Real Food for Real Life

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pre-Christmas Happenings

This has been a very busy few weeks with Cub Scouts. We wrapped up our Thanksgiving and Christmas giving efforts (the Pack "adopted" 2 families for Bird day, and 3 for Christmas), and the boys and their families did a fantastic job collecting food and gifts for their families :) We ended 2009 with a Pack Meeting at the Miami University Art Museum, which was a fantastic facility for us, and all the boys toured the exhibits after the meeting. Now it is time for a well deserved break and a chance to cook, write, and hopefully get a few Christmas gifts wrapped.

Christopher had his 10th birthday party on Saturday, December 5th, and what a Lego extravaganza that was! He had a fantastic time, and his friends did as well, judging by the noise and activity level. :) Pretty cool was the Lego cake that my friend Kristy made for him. Chris described to her exactly what he wanted and she gave him the perfect birthday cake!! It tasted good too- I had a piece with a glass of milk, and I don't normally eat birthday cake OR drink milk. Check out Kristy's page on Facebook when you get a chance, she has pictures of lots of cakes she has done.

http://www.facebook.com/#/group.php?gid=67897963868&ref=ts

That same evening I had an ornament stealing and cookie exchange to go to at Kristy's mom's house. Not being a big one for making cookies (except for the yearly Christmas gingerbread, of course), I made Fruit and Nut Fudge, making 10 dozen pieces for the exchange (and another 9 dozen yesterday for Christmas giving). Because this was the same day as Christopher's party, I needed a super quick and easy dish to take and share so I made Liptauer Cheese- I didn't bring much home, so I'm guessing that it went over well. I did learn a lesson from this evening - be careful what you wish for. I unwrapped a pretty blue ornament, and while it was very pretty, it would not look good on my tree, so I was hoping for someone to steal it, thus giving me the chance to choose another one. Well, it did get stolen, and I did get to pick again, but the second ornament was FUCHSIA, with bright blue and yellow swirls!! Needless to say, no one stole that ornament and it is now hanging on the BACK of my tree.

Fruit & Nut Fudge

1 cup chocolate chips
2 tbs. brandy
1 cup walnut pieces
2 heaping tbs. slivered almonds
2 heaping tbs. raisins
2 heaping tbs, dried cranberries
powdered sugar, for dredging

In a food processor, pulse the fruit and nuts until fairly small, but still retaining some texture. Put the chocolate chips and brandy into a medium microwave safe bowl, and nuke at 50% power for 2 minutes. Stir the chocolate until the chips are completely melted and the brandy is incorporated. Dump in the fruit and nuts, stir to combine. Using your fingers and hands, take small pieces and after squeezing it to bring it together, roll into small balls. How large you make them is up to you, but I usually get between 20 and 24 pieces. Work quickly while the chocolate is pliable, and place the pieces on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. If you are going to make more than one batch, start all over again, no need to wash the bowl, just make sure that you have scrapped most of it out on the last piece or two. A bag of chocolate chips will make two batches, and I made six that first night, one after another. After the pieces have cooled and hardened for an hour or two, roll in powdered sugar and package as desired. There is no need to refrigerate the finished product, but it will not harm it if you do so.

Liptauer Cheese

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 8oz. pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 heaping tsp. capers
1 heaping tsp. anchovy paste (or 2-3 fillets)
1 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Place the onion quarters in a food processor and pulse to mince it. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until smooth and well combined, scraping down the sides of the processor as needed. Pile into a pretty bowl and serve with assorted crackers. This is an assertively flavored cheese spread and is at its best if made at least a few hours before serving and the flavors allowed to meld in the fridge.

Last weekend was our 7th annual neighborhood Christmas party, this the same evening as our Cub Scout event at the Art Museum, leaving me again in the need for a quick, easy dish to take. At the cookie exchange someone had brought meatballs cooked in a mixture of grape jelly and chili sauce, and this seemed also to be a pretty popular dish. I decided to make my own twist on this, putting everything in the crookpot on low before we left for the afternoon. Just before leaving for the party that evening, I piled the meatballs in a pretty Christmas bowl with frilly toothpicks for serving. I made 2 and 1/2 pounds and when we went to leave that evening there were about five pieces left in the bowl, so I call those a hit as well.

No Recipe Meatballs

2 to 2 and 1/2 bag frozen, prepared meatballs
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce (I used leftover homemade cranberry sauce that I had put in the freezer after Thanksgiving)
1 bottle of spicy cocktail sauce

Turn your crockpot on high, and stir the cranberry and cocktail sauces until melted together. Pour in the meatballs, stirring to cover all with the sauce. Turn the heat to low and cook for 4 hours or so.

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