Don’t Try This Trick at Home!

I could have titled this blog “The Amazing Exploding Hungarian Noodle Casserole.” Make no mistake, this is a delicious and hardy accompaniment for a Beef Bourguignon or similar entrée. But, my first experience in serving this to my guests taught me several valuable lessons.

Lesson 1: fire and noodles don’t mix!

The scene was a dinner party at my home with a buffet table full of mouth-watering offerings. Many folks had made their first pass through the buffet table and several us were hovering around the buffet chatting when…“BAM!…SHATTER!…SPRAY!!

Stunned, we all were paralyzed, jaws dropped as we gawked at the Baked Hungarian Noodle Casserole that had literally EXPLODED!. Glass shards and noodles littered the buffet table. The dinner was ruined — glass penetrated every nook and cranny of the food and surrounding area.

Silence. No…one…said…a…word…and turned toward me.

I wanted to cry, but without missing a beat, I threw my hands in the air and exclaimed, “And now for my next trick!”

The crowd exploded (pun noted) in laughter and applause! What else could we do? Several folks helped with clean up, in disbelief that Pyrex would shatter like that! I pulled some back-up food from the fridge and brought out more wine and desserts.

Lesson 2: It doesn’t matter what you serve people, whether it’s fancy or low-key, hospitality is from the heart. The main thing is to make people feel you are glad they came. Famous chef Julia Child wrote in her autobiography that on a few occasions she served dishes that flopped and she only realized it when she took a bite along with her guests. She never batted an eye or drew attention to the food, focusing on her guests the entire time.

So what happened? I guess I had the Sterno a little too close to the Pyrex? I had no idea  Pyrex could shatter but no glass is bullet proof. For more on this topic read this article “Exploding Pyrex Cookware Mystery Solved.”

I am making this recipe for Christmas Eve dinner this year.

Lesson 3: No Sterno and no Pyrex this time.

Baked Hungarian Noodles

This recipe, from A Private Collection published by the Junior League of Palo Alto, is written to serve 24 guests because it’s suitable for a crowd. It can be easily divided by 2 to serve 12. This can be made well in advance of the party. You might question only one pound of noodles for 24 servings; be sure to use only fine noodles to get the proper volume.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound fine noodles
  • 4 cups cream-style cottage cheese
  • 4 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • Paprika
  • Freshly-grated parmesan cheese

Cook noodles in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain. Combine the noodles with the remaining ingredients except the paprika and Parmesan cheese.

Place in two or three buttered casseroles and bake at 350 degrees until hot. Or, put in refrigerator at this point until ready to use. Approximately 30 minutes before serving, remove from refrigerator and bake until hot.

Sprinkle with paprika and serve with Parmesan cheese.

“While Visions of Sugar-Plums Danced in Their Heads”

I don’t really know what sugar-plums are but I decided they are anything sweet and delectable eaten during the Christmas season so you can have visions of them the night before Christmas. Sounds good to me.

Try this year’s version of my sugar-plums.

Ice Cream Cups, Inspired by Snickers®
An easy make-ahead dessert

  • 1 pint of chocolate ice cream
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • Caramel ice cream topping
  • 2 boxes of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (found in the baking aisle, not the cookie aisle)

Use about 24 paper cupcake cups. Place one chocolate wafer in each cup.

Soften the ice cream with a spoon, takes about 2-3 minutes. Stir peanut butter into the ice cream until well blended

Spread a tablespoon of ice cream mixture on each chocolate wafer. Top with a few teaspoons of caramel topping, top with another chocolate wafer, another layer of ice cream, then caramel topping. End with a chocolate wafer, drizzle with caramel sauce and red and green sprinkles. Put into freezer covered tightly for up to one week. Serve directly from freezer.

Nabisco Chocolate Wafers

Nabisco Chocolate Wafers

You can also use vanilla ice cream with peanut butter stirred into it. Or, use both flavors and alternate layers.

Today is National Cookie Day

December 4 is National Cookie Day, or so says the ubiquitous Internet where all things are true. So, let’s bake cookies with the flavors of the season. Here are two of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes.

Canberry Coins
Pictured above, this recipe came from Melanie, the neighborhood Martha Stewart. She got the recipe from Martha, of course!

INGREDIENTS
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla with a mixer until smooth. Add flour and salt; beat just until combined. Stir in dried cranberries. Divide dough into quarters.

On parchment or waxed paper, shape each portion into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter and 4 inches long. Wrap logs tightly in parchment or waxed paper. Chill 30 minutes or up to one day. (Dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen up to one month.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With a sharp knife, slice dough into one-quarter-inch thick rounds. Rotate log as you cut to keep it from flattening. Place rounds on parchment-lined baking sheets, one inch apart.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges just begin to turn golden, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to two weeks.

Holiday Pumpkin Cookies
These were a mainstay every Christmas growing up. Mom made up her recipes and named them. Her naming conventions went right to the point. Thanks for the memories, Mom!

INGREDIENTS
1 cup shortening (this means Crisco, luckily, today, you can buy them in pre-measured sticks)
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon orange extract
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup solid pack pumpkin

Cream the above, then add the following:
1-3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (usually a mixture of cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice)
Drop and top with pecan half.

Bake at 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

My variation: For Christmas, top with red and green sugar and the pecan. Or do some without the pecan for non-nut eaters. However, the original version is the one in the photo.

Holiday Pumpkin Cookie photo by Cindy Dyer.

True Colors

‘Tis the season for red and green and easy-to-carry party food. Spinach stuffed tomatoes provide all the color you need and this dish is easy to make ahead (even the day before) and bake when you need it. This tasty veggie dish is also a hit when you have to take something to a party because baked-ahead tomatoes can be eaten at room temp.

Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 10 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 package frozen spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion of your choice (I use chopped shallots or finely-minced red onion)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese mixed with 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons of melted butter

Wash tomatoes and slice a small slice off the stem end so the tomato will sit upright in a baking dish. Cut off the top of the tomato and scoop out the pulp. Lightly sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with a little salt. Spray baking dish with cooking spray and place cored tomatoes in dish.

Cook spinach according to package directions, drain and squeeze all water out

Add butter, cream cheese, onions, salt and pepper and combine until butter and cheese is melted.

Spoon spinach mixture into tomatoes. Top with parmesan/bread crumb mixture.

Bake for 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Can make ahead and hold in refrigerator for two days before baking.

 

 

 

 

 

Dressed for Fall

The leaves are falling this time of year….right onto your cake! Dress your pumpkin cake up with some silk leaves for a fall look and a great dessert centerpiece for a dessert table.

I used this recipe but baked it in a Bundt pan.

 

Reprise of the Leprechauns

An Irish colleen (from the Irish cailín, meaning girl) just came a knockin’ at mee door with some leprechaun hats—edible that is!

Here is Marion Devlin’s recipe for Leprechaun Hats. (At Thanksgiving they become pilgrim hats and, at Christmas, they become Santa Claus hats! She’s a clever colleen!)

Leprechaun Hats
The wee ones love ’em!

Arrange Fudge Stripe Cookies on a baking sheet with chocolate side up (stripes down).

Melt white and dark chocolate according to package directions; keep warm for dipping in separate bowls.

Dip marshmallows in chocolate and place on top of Fudge Stripe Cookies. Top with green sprinkles. Cool to room temperature.

Give Your Heart Away

When it comes to matters of the heart, there are no short cuts. That’s why you have to make these from scratch. Simple ingredients make up these Linzer Heart Tearts, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I was thinking all day about making these but I am on a deadline, the family stuff, that project in the basement…

But, you know, the deadline always gets met, the basement project isn’t going anywhere, but Valentine’s Day comes once a year. As soon as I started baking, our son walked in the kitchen and said, “I smell goodness.”

So, make these for someone you love. Or make them for yourself. No matter who they are for, make them with love.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day to all of you!

Linzer Heart Tearts (no, that is not a typo)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt:
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • raspberry preserves

Beat together first three ingredients (butter, sugar salt). Add egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy. (You can substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract if you like.) Add the flour until mixture forms a ball. Chill dough one hour.

Roll onto lightly floured surface, about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out and place on ungreased cookie sheet

Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

Cool cookies and spread half of the cookie with raspberry preserves and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Hint: If you want the raspberry to show, cut a small heart into the big heart.