Though the days are cold and sometimes dreary, I’m still excited to be back on a normal routine, especially one that includes sharing yumminess with my faithful readers. I am doing some cooking at home, but so far I haven’t tried a lot of new recipes. If you think that means I don’t have recipes to share, you’d be wrong because I still have several holiday recipes that I’m excited to share. This first recipe is for a great slow-cooker side that always disappears when I take it to church potlucks: creamed corn. Sadly, I’m not sure where this recipe comes from, and I don’t have any pictures of it. (I’ve only made it for potlucks, so I don’t have a chance to snap a pic before it disappears.) Hopefully I can remedy that in the future, but for now you’ll have to trust me that it’s completely delicious. The original recipe was too soupy for me, so I’ve doubled the amount of corn used. That works out nicely, because it yields more corn that’s just as yummy. Here’s how to make it.
Slow-Cooker Creamed Corn
2 16 oz. packages frozen corn (This is my doubled amount. If you like it soupy, then go ahead with just 1 package.)
8 oz. cream cheese (I think softened would help. I usually start this first thing in the morning, so I cut it into cubes so it’ll melt more easily.)
1/2 c. butter (Again, it would cook faster if it was room temp, but I just dice it to make up for that.)
1/2 c. milk
1 tbsp. sugar
1. Combine all the ingredients in the slow-cooker. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on high for 2-4 hours or low for 4-6 hours. (I like to season it a little at the beginning, and then check it again when the butter and cream cheese are melted.)
My next recipe is something that I gave as a gift. However, I did do a quality check to make sure that it would be as tasty as I expected. I’ve made cheese straws before, but these were a little different. I liked that they used grated Parmesan in addition to the cheddar, but I’m not sure why they didn’t include any spices. It’s something I remedied when I made them. Also, since there are so many cheese straw recipes on the web, I wasn’t able to discern where this one came from. Regardless, these had a great cheesy flavor and a nice biscuit-y texture that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
1 c. all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. frozen, grated butter (The grating makes it easier to incorporate.)
1 c. coarsely grated cheddar
1 c. coarsely grated Parmesan
1/4 c. ice water
1-2 tsp. hot paprika (You can use any flavoring you like. I used spicy paprika because I like a little kick and because it gives the straws a nice color.)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a large baking sheet.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and butter. (I like to combine mine with a few pulses in my food processor.) Add the cheeses and mix by hand til well combined. Stir in the water. Turn out the dough on a clean, floured surface and knead it til smooth. If necessary, you can sprinkle in a little more ice water. Shape the dough into a disk.
3. Roll the dough into a large rectangle that’s 1/4 in. thick. Cut the dough horizontally into 1/2 in. thick strips, then cut those in half vertically. (This is to make them straws. Since I was giving them as gifts, I cut them into squares that would pack better.) Sprinkle the straws with coarse salt, transfer them to the baking sheet with a spatula, and bake them til golden brown, about 15 min.
As you may already know, my husband’s family comes over to our apartment to celebrate Christmas. Since both of his parents are diabetics, I try to make sure that there are several options that are delicious but made with Splenda so they can enjoy it without worrying as much. For our very first gathering, I found this recipe for tasty gingerbread men. These have a good flavor, but aren’t too spicy. They also hold their shape very well, so they are great for decorating (though I’ve yet to figure out how to do that without regular sugar).
Splenda Gingerbread Men (from Splenda.com)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
3/4 c. softened butter
1 c. Splenda brown sugar blend
1 egg yolk
1. Mix together the dry ingredients (flour-allspice) and set them aside.
2. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and Splenda til smooth. Beat in the egg and yolk. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix til the dough forms. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 2 hours.
3. When you’re ready to make them, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Roll out the dough to 1/4 in. thick and cut out with your favorite shaped cookie cutters. Bake 15-18 min. Let cool 2 min. on the pan, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
I also decided to try making meringues with Splenda, and they turned out beautifully. These were so easy to whip up (with the help of my trusty Kitchenaid Mixer), and they disappeared in one day. Though there was nothing wrong with these, it did not make the 80 cookies that the original recipe stated. I didn’t feel like mine were very big, but I only got about 2 dozen cookies. Also, be sure that you make them the day before you need them, since they have to sit in the oven overnight. These meringues were light and crisp on the outside with a marshmallow-y taste in the middle. I loved them, and I hope you do too.
Meringue Bites (tweaked from Splenda.com)
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (Since it was Christmas, I decided to use peppermint extract.)
2/3 c. Splenda sugar blend
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. In a mixer, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla on high til foamy.
2. Add the Splenda 1 tbsp. at a time, beating til stiff peaks form and the Splenda dissolves. Spoon by heaping tbsp. onto the baking sheets. Bake 75 min and turn the oven off. (If they start to brown, reduce the heat to 225 degrees.) Let the meringues stand in the oven with the door closed and the light on for 8 hr. or overnight. (I’m not sure why you have to leave the light on, but I just went with it. Next time I’ll try it with the light off and see if it makes a difference.)
The last recipe I wanted to share today is an incredible fruitcake cookie. Filled with delicious dried fruits and nuts, this could be a great way to introduce the idea of fruitcake to people who believe the stereotype about their inedibility. Though the process takes a long time, the actual work involved is minimal. These are perfect for the busy holiday seasons since you can put in a little time here and there and freeze the dough logs until you need them. I thought these were delicious and beautiful (like stained glass). I really liked that these made over 4 dozen cookies. It would make them perfect for gifts or a cookie swap.
Fruitcake Cookies (tweaked from Ina Garten)
8 oz. dried figs
4 oz. raisins
4 oz. coarsely chopped, candied cherries (Ina did 2 oz. each of dried apricots and candied cherries. I didn’t feel like doing the apricots, plus candied cherries come in 4 oz. containers and I didn’t want to have leftovers.)
1 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. vinegar (Instead of sherry. I used white, but want to try apple cider vinegar next time. And don’t worry, you can’t taste a bit of it.)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
6 oz. chopped walnuts
1 c. softened butter
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 c. superfine sugar (Just process regular sugar for a few seconds in the food processor.)
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1. Snip the hard stems off the figs, then coarsely chop the figs. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, honey, vinegar, lemon juice, and walnuts with a pinch of salt. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight at room temperature.
2. In a bowl, mix the butter, cloves, sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed til smooth, about 3 min. With the mixer on low, add the egg and mix til incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 tsp. salt and mix just til combined. (Don’t overmix!) Add the fruits and nuts along with any liquid in the bowl.
3. Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12×18 in. piece of parchment of wax paper. Roll each half of dough into a 1 1/2-1 3/4 in. thick log that is 18 in. long. Refrigerate the dough several hours or til firm. (The cookies are not going to spread at all, so make the logs the size and shape you’ll want the cookies to be.)
4. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With a small, sharp knife (I used my serrated knife which worked wonderfully.), cut the logs into 1/2 in. thick slices. Place each cookie 1/2 in. apart on a sheet pan and bake 15-20 min., til lightly golden.
Are you getting hungry? I am. I wonder what I could whip up next. 😉