By Sherrie Norris
Believe it or not, it’s time to start thinking about your holiday menus. Most of us “seasoned” cooks have already been doing that for days, now, at least in our minds, but when the Food Channel and other media begin featuring holiday baking contests and the center aisles of grocery stores are laden with spices, pumpkin pie fillings and chocolates, you know it’s time to kick into gear.
I don’t like to rush from one holiday to another, but, as a food columnist, by not doing so, I don’t always get in all of the related tips and recipes that I like to share. Yes, it is unbelievable that we are already breezing toward the middle of November and Thanksgiving is just a few days away.
It is wise to plan ahead, as I have discovered through the years — not only to be prepared (without those last-minute feelings of frustration when things don’t always turn out the way we plan), but to take advantage of the sales and exposure to new recipes and ideas.
I love to cook for the holidays and begin buying up standard ingredients when I see them discounted this time of year — the sugars, flours, butter, oils, candy coatings, and the list goes on. My pantry begins to look like its own bake shop come November.
Hopefully, this will spur you toward your own stockpile, so you can whip up one of your holiday specialties quickly for the family, guests, neighbors or the office.
Why not plan ahead to take a pie, cake or a platter of cookies and/or candy to your nearest public service office during the holidays. How often do we really express our appreciation for those first responders — fire, rescue and law enforcement officers? On those special days when most of us are surrounded by families for a big spread, they are waiting by the phone or radio for their next call. What about cooking for the homeless shelter? Their resident list grows by leaps and bounds this time of year. Drop off a bag of baking ingredients to the food pantry. The opportunities are endless. Just think outside your own box, outside your comfort zone, and make someone else feel special during this upcoming season of Thanksgiving and celebration. And get the whole family involved, especially the kids, who need to be reminded of how easy it is to make a difference.
In the meantime, whip up a little something in your kitchen to get you in the holiday spirit. It will be here, and gone, before we know it.
Cream Cheese Danish
2 cans ready-to-use refrigerated crescent rolls
2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg white
½ cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs. milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease a 13X9-inch baking pan. Lay a pack of crescent rolls in the pan and pinch openings together to seal. Beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and egg together until smooth. Spread mixture over crescent rolls evenly and then lay second pack of crescent rolls on top of the cheese mixture; brush with egg white. Bake for 35-45 minutes until top is golden brown. Top with glaze after cooling for 20 minutes.
This recipe may be made with low-fat cream cheese and Splenda (sugar substitute). Also, filling ingredients may be reduced to using just half of the cream cheese, sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla — and it turns out almost as good. If you use the half-filling method, reduce baking time to about 30 minutes.
Cranberry Crumb Bars
2 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup ground slivered almonds
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup cold butter
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
4 tsp or orange juice
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 13×9 inch pan.
In large bowl, mix flour, 1 cup sugar, almonds, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter with fork until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in egg. Press 2½ cups crumb mixture into bottom of pan.
Stir cinnamon into remaining crumb mixture and set aside.
In another bowl, mix filling ingredients. Spoon filling evenly over crust.
Spoon reserved crumb mixture evenly over filling layer.
Bake 45 – 55 minutes or until top is light brown. Cool completely; refrigerate until chilled. Cut into squares; store in covered dish in refrigerator.
Crock Pot Candy
In memory of a dear lady and nurse, Esta McKnight, who lived in Elk Park and shared this recipe with me a long time ago. She said it came from a cookbook her sister sent from Wimberly Methodist Protestant Church in Toxey, Ala.
1 (16 oz.) pkg. chocolate candy coating
1 (16 oz.) pkg. white chocolate candy coating
1 (4 oz.) box German chocolate
1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips
1 (24 oz. jar roasted peanuts or 3 cups other nuts
Layer ingredients in a slow cooker in order listed. Cook on low for one hour. Stir. Continue on low for one more hour. Spoon out by teaspoonful onto waxed paper. Makes about 5 pounds.