Tuesday, December 11, 2012

(Yummy) Holiday Appetizers and Sweet Treats

WARNING:  This is one long blog but that's because I have a lot of recipes to cover.  Hang in there!

Date I made these recipes:  Week of November 26, 2012

100 Best Classic Tapas
Published by:  Love Food
ISBN:  978-1-4454-0388-5      
Recipes:  Salted Almonds – p. 14; Sautéed Garlic Mushrooms – p. 22; Oven-Baked Tortilla (omelet) – p. 142

Good Housekeeping Appetizers – Delicious Dips, Spreads, Finger Foods & More by Good Housekeeping Magazine (purchased at Arc’s Value Village Thrift Stores)
Published by:  Hearst Books
Recipe:  Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip – p. 17

Perfect Party Food: All the Recipes and Tips You’ll Ever Need for Stress-Free Entertaining by Diane Phillips
Published by:  The Harvard Common Press
ISBN:  13: 9781558322608
Recipes:  Bruschetta Bar:  Artichoke Topping; Herb-Roasted Tomatoes; Wild Mushroom Spread; Oven-Roasted Caponata (Sicilian eggplant mixture) – p. 127-128

Cake Balls by Robin Ankeny and Charlotte Lyon of The Cake Ball Company
Published by:  Running Press Cooks
ISBN:  978-0-7624-4576-9
Recipes:  Chocolate Toffee Cake Balls – p. 40; Coconut Cream Cake Balls – p. 79; Gingerbread Cake Balls – p. 97

Nestle Best-Loved Cookies by Nestle
Published by:  Nestle
ISBN:  0-696-20637-4
Recipe:  Mini Morsel Meringue Cookies (a HUGE hit!) – p. 14

Bonus recipe:  Pomegranate Guacamole from Food Network Magazine pull-out 50 Easy Appetizers, November 2012

“Tis the season for holiday entertaining and this year, I found some great recipes to make that are sure to please any party guests.  In fact, so far two of my husband Andy’s male friends have contacted him for recipes so that’s saying something, especially since one of them wanted a cookie recipe!

Over the years, I have started adding magazine recipes to cookbook recipes for a couple of reasons:  one, food magazines often publish issues specifically related to holiday entertaining; two, I am reasonably certain that the recipes I choose will be successful as many of them were created by well-known, trusted chefs and third, there’s the ease of locating recipes via online searches if I have questions.  Sure, I always start stocking up on cookbooks related to party treats early in the year but to go through the other cookbooks in my collection to look for party recipes would take me all the way up to my next soiree a year from now.  When it comes to holiday entertaining, simple is better.

Before I get to the recipes, let me share some observations and tips about party planning:
  1. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” (From the movie, Jaws)  Sadly, our house is small and our potential guest list is huge.  Can the rental of the Mpls Convention Center be far behind?  That said I generally plan for enough nibbles to feed about 50 people and would rather make a variety of small-quantity dishes than redo a recipe to feed 50.  You’ll have less stress in the kitchen if you do it that way as well.
  2. My friends like to tease me about my organization skills but I have planned everything from huge charity galas to small dinner parties and organization is the key.  I have spreadsheets of everything from party guests to ingredients to a calendar showing what day of the week I can start cooking.  I also have a list of post-event notes so that I can refresh my memory the next year when it comes to what I purchased and where. (Favorite local shopping venues this year:  Bachman’s (decorations); Arc’s Value Village (tableware, decorations); Bed, Bath & Beyond (serving pieces); Rainbow Foods, Trader Joes, Target and Whole Foods (groceries).
  3. The French kitchen concept of mise en place (everything in place) is essential; I chop herbs in advance, put them in baggies and label them; I measure out dry ingredients for cookies and bars in advance, label them and then put them aside so that when the baking starts, we are halfway there.  Anything you can do to reduce the kitchen time (like baking all items at 350 before moving on to recipes baking at 375) will keep you sane.  I generally start making food the weekend before and freeze items if possible for later reheating.
  4. Many recipes “exaggerate” the yield that you can expect.  I’ve had recipes call for 2-4 cups only to eek out a measly 1 cup, and I’ve had recipes that promised less only to end up with twice the amount.  I doubled down on only a few recipes this year, many of them after seeing the “output” from round one.  If you have time, make a second batch if needed.
  5. The best time to start stocking up on basics like condiments or baking items is the day after your event! 

With that in mind, let’s look at the menu and where to find the recipes (those in bold are included in this blog):

  • Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Peanut Sauce – from the magazine Everyday with Rachael Ray (go online at www.rachaelraymag.com to search for recipes).  I bake these meatballs at 400 degrees for 25 minutes rather than pan-fry.
  • Chafing Dish Meatballs (the ones with chili sauce and grape jelly) – from Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook; Collectible Cooking Blog Post 12/9/2009 or click the Tag “Appetizer.”
  • Oven-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (Google to find several roasted potato recipes to suit) with Horseradish-Dill Dipping sauce from the cookbook The Roasted Vegetable Cookbook.  Information on The Roasted Vegetable Cookbook can be found on my blog post from 11/4/12.
  • Blue Cheese Dip with Chives from Delicious Dips; Collectible Cooking Blog Post 12/8/2011 or click the Tag “Appetizer.”
  • Pomegranate Guacamole from Food Network Magazine, November 2012 (this was in a pull-out booklet “50 Easy Appetizers.”  This recipe was VERY popular but due to a bad batch of avocados (from two different stores!), it made less than I hoped and the bowl was licked clean.  Go to www.foodnetwork.com and under recipes, search for “50 Easy Appetizers;” the guacamole is number 9! (Ann’s Note:  Ah, what the heck, it’s Christmas.  I posted this as the last recipe on this blog – see below!)
  • Edamame Hummus from Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2011.  Go to www.bonappetit.com and enter “Edamame Hummus” in the search field.
  • Herb Coeur A La Crème (Cheese Spread) by Ina Garten, published in Food Network Magazine, September 2012.  Recipe also available online at www.foodnetwork.com.  Guests loved the lemon in this recipe.
  • Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip – Good Housekeeping Appetizers Cookbook (new cookbook this year). (This was very tasty and a last minute addition seeing as how I bought the book days before the party!)
  • Rye Crackers (with or without caraway) – StarTribune newspaper, November 7, 2012, (Taste Section), from my friend and uber baker, Kim Ode.
  • Seedy Crisps (crackers) – StarTribune newspaper, December 28, 2011, (Taste Section)
  • Salted Almonds from the book 100 Best Classic Tapas (new cookbook this year)
  • Sauteed Garlic Mushrooms from 100 Best Classic Tapas
  • Oven-Baked Spanish Tortilla (omelet) 100 Best Classic Tapas
  • Bruschetta Bar with Four Toppings (Artichoke; Herb-Roasted Tomatoes; Wild Mushroom; Oven-Roasted Caponata) from Perfect Party Food: All the Recipes and Tips You’ll Ever Need for Stress-Free (new cookbook this year)
  • Mini Morsel Meringue Cookies from the Nestle Best-Loved Cookies Cookbook (new cookbook this year)
  • Coconut Cream Cake Balls; Chocolate Toffee Cake Balls; Gingerbread Cake Balls from the Cake Balls Cookbook (new cookbook this year)
  • (The Barefoot Contessa i.e. Ina Garten) Lemon Bars – Barefoot Contessa Parties! Cookbook or Collectible Cooking Blog Post 12/8/2009
  • Almond Bon Bons – Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook or Collectible Cooking Blog Post 12/8/2010


So let’s tackle the new recipes from cookbooks I used this year for this shindig.

Salted Almonds
(Note:  Recipes from this cookbook, 100 Best Classic Tapas, do not list specific quantities because all serving sizes say “serves X-Y as a tapas meal.  Well, I don’t know how many tapas are in a meal because they don’t say!  So let the quantity of ingredients be your guide!)
8 oz/225 g whole almonds, blanched or in their skins – BUT NOTE:  buy blanched if at all possible.  I tried blanching them and then removing their skins and it was one.big.mess.  I went out and bought blanched almonds and called it a day!
4 T olive oil (Spanish if you have it)
Coarse sea salt
1 tsp paprika or ground cumin (optional) (Ann’s Note:  I thought the taste with paprika was bland so I added cumin.  It was better but I’ll look for a new recipe for next year)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Fresh almonds in their skins are superior in taste, but blanched almonds are much more convenient.  If the almonds are not blanched, place them in a large bowl, cover with boiling water for 3-4 minutes, then drain and plunge them into cold water for 1 minute.  Drain them well in a strainer, then slide off their skins between your fingers.  Dry the almonds on a paper towel. (Ugh – never again will I do this!  Buy blanched!)

Place the olive oil in a roasting pan and swirl it around so that it covers the base.  Add the almonds and toss them in the pan so that they are evenly coated in oil, then spread them out in a single layer.

Roast almonds in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until they are light golden brown, tossing several times during the cooking.  Drain the almonds on paper towels, then transfer them to a bowl.

While the almonds are still warm, sprinkle with plenty of sea salt and paprika, if using, and toss together to coat.  Serve the almonds warm or cold.  The almonds are at their best when served freshly cooked so, if possible, on the day you plan to eat them.  However, they can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Sauteed Garlic Mushrooms – Makes about 2 cups
1 lb button mushrooms
5 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper
4 T chopped fresh parsley

Wipe or brush clean the mushrooms, then trim the stems.  Cut any large mushrooms in half or into quarters.  Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottom skillet.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds – 1 minute, or until lightly browned.  Add the mushrooms and sauté over high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have absorbed all the oil in the skillet.

Reduce the heat to low.  When the juices have come out of the mushrooms, increase the heat again and sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the juices have almost evaporated.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in the parsley and cook for an additional minute.  (Note: If you want to serve this as a tapa meal, then garnish with lemon wedges and serve piping hot or warm, accompanied with crusty bread to mop up the juices.)

Oven-baked Tortilla – makes 70 1-inch squares (Ann’s Note:  in Spain, these tortillas – omelets – are often served at room temperature for tapas (snacks))
4 T olive oil (Spanish if you have it) plus extra for oiling
1 large garlic clove, crushed
4 scallions, white and green parts finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
6 oz potato, boiled, peeled and diced (roughly 1 large baking potato)
5 large eggs
Scant ½ cup sour cream
6 oz cheese, grated (Spanish Rocal, Cheddar or Parmesan – we used Parmesan)
3 T snipped fresh chives
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a 7 x 10-inch baking sheet (or pan) with foil and brush with a little olive oil.  Reserve.

Place the olive oil, garlic, scallions, and bell peppers in a skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until the onions are softened but not browned.  Let cool then stir in the potato.

Beat the eggs, sour cream, cheese, and chives together in a large bowl.  Stir the cooled vegetables into the bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Pour the mixture into the baking sheet and smooth over the top.  Bake in the preheated oven 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown, puffed, and set in the center.  Remove from the oven and let cool and set.  Run a spatula around the edge, then invert onto a cutting board browned-side up, and peel off the foil.  If the surface looks a little runny, place it under a medium broiler to dry out.

Let cool completely.  Trim the edges if necessary, then cut into 48 squares (Ann’s Note:  we cut into 70 1-inch squares).  Serve on a platter with wooden toothpicks.

Ann’s Note:  I made this recipe the night before.  I also precut all the onions, peppers, etc. the night before that, reserving only the potato to cook the same day I prepped this recipe.

Roasted Pepper and Walnut Dip – makes about 2 cups
4 medium red bell peppers
½ cup walnuts
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 slices firm white bread, torn into pieces
2 tablespoons raspberry or balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
Toasted pita bread triangles

Ann’s Note:  This recipe calls for you to broil the peppers to roast them but since I have a gas stove, I prefer to put them on my stovetop, right over the burner, and char them that way.  It takes a little longer but with the same results (and then I don’t have to clean a pan!).

Preheat broiler.  Line broiling pan with foil.  Cut each red pepper lengthwise in half; remove and discard stems and seeds.  Arrange peppers, cut side down, in prepared pan.  Place pan in broiler, 5 to 6 inches from heat source.  Broil peppers, without turning, until skin is charred and blistered, 8 to 10 minutes.  Wrap peppers in foil and allow to steam at room temperature 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  Ann’s Note:  If you roast on your stovetop, do not cut the peppers.  Keep turning the pepper until the entire pepper is blackened.  Place the blackened pepper in a paper bag, seal the bag and remove the pepper(s) after 15 minutes.  The skin will peel right off!

Meanwhile, turn oven control to 350.  Spread walnuts in metal baking pan and bake 8 to 10 minutes, until toasted.  In 8-inch skillet, toast cumin over low heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Remove peppers from foil.  Peel skin and discard.  Cut peppers into large pieces.

In food processor with knife blade attached, process walnuts until ground.  Add roasted peppers, bread, vinegar, olive oil. Cumin, salt and ground red pepper; puree until smooth.  Transfer to serving bowl.  Cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.  Serve with toasted pita triangles.  (Ann’s Note: Trader Joe’s has mini pita breads – regular and whole wheat- that we bought and then cut in half.  They were the perfect size for serving.  And speaking of Trader Joe’s, they also had bags of mini peppers – red, yellow and orange – that, when cut in 4’s, were the perfect size for dipping into the party dips I made.  I LOVE Trader Joe’s!)

Bruschetta Bar with Four Toppings:  Artichoke, Herb-Roasted Tomatoes, Wild Mushroom and Oven-Roasted Caponata (Eggplant)
Here’s an important point you need to know right off the bat:  Bruschetta toppings are meant to be chunky but I like them “pulsed” a bit in the food processor to make them easier to serve and to increase the yield if need be.  The Artichoke Topping yield should be two cups but instead it made double that (and the recipe itself was only “okay”).  The Herb-Roasted Tomatoes should have yielded 4 cups but I’ll be damned if it didn’t make just one lousy cup so I made the recipe again, this time achieving about 2 cups (and it was outstanding!).  The Wild Mushroom Spread yields about 2 cups if you make the entire recipe but I halved it and it yielded a generous 1 cup and that was fine – some people are “meh” when it comes to mushrooms.  The Oven-Roasted Caponata yields 3 cups and that is more than I wanted but I forgot to halve the ingredients.  No worries on my part—my family loves Caponata and used to go through jars of it over the holidays.  It’s a Sicilian thing for sure!

By the way, those expecting a creamy artichoke dip topping (like many restaurants serve) will be disappointed as this is meant to be a fresh spread with no baking involved; don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Artichoke Topping – makes 2 cups
Two 6-ounce jars marinated artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup pine nuts
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

In a medium size bowl, combine all the ingredients. (That’s it!)

This recipe can be made and refrigerated for up to 4 days; bring to room temperature before serving.

Herb-Roasted Tomatoes – makes about 4 cups (Nope, not if you don’t double it!  Even then, it yields about 2 cups and that is if you pulse it in the food processor—and you should!)
Two 28-ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes, drained and juice reserved (Ann’s Note:  you can toss the juice as you won’t need it at all.)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, crushed
½ cup chopped red onion
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a jelly roll pan with a silicone liner or aluminum foil.

Cut the tomatoes in half and put in a large glass bowl.  Stir in the olive oil, basil, rosemary, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, being careful not to tear the tomatoes.  Pour onto the prepared pan, spreading it out in a single layer.  Bake until the tomato liquid is absorbed and the tomatoes have firmed up and turned a deep red color, 1 to 1 ½ hours, checking to make sure that the tomatoes and garlic don’t brown.

Transfer the tomato mixture to a clean glass bowl and let it mellow at room temperature for about six hours.

Ann’s Note:  I pulsed each batch (I made two) in the Cuisinart until it was of a chucky consistency (not quite tomato paste, but close) and the crowd went wild!

This recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated for up for 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.  Serve at room temperature.

Wild Mushroom Spread – makes about 2 cups
2 pounds assorted fresh wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster, porcini, Portobello, or cremini, stems removed or trimmed and caps halved or quartered, depending upon their size
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Put the mushrooms on a baking sheet lined with a silicone liner or aluminum foil.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Pour over the mushrooms, toss to coat well, and roast for 20 minutes.  Let cool, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to a food processor and pulse a few times to chop coarsely.

This recipe can be made and refrigerated for up to 3 days.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

Oven-Roasted Caponata – makes about 3 cups
2 medium-size purple eggplants (about 1 ½ pounds), ends trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic
½ cup coarsely chopped onion
½ cup coarsely chopped celery
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons each balsamic vinegar and firmly packed light brown sugar (or you can make Balsamic Vinegar Syrup found on page 480 and use ¼ cup for the recipe in place of the brown sugar and vinegar)
One 15.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
½ cup drained and chopped pitted green olives
¼ cup drained and chopped capers
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with a silicone liner or aluminum foil.

Drizzle the cut side of the eggplant with a little olive oil, and lay, cut side down, on the baking sheet.  Place the garlic on the baking sheet and drizzle with some of the oil, serving the remainder for the next step.  Bake the garlic and eggplant until the eggplant is tender, 25 to 30 minutes; a knife should pierce the skin easily, with no resistance.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Then peel off the skin of the eggplant and coarsely chop the flesh.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat and add the eggplant.  Squeeze the garlic from its skin into the skillet and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing to coat with the oil.  Add the onion, celery, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes if using and cook, stirring, until the onion and celery begin to soften a bit, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the balsamic syrup, tomatoes, and basil and simmer the mixture for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat and stir in the lives, capers, and parsley.  Allow the caponata to cool to room temperature, then taste and adjust the seasonings.

You can make and refrigerate this recipe for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Mini Morsel Meringue Cookies – makes 5 dozen cookies
4 egg whites (*Note:  we substituted Deb El “Just Whites,” dried egg whites and they worked perfectly)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups (12-ounce package) NESTLE TOLL HOUSE Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels

*Egg whites can be tricky to work with and rather than cross my fingers and hope for the best, I suggested my husband (enlisted into being Mr. Baker for this party) use dried egg whites that I had on hand and they whipped up perfectly.  I don’t know as I’d make this recipe any other way after that!

Beat egg whites (or the dried egg white equivalent) and cream of tartar in small mixer bowl until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in granulated sugar until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in morsels, 1/3 at a time.  Drop by level tablespoon onto greased baking sheets.

Bake in preheated 300F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until cookies are dry and crisp.

Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Store in airtight containers.  Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Ann’s Notes:  I checked online and found I could make these up to 2 days ahead of my party so I did.  That said we are still enjoying these over a week later.  They were the hit of the party and some gluten-free friends were grateful that I made something they could eat.

Cake Balls (general instructions)
If I printed out all the instructions for the three cake balls we made for our party, I’d be here all night.  These are not necessarily hard to make but they do take some time.  So in general, here are some tips before I give you the three recipes:

Bake the cake as directed in the recipe (and on the box if using a box mis), allow to cool then crumble until you don’t see any cake lumps.  Add the frosting as directed in the recipe, form into balls and freeze for two hours.  Melt the chocolate needed per the recipe and taking a toothpick, dip the chocolate and let dry and set.  Cover the toothpick hole with additional chocolate. Decorate as indicated.

Due to time, I used boxed cake mixes and canned frosting rather than creating my own cake and frosting mixes from scratch.  If you want to make the cake and icing from scratch, then please see pages 30-34 of the book, Cake Balls.

For this party, we made Chocolate Toffee Cake Balls; Coconut Cream Cake Balls and Gingerbread Cake Balls.  Each recipe makes about 45-50 cake balls so be prepared!  The authors suggested using candy paper cup liners (just like muffin cup liners only smaller) for serving and not only were they tres elegant but I was able to plate them without having to deal with the cake pop stick!  I’m all for ease in serving.

Chocolate Toffee Cake Balls
For cake and icing
1 (18.25-ounce) box vanilla cake mix (or from-scratch cake mix – see p. 31)
½ to ¾ cup cream cheese icing (from a can or from scratch – your choice)
1 cup English toffee bits

For coating and decorating
24 ounces milk chocolate, for coating
About ½ cup English toffee bits, for decoration

Ann’s Notes:  chocolate is expensive but the authors say that you can melt a candy bar if you’d like or chocolate chips if you’d like or high-end chocolate if you’d like – your choice.  I bought a huge bar of chocolate from Trader Joe’s and it worked out great.  Just be careful when you melt it to not scorch it (especially if you use a microwave which I don’t recommend) or get water in it or it will seize.

If using a box cake, follow the directions on the box; if from scratch, see page 31 of the book.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the cream cheese icing (p. 34) or open your store-bought icing.

After the cake has completely cooled, follow the cake ball method instructions (page 17 of the book or see above).  After the cake balls are dipped in milk chocolate, drizzle them with fine lines.  Do one at a time and sprinkle with toffee bits to add more crunchy toffee flavor. (Andy skipped the chocolate lines and just added the toffee bits.)

Coconut Cream Cake Balls
For the cake and icing
1 (18.25) box vanilla cake mix or basic vanilla cake (p. 31)
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk (see the Asian section of your grocery store)
1 ½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
½ to ¾ cup basic vanilla icing (p. 33) or store-bought vanilla icing

For coating and decorating
24 ounces milk chocolate, for coating
About ½ cup sweetened flaked coconut, for garnish

Mix together the ingredients for making a vanilla cake, substituting the coconut milk for water, if using the box version, or for the milk, if making the cake from scratch.  After the ingredients are fully combined, stir in the flaked coconut.

Follow the instructions for baking the cake (per box, if using a mix) and while the cake is cooling, open the store-bought frosting or make your own if desired.  (Scratch cake directions are on page 31; icing on page 33).

After the cake has cooled, crumble, add frosting, freeze, etc. as stated above.  Dip the balls in milk chocolate, drizzle them with fine lines of chocolate and sprinkle with flaked coconut.

Gingerbread Cake Balls
For the cake and icing
1 (18.5) ounce box yellow cake mix or basic yellow cake (p. 34)
 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup molasses
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ to ¾ cup basic vanilla icing (p. 33) or store-bought vanilla icing

For coating and decorating
24 ounces white chocolate for coating (*this does not melt very well.  I almost considered using almond bark even though it’s not the same thing)
About ½ cup crushed gingersnap cookies for garnish

Mix the ingredients for the yellow cake (as directed by the box or using the from-scratch instructions) then add sugar, molasses, ginger and cinnamon.

Bake the cake as directed, prepare your frosting, make the cake balls (see above) then after all that is done, dip the cake balls in white chocolate, drizzle them with fine lines of chocolate and top with the gingersnaps (or use candied ginger, candied orange peels, cinnamon candies, etc.).

Upon further review…even though it is not from a cookbook, this recipe was a huge hit so here’s the recipe for Pomegranate Guacamole from Food Network Magazine, November 2012:

Cook 3 tablespoons peptias (pumpkin seeds) in 1 T olive oil until toasted; season with salt  Mash 2 avocados with ½ cup chopped cilantro, ¼ cup finely chopped onion, the juice of ½ lime, 1 finely chopped jalapeno and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Top with pomegranate seeds and the toasted pepitas.  Serve with tortilla chips. (The biggest challenge you will have is to find fresh avocados that haven’t gone south on you.)

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