Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas to One and All

Our schedules for the month of December are always packed with concerts, rehearsals and church activities which means there is little time for baking until the last few days before Christmas.  As soon as school lets out for the holidays, Chris, Sarah and Jonathan usually begin their culinary treats.  This year Chris made his mother's fudge and tried a new white chocolate bark with cranberries and pecans (one of my new favorites).  The kids continued the family tradition by making their grandmother's chocolate-covered peanut butter balls (one of my old favorites).

Christmas Eve morning we hit the ground running.  On the agenda were pies, dips, cheese balls and a congealed salad my mother always made at Christmas.  A ham needed to bake and some other prep work to do ... plus, 6:00pm and 10:30pm Christmas Eve services to attend and sing for which meant some practice time should also fit into the day somewhere.

And you know what?  Although the day could have been a frantic mess, everything was done and with time to spare.  Both Christmas Eve services were packed, we sang and visited with dear friends, heard a wonderful message, made a 1:00am stop at the local Waffle House (a new tradition), and arrived back home so Santa could do his thing.  Bedtime didn't happen until about 2:30am but we were able to catch up on the shut eye last night.

Christmas night was just us ... children played with their new "toys", we watched a favorite show rerun on PBS and all of us were picking and nibbling at the leftovers.  Today brought a girl's day out at the movies and a quiet dinner at home followed by a couple of rousing games of "Scene It" and "Buzzword".  A fun evening hanging out with my three favorite people.  Loved it ... wish there were a lot more evenings like this.

Unfortunately for my bathroom scales there are still a few too many leftovers on the premises for me to be picking and nibbling on but that's why they created New Year's resolutions, right?

One nice discovery from the holidays ... boiled custard makes the BEST coffee creamer!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Italian Cheese Ball

There is NO time to bake!  At least not until all the Christmas concerts are over.  We have one more on the schedule, then Christmas shopping to finish, and then maybe some kitchen time.  Daughter Sarah is home from college (yay!) and has been doing some baking of her own.  If she will give me the information and send me the pictures (hint, hint) I will share her version of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes because they are quite good. 
But in the meantime here is an appetizer that is delicious any time of year but especially good to put together during busy times like this.  It's a quick fix and it makes two - a now and later kind of deal. 
Italian Cheese Ball

1 - 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 - 8oz pkg shredded cheddar cheese
1 package dry Italian salad dressing mix
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes, crushed
chopped pecans

In mixing bowl combine everything except the pecans and mix at medium speed until creamy and thoroughly blended.  Divide mixture in half and shape each into a ball.  Cover and chill at least one hour.

Before serving, roll each ball in chopped pecans until well coated.  Serve with your favorite crackers or chips or some of each.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Red Velvet Birthday

Birthday #17 was the day after Thanksgiving and a Red Velvet Cake was requested.  Since we would be spending Thanksgiving week (and thus, the birthday) in the mountains I opted for a sheet cake so it would transport easier.  That turned out to be a good idea as we found we had more food packed than clothing, toiletries and all that other stuff you have to take with you out of town.  I found this one online at Food Network and I ended up with one VERY red cake ...

Red Velvet Cake

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder (next time, more cocoa)
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ounce red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9- x 13-inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.  In a large mixer bowl whisk together buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients gradually to the buttermilk mixture while mixing at a low speed, just until combined and a smooth batter is formed.

Pour the batter into prepared cake pan; tap on counter to remove air bubbles.  Bake about 40-45 minutes or until center tests done.  Let cool completely.  Note:  If doing the layer cake version, this is enough batter for a 3-layer cake and layers would need to bake only about 30 minutes. 
Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pound cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix cream cheese, sugar and butter on low speed until blended.  Increase to high speed and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add vanilla and continue to mix until incorporated.  Store in the refrigerator until somewhat stiff before frosting the cake.

This cake transports well (:-p) both to and from, but as you can see we put away almost half of this cake in one sitting so by the end of the week there wasn't much left to transport ... and we had one very happy birthday boy.