Bacon and Horseradish Dip

From as far back as I can remember, Christmas Eve was all about snacking--we would have a table loaded down with various cold meats and cheeses, special dark and light rye and pumpernickel breads, my mother's Christmas punch, lots of chips and crackers with accompanying dips and spreads, and of course, platters of cookies. While we had a bit of time when we were all gathered for the evening meal of Christmas Soup, it was the prolonged evening of grazing that we really looked forward to as children. to be honest, as adults as well!   One of my favorite dips was one that was bought, already prepared, Heluva Good's brand of Bacon Horseradish Sour Cream Dip.  I would zero in on where that dip was placed, and once we were given the go ahead, I did my best to ensure a healthy (??) helping made it to my plate. Others could have their fill of onion dip, liptauer cheese, etc.--it was bacon and horseradish for me every time!   So imagine my dismay, when shopping for our own quiet Christmas eve meal this year, when I could find no such item in any of the upper MI grocery stores we frequent. I went from store to store, finding plenty of sour cream, and plenty of variations on the French Onion dip theme, but nothing else. To say I was distraught is understatement. However, necessity being the mother of invention, I grabbed the onion dip and decided I would dress it up myself and see if I could come close to my Christmas Eve favorite.   Well, needless to say, I have found … {Read on...}

Spicy Glazed Nut Mix: Foodie Gift #21

Okay, we're getting down to the finish line here, and if you are like me, you have found that you have missed a couple of folks you wish to gift, and today is NOT a day you want to spend going shopping. So, you have to take a look at what is left from all the cooking, baking and preparing you've done so far and see what is left.   This recipe is great for all those leftover nuts that you may have on hand from preparing various cookies and candies, and is very flexible regarding the mix of nuts you can use. AND it's darn good as well!  I know I found it on the web, but for once I have not remembered to keep the site info, so my apologies for not being able to credit the source. When I find it, I'll be sure to add it here!   Very quick to fix and very tasty, here is the:   Spicy Glazed Nut Mix About 4 cups   2 cups mixed nuts (untoasted); any combination of cashews, whole almonds, pecan halves, and hazelnuts1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional if you don't like this kind of spicy) 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt (kosher is best, but regular salt will do) 2 cups small pretzel twists (or other pretzel bits, crispy cereal, whatever)     1. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for 12 minutes, stirring once for even toasting. 2. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted … {Read on...}

Honey Caramel and Coconut Chocolate Bars: Foodie Gift #20

coconut-caramel-bars-2

I think this might be a case of saving best for near the last, except that I didn't know they'd be so dadburned good when I made them last night.  I didn't even really plan on making them, but I had to play with some coconut I had in the pantry.  My sister's kids have some serious dietary restrictions and I was trying to come up with a really decadent Christmas treat that I could give them.  My aunties plied me with sweets and I'm nothing if I'm not a slave to tradition.  Corn syrup was out so I boiled honey for long enough to begin caramelizing it, threw my bag of unsweetened dried coconut in, stirred vigorously, pressed it into a pan and waited with baited breath.  Actually I waited with pizza breath, but really, that just doesn't sound good. I'm not usually a real coconut lover so I figured if I found it palatable the kids would lurve it.  I sliced the slab-o-coconut and honey caramel into blocks that were roughly one inch by two inches.  I melted dark chocolate, dunked away and stashed the tray in the fridge for an hour.  The peanut gallery hovered around the fridge waiting to see if the candy was even edible.  (This from my six year old, Ty, who said, "Do people even eat this stuff?" while dangerously waving my open bag of flaked coconut.)  They were hopeful because, as Ty also said, "If it's in chocolate, it can't be half bad, right Mom?  I can at least lick off the chocolate even if the inside's nasty."  Such a ray of sunshine, this child. The tray came out of … {Read on...}

Last Minute Quick Breads: Foodie Gifts 18# and #19

They don't call them quick breads for nothin'!  Here are a couple of recipes I've used to great acclaim over the years, and my source for these is my mother--a great baker in her own right.  These two breads in particular have been appreciated as Christmas gifts by my own family, and I just shipped a batch of them out--they are very good travelers, and keep wonderfully moist for a long time. So if you are looking for a couple more quick gifts, these may serve!   Dawn's Applesauce Bread   1/2 c. shortening or butter, or half and half of each 1 cup sugar 2 eggs 1 t. vanilla 2 cups flour 1 t. baking powder 1 t. salt 1/2 t. baking soda 1/2 t. cinnamon 1/2 t. nutmeg 1 1/4 c. applesauce 1/2 c. walnuts (optional)   Glaze:  1/2 c. confectioner's sugar mixed with 1 T. apple juice or cider   Cream sugar with shortening till light, mix in eggs and vanilla.  Whisk together dry ingredients, and mix half into the creamed mixture till blended; stir in applesauce, then follow with the rest of the dry mixture. Stir until just well blended.  Pour into a 9 x 5 loaf pan, or two 7 inch loaf pans, or four 5 inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for up to an hour, testing the smaller loaves beginning at 40 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans and glaze. Then let cool completely.     Dawn's Banana Bread, with Christmas Bread Option   1 cup mashed ripe banana 2 eggs 1/2 c. oil 1/3 c. buttermilk or sour milk 1 t. … {Read on...}

Never-ending Vanilla Sugar: Foodie Gift #17

A jar of vanilla sugar is one of the most underrated and sublime items to keep in your pantry.  A sprinkle on top of cookies or muffins, or in coffee or tea takes something that's already good and transforms it into something amazing.  If you're wondering how to procure this ambrosia I have a couple pieces of advice for you.  For starters, do not pay crazy amounts of money to buy vanilla sugar from some very reputable food places.  The prices are ridiculous.  $26 and change for 3 pounds of sugar?  I don't think so.  And making something so divine? Well, shoot.  It's so easy it doesn't even count as a recipe, but I'm putting it up here anyway because it's the gift that keeps on giving.  If you give someone vanilla sugar they need never be without it again.  You just keep adding sugar to the jar and giving it a shake and the vanilla flavor just keeps on kicking.  Are you ready?  Here's how you do it.   Never-Ending Vanilla Sugar:  Foodie Gift #17. Pretty this up by tying a wooden spoon and a recipe card containing a sugar cookie recipe with raffia or satin ribbon to the jar.  It'll look as good as it tastes.    Ingredients: 2 vanilla beans 4 cups granulated sugar Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and pry open a bit.  Place beans in a quart jar that has a tight fitting lid.  Pour sugar over the beans.  Screw the lid down tight and shake.  You're done.  REALLY!  It's that simple. … {Read on...}