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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Veteran’s Day Takes The Lead for Holiday Prep

By Sherrie Norris

Another calendar page has turned. Halloween festivities are over and now begins the planning for one of the busiest seasons for seasoned cooks. Some of us have likely already begun watching the sales for holiday confections — the sugars and spices, baking chips and nuts. The list goes on and my pantry is filling up fast.

Every year around this time, I say that I am not going to bake and cook as much as I did the year before. I’ve already uttered those words to my husband, at least once, as he smiled, nodded and probably rolled his eyes as I turned around to bring in another bag filled with ingredients for my holiday specialties. What’s great about most of the cookies and candies that I make, they can be prepared in advance and frozen, so there is no reason for last-minute frenzy. (I might need to be reminded of this around December 23!)

In the meantime, I plan to overload you each week with ideas for the holidays, starting with goodies for Veteran’s Day, followed by Thanksgiving, and yes, my favorite time of year — Christmas! 

I hope you are preparing your  hearts and minds for this wonderful season. I know it’s hard for so many, and I don’t discount that, at all. But, let’s try to make the best of what we have and love on the people we have in our lives. There will be an empty chair at a lot of family gatherings. I remember that pain. But, let’s try to find something good in every situation to help us through the hurt. Food is often a comforting catalyst, so let’s dig in. 

Veteran’s Day Big Cookie

Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

½  cup powdered sugar

½  cup cold butter

Flag:

2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. lemon juice

2 cups fresh strawberries, halved

½  cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 325°. In a small bowl, mix flour and powdered sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Press mixture onto a greased 12-in. pizza pan. Bake 10-15 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let cool.

In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese and sugar; add vanilla and lemon juice, mixing until smooth. Spread 1 cup cream cheese mixture over crust

Arrange rows of strawberries on top of pizza to create the red stripes of a flag. Place blueberries in the upper left corner.

Cut a small hole in the corner of a food-safe plastic bag Fill bag with reserved cream cheese mixture. For white stripes, squeeze out a line or zigzag pattern between the rows of strawberries.

Refrigerate until time to serve.

Easy Brunch Squares

 1 egg 

2 Tbs. milk 

1 (16.3-oz.) can Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layers Refrigerated Biscuits 

1 pkg. precooked bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces 

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese 

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray glass baking dish with cooking spray. In large bowl, beat egg and milk with whisk until smooth. Separate dough into 8 biscuits; cut each into quarters. Gently stir biscuit pieces into egg mixture to coat evenly. Fold in bacon and cheese. Spoon mixture into sprayed dish; arrange pieces in single layer. Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into squares. 

Patriotic Layered Trifle

I pkg. vanilla pudding, prepared per directions on box

1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 premade angel food or pound cake, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces

2 pints blueberries

2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced

Mix pudding as directed, add whipped topping.

Arrange half of the cake cubes in the bottom of a trifle or clear baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with a layer of blueberries. Gently spread half of the pudding mixture over blueberries. Top with a layer of strawberries. Layer remaining cake cubes on top of the strawberries, then sprinkle with more blueberries and top with the remaining pudding mixture. Top it off with the remaining strawberries and blueberries. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Strawberry Pretzel Jell-O Dessert 

(Always a family favorite. Save this recipe for Christmas, too!)

 2 cups crushed pretzels

 ¾ cup butter, melted

 3 Tbsp. sugar

 2 (8 ox.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

 1½ cups sugar

 16 oz. whipped topping, thawed 

 1 (6 oz.) box Strawberry Jell-O

 2 cups boiling water

 3 cups strawberries, sliced

Combine melted butter and 3 Tbsp. sugar; add crushed pretzels. Press evenly into bottom of a 9 x13-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes, until barely brown. Let cool completely.

 In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, remaining sugar and whipped topping. Beat until smooth. Spread over pretzel crust, covering to the edge. 

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from stove and add Jell-O, stirring until dissolved. Add sliced strawberries. Pour over creamy layer; refrigerate for at least 4 hours.