Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Here is a really easy, yet very good, non-alcoholic party beverage.  I have had it many times and most recently served it at our cooking club holiday luncheon.

CIDER CITRUS SPARKLE PUNCH.  Makes 24 (4 oz.) servings.
*  2 quarts (8 cups) apple cider, chilled
*  6 oz. can lemonade concentrate, thawed
*  28 oz. bottle ginger ale, chilled
Ice cubes or mold.
     In a large pitcher or punch bowl, combine cider and lemonade concentrate.  Add ginger ale and ice; stir to blend.  If desired, garnish with apple or lemon slices.

How easy is that?!?

P.S.  It is now December 26 and I've been going through some of my holiday cookbooks to put together a brunch menu and to find an appetizer recipe for New Years Eve.  In that process, I came across the recipe above for Cider Citrus Sparkle Punch and can now give you the source:  Pillsbury Classics No. 13, "Festive Holiday Recipes."   Thanks, Pillsbury, for a great recipe!!

Monday, December 17, 2012


One of the most fun lunches our cooking club has is the holiday lunch in December.  The theme is appetizers but we also included soup and  holiday cookies.  Sounds great, right?!

Here are some photos to get you hungry!

Hummus Dip & Pita Bread.

Filled Puff Pastry.

Spicy-Orange Chicken Cups.  Recipe below.

Mushroom & Goat Cheese in Phyllo Cups.

Leek Torte.

Baked olives.

Fruit & Mascarpone on puff pastry.

Hungry yet???

If you want the recipe for any of these appetizers, let me know.  I'm sure the cooking club members would be happy to accommodate your request.  Otherwise, here is the recipe for the Orange-Chicken Cups, shown above on the red plate.

SPICY ORANGE-CHICKEN CUPS.  Makes 16 appetizers.
Source.  Bake-off entry from Paula Naumann of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota.
*  1 teaspoon sesame oil
*  1/2 pound skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/4" pieces
*  4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)
*  1/3 cup sweet orange marmalade
*  1 teaspoon soy sauce
*  1 teaspoon cooking sherry
*  1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
*  1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes [I used 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper.]
*  1 (8 oz.) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (8 rolls)
*  1 teaspoon sesame seeds
     In nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add chicken and onions; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Lower heat to medium-low; stir in marmalade, soy sauce, sherry, garlic powder and red pepper flakes.  Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened and chicken is no longer pink in center.  Remove from heat.
     Meanwhile, unroll dough into 4 rectangles.  Cut each rectangle into quarters by making another diagonal cut to the perforation to make a total of 16 triangles.
     Heat oven to 375º.  Lightly spray 16 mini-muffin cups with no-stick cooking spray.
     Press largest part of each dough triangle in bottom and up side of muffin cup, leaving triangle points extended over cup.  Fill each cup with about 1 tablespoon chicken mixture.  For each cup, slightly stretch points of triangles to make longer; twist points together and place on top of filling.  Spray shaped rolls lightly with cooking spray; sprinkle with sesame seeds.
     Bake 11 to 19 minutes or until golden brown.  Carefully remove from pan to serving plate.  Cool 5 minutes before serving.  Serve warm.

Friday, December 14, 2012


We all know that recipes get recycled in any number of ways - "Jane's Chocolate Chip Cookies" may actually be "Nestle's Chocolate Chip Cookies" and so on.  A number of years ago I clipped out a recipe for "Santa's Whiskers" from a local realtor's newsletter.  A few years after that I printed out a recipe on-line from Martha Stewart "Cookie of the Week:  Cranberry Noels".   A few days ago I was going through my holiday cookie recipes and realized that these two recipes are the same, with very minor revisions!  One used salted butter and no salt, while the other used unsalted butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  One cut down on the sugar from 1 cup to 1/2 cup.   The Martha Stewart recipe gives attribution to Kara Kuster in Chicago, who created the recipe and named it after her sister, Kim Noel.  We will never know who actually developed the recipe, or when.

Well, not to be outdone, I have combined these two recipes and am calling it "Sugar Cookies with Dried Fruit" (Okay, I'm not nearly as creative in naming things!!!).  This recipe is drawn from the other two recipes.   The cookies are very easy to make and a pretty holiday cookie.

*  1 cup salted butter
*  1 teaspoon rum extract (if unavailable, use vanilla extract)
*  1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
*  3/4 cup flaked coconut
*  1/2 cup sugar
*  2 tablespoons milk
*  2-1/2 cups sifted flour
*  3/4 cup finely chopped mixed dried fruit (red & green candied cherries/cranberried/choice)

Cream butter and sugar in mixer bowl; blend in milk and rum extract .  Stir in flour, dried fruit and pecans.  Form into 2 logs, each 2 inches in diameter and 8 inches long.  Roll in coconut, pressing lightly to coat the outside of the logs.  Wrap logs in plastic wrap and chill for several hours, until firm.

Heat oven to 375º.  Using a sharp knife, cut logs into 1/4 inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until edges are golden.  Cool slightly on cookie sheet before transferring to wire rack to finish cooling.


Monday, December 3, 2012


A couple months ago I harvested our bluebell grapes and made grape juice.  Too busy to do anything with the juice at the time, I froze it - until now.  Time to make grape sorbet!   Begin by thawing the grape juice.

*  3 cups homemade grape juice
*  1/4 cup superfine sugar
*  2 tablespoons lemon juice
*  2 tablespoons orange cointreau or other orange liquor
Add grape juice, sugar and lemon juice to a bowl and mix well to incorporate the sugar.  Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and run for about 1/2 hour or until mixture thickens.  Add cointreau* and continue to mix until the cointreau is well incorporated into the sorbet.  Put all into a storage container and place in your freezer.

Next time you're over, ask me for a taste!

*    Alcohol inhibits the freezing process.  To add alcohol to a recipe, do so in the last minutes of freezing.