Recipes that will make it seem like Christmas

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

If you are not in the Christmas spirit, these recipes will help you get in the mood. Using cranberries, nuts, sweet potatoes and mint, all of these recipes just make it seem like the Christmas season is here.

Jodi Thompson of Jackson has sent in all of today's recipes to pass along to you. Why don't you do the same? Send in some of your favorite recipes. I would like to do a column all on appetizers and finger foods that are fun to have on Christmas Eve or to take to parties. Get them in quick, though, because time is flying by.

Cranberry Pancakes

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons whole-wheat flour

1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 tablespoons nonfat milk

2 tablespoons pasteurized egg substitute

1 1/2 teaspoons walnut or canola oil

Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add cranberries; boil for 2 minutes. Drain and cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg (if using) in a large bowl. Whisk together milk, egg substitute, oil and vanilla (if using) in a small bowl. Coarsely chop the cranberries and stir into the milk mixture. Stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, just until combined. Coat a griddle or large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Using 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake, cook 2 pancakes at a time until bubbles dot the surface, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until browned, 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining batter. Makes four pancakes.

Pumpkin Walnut Biscuits

These flavorful biscuits are sweet enough to have for breakfast (with a bit of butter and honey) but not so sweet that they seem out of place on the dinner table.

1 3/4 cups flour

3 tablespoons sugar, plus a little extra for topping

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup light cream, plus a little extra for glaze

1/3 cup solidly packed pumpkin mash or canned pumpkin

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Use your fingertips or a pastry blender to work in the butter. Keep mixing until the ingredients resemble a coarse, flaky meal, then stir in the chopped walnuts. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the cream, pumpkin and honey. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the liquid into it. Stir briskly until the dough pulls together, then let it sit for 3 minutes. Flour your hands and your work surface. Gently knead the dough into a ball, then pat it into a 1-inch-thick disk. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter or drinking glass, cut the dough into rounds and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving a couple of inches between them. Repeat this process until you've used all the dough. Brush the biscuit tops sparingly with cream and then sprinkle on a little sugar. Bake the biscuits on the center oven rack until they are light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Makes about 12 biscuits.

Creme de Menthe Truffles

These elegant truffles make a special gift. The creamy chocolate mint center melts in your mouth.

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup real butter

1 (10-ounce) package (2 cups) creme de menthe baking chips or 60 creme de menthe candy thins

1 (12-ounce) package vanilla-flavored candy coating

2 drops green food color

Powdered sugar or cocoa

1/4 cup real semisweet chocolate chips, melted

Combine whipping cream and butter in 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until butter is melted (4 to 5 minutes). Add creme de menthe baking chips. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until chips are melted and mixture is smooth (2 to 3 minutes). Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours or freeze 1 hour until firm. Dust hands with powdered sugar or cocoa. Working quickly, shape mixture into 1-inch balls. (Truffle mixture will be soft; repeat dusting hands to make shaping easier, if necessary.) Place balls on waxed paper-lined baking sheet; refrigerate at least 2 hours. Meanwhile, melt candy coating in deep 1-quart saucepan over low heat; stir until smooth (8 to 10 minutes). Stir in food color until well mixed. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Remove truffles from refrigerator. Place a truffle in candy coating mixture. Use small spoon or fork to coat truffle; immediately remove and place onto waxed paper. Repeat with remaining truffles. Work quickly so the truffles do not melt. Refrigerate until coating is set, about 10 minutes. Drizzle each truffle with melted chocolate. Refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes. Place truffles in paper or foil candy cups. Store refrigerated in container with tight-fitting lid up to 2 weeks. Makes 48 truffles.

Recipe tips: High-quality candy coating disks are available at specialty cake and candy decorating stores and online. Do not overheat candy coating or it may scorch. Use remaining melted candy coating to dip pretzels or chocolate wafers. Spiral candy forks can be used for dipping instead of a small spoon. They are available at cake and candy decorating stores.

Fruit and Nut Balls

A no-bake, make-ahead treat, this perfect combination of fruit and nuts is a nutritious and delicious mouthful. Rolling them in shredded coconut gives them their festive look.

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup pitted and snipped dates

2 large eggs, beaten

1/3 cup chopped pistachios, preferably unsalted

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon rum extract

3/4 cup shredded coconut

Combine sugar, cranberries, dates and eggs in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, is pale yellow, registers at least 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and when a spoon is pulled through it, it leaves a clear trail. This will take 6 to 14 minutes, depending on how hot your stove's "medium-low" setting is. Remove from the heat; stir in pistachios, walnuts, pecans and rum extract. Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 45 minutes. With damp or lightly oiled hands, form the mixture into 1-inch balls (about one generous teaspoon each). Roll each ball in coconut. Place the finished balls on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and store in the refrigerator.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Whether mashed with butter or baked into a pie, sweet potatoes have long been an American favorite. In fact, it's rumored that Thomas Jefferson even requested that biscuits made from the orange root vegetables be served at the initial meeting of the First Continental Congress in 1774. These biscuits are delicious for making a sandwich with leftover turkey and a big spoonful of cranberry relish.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup cooked, mashed and cooled sweet potatoes

1 to 2 tablespoons cream or milk

1 tablespoon melted butter

Brown sugar

Pecan halves

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal (a great job for children). Stir in the sweet potatoes, then add the cream or milk a little at a time until the mixture can be gathered into a soft ball. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead it 10 or so times (not too long) then pat it into a 1/2-inch-thick circle. Using a floured cookie cutter or drinking glass rim, cut the dough into 2-inch rounds and arrange them on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle on brown sugar. Press a pecan half into the top of each biscuit. Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about nine biscuits.

Have a great week, 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. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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