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Pat’s Pantry: Preparing for the holidays

By Pat Mills

As the holidays approach do we reach for the same old recipes that we use every year, or would you like to be bold and try new dishes? Instead of pumpkin pie how about pumpkin custard or twice-baked sweet potatoes? There is also a new take on the old green bean casserole. – Pat

Green bean casserole
1 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of celery soup, undiluted
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 packages (16 oz each) frozen French-style green beans, thawed and drained
1 can (8 oz) sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
In a skillet, sauté the red pepper and onion in butter until tender. Add the soup, milk, Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce and stir until smooth. Stir in the green beans and water chestnuts. Transfer to an ungreased 1-1/2 qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Yield: 6-8 servings.
Twice-baked sweet potatoes
6 large sweet potatoes (3-1/2 to 4 pounds)
1/4 cup orange juice
6 tablespoons cold butter or margarine, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Pierce potatoes with a fork, bake at 375 degrees for 40-60 minutes or until tender. Allow potatoes to cool to the touch. Cut them in half lengthwise; carefully scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-in. shell. Place pulp in a large bowl. Add orange juice. Melt 3 tablespoons butter; add to pulp and beat until smooth. Stuff the potato shells; place in an ungreased 15 x 10 x 1-in baking pan. In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and mace. cut in remaining butter until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden and heated through. Yield: 12 servings.

Pumpkin custard
1 can (15 oz) solid-packed pumpkin
2 eggs
1 cup half-and-half cream
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Topping:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4  cup chopped pecans
1  tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
whipped cream and ground cinnamon, optional
In a mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, eggs, cream, brown sugar, pie spice and salt: beat until smooth. Pour into four greased 10-oz. custard cups. Place in a 13 x 9 x 2-in baking pan; pour hot water around cups to a depth of 1-in. bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pecans and butter. Sprinkle over custard. Bake 30-35 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm or chilled; top with whipped cream and cinnamon if desired. Yield: 4 servings.

Creamy cranberry salad
3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
1 medium apple, peeled and chopped
2 cups miniature marshmallows
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
2 cups whipping cream, whipped
In a bowl, combine cranberries, pineapple, apple, marshmallows, sugar, salt and walnuts if desired; mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, fold in whipped cream. Yield: 10-12 servings.

FOOD FACTS
• If you buy potatoes at the grocery, take a bag from the bottom of the pile. It will have had the least exposure to light, which can cause greening. Store potatoes where it’s cool and dark, but not in the refrigerator.
• A few drops of vanilla extract placed in a bottle top in the refrigerator will remove odors.

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