Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Recipes for Holiday Treats

This is the time of year for parties and party food, so we are sharing some recipes we discovered or invented recently. All are easy, quick, and can be done ahead of time, a big plus when you are throwing a party.

Pimento Cheese Empanadas

You can always substitute store bought pimento cheese to save even more time. Choose one that does not have too much mayonnaise, and a chunky consistency for best results.

6 empanadas

1 refrigerated pastry crust
6 tablespoons pimento cheese, preferably homemade

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Unroll the pastry crust on a work surface and cut four inch circles from it. I used a Ziploc screw top storage container and it worked perfectly. You should be able to get four circles from the crust. Then combine the scraps, roll out, and cut another circle. Finally, form the remaining scraps into a sixth circle.

Fill each pastry circle with about a tablespoon of pimento cheese, then fold over like a fried pie. Crimp the edges and place the empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet. Or store them in a covered container in the refrigerator, separating layers with waxed paper, if necessary. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Pomegranate Salsa

This is your basic salsa with a couple of additions that take it over the top. Serve with chips, or as an accompaniment to roasted meat or vegetables.

About 1 1/2 cups

1 pomegranate
1 medium tomato
1 medium jalapeno pepper
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
juice of 1/2 a medium lime
salt, pepper and hot sauce

Working over a bowl to catch the juice, cut the pomegranate in half crosswise. Holding one half cut side down over the bowl, rap it all over the surface with the back of a soup spoon to dislodge the seeds. Repeat with the remaining half. Carefully remove and discard any white pith that has been loosened along with the seeds.

Core and chop the tomato and add it to the bowl. Stem, seed and chop the jalapeno and add it to the bowl, along with the next five ingredients. Taste carefully and add salt, pepper and hot sauce to your preference.

The salsa will keep a week in the refrigerator if stored in a covered container.

 All American Munch Mix

This irresistible mixture of nuts and fruit contains only ingredients that Native Americans might have eaten centuries ago. If you don't mind the cost, you can substitute black walnuts or hickory nuts for some of the other nuts. This mix has a lot of calories, but contains none of the processed ingredients found in traditional cereal-based holiday snack mix. Feel free to add more chili powder or to substitute a hotter chili, such as cayenne.

Makes about 4 cups

2 ounces raw hazelnuts 
2 ounces  raw wild pecans (or substitute Georgia pecans)
2 ounces  raw pepitas
2 ounces  raw sunflower kernels
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
¼ teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 ½ ounces dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the nuts and seeds in a large bowl. In a small microwavable bowl combine the oil, honey, salt and chili powder. Microwave until the liquids are combined, about 30 seconds. Drizzle the liquid over the nut mixture, tossing to coat well. Transfer the mixture to a parchment lined baking sheet, spreading it out into a thin layer. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, or until the pepitas begin to brown. Cool slightly, then mix with the cranberries. Cool to room temperature before storing in an airtight container.

Brie with Sun Dried Tomato Topping

This recipe is a modification of one I found in a food magazine eons ago. After I first offered it to guests, it became a regular on our party buffet, owing to the high praise it received.

Enough for 1 large wedge of Brie

6 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup loosely packed parsley leaves
4 oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained, reserving the oil
6 fresh large basil leaves
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon oil from tomatoes
1 large wedge of Brie, top rind removed

Using a food processor, drop the garlic through the feed tube with the motor running to mince it finely. Turn off the machine, add the parsley, and pulse to mince. Add the tomatoes and basil and pulse to chop and combine all ingredients. Add the Parmesan and reserved oil and pulse to combine. Spread on top of brie and refrigerate at least three hours before serving with crackers. Garnish with a tomato rose and a sprig or two of parsley.

To make a tomato rose, peel a medium tomato using a serrated knife, keeping the peeling in a single unbroken strip. Roll the strip of peeling, cut side out, into a tight disc resembling a rose. Secure the rose with a toothpick. Use the rest of the tomato for another dish. 

Bon appetit and Happy Holidays to all!

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