question about the Smoky Bacon and Horseradish Dip I totally stumped the panel: “What book is that from?” “What page is it on?” “Do you know when it was published?” “What are some of the ingredients?”

Okay, seriously “Betty?” How could you not know about the existence of a book you published in 2007??? I’m afraid I’m going to have to ding you for that one. But alas, “Betty” had no record of this book and so she had to take the info, consult a product specialist and call me back with an answer to my burning question: “If this recipe is made in a crockpot, do I have to keep it warm in a crockpot when serving or can I keep it at room temperature?

You’ll be pleased to know that Betty gave me the green light to serve it at room temperature and it was promptly inhaled.

By the way, some of you may recall that last year at this time I asked Betty a question about another recipe in this party book and the response was that she didn’t know “because the recipe hadn’t been tested.” I’m not sure I’ve recovered from that answer because how on earth can B. Crocker of all fake people not test a recipe?

But anyway, enough about Betty’s dip let’s talk about the other recipes I made. Here’s the complete lineup: (* indicates recipe is included)

Meatballs with chili/grape sauce (see December 2009 blog)
Crunchy Potato Bites
*Mini Corn Dogs on a Stick (Betty Crocker Party Food)
*Major Grey’s Marvelous Mango Chutney Cheese Spread (Girl Food)
*Guacamole Dip with sour cream (Adventures in Mexican Cooking)
*Roasted Carrot and Herb Spread (Betty Crocker Party Food)
*Smoky Bacon and Horseradish Dip (Betty Crocker Party Food)
*Ranch Dressing (The Complete Book of Dressing)
Martini Dip (see December 2009 blog)
*Bar Nuts (Wild Women Throw a Party)
*Mee Maw’s Trash (a/k/a Chex Party Mix) (Culinary Kudzu)
Sour Cream Drops (A Salute to Chocolate)
*Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars (1995 KCMR Cookbook – Cookies, Bars, Candies, Frostings)
*Almond Bonbons (Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook) (a runaway hit!)
Cherry Winks
*Lemon Bars (Barefoot Contessa Parties!)
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Hot Mulled Cider (see December 2009 blog)

Winners this year were: Meatballs, Corndogs, all the dips except the Ranch Dressing (at least to my palate), both the nuts and the Chex Mix and the Lemon Bars and the Almond Bonbons. That’s not to say that people didn’t eat everything, it’s just that some were inhaled whereas others were merely nibbled.

Before I get into the recipes, let me just say that I think the Food Network should contact us to put together a “Making Of…” video as what goes on behind the scenes is infinitely more interesting than party day, to wit:

I took my eye off the oven for one second and managed to scorch the first pan of bar nuts. Nuts!! So we went back to Trader Joe’s where the nuts are decently priced (still expensive, though) and Andy took over at the helm. In between times, we had the vent fan going at full throttle. (And how ironic is it that this recipe came out of the book, Wild Women Throw a Party?)

Andy lobbied hard for the mini-corn dogs saying “they would be fun” only to curse up a storm when putting them together one hour before party time. Cutting up the biscuit dough required for the corn dogs (and we made a double batch) was laborious and all the while he kept muttering “next year I’m using phyllo dough!” (I’m not sure that will work but am hesitant to call B. Crocker back seeing as how they can’t even find the damned cookbook the recipe came from.).

When it came time to assemble the almond bonbons, I started to wrap the almond paste around the ball of dough when in fact it was the exact opposite. Good thing Andy was there to set me straight. (I was pretty tired at that point and that is never a good time to have to read detailed directions) As I said earlier, these were a big hit and looked very festive with some green and red sugar sprinkles on them. I told a friend who came to the party straight from the Vikings football game (I am a die-hard Packer fan) that the sugar sprinkles also came in purple and gold (Vikings colors) but there was no way in holy hell I was putting those colors on a cookie! (She laughed).

It is never a good idea to leave just-baked lemon bars on a back burner of the stove top (the burner was not on) because the heat from the oven almost over-cooked my lemon filling. Just saying! It was not my intention to do so but I had an open area so I took advantage of it and it almost cost me a pan of bars. And Oh Ina, Ina, Ina! (As in Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa). You made the rolling out of the dough sound so easy but it was an absolute nightmare! The dough was supposed to be a half-inch thick and yet some parts were as high as the Hoover Dam, others were scarce on dough, while other sections were crumbly because the dough didn’t hang together…and yet they were inhaled and praised to the high heavens. Go figure. (And might I also say “Whew.”)

The Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars were almost a disaster because I did, in fact, follow the directions that said to spread the melted marshmallows evenly over the cake. No way should you do this because those marshmallows do not spread well at all (much less evenly) and they started pulling up big chunks of cake with them! So just leave them sit on the cake and you will thank me for it, I promise.

Some final comments: Oven temperatures are NEVER accurate and so I always have an oven thermometer in my oven at all times so I can make sure to bake things at the correct temperature. Believe it or not, I have to set my oven to 380 if I want it to get to 350 (and it’s a new oven and the calibration was checked by the service department. But alas, even they said the oven temperature will still be off, regardless of what they did to it. Phooey).

Also, I often cook things back to back if they are going in at the same temperature but this year, I think the cookies suffered a bit because of it. It’s not that the oven wasn’t at the correct temperature because it was (see note above) but baking one batch of cookies when the oven was just turned on and cooking another batch at the end of the cycle can yield different results. Next year, I think I will bake a couple at a time and then stop.

Almost all recipes are “off” on the count of how many to make. In some cases, I cut the recipe in half and it was just right but more often than not, I had to double the recipe to get enough yield for the party.

Finally, at the end of the day, nobody cares what you made or how you got there, it’s just time to have fun. While I do have a rep for making really good food, all from scratch, it’s the people that make the party fun…and I have fun friends.

Happy Mistletoe Madness, everyone!

Mistletoe Madness 2010 – Recipes

Mini Corn Dogs on a Stick – 40 servings (1 corn dog each) (We doubled this recipe)
40 wooden toothpicks
1 package (16 ounces) cocktail-size hot dogs (about 40 pieces)
1 can (12 oz) refrigerated flaky biscuits (10 biscuits)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
½ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ cup ketchup (for dipping)
¾ cup yellow mustard (for dipping)

Heat oven to 400F. Grease cookie sheet with shortening or spray with cooking spray. Insert toothpick into narrow end of each wiener. Separate dough into 10 biscuits; carefully divide each biscuit horizontally into 4 rounds. Wrap sides and top of each wiener with dough round, pinching edges to seal. (Note: It took about an hour to do 80 wieners. Plan ahead.).

In a pie plate, mix egg and m ilk. On a plate, mix cornmeal and sugar. Roll each wrapped wiener in egg mixture, then roll lightly in cornmeal mixture. Place seam side down on cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are light golden brown and bottoms are golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet with spatula. Serve with ketchup and mustard.

Major Grey’s Marvelous Mango Chutney Cheese Spread – Makes 8-10 servings
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Few drops of Tabasco pepper sauce
1 jar (10 ounces) Major Grey’s mango chutney, chopped
5 strips of bacon, cooked until drips, drained and crumbled
6 scallions (including tender green tops), chopped

In a medium bowl, using a fork, stir together the cream cheese, 1 ½ cups of the Cheddar cheese, and the pepper sauce until combined. Spread the mixture over an 8- to 10-inch serving dish, smoothing the surface evenly.

Spread the chutney over the surface. Sprinkle the chutney with the remaining 1 ½ cups of Cheddar cheese, the bacon, and the scallions. Serve immediately with crackers or celery sticks. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to two days.

Guacamole Dip (with sour cream) – makes about 2 ½ cups
2 large avocadoes, peeled and coarsely mashed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sour cream
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1 tomato, diced
½ onion, minced
Few sprigs cilantro, slightly chopped

Combine ingredients in order given. Stir briefly after adding each ingredient. (We skipped the cilantro as people either love it or hate it. We aim to please!)

Roasted Carrot and Herb Spread – 20 servings
2 pounds baby-cut carrots
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges and separated
¼ cup olive or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Baguette slices or crackers, if desired (Note: I think it’s hilarious that they mention serving it on baguette slices or crackers, if desired, because one of my friends wanted to just sit down and eat the entire bowl with a fork!).

Heat oven to 350F. Spray jelly roll pan (Betty says to use a 15 ½ x 10 ½ x 1 inch pan) with cooking spray

Place carrots, sweet potato and onion in pan. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Bake uncovered 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

Place vegetable mixture in food processor. Cover and process until blended. Spoon into serving bowl. Serve warm, or cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Ann’s notes: This dish did not live up to my expectations but my guests loved it. I thought the carrot was too coarse and too sweet and the spices fell short of making this the savory spread I was expecting. I think, though, that this is a recipe you could tweak without too many problems.

Smoky Bacon and Horseradish Dip – 24 servings (This is now a new party “must” for me!)
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, cubed
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (8 ounces)
1 cup half-and-half
8 slices peppered smoked bacon, crisply cooked and chopped (My husband was so cute. When he looked at the price, he said “Can’t we just pepper it ourselves?” Hahahahahaha…no.)
2 tablespoons cream-style prepared horseradish
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
French or herbed bread crumbs, if desired
Water crackers, if desired

Mix garlic, onion, cream cheese, Gruyere cheese and half-and-half in 1 1/2-quart slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low heat setting 2 ½ to 3 hours or until mixture is hot.

Stir in bacon, horseradish and parsley. Cover and cook on high heat setting about 15 minutes or until mixture is hot. Serve with bread cubes or crackers for dipping.

Betty says that you can use precooked bacon slices found in the deli section of the supermarket. There’s no need to cook; just chop and stir into the mixture.

Betty also says (because I called and asked) that you do not need to serve this mixture warm; room temperature is just fine. But if you do serve it warm, keep it in the crockpot as putting it in a fondue pot will cause it to burn. You need low heat or no heat at all.

Ranch Dressing – makes ½ cup (I doubled the recipe)
¼ cup low-fat cottage cheese
¼ cup low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced shallot
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano (or ¼ teaspoon dried oregano)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Dash salt, or to taste

Ann’s note: I did not like the oregano in this dressing at all, at all, at all! It just didn’t taste like the ranch dressing I was used to. Were I to make this again (and I won’t be), I might lower the amount of oregano and/or leave it out all together.

Place the cottage cheese, buttermilk, lemon juice, shallot and mustard in a blender; puree until smooth. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Taste; adjust seasonings. Stir before serving.

Advance preparation: If dried herbs are used, allow the dressing to stand for 15 to 30 minutes before serving. This dressing will keep for 2 days in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator.

Bar Nuts – serves 8 (I doubled the recipe)
8 ounces whole almonds (it doesn’t say but I used unsalted)
8 ounces cashews (it doesn’t say but I used unsalted)
½ cup honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the almonds and cashews in a bowl with the honey and oil. Sprinkle the salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper over the nuts and toss to coat.

Bake 15 minutes, stir, and bake another 10 minutes until crisp and golden. (I followed this direction the first time and baked for 15 and then got another 5 or so minutes in and they all charred. When Andy remade them, he started at 10 minutes and then checked after 5 and left them another 5 and then pulled them out. So I’d say no more than 20 minutes tops or you’ll be left crying over charred nuts (expensive charred nuts) like I was!)

Cool and separate into individual nuts using oiled fingers. (And good luck with that. We still ended up with clusters!).

Store in an airtight container.

Mee Maw’s Trash (Chex Party Mix) – serves…a lot. And I mean a lot!
2 quarts mixed nuts
2 quarts pecans
1 (15-ounce) bag pretzel rods
1 (7.5-ounce) bag Bugles (plain)
1 (16-ounce) box Corn Chex cereal
1 (16-ounce) box Rice Chex cereal
1 (16-ounce box) Wheat Chex cereal
2 cups butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/3 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons red pepper

So about this recipe…I can’t stress enough about how much this makes. We added all dry ingredients to a roasting pan and overflowed so we took out half the cereal. It was still full to the brim and so to mix the cereal with the butter and spices, we dumped everything into a garbage bag so we could coat it all. There was no question of stirring it every 20 to 30 minutes as directed or we would have had a mess in our oven. So I suggest cutting the recipe down into fourths and then go from there. That being said, I liked this recipe because of the addition of the nuts (and boy, will you want to go light on those as they are pricey) and the Bugles, especially the Bugles, because what woman out there hasn’t pretended they were fake fingernails?!

As to the cookbook that contained this recipe, Culinary Kudzu turned out to be the elusive Holy Grails of cookbooks. I saw it mentioned in a magazine a few years back and the article noted that it was out of print making it hard to find and they weren’t kidding! I finally found this a while back on somebody’s website and was downright giddy with excitement. (Kudzu, by the way, is a plant that grows and grows and grows pretty much taking over lawns and other grassy areas. And “Mee Maw” is what many southerners call their grandmother.)

Preheat the oven to 250F. Melt butter in a large roasting pan in oven (I opted for the microwave) and stir in the seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated.

Bake 2 hours, stirring every 20 to 30 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool.

Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars – no amount given
¾ cup butter or margarine
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp Baking cocoa
½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
4 cups miniature marshmallows
1 1/3 cup chocolate chips
3 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups Rice Krispies

Cream butter and sugar then add eggs and vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa; add to creamed mixture. Stir in nuts if desired. Spread in a greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over the cake. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes. (And then I recommend you skip this next part: “Using a knife dipped in water, spread evenly over cake.”) Cool the cake. For the topping, combine chocolate chips, butter or margarine and peanut butter in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat stirring constantly until melted and blended. Remove from heat. Stir in cereal. Spread over bars. Chill.

Almond Bonbons – makes about 3 dozen cookies
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ package (7-or8-oz size) almond paste

Almond Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
4 to 5 teaspoons milk
Decorator sugar crystals, if desired
Note: I made these cookies late on Saturday night and think I accidentally used the entire can (versus package) of almond paste. And if you ask me (and you didn’t) the bonbons were the better for it!

Heat oven to 375F. In large bowl, beat flour, butter, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 2 T milk and the vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Cut almond paste into ½-inch slices; cut each slice into fourths.

Shape 1-inch ball of dough around each piece of almond paste. Gently roll to form ball. One ungreased cookie sheet, place balls about 1 inch apart.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set and bottom is golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix all glaze ingredients until smooth. Dip tops of cookies in the glaze and sprinkle with sugar crystals.

Lemon Bars - makes 20 squares or 40 triangles
For the crust
½ pound unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature (Note: use large eggs if you don’t have extra-large on hand)
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (Ina said 4-6 lemons, I used two)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar; for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9x13x2-inch baking sheet, building up a ½-inch edge on all sides. Chill. (Note: as previously stated, this dough was a bitch to work with. I ended up using a 9x13 pan and most definitely was well over her ½-inch edge but that’s life.)

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.