Christmas cooking for the whole family

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas is absolutely my favorite time of the year. I start playing Christmas music in September and put my Christmas tree up early in November so we can enjoy it for as long as possible. We have some special traditions that we enjoy as a family; for which I am very thankful for and cherish each one of them.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and are able to spend it with family and friends, or just the way you would like to.

Merry Christmas wishes from this Recipe Swap column to you!

In the past couple of days I have had a couple of people hand me recipes they either have tried and really liked them, or plan to try over the holiday. In hopes that you might be able to use them as well, I am passing them along to you.

My mother-in-law Barbara McClanahan made this chicken recipe last week and really enjoyed it. In reading through the ingredients I think my children would really like it, too.

Bacon Mushroom Chicken

2 bacon strips

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion

1/4 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels. Flatten chickens to 1/2-inch thickness; sprinkle both sides with seasoned salt. Brown in bacon drippings. Transfer to a 1-quart dish coated with non-stick cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine the honey, mustard, mayonnaise, corn syrup and onion; spread 1/4 cup over chicken. Top with bacon and mushrooms. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken juices run clear. Serve with remaining honey mixture. Yields 2 servings.

My long-time friend and Sunday School co-teacher, Tara Lutes, gave me these two recipes at church Sunday and she plans to make them for her Christmas dinner side dishes. I think she is going to have a special dinner.

Cranberry Pecan Salad

1 cup pecan halves

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste, optional

6 tablespoons olive oil

6 cups mixed salad greens, rinsed and dried

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

Feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread pecans evenly on a baking sheet. Toast for eight to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper; mix until sugar and salt dissolve. Whisk in olive oil. In a salad bowl, toss together the greens, cranberries, pecans, onions, and cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette, and toss gently to coat.

Cranberry Waldorf

1 1/2 cups chopped cranberries

1 cup chopped red apple

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup seedless green grapes, halved

1/3 cup raisins

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons white sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (8-ounce) container vanilla yogurt

Chop cranberries by using a food processor or hand grinder. Combine cranberries, apple, celery, grapes, raisins, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and yogurt. Toss to coat. Cover and chill two hours. Stir just before serving. Garnish with frosted cranberries and mint leaves if desired. For frosted cranberries, wet cranberries and roll in sugar.

Pecan Surprise Pie

This recipe is really two pies in one: spicy pecan and tender cheesecake. It comes out of the oven with the layers switched! It looks like a cheesecake but a surprise is underneath.

1 (9-inch) pie shell

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups chopped pecans

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, adjust to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, adjust to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until smooth. Thoroughly mix in 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Do not overbeat. Spread mixture into pastry shell. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. In a medium bowl, combine 3 beaten eggs, corn syrup, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Mix until incorporated but not frothy. Pour mixture over pecan layer. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until filling is set and pecans are browned. Pie will be quite high, but will settle as it cools. Makes a 9 inch pie (8 servings).

Shrimply Divine Pasta

6 ounce mafalda noodles (or other pasta)

12 ounce fresh or frozen and thawed medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 and1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil

1 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

4 cups pre-washed (packaged) baby spinach or torn spinach

Finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper or crushed red pepper

Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain well; keep pasta warm.

Meanwhile, rinse the shrimp; pat dry. For sauce, in a large skillet cook garlic in hot oil over medium-high heat for 15 seconds. Add shrimp. Cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Remove shrimp. Combine chicken broth, cornstarch, and basil. Add to skillet. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add the spinach. Cook 1 to 2 minutes more, or until wilted. Return the shrimp to skillet; stir to combine. Toss shrimp mixture and pasta together. Pass Parmesan cheese and pepper. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

I am out of room again for this week. Have an absolutely wonderful Christmas and until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701.

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