Amaze guests with simple holiday dishes

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

smcclanahan

The weeks are so full of parties, school programs and church activities that we don't know if we are coming or going. But one of my favorite programs of the season so far was the play at our daughter's school. She goes to the Explore program once a week and her class wrote a play and made all of the props. As primitive as it was, you could see all of the hard work they put into it and all of the children who performed that evening were so proud of themselves. The Explore teacher is excellent with the children and does a wonderful job. I hope you have a special event this holiday season that will add a special memory for you this year.

Beverly Lorenz of Cape Girardeau requested a recipe for a chocolate chip cheese ball. In looking for a recipe for her I found several different kinds, but this one is the one that kept coming up the most often.

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1/2 cup real butter

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3/4 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Graham cracker sticks

Beat softened cream cheese, butter and vanilla until creamy. Slowly add sugars until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Place mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a ball. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll ball in pecans. Serve with graham cracker sticks, regular and chocolate flavored. Other "dippers" may be used such as vanilla wafers, gingersnaps or chocolate wafers.

Jodi Thompson of Jackson sent in some recipes that you might like to try over the holiday.

Banana-Pecan Streusel Bread Pudding

1 (12-ounce) can (1 1/2 cups) evaporated milk

1 1/3 cups mashed ripe banana (4 medium)

3 beaten eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 large croissants, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (5 ounces total)

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon margarine or butter, melted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

Lightly grease a 2-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside. Stir together evaporated milk, banana, eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and the almond extract. Place croissant pieces in prepared baking dish. Pour egg mixture evenly over croissants, pressing pieces down to be sure they are all moistened. In a small bowl combine brown sugar, flour, melted margarine or butter and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over croissant mixture. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Let stand for 30 minutes. Serve warm. If desired, top with whipped cream or ice cream. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Asparagus-Almond Casserole

6 tablespoons butter, divided

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash pepper

8 ounces American cheese, grated

1 (16-ounce) can asparagus, drained

3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Melt 2 tablespoons butter over low heat. Stir in flour one tablespoon at a time. Add 1 cup milk all at one time. Stir until thickened. Add salt and pepper. Add cheese and stir until melted. In a 2-quart casserole dish, layer one half of cheese sauce, and one-half of hard-boiled eggs. Repeat. Melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add crackers and almonds. Spread over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees until cracker mixture is brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Hint: This dish may be prepared ahead and kept in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Yields 4 to 6 servings.

This recipe has been slimmed down with the use of low-fat products. Every little bit helps during the holiday season.

Cherry-Chocolate Fruit Decadence

1 cup cherry low-fat yogurt

1/2 cup fat-free chocolate-flavored syrup

2 tablespoons shredded coconut

1 (8-ounce) container frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed (3 1/4 cups)

1 pint strawberries, sliced (2 cups) OR 3 medium bananas, sliced

Mix yogurt, chocolate syrup and coconut in large bowl. Fold in whipped topping. Arrange layer of strawberries in each of 8 dessert or parfait dishes. Top with half of the yogurt mixture. Repeat layers. Serve immediately. Yield: 8 servings.

Apple-Maple Dessert

1 teaspoon butter

3/4 teaspoon sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup milk

2 slightly beaten eggs

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced, peeled and cored Granny Smith apples

1 recipe Custard Sauce (see recipe below)

Butter six 6-ounce custard cups or 3 1/2-inch jumbo muffin cups, using the 1 teaspoon butter, and sprinkle lightly with the 3/4 teaspoon sugar. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, the 1 cup sugar and the baking powder. Add milk, eggs and maple syrup. Beat until smooth. Arrange apples in bottom of custard cups or muffin cups. Pour batter on top, filling 3/4 full. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden, and toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen the sides and remove from cups. Serve warm with Custard Sauce. Makes 6 servings.

Custard Sauce:

In a heavy medium saucepan, combine 1 cup whipping cream, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 beaten egg and 2 beaten egg yolks. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture just coats a metal spoon. Remove pan from heat and immediately place in a bowl or sink of ice water to prevent overcooking; stir 1 to 2 minutes until cool. Strain, if you like. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring 1 cup semidry white wine to just boiling; reduce heat and boil gently until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and cool. Stir the wine into custard mixture.

Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Makes about 1 2/3 cups sauce. Note: If you like, replace the wine in the custard sauce with 1 teaspoon vanilla. The sauce will be slightly thicker without the wine.

Salmon Mousse

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

1/2 cup boiling beef stock

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon Tabasco

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chopped capers

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped green onion

2 cups flaked salmon

1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped

Soften gelatin in cold water. Add boiling beef stock and stir. Set aside to cool. Add mayonnaise and spices. Chill to consistency of egg whites. While mayonnaise mixture is chilling, chop capers, celery and green onions. Mix this with chilled mayonnaise mixture. Add salmon and blend thoroughly. In a separate bowl, whip cream, then fold into salmon mixture. Turn into one 5-1/2 cup mold and chill until set. Unmold onto a serving platter and serve with crackers or melba rounds. Yields 20 to 25 servings.

Quick Lemon-Cheese Dessert

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups milk

1 package lemon instant pudding and pie filling, (4-serving size)

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel, (1 to 2 tablespoons as desired)

1 package ready-to-use graham cracker pie crust, (6 ounces)

Beat cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the milk in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Add remaining milk, the pudding and pie filling (dry) and lemon peel. Beat on low speed 1 to 2 minutes or just until blended (do not underbeat). Pour cream cheese mixture into pie crust. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour but no longer than 24 hours. Cover and refrigerate any remaining dessert. Yield: 6 servings.

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 smcclanahan@semissourian.com or by mail at P.O. Box 699; Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by the Southeast Missourian staff.

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