A Collection Of Christmas Recipes

IN THE KITCHEN

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Holiday cooking is a combination of traditional favorites and experimentation. Readers and staff members contributed some of their favorites with which others can experiment.

Beverages during the holidays are meant to be warming and celebratory. The following are recipes that include drinks to warm you up, as well as drinks to help add sparkle to your festivities.

Let's start with Wassail -- the word is actually a greeting, or toast, meaning "Be healthy" according to the dictionary, but it also is the drink used when making the toast. The dictionary defines the drink as ale or wine spiced with roasted apples and sugar.

Going through my collection of holiday books I found this recipe for Wassail.

Spiced Cider Wassail

6 cups apple cider or apple juice

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1/2 cup sugar

2 lemons, sliced

6 inches stick cinnamon

12 whole cloves

12 whole allspice

6 cardamom pods, opened (optional)

Apple slices

Apple wedges

Cinnamon sticks

Combine liquid, sugar, lemon slices, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and if desired, cardamom, in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Strain cider through double thickness of 100-percent cotton cheesecloth. Discard lemon slices and spices. Transfer to container over warmer, if desired. Garnish Wassail with sliced apples. Garnish cups with apple wedges and cinnamon sticks, if desired. Serve warm.

Even if you don't drink the stuff, it will make your whole house smell incredible.

Classified Advertising Manager Shannon Marshall's aunt built a family cookbook several years ago. Among the many recipes were several for nice, warming winter drinks.

Shannon's Family Hot Apple Cider

2 quarts apple cider

Peel of 1 lemon

1 stick of cinnamon

2 to 3 tablespoons honey

1 orange, sliced and garnished with whole cloves

2 maraschino cherries

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 8 servings.

Shannon's Family Hot Chocolate Mix

1 (8-quart) box of non-fat dry milk

2 pound box of chocolate milk flavoring (such as Nestles)

6 ounces dried coffee creamer (such as Coffee-mate)

1 cup powdered sugar

In a large container, mix all ingredients thoroughly. Use 3 teaspoons with a cup of boiling water for a serving. Makes 80 servings.

Shannon's Family Spiced Hot Tea Mix

1 1/4 cup orange drink powder (such as Tang)

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup instant tea

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Dash of salt

Combine all ingredients. For a single serving, use a well rounded teaspoon with boiling water. For a quart, use 1/2-cup mix with a quart of boiling water, stir to mix. Add lemon if desired.

Rum is a popular spirit during the holidays, and champagne is always festive. The following recipes for Hot Buttered Rum, Cranberry-Rum Slush and Champagne Punch could make a great addition to any holiday gathering.

Hot Buttered Rum

1 (16-ounce) package brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Dash of salt

Rum

Cinnamon sticks

Combine brown sugar, butter, spices and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer until well blended. Cover and chill

To serve, put a heaping tablespoon of butter mixture, a jigger of rum and a cinnamon stick in a mug, fill with boiling water and stir well. Makes about 18 servings.

Cranberry-Rum Slush

1 (12-ounce) can frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate

1 1/2 cups rum

Juice of 1 lemon

About 8 cups crushed ice

Combine half of cranberry juice, rum and lemon juice in a blender, process until smooth, then gradually add half of ice and blend to desired consistency. Set aside in pitcher and repeat with second half of ingredients. Makes about 7 cups.

Champagne Punch

1 quart water

1 family-size teabag

2 cups sugar

2 cups lemon juice

1 (33.8-ounce) bottle club soda, chilled

3 (24.4-ounce) bottles champagne, chilled

Bring water to boil in saucepan and add teabag. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 3 to 4 minutes. Remove teabag and add remaining ingredients, except club soda and champagne. Stir until sugar dissolves and chill. Just before serving, stir in chilled club soda and champagne. Makes 5-1/2 quarts.

Non-alcoholic drinks can be as festive as their more potent partners.

Garnet Spritzer

4 ounces cranberry-apple juice

2 ounces white grape juice

Club soda

Pour juices over ice in a large wine glass. Add a splash of club soda and garnish with a lime slice. Makes 1 serving.

Champagne Mocktail

3 parts white grape juice

1 part club soda

Mix and serve in a champagne or wine glass.

Jack Frost

1 bottle piña colada mix

1 quart softened vanilla ice cream

1 quart pineapple juice

Lemon-lime soda or ginger ale

Ahead of time, a day or so, combine piña colada mix, ice cream and juice in blender in two batches. Blend. Freeze.

To serve, put two scoops in a tall glass and fill with lemon-lime soda or ginger ale. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

If the drinks are for an informal get-together, maybe a wrapping or tree-trimming party, some different dips for chips might be just the extra touch needed.

Layered Mexican Dip

1 (9-ounce) can bean dip

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained

2 ripe avocados, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 small tomatoes chopped

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1 (1 1/4-ounce) package dried taco seasoning mix

1 small green pepper, seeded and chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 (4 1/2-ounce) can chopped ripe olives, drained

1 (2-ounce) jar diced pimento, drained

2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

Quartered cherry tomatoes and chopped green onions for garnish

Combine bean dip, tomato paste and green chiles and spread on a 12-inch round platter with sides. Combine avocado, chopped tomato and lemon juice, toss and arrange evenly over bean mixture. Set aside.

Combine sour cream, mayo and taco seasoning and spoon over avocado mixture. Combine green pepper, green onions, olives and pimento and sprinkle over sour cream mixture. Top with cheese and garnish, if desired. Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours before serving with tortilla chips. Makes 8 cups.

Spicy Cheese Dip

3 (11-ounce) cans, nacho cheese soup, undiluted

3 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese

1 1/2 cups salsa

3/4 cup milk

Combine all in heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat until cheese melts and mix is smooth. Serve warm with tortilla chips of assorted colors. Makes 7 1/2 cups.

Blender Chile Dip

2 to 3 dried mild red chile peppers

1 small onion, quartered

1 clove garlic

1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground oregano

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Place first 3 ingredients in blender and process for 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and pulse 2 or 3 times until tomatoes are chopped. Chill 8 hours before serving with tortilla or corn chips. Makes 2 1/4 cups.

If you want to serve something a little more substantial to your gift wrapping or tree trimming buddies, try this spicy chicken casserole from reporter Kelly Crowley, with a sauerkraut salad on the side. Marge Hanscom said the sauerkraut salad might sound strange, but it has a sweet taste and is really pretty good, even if you normally don't care for sauerkraut.

Kelly's Chicken Chile Cheese Casserole

Two packages boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 can chicken broth

Whole milk to fill chicken broth can

Onion to taste, chopped

2-3 cans diced green chiles (or use chopped fresh jalapenos for a spicy dish)

Block of sharp or mild cheddar or jack cheese

Corn tortillas

Cut up the chicken breast into bite-size chunks and cook thoroughly. Add the can of broth. Using broth can, fill it with milk and add to chicken. Add chiles and onion to chicken. Grate the cheese -- the more the better.

Cut up several corn tortillas into chip-size pieces and line bottom of long, deep casserole dish. Pour part of chicken mixture over tortilla pieces and top with cheese. Repeat layers of tortilla chips, chicken mixture and cheese until all chicken mixture is used. Top layer should be cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees until center is cooked and liquid is bubbling.

Serve with salsa and fresh cilantro.

Marge's Sauerkraut Salad

1 large can or jar sauerkraut, drained

1 cup chopped celery

1 small onion, grated

1/2 cup chopped green peppers

Red pimento, drained -- for color

1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients and chill for 24 hours. It can be eaten immediately, but is better after flavors have mellowed.

If your wrapping or tree trimming party is on a Saturday morning, you might want to share some tasty holiday breads and a special "Down Home" treat -- Pralines.

Marge's Sour Cream Coffee Cake

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup dairy sour cream

1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 tablespoons melted margarine or butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour 10-inch tube pan.

In a large bowl, cream sugar and margarine, then add vanilla and eggs and mix well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup and level off. Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt.

Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternating it with sour cream, ending with sour cream and mix.

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix well.

Spread half of batter in prepared pan and sprinkle top with brown sugar mix, repeat with remaining batter and brown sugar.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool upright in pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto large plate or cookie sheet to release, then invert again onto serving platter with streusel side up. Makes 16 servings.

Shannon's Family Cranberry Bread

1 (14-ounce) can whole cranberries

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Topping

1 cup powdered sugar

Almond extract

Water

For cake, mix sugar, butter, eggs and sour cream. Sift together dry ingredients and add to sugar mix. Stir in almond extract.

Divide mixture into thirds. Place one-third of batter in pan, top with half of cranberries, cover cranberries with second third of batter and top with second half of cranberries. Finish with last third of batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Cool before removing from pan.

For topping, combine powdered sugar with a few drops of almond extract and enough water to make a glaze. Drizzle over top of cake after out of pan.

Holiday cooking is never complete unless there is a sweet treat to share.

Marge's German Chocolate Pie

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 1/2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa

Salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup melted butter

2 cups milk

Vanilla

1 cup coconut

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Pie shell

Blend sugar, flour, cornstarch, cocoa and salt. Add eggs and mix until smooth. Stir in melted butter, add milk and vanilla. Stir in coconut and pecans. Pour into pie shell and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until done.

Marge's Pineapple Cheesecake

For Graham Cracker Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter or margarine

Combine and mix well, and press firmly into 9-inch pie pan, going up sides an inch or so.

For Filling

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 can crushed pineapple, drained -- use a No. 2 can, not the small one

Mix ingredients and put in crust. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees and cool for 10 minutes.

For topping

3 tablespoons sugar

4 to 6 ounces sour cream

Mix and pour on top of pie, bake 5 minutes at 450 degrees. Cool and put in refrigerator for at least 8 hours before serving.

Marge's Apple Cake

3 cans apple slices, not pie filling

1 box lemon cake mix

1 1/2 cubes melted margarine

Walnuts, chopped

Put apples in pan and evenly sprinkle dry cake mix over apples. Pour melted margarine over cake mix, pricking mix so margarine seeps down to apples. Top with walnuts.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Allow to cool and serve with whipped topping.

Shannon's Family Pecan Pralines

1 package butterscotch pudding -- regular style, not instant

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup whole pecans

Cook pudding, sugars, milk and butter over low heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly. Cook and stir to a full boil, then boil 3 to 5 minutes, continuing to stir, until mix reaches a soft ball stage.

Remove from heat and beat until thick, but still glossy. Add pecans.

Drop by tablespoon onto waxed paper. If mix begins to harden in pan, return to heat for a short time to soften.

New Orleans Pralines

3 cups sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons butter

2 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Mix 2 cups sugar and evaporated milk in large saucepan. Cook slowly, stirring often. At the same time, in a second pan, cook 1 cup of sugar on low heat until melted. Slowly pour into milk and sugar when near boil. Cook slowly until firm ball forms when dropped in cold water.

Remove from heat, add vanilla, pecans and butter. Stir. When thickened, drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Cool before eating.

And for our final sweet treat, reader Loretta Ost shared this recipe for German cookies with frosting:

Pfeffernusse

3 cups sifted flour

3/4 teaspoon each salt, baking powder, allspice, mace, cardamom and baking soda

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground aniseed

1 cup honey

3 tablespoons shortening

1 egg

Sift dry ingredients. Heat honey, but do not boil. Add shortening to honey and let mixture cool. Beat egg into honey and shortening, then stir in dry ingredients until just blended.

Shape into 1-inch balls and place on lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes. Cool, then frost and store in airtight container.

Frosting

1 egg white

2 teaspoons honey

1/4 teaspoon ground aniseed

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Combine egg white, honey and aniseed. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Put 12 to 14 cookies in bowl, add 2 tablespoons of frosting, stir until cookies are fully coated. Lift cookies out of bowl with fork and place on rack. Repeat until all are frosted.

Makes about 60 cookies.

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