It seems one of the most common symbols associated with Valentine’s Day are heart shapes, used to decorate cards, gift boxes, wrapping paper, cakes, cookies, candies, etc. etc. In April 2016, I had posted a blog reminiscing about a memory I had from the fifties. It referred back to the ‘invention’ of the ‘cut-up’ cakes. One of these was a heart-shaped cake covered in Baker’s Angel Flake coconut and decorated with some of those little spicy, cinnamon heart candies. Here’s a tidbit of ‘red hot’ info I found interesting. In the 1930’s, Ferrara Pan Candy Company (USA) created the famous ‘Red Hot” candies, otherwise known as cinnamon hearts, using the cold panned candy method. This process involved building candy pieces from candy centers and tossing them into revolving pans while adding flavor, color and other candy ingredients. This process continues until the pieces become the desired size.
Brion loves these hot, spicy little hearts. It seems if he has some once a year that satisfies the craving which is probably more nostalgic than anything. Of course if there are a few too many around, there are numerous vintage recipes using them such as applesauce, apple pie, jell-o and so on.
In keeping with Valentines Day, I wanted to do something with the color red and add a little spiciness of my own. Here you have it CHERRY CHAI CHEESECAKE BITES!
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 12 mini muffin pans with cooking spray or use a mini cheesecake pan with the removable bottoms.
In a blender of food processor, finely crush the gingersnap cookies. Transfer to a large mixing bowl & add melted butter. Mix well. Spoon about 1 Tbsp crumb mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. Press to create a mini 'pie crust'.
In another mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, egg, sugar, vanilla, cardamom, pumpkin pie spice. Using a mixer, beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth & creamy. Divide filling between the 12 'cups'.
Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove & let cool for 5 minutes or so. Run a knife around edges to loosen cheesecakes; carefully flip the tins over to remove cheesecakes from pans.
To Serve: Place cheesecake bites on serving dish. Top with cherry pie filling (about 2 cherries each).
Whether you celebrate Christmas culturally, religiously or not at all, it seems a good time to evaluate your priorities to make sure you are truly doing what matters to you most. Christmas comes and goes each year during which the ‘Christmas Spirit’ is alive and well. Wouldn’t it be nice if that same spirit was applied to our daily lives all year long.
Today, December 25th, we celebrate my sister Rita’s birthday as well as Christmas Day. Our family’s Christmas eve birthday ‘parties’ hold many fond memories for me. After attending Christmas eve church service, upon returning home, we would be joined by family friends to have birthday cake and some homemade root beer. It was very important to my parents that a special birthday acknowledgement was made to Rita apart from the Christmas festivities.
Christmas is a nostalgic time of year for many of us — recalling simple family traditions. When it comes to holiday decorations, the thing I remember most were the ‘multitudes’ of Christmas cards that our family received in the mail. My mother would fasten string between doorways and windows to hang them all on each time we would receive another one. There was a limited amount of other Christmas decorations. We used the same ones year after year and that was what made them so special. They all had their own special place where they belonged, and once they were out, it truly felt like Christmas.
Probably, the most cherished item was a Christmas Manger set. This cardboard tabletop Nativity was published by Concordia Publishing House in early 1940’s from illustrations first produced by artist George Hinke. A base was provided with special tabs to hold the 17 lithographed figures upright; each tab being carefully labeled making it easy to assemble.
George Hinke was born in 1883 in Berlin, Germany where he studied as a painter. He immigrated to the United States in 1923.
I remember this Nativity scene vividly as the cardboard figures were so beautiful and accurately painted. It was sold in a cardboard box that contained assembly instructions. One of the trips Brion and I made to Italy was just after Christmas one year in early January. Thanks to the European mindset, the outdoor Christmas decor had not been tucked away for the season. The detail in some of the Nativity scenes was incredible. They brought back memories of that little ‘Christmas Manger’ set from many years ago.
For our Christmas dinner this year we are having something a little different from the traditional roast turkey. Turkey roulade lets you have all the traditional flavors of Christmas without having to go through the whole turkey cooking episode. Not only is it mouthwatering and tender, it’s easy to make, cooks quicker, a breeze to carve and looks super elegant. Now, there’s the matter of the stuffing. Equally essential to the holiday table, it’s a far more expressive medium than the turkey itself. You could say, it is the personality with countless options.
Today’s recipe is a turkey breast that has been flattened and stuffed with herbs, cranberries and hazelnuts. The roulade is wrapped with bacon to keep it moist and tucked into a half of a spaghetti squash. The drippings from the bacon and turkey flavor the squash perfectly as it bakes giving a tasty, earthy, vegetable side dish. Brion and I preferred some cranberry sauce and a traditional gravy with this meal but if you want to kick it up a notch you could serve a thin apple cider gravy instead.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RITA! ENJOY YOUR DAY AS WE CELEBRATE YOU WITH LOVE
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 T. butter. Saute onion, garlic & sage leaves, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes. Add bread crumbs, toasted hazelnuts, cranberries, chicken broth, Italian seasoning, salt & pepper; cook for another minute or so. Remove from heat & cool completely.
Using a sharp knife, 'butterfly' turkey breasts. Cover with plastic wrap, flatten them slightly with a meat tenderizer. Divide stuffing between the two breasts & spread it out evenly. Roll breasts up, place cut side down onto work surface. Wrap each roulade with 6 slices of bacon, tucking the ends under the turkey rolls.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice the spaghetti squash in half & scoop out the seeds. Place both haves on a large roasting pan & drizzle with olive oil. Roast 30 minutes. Remove squash from oven & place the bacon wrapped roulades into the cavity of the squash. Return turkey/squash roulade to oven, lower oven temperature to 350 F. & roast until the internal temperature of the turkey roulade is 155 F., ABOUT 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven & allow to stand about 10 minutes. Slice & place on serving platter.
Apple Cider Gravy
In a medium saucepan, combine turkey stock, apple cider & sage leaves; bring to a boil. Gently boil, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until sauce is reduced & thickened slightly. Remove sage leaves & discard. Drop in butter cubes; whisk to incorporate, add pepper & remove from heat. Serve hot over turkey roulade.
In the winter of 2011, Brion and I spent a month travelling Turkey. While in Istanbul, we happened to be staying in a hotel next to a Starbucks coffee shop. By chance I tasted a ‘Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte’. That unique flavor left a lasting memory with me. Back at home, I wanted to recreate that flavor. The recipe today is what developed from that memory.
The word trifle comes from the old French term, ‘trufle’ and literally means something whimsical or of little consequence. In actual food terms, it’s anything but. A proper English trifle is made with real egg custard poured over sponge cake, soaked in fruit and sherry then topped with whipped cream.
Though a simple dessert to make, trifle looks gorgeous with its multiple layers, colors and textures. It is not only served as a dessert but used as a centerpiece on occasion.
Many puddings evolved as a way of using leftovers, thus trifle originating from stale cake. Some of the many cake choices are sponge, Genoise, ladyfingers, pound cake and macaroons. Alcohol used, often ranges greatly from sherry, white wine, rum, liqueurs and scotch as well as just using a fruit juice. In order for the flavors to marry properly, trifle needs about 8 hours of refrigeration time. In North America, trifle is synonymous with the festive Christmas season.
My blog picture is a PUMPKIN CHIA CHEESECAKE TRIFLE that I made for a Christmas event. If you like pumpkin and cheesecake this trifle is for you!
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 9-inch square pan with baking spray.
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (through allspice). In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, egg white, milk, oil and pumpkin until thoroughly blended. Combine wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, stirring until just blended. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top.
Bake until lightly browned & a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack & allow to cool completely. With a wooden skewer, poke holes in cake about 2-inches apart. Slowly pour 1/2 cup Apricot Brandy over cake. Refrigerate overnight.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese & pumpkin with a mixer until well blended. Add spices & dry pudding mix; beat until well blended. Gradually blend in milk.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with a mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in milk. Add dry pudding mix; blend well. Fold in thawed Cool Whip.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, coarsely crush wafers; place in medium bowl. Add butter, nuts, sugar & 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice; mix well. Spread onto the bottom of a shallow pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown; cool. Break cooled, baked nut mixture into smaller pieces; store in airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
Cut pound cake into 1-inch cubes. Line bottom of a straight-sided trifle bowl with 1/3 of cake cubes, 1/3 pumpkin filling, 1/3 creme filling & 1/3 of the nut mixture. Repeat 2 more times. Decorate as desired. Drizzle with bottled Dulce de Leche Creme.
With tomorrow being Thanksgiving Day, it seems like baking some special little dinner rolls for the occasion would be in order.
Bread making has always been a carefully protected symbol of civilization. The Greeks would let only priests make bread — they reasoned that dealing with the ‘staff of life’ was the business of those trained in religious matters. The Romans, a practical-minded people, turned bread baking over to the Civil Service and enforced rigid sanitary regulations. In any case, it has always been an integral part of history.
Pan or dinner rolls, a name given to small pieces of dough, shaped and baked in a pan with their sides touching. This prevents them from flattening out, instead springing upwards.
At our house we love pan buns. For some strange reason, both of us enjoy baked goods when they are very lightly baked rather than dark and crispy. Pan buns usually fit that description.
These PUMPKIN DINNER ROLLS check all the boxes. For Thanksgiving, they’re just a little bit more special as well as being a suitable accompaniment for soups and stews during the fall and winter months. If you like pumpkin, I think you will enjoy them.
In a microwave-safe bowl, heat milk & butter about 45 seconds. Whisk until butter has melted smoothly into the milk; add egg, pumpkin puree & whisk again to combine. Heat again about 15 seconds to warm total mixture. In a large mixing bowl, add remaining dough ingredients along with pumpkin/milk mixture.
Combine & knead dough on a lightly floured surface 5-8 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Grease bowl lightly, place dough in bowl & turn to grease all sides of dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk.
Spray work surface with baking spray, punch dough down & turn onto surface. Divide dough into 10 equal portions; roll each into a ball. Place dough balls into a sprayed, 9 x 9-inch square pan; cover with plastic wrap & place in a draft-free area until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a small bowl, melt butter & add honey; stir to combine. Before baking, generously brush the rolls with honey butter; reserving any extra to brush on after baking.
Bake 15-17 minutes or until puffed & golden. After removing from oven, brush with any remaining honey butter & allow to cool slightly before serving.
For some extra 'butter' to serve with rolls, whisk together equal parts softened butter & honey until fluffy.
MAKE AHEAD OPTION: Once you have the rolls in the baking pan, cover with foil & place in refrigerator overnight. When ready to bake, bring the rolls to room temperature & allow to rise about 45 minutes before baking.