Category Archives: Holiday

Happy Holidays from Newzcook!

xmas16It’s Christmas Eve and I’m gearing up to finish my New Year’s cards and bake some cookies to take to my mom’s for Christmas Day tomorrow.

But as a Happy Holidays to everyone, I thought I’d share some easy, fun holiday recipes from past posts, including Christmas Bison Chili, Irish Whiskey Cake, Easy New Year’s Eve Appe-Tarts and the easy, yummy, Fudge-Filled Slice-n-Bakes, in case you’re running out of time and looking to dress up those last minute supermarket cookies-in-a-tube…

Have a Great Holiday, whatever you celebrate, and a Happy New Year!

Bison Christmas Chili was just one way my family celebrated the seaon "out of the box"

Bison Christmas Chili is a fun alternative to traditional holiday meals. You can substitute with veggies, ground turkey, tempeh, or other meatless alternatives.

Christmas Bison Chili

  • Olive oil
  • Crushed garlic
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1 large sweet red bell pepper
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas
  • 1 lb. ground bison – preferably organic, or at least no hormones, no antibiotics, etc.
  • 28 oz. can vegetarian baked beans
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • red pepper flakes
  • ground sea salt
  • ground black peppercorns
  • 1 T. soy sauce

Saute’ garlic in a couple tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven until fragrant, add chopped onion and bell peppers and cook till a bit soft. Push above to one side and add bison meat in chunks to pot. Cook meat through, but don’t overcook. No need to spoon or pour off fat, as the bison is lean and there won’t be much. Simply stir everything back together when the meat is cooked so the meat will pick up some of the flavor of the garlic, onion and pepper. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and use spices to taste. Simmer for about 1/2 hour. You can add the peas late in the cooking so they retain some of their green color. For a portable/party meal, pour the chili in a crock pot and take it to your gathering. You can leave it on low and let people serve themselves. Because of the sweet peppers and baked beans the chili is sweeter, like Sloppy Joe. It’s great with tortilla chips, or crusty bread. And because it’s made with bison and with vegetarian baked beans, it’s probably lower in fat and cholesterol.

Irish Whiskey Cake

irishwhiskeycake

This recipe is modified from a recipe in “Traditional Irish Recipes,” by George L. Thompson and a recipe I saw in a newspaper, but can’t remember where. Basically, you’ll need a pound cake (I used Sara Lee), a cup or more of Irish whiskey (I used Powers), a large box of vanilla pudding (the kind you cook), jam or preserves (I used lo-cal strawberry from Aldi), and heavy whipping cream. You’ll also need a nice glass, or crystal bowl, to layer the cake in.

Cut the pound cake in slices and arrange flat on a couple plates. Sprinkle/pour Irish whiskey on both sides of slices – depending on your taste you can moisten, or really douse the cake. Let it sit for a bit while you cook the pudding. The pudding called for 3 c. milk and I substituted 1/2 c. of that with eggnog. It could have used more. Take pudding off burner and let cool. Skim the top before you build the cake. To build the cake: Spread each cake slice with generous layer of preserves, then layer bowl with cake slices and pudding, ending with pudding. Whip a cup or more of heavy whipping cream with a little sugar to sweeten it and top the cake with a thick layer of whipped cream. Using real whipping cream makes a nice thick, not to sweet topping (as opposed to canned or frozen topping). Chill in refrigerator until you serve it. Use a spatula to cut and serve. It held together like a cake – which was surprising. It was also delicious.

Easy New Year’s Eve Appe-Tarts

  • 2 tubes refrigerated crescent roll dough (8-roll size)
  • Saga blue cheese
  • 5 oz. bag Emerald Glazed pecans
  • Fresh-made whole cranberry sauce

I made fresh cranberry sauce for these. Recipe’s on the bag of fresh cranberries, but I used 1/2 c. white and 1/2 c. brown sugar. I also added a tablespoon or so of apricot preserves and some pear liqueur to add some extra flavor. These tarts are fun and simple to make right at the party if you want. If you have kids around, give them some peanut butter, jelly and chocolate chips (or whatever they like) and let them join in and make their own tarts.

Separate the crescent dough triangles. Spread with blue cheese, cranberry sauce and top with pecans. Roll up, or fold, and pinch the dough to seal the tarts. Arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake as directed until golden brown. I think it was 10-12 minutes in a 350 or 400-degree oven. Watch out! The filling is hot, so let them cool a bit while you make the cocktails. Bombay Sapphire Martinis made a great cocktail pairing.

Fudge Filled Slice-N-Bakes

Fudge Filled Slice-N-Bakes

Quik, Eezzy, Yummy

I said in the last post that I was going to try upgrading the stand-by slice-n-bake cookies and if I was successful I’d report my findings.

My Aldi slice-n-bake Holiday Cookies with the built-in candy canes were delicious and a bargain at $1.99. But when I decided to bake a second batch for Xmas Day I wanted to add a bit of a personal touch. So when I spied the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting recipe on the back of my (Aldi’s) Baker’s Choice baking cocoa, I thought, hmmm, sugar cookies sandwiched with fudge. Kind of like, as my mother pointed out yesterday, a Berger Cookie (a Baltimore favorite – it’s a cake-like vanilla cookie slathered with a pile of hardened dark chocolate icing, www.bergercookies.com).

They were a hit, as you can see from the photo of the almost empty tin. The decorated slice-n-bakes looked great, the soft, chocolaty icing was the perfect counter point to the snap of the sugar cookies, and the icing oozing out the sides gave them that homemade appeal.

So, if you don’t have time to mess with making a bunch of from-scratch holiday cookies but want that personal touch for family gatherings and holiday parties, this is a quick and easy alternative. (Try different kinds of cookies combined with different icings.)

Use any brand slice-n-bakes you want. Here’s the recipe from the cocoa tin:

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 T softened butter
  • 1/2 c. baking cocoa
  • 2 2/3 c. confectioner’s sugar (I used 2 cups)
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 t. vanilla extract (use real vanilla extract if you can)

In a small mixing bowl, cream butter. Add cocoa and confectioner’s sugar alternately with milk. Beat to spreading consistency (I made it thick to stand up to the cookies). Blend in vanilla.

(With one tube of slice-n-bakes and this icing recipe I made 18 sandwich cookies.)

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year and…

Chow for Now!

Advertisements

Who feels like cooking when you’re sick and tired?

20161217_205903_resized2

Nothing like comfort food in bed with your best pal, when you’re feeling sick and tired.

I’ve been sick since Thanksgiving. The usual winter head and chest cold that it seems everyone is suffering with right now. Lousy time for it, with the holidays bearing down. There are gifts to buy, cards to address, meals to plan. Who has the energy? I don’t. Not after working all week. Just trying to sit upright and get through the day is hard enough. I spent most of this week having enough energy left over to open a can of soup and box of crackers for dinner and adding an orange for dessert, in hopes of getting some real food in there somewhere.

So, when this weekend rolled around I felt like I needed to get some healthy, fresh vegetables in me, but all I craved was comfort food — and I still didn’t feel like spending any time cooking.

So, I split the difference and came up with some semi-healthy comfort food that was quick to make. Yesterday, following that comfort food craving, and not knowing what to eat for breakfast, I threw together a cheesy skillet quick-bread. I had that with dinner later — steamed fresh veggies and shrimp tossed with Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese and Old Bay. This morning I did a fresh tomato and avocado melt on a baguette. In the spirit of the recipes on this blog, they were all cheap, quick and easy:


20161217_100428Cheesy Skillet Quick-Bread

  • 1 1/2 c. Bisquick Heart Smart mix
  • 1/2 milk (plus a splash to make it looser)
  • 1/2 c. or so grated sharp New York cheddar
  • Cast iron pan
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: Old Bay seasoning

Make the biscuit recipe on the box (above), and mix in grated cheese (it could probably handle more than I added, but this was my first try, so I didn’t go crazy with the cheese). The batter should be loose enough to spread into the skillet, so you may need to add a little milk to thin it. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the skillet and start warming it on low. After the oil warms spread it around evenly with a paper towel. Put the batter in the pan and spread it to the edges. Cover the top with some more grated cheese. Cover. Keep the heat on low-medium. You don’t want to brown the bottom too much before the biscuit sets inside. Take a peek after 10-12 mins or more. If the top is set and the bottom is golden, turn off the heat. I have a toaster oven that can accommodate a pizza, so I put the whole skillet in the toaster oven (the door was open a bit from the handle). Leave it in a few mins to brown the top. You can garnish the bread with a dusting of Old Bay if you want to add a little spice. Serve warm with butter.

20161217_205903_resizedQuick Veggie/Shrimp Bowl

  • Fresh broccoli and stems cut in 1-inch pieces
  • Grape tomatoes sliced in half
  • Frozen shelled/deveined precooked shrimp
  • Olive oil
  • Pecorino Romano and/or Parmesan cheese
  • Salt & Pepper (try McCormick’s Peppercorn Medley)
  • Dried basil
  • Old Bay seasoning

You can make this with any amounts of veggies and shrimp, depending on how many you are serving. Cut broccoli into nice chunky pieces, halve the tomatoes. Use a sauté/frying pan, not a deep pot to steam in. Put a 1/2-inch to 1-inch of water in the pan. Bring it to a boil. Drop in veggies. Let them get a little crispy/soft before you drop in the frozen shrimp. Cover and steam just a few minutes until all are heated through and the broccoli is softened, not overcooked, still bright green. Drain, retaining a little of the steaming water. Put veggies and shrimp and a little of the steaming water in a bowl. Toss with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, basil, Old Bay. Toss with a handful of the cheeses until everything is coated. Garnish with a sprinkling of more cheese. Serve with the warmed Cheesy Skillet Quick-Bread.

20161218_101258-1Tomato/Avocado Melt

  • Crusty baguette
  • Tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes)
  • Half an avocado
  • Sharp New York cheddar
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper

This is a sort of healthier modification on one of my favorite comfort-food deli breakfast sandwiches (Toasted bagel, cream cheese, tomato, melted cheese).

Slice and partially toast the baguette with a little butter. Top with tomato, season with salt and pepper. Top with sliced cheddar. Put back in toaster-oven to fully toast the baguette and melt the cheese. Remove from oven and top with fresh, sliced avocado. Season to taste.

I hope you get through the holidays without getting the winter crud, but if you do get short of time or energy I hope you enjoy some of these easy, quick and comforting recipes.

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and Chow for Now!

 

No. 17 Holidays Out of the Box

Bison Christmas Chili was just one way my family celebrated the season "out of the box"

OK. I’m a bit late with the holiday post, but, hey, to me the holidays last until I take the tree, lights and decorations down – usually sometime in the middle of January.
 
I’ve got a couple of recipes coming up and a little riff on how my family chose to think, literally, out of the box this year, which ultimately made this one of the most stress-free, enjoyable holidays we’ve ever had. And that was a comment made by all of us – even the die-hard shopper.
 
Back in October or November, my sister-in-law suggested we not give gifts this year, but instead spend our gift money on an over-night at Antrim, an historic B&B in Taneytown, Md. The no-gifts suggestion has been floated before, which always got torpedoed by my family who thinks if it doesn’t take an hour and a half to open gifts Christmas morning, it’s not really Christmas. This year she added a brilliant caveat – we give gifts, but only those regifted from our own homes, or a cheap gag gift. She remembers telling us just ONE gift, but the rest of us ignored the ONE gift idea and went with our instincts of multiple gifts per person.
 
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, shocked actually, at all the nice gifts I found while “shopping” in my own home. The perfect books, CDs, DVDs, even a never-used wallet/purse, and a great shirt for my XL Tall brother (a like-new hand-me-down from my XL Tall boss.) Even some perfect children’s books for my nephew. The only shopping I did was for a hamster activity center for my nephew – a brand name item on sale for a steal at Big Lots. Gifts that people already had, or didn’t like, were passed on – with no hurt feelings, because they were all recycled gifts anyway!
 
Not to ramble on about this – but we all had the best time finding the gifts, and giving them on Christmas morning. Every gift had a story and everyone commented on how much fun and completely unstressful the holidays were without having to worry about making lists, hitting crowded malls and spending a lot of cash that we didn’t have. Our overnight stay Dec. 27 at Antrim, including drinks, afternoon tea, before-dinner hors d’oeuvres, dinner w/wine, lovely suites, continental breakfast delivered to the room and a full hot breakfast back in the mansion dining room was awesome – more so because a holiday package deal cut hundreds of dollars from our bills. Truly a relaxing, enjoyable family Christmas that was surprisingly affordable – a welcome end to a financially tough year for us all. 
 
OK – on to the recipes. Our out-of-the-box Christmas dinner included Bison Chili and Irish Whiskey Cake – both big hits. For New Year’s Eve, I invented a quick, easy-to-make, but delicious appetizer to go with before-dinner martinis that were also great reheated for breakfast New Year’s Day. 
 
Christmas Bison Chili
  • Olive oil
  • Crushed garlic
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1 large sweet red bell pepper
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas
  • 1 lb. ground bison – preferably organic, or at least no hormones, no antibiotics, etc.
  • 28 oz. can vegetarian baked beans
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • red pepper flakes
  • ground sea salt
  • ground black peppercorns
  • 1 T. soy sauce

Saute’ garlic in a couple tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven until fragrant, add chopped onion and bell peppers and cook till a bit soft. Push above to one side and add bison meat in chunks to pot. Cook meat through, but don’t overcook. No need to spoon or pour off fat, as the bison is lean and there won’t be much. Simply stir everything back together when the meat is cooked so the meat will pick up some of the flavor of the garlic, onion and pepper. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and use spices to taste. Simmer for about 1/2 hour. You can add the peas late in the cooking so they retain some of their green color. I then poured the chili in a crock pot and took it to our family gathering. You can leave it on low and let people serve themselves. Because of the sweet peppers and baked beans the chili is sweeter, like Sloppy Joe. It’s great with tortilla chips, or crusty bread. And because it’s made with bison with vegetarian baked beans, it’s probably lower in fat and cholesterol.

Irish Whiskey Cake

This recipe is modified from a recipe in “Traditional Irish Recipes,” by George L. Thompson and a recipe I saw in a newspaper, but can’t remember where. Basically, you’ll need a pound cake (I used Sara Lee), a cup or more of Irish whiskey (I used Powers), a large box of vanilla pudding (the kind you cook), jam or preserves (I used lo-cal strawberry from Aldi), and heavy whipping cream. You’ll also need a nice glass, or crystal bowl, to layer the cake in.

Cut the pound cake in slices and arrange flat on a couple plates. Sprinkle/pour Irish whiskey on both sides of slices – depending on your taste you can moisten, or really douse the cake. Let it sit for a bit while you cook the pudding. The pudding called for 3 c. milk and I substituted 1/2 c. of that with eggnog. It could have used more. Take pudding off burner and let cool. Skim the top before you build the cake. To build the cake: Spread each cake slice with generous layer of preserves, then layer bowl with cake slices and pudding, ending with pudding. Whip a cup or more of heavy whipping cream with a little sugar to sweeten it and top the cake with a thick layer of whipped cream. Using real whipping cream makes a nice thick, not to sweet topping (as opposed to canned or frozen topping). Chill in refrigerator until you serve it. Use a spatula to cut and serve. It held together like a cake – which was surprising. It was also delicious.

Easy New Year’s Eve Appe-Tarts

  • 2 tubes refrigerated crescent roll dough (8-roll size)
  • Saga blue cheese
  • 5 oz. bag Emerald Glazed pecans
  • Fresh-made whole cranberry sauce

I made fresh cranberry sauce for these. Recipe’s on the bag of fresh cranberries, but I used 1/2 c. white and 1/2 c. brown sugar. I also added a tablespoon or so of apricot preserves and some pear liqueur to add some extra flavor. These tarts are fun and simple to make right at the party if you want. If you have kids around, give them some peanut butter, jelly and chocolate chips (or whatever they like) and let them join in and make their own tarts.

Separate the crescent dough triangles. Spread with blue cheese, cranberry sauce and top with pecans. Roll up, or fold, and pinch the dough to seal the tarts. Arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake as directed until golden brown. I think it was 10-12 minutes in a 350 or 400-degree oven. Watch out! The filling is hot, so let them cool a bit while you make the cocktails. Bombay Sapphire Martinis made a great cocktail pairing.

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year and…

Chow for Now!

No. 15 Pumpkin Eater

Eat that pumpkin

I carve pumpkins every year for Halloween, but the last time I actually cooked something with fresh pumpkin was a watery, not very tasty pumpkin pie about 20 years ago. So, I wasn’t inspired to try again.  Since Halloween this year, I’ve been eyeing the small uncarved pumpkin sitting on my dining room table and told myself not to throw away good food. Make something with it and eat it. Don’t waste the 2 bucks you spent on it, I told myself.

I found a simple “Smoky Pumpkin Soup” recipe in “The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook” in my kitchen. The small pumpkin was just the right size. I made a few substitutions – only using what I had available in the house. So, instead of Marsala wine, I used Sweet Vermouth. Instead of bacon, I used turkey bacon. I don’t keep unsalted butter, so I used regular butter. I didn’t have any Thyme – so I used a dash, and I mean a little dash, of poultry seasoning that had Thyme in it, among other things. Be warned – what takes the longest about this recipe is cutting, scooping, slicing, peeling and cubing the pumpkin.

Smoky Pumpkin Soup

6 slices bacon, diced, cooked crisp, fat reserved
4 T. (1/2 stick) butter
6 c. peeled pumpkin, cut in 1-inch cubes
6 c. beef boullion (I used boullion cubes)
1/2 c. sweet vermouth
dash poultry season
Fresh ground sea salt and black pepper
Heavy cream (optional)
Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional – if you want to toast the seeds you scooped out and use them for garnish or on the side.)

Cook the bacon in a stock pot. Remove the bacon, leave the fat. Add butter. Add pumpkin and saute over medium-high heat for 15 mins. stirring occasionally until pumpkin starts to brown and soften. (By the way – if you stop here and sprinkle with course salt – you have a great side dish.)

Add six cups beef stock, cover and simmer about 30 mins. Pumpkin will get very tender. Turn off heat. Add Vermouth, Thyme, salt and pepper. Here you can take it out and puree in a blender, or, I kept it on the stove and just used my hand-held mixer to blend it. It worked fine.

Add the crumbled or cut-up bacon back to the pot and simmer another couple minutes. Serve by ladeling into bowls and stirring into each a tablespoon of cream. Garnish with the toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve with hot crusty bread and butter.

PUMPKIN PIE TIP: I made a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Just a traditional one from the recipe on a can of packed pumpkin I bought at Aldi. BUT, I added a box of pumpkin spice pudding mix my friend Mare gave me. It made the pie richer and creamier. Give it a try. I got lots of compliments on it. I also made my own whipped cream by whipping some heavy cream with a little sugar. Yum. That was a nice touch.

Chow for Now!

 

No. 6 Eezzy Yummy

Fudge Filled Slice-N-Bakes

Fudge Filled Slice-N-Bakes

Post Xmas

I said in the last post that I was going to try upgrading the stand-by slice-n-bake cookies and if I was successful I’d report my findings.

My Aldi slice-n-bake Holiday Cookies with the built-in candy canes were delicious and a bargain at $1.99. But when I decided to bake a second batch for Xmas Day I wanted to add a bit of a personal touch. So when I spied the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting recipe on the back of my (Aldi’s) Baker’s Choice baking cocoa, I thought, hmmm, sugar cookies sandwiched with fudge. Kind of like, as my mother pointed out yesterday, a Berger Cookie ( a Baltimore favorite – it’s a cake-like vanilla cookie slathered with a pile of hardened dark chocolate icing, www.bergercookies.com).

They were a hit, as you can see from the photo of the almost empty tin. The decorated slice-n-bakes looked great, the soft, chocolaty icing was the perfect counter point to the snap of the sugar cookies, and the icing oozing out the sides gave them that homemade appeal.

So, if you don’t have time to mess with making a bunch of from-scratch holiday cookies but want that personal touch for family gatherings and holiday parties, this is a quick and easy alternative. (Try different kinds of cookies combined with different icings.)

Use any brand slice-n-bakes you want. Here’s the recipe from the cocoa tin:

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 T softened butter
  • 1/2 c. baking cocoa
  • 2 2/3 c. confectioner’s sugar (I used 2 cups)
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 t. vanilla extract (use real vanilla extract if you can)

In a small mixing bowl, cream butter. Add cocoa and confectioner’s sugar alternately with milk. Beat to spreading consistency (I made it thick to stand up to the cookies). Blend in vanilla.

(With one tube of slice-n-bakes and this icing recipe I made 18 sandwich cookies.)

~ Chow for Now!) ~