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Archive for December, 2011

by Sarah Steimer

Deviled eggs are great to take to a party - but fancy deviled eggs are even better.

To hard boil eggs

Place eggs in a medium or large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover eggs by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and remove from heat. Let stand 13 minutes. Drain and transfer eggs to ice-water bath until cold.

Roasted red pepper deviled eggs

  • 12 eggs
  • 5 roasted red peppers – from a jar or from scratch
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Cook eggs according to directions above. Once cooled, slice in half and remove the yolks, mixing with a fork until smooth.

In a food processor, chop the red pepper into very small pieces. Using the tines of a fork, drain most of the liquid out.

Mix the pepper with the yolks, garlic powder, vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Fill the egg whites with the mixture and refrigerate.

It's nice to balance something hot/spicy (wasabi) with something milder (red pepper) so you can please different tastes.

To garnish, slice very thin pieces of the roasted red pepper and place on the filling of each egg.

Makes 24 deviled eggs.

Wasabi deviled eggs

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 or 2 teaspoons of wasabi paste (depends on how hot you like it)
  • 2 teaspoons unseasoned rice-wine vinegar
  • 2 large scallions, minced (3 tablespoons), plus extra for garnish
  • salt

Cook eggs according to directions above. Once cooled, slice in half and remove the yolks, mixing with a fork until smooth.

Combine the yolks with the wasabi paste (start with less then add more as you taste), vinegar, scallions and salt. Fill the egg whites with the yolk mixture.

Garnish with the extra scallions.

Makes 16 deviled eggs.

Both recipes adapted from: Martha Stewart (red pepper and wasabi)

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by Caitlin Saniga

I wanted a thicker glaze for this cake, so I used less juice and added some zest. P.S. My mom has mini-Bundt cake pans, so that's what I used. (But a lower cook time is definitely needed. I'd say 40 minutes or so.)

For the cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated tangerine zest, plus 2/3 cup tangerine juice (from 7 tangerines)
  • 3/4 cup orange-flavored yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoons tangerine zest, plus 2 tablespoons tangerine juice (from 1 tangerine)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until it’s light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the tangerine zest and juice. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions yogurt, and beat to combine; beat in the vanilla. Transfer batter the pan, smooth the top with the back of a spatula, and firmly tap pan on a flat surface to remove air bubbles.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and let cool completely. (With a serrated knife, trim cake to sit flat, if necessary.)

Make the glaze by whisking together the confectioners’ sugar and tangerine juice until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cake and let set 1 hour. Store covered at room temperature until you serve it.

Makes 12 servings.

Recipe adapted from: Everyday Food

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by Sarah Steimer

This is my first time making these cookies, but they may make my yearly Christmas cookie list. They would probably rule with a chocolate drizzle, too.

  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 2 cups pecans (could substitute walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 3 cup flour

In a food processor or blender, add cranberries, pecans and brown sugar – I doubled this from the original, by the way, so you can cut this in half if you so please. Blend well until only small pieces remain. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add baking powder, salt, eggs and orange zest. Beat for about 1 minute. Add flour a little at a time, mixing on medium speed. Cover and chill for at least one hour.

Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, roll dough out to a rectangular shape until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Lift the dough as you roll to make sure it does not stick to the surface. Spread half of the cranberry-pecan mixture on the dough, stopping 1/2 inch from the edges of the dough.

Begin rolling from one of the short ends, making sure to seal it at the ends. Wrap in plastic wrap and repeat with the other half of the dough and cranberry mixture. Chill for at least 24 hours. Every once in awhile roll the logs to avoid a flat end.

Slice the logs into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place on a lined cookie sheet 1 to 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 for eight to 10 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies begins to brown. Let cool for five minutes on the sheets then transfer to cooling racks.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from: Baked by Rachel

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by Sarah Steimer

Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts are a gift from the holiday party gods.

  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • about 8-10 pieces of bacon
  • soy sauce and/or teriyaki sauce – whatever you use, shoot for reduced sodium as you’ll get enough salt from the bacon
  • sugar

I’m not sure if this is the norm, but the water chestnuts I’ve been finding are sliced and not whole. If this is the case, stack slices three at a time and place in any dish or pan that has sides – i.e. a cake pan, cooking dish, etc.

These are absurdly good. I don't even know what to say. They're easy to put together and they make your home smell great and you'll eat 15.

Add either the soy sauce and/or teriyaki sauce (I actually had both so I combined the two) so the sauce(s) come about halfway up the chestnuts. Place in the refrigerator and let sit for about 30 minutes.

Roll the chestnuts in sugar to coat. Wrap with bacon and trim the excess bacon off – you should be able to wrap about two chestnuts with each strip of bacon. Skewer with a toothpick and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. The cooking time varies depending on the bacon. I used a thicker cut so it took more like 20-plus minutes.

Allow the chestnuts to cool slightly before serving.

Makes about 20.

Recipe: Jacob Yundt via Emily Wolfe

*Throughout December, “Merry and Bites” will feature finger foods with seasonal flair. All of them can be found here. Happy holidays!

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by Caitlin Saniga

Relieve holiday stress by creating cookie art and splashing white chocolate on every surface of your kitchen.

Relieve holiday stress by creating cookie art and splashing white chocolate on every surface of your kitchen.

  • 1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cold butter
  • 12 ounces white chocolate baking squares, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • red food coloring
  • 2 teaspoons shortening (not sure if you really need this)
  • white nonpareils or other sprinkles

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread the cherries on paper towels to drain well.

In a large bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the drained cherries and 2/3 cup of the chopped chocolate. Stir in the almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. (I used a few good squirts.) Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten the balls to 2-inch rounds.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted.

One the cookies have cooled, spread them on wax paper. Dip a spoon in the chocolate and drizzle it in a back-and-forth motion over the cookies. Sprinkle the nonpareils over the wet chocolate. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set.

Makes about 36.

Recipe adapted from: With a Grateful Prayer and a Thoughtful Heart

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by Caitlin Saniga

The last time I was at my grandparents' house, my grandpa asked my grandma, "Trisha, when's the last time you made Gus puffs?" which basically means he's crazy for these things. P.S. Grandma calls these Gus puffs.

  • 1 ounce Parmesan, grated, plus more for topping
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup minced onions
  • 6-7 slices soft bread (I used a soft wheat, but white or Italian would work wonderfully.)
  • 2-3 chives, snipped into 1-inch segments
These crispy little puffs can be ready in no time! The most time-consuming part is cutting out the circles.

These crispy little puffs can be ready in no time! The most time-consuming part is cutting out the circles.

In a small bowl, mix the Parmesan, mayonnaise and onions.

Use a small glass to punch out circles of bread (avoid the crust!). Put the circles on a baking sheet.

Turn the broiler on low, and position an oven rack about 8 inches from the broiler.

Place the bread under the broiler, and toast until it turns golden-brown, 2-3 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven. Spread a heaping teaspoonful of the onion mixture on the untoasted side of a piece of bread. Repeat until all of the bread is topped with the mixture. Sprinkle a pinch of Parmesan cheese over the topping. Return the baking sheet of bread to the oven, and cook until the onion mixture puffs up and turns golden brown, 6-8 minutes.

Remove puffs from the oven and top with a few chives.

Serve warm.

Makes dozens. (Depends on the size of the bread slices and the size of the glass you use. My 1 1/2-inch glass with 6 slices of Pepperidge Farm wheat bread made 36.)

Recipe: Patricia Janis, my grandma

*Throughout December, “Merry and Bites” will feature finger foods with seasonal flair. All of them can be found here. Happy holidays!

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by Sarah Steimer

A lot of people probably assume that eating local and in season means giving up a nice, fresh salad when it gets cold out. Not so with kale and sweet potatoes - both of which I grabbed at a winter farmer's market.

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh kale, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (I did have this in mine but forgot to photograph the salad with them – whoops)
  • 2 tbs onion, minced
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp raw honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Boil the sweet potato in a pot of lightly salted, boiling water until tender. Allow to drain.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, sweet potato, sage, kale and cranberries. In a small bowl, add the onion, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Drizzle over the quinoa salad, tossing to coat (I added even a bit more balsamic to mine).

Serves four, with the sweet potatoes warm or cool.

Recipe adapted from: Domestic Fits

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by Sarah Steimer

These potatoes are stuffed with gouda, roasted red pepper and caramelized onions. By the way - those dots on the napkin aren't grease, it started raining while I was shooting.

  •  20 fingerling potatoes
  • 1/2 cup shredded gouda
  • 1 small-medium roasted red pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Pierce the skins of your potatoes and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft enough to easily insert a knife. Do not turn off the oven.

While the potatoes are in the over, caramelize the onions in a pan with olive oil. Set aside.

Once the potatoes have cooled so you can touch them, slice off the top 1/4 of the spuds, length-wise. Scoop out enough potato from the remaining 3/4 so you are left with about /14-inch before you reach the skin. Careful not to scrape all the way through. I found it’s actually easiest to sort of stab the insides of the potato with a fork to loosen it up before scooping.

Place what you cut off/scooped out of the potatoes into a bowl. Add the cheese, yogurt, peppers, onions, salt and pepper. Mash together using the tines of a fork.

Scoop the filling back into the potato “shells” and bake in the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the top is golden.

Everything can be assembled  – except for the last baking – the day before the party and kept in the refrigerator. Right as the party starts, place the potatoes in the oven for their final 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 10 if everyone takes two.

*Throughout December, “Merry and Bites” will feature finger foods with seasonal flair. All of them can be found here. Happy holidays!

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by Sarah Steimer and Caitlin Saniga

There are only five more days until Hanukkah and 10 more days until Christmas, and according to a few informal surveys – a lot of people out there aren’t ready yet.

So on top of offering recipes for your holiday parties and charitable ideas for your yearly donation, we’ve also kindly put together a list of great holiday gifts for the food love in your life – whether he or she likes to entertain, is a seasoned pro or is just getting started.

Small kitchen appliance

  • Crock-Pot slow cooker
    • You really, truly cannot go wrong with a slow cooker. It’s so simple to use and does all the work for you. A slow-cooker can make anything from chili to dessert, or just simply keep your punch warm at a party. —S
  • Cuisinart 7-cup food processor
    • I’ve had my eye on this mid-size food processor for quite some time. Right now I use a blender to do many tasks, but a food processor opens up so many more possibilities! It can chop nuts, cut up meat, mix ingredients for bread dough, churn out pesto, etc. Consumer reviews say this machine does great work for the price and size. —C

Everyday cooking tool

  • Wooden spoon set
    • I think the safest bet for any type of pan is to use a wooden spoon instead of any metal or plastic spatula. It’s one of the handiest utensils I own and you’ll never burn your hand because you left your wooden spoon on a hot surface. I wouldn’t imagine, at least. —S
  • Glass citrus juicer
    • My mom has one, and now that I’m living on my own, it would be nice to have one, too. Citrus juicers come in a number of shapes and sizes (My current juicer is a fork!), but I like using glass because it is easy to clean. And if it chips or dings, it only adds to the character of the piece. —C

Entertaining item

  • Cork trivet set
    • Cork trivets are great to have around if you ever serve food straight from the oven or the stove. Instead of rooting around for a kitchen towel that will match your table scape or putting a bulky cooling rack on the table, place a few cork trivets underneath your hot pots and pans. The cork is simple enough that it can match almost anything. —S
  • Stemless wine glasses
    • I like this set because it include glasses for white (skinny) and red (fat) wines. And they have the potential to hold so many things other than wine: juices, iced coffee, layered salads, layered pudding desserts, ice cream sundaes, even votives or flowers. —C

Cookbooks

  • “Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets” by Deborah Madison
    • The recipes in this cookbook are extremely simple, as they should be when you feature seasonal foods. It’s a fantastic reference for any time of the year, especially when you’re stumped in the winter months or grab an odd vegetable at the farmer’s market on a whim. Madison also incorporates stories from markets she’s visited around the country. —S
  • “The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh” by Barbara Fairchild
    • My three favorite words! I’ve cooked recipes from the magazine, and while they’re always delicious, they’re not always the simplest or quickest to prepare. I’ve tried a few recipes from the cookbook, and I can definitely tell that “fast” is emphasized in most of the dishes, as many can be prepared in 30 minutes or less (so they say!). —C

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by Caitlin Saniga

These little guys are like savory cream puffs. In fact, you can use the choux puff pastry recipe for sweet cream puffs, too.

Start out by making the choux pastry puffs, as Martha Stewart calls them. This can be done up to two weeks in advance. Just make sure to store them in a sealed zip-top bag in the freezer. You’ll need:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large whole eggs
  • 1 large egg white
When you pipe out the pastry, it should be able to stand on its own in a pretty solid mound. See the pointed tips on each pastry here? They'll need to be smoothed down with a wet finger. At this consistency, the pastra will pretty much keep its shape.

When you pipe out the pastry, it should be able to stand on its own in a pretty solid mound. See the pointed tips on each pastry here? They'll need to be smoothed down with a wet finger. At this consistency, the pastry will pretty much keep its shape in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set them aside. Combine the butter, salt and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan, and place over medium heat. Cook until the butter is melted and the water just comes to a boil.

Remove from the heat, add flour, and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Return the pan to heat; cook, stirring constantly, until th emixture comes together and pulls

The "pastry" on the left came from my first batch. I used all of 3 large eggs, but it was too much, and the pastry was wetter and thinner than it should have been. When I piped it onto the baking sheet, it settled into a puddle. Careful with your consistency! You want the puffs to turn out like the one on the right.

The "puff" on the left came from my first batch. I used all of 3 large eggs, but it was too much, and the pastry was wetter and thinner than it should have been. When I piped it onto the baking sheet, it settled into a puddle. Careful with your consistency! You want the puffs to turn out like the one on the right.

away from the sides of the saucepan as you stir, about 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously until they are completely incorporate and the pastry is smooth. (It might be best to break the third egg into a dish, split the yolk with a knife, and add it in spoonfuls to the mixture. You might not need to use all of the final egg to achieve the correct consistency.)

Transfer the pastry to a pastry bag fitted with a small coupler (or a zip-top bag with the corner cut off to form a small hole). Pipe about 1 tablespoon of the pastry into a mound on one of the prepared baking sheets. Continue piping until all the pastry is used, spacing pastry about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Combine the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash, and brush the top of each mound with the egg wash. Smooth any rough spot on the top with a water-dampened finger. Bake until the puffs are golden brown all over, about 30 minutes. (Start checking at 20 minutes.) Remove from the oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Next, make the sausage filling:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 ounces chicken or turkey sausage, casing removed (or pork sausage as a last resort)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook the mixture until the onions are transparent, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until the sausage is cooked through, about 8 minutes.

The pastries are delicate, so use a small serrated knife to cut them crosswise. If the little "lid" doesn't sit squarely on top at the end, scoop out any pastry fluff to make more room. And if you can't find any red peppers at the store, play around with substitutions. I tried Parmesan cheese shavings on another batch, and they were quite good.

For assembly:

  • pastry puffs
  • sausage filling
  • 1 roasted red or orange bell pepper, cut into small strips (or roasted red pepper from a jar)
  • 1/4 cup big chunks of sliced green onion

Slice the pastry puffs crosswise. Spoon about 1 teaspoon sausage filling into the bottom half of each, add a piece or two of bell pepper and a couple pieces of green onion. Replace the top half of the puff. Transfer the profiteroles to a baking sheet, and bake until warm, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Makes about 30.

Recipe adapted from: The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook — The Original Classics

*Throughout December, “Merry and Bites” will feature finger foods with seasonal flair. All of them can be found here. Happy holidays!

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