Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Cookin'

I've kept very busy over the holiday season with various get togethers and festive events, most of which required a food contribution. I made a few of my favorite concoctions, but also used the opportunity to experiment with some enticing Pinterest ideas.

Any one else notice how trendy Brie is right now? I can’t log onto Pinterest without developing a serious craving for the French cheese. When we had a pot luck Book Exchange party for book club a few weeks back, I wasn’t quite sure what I was making, but I knew that Brie would be the main ingredient.

I didn’t have to search too hard to find a simple enough recipe for bite sized brie bites. The fact that it only required 3 ingredients was icing on the cake. And when your 3 ingredients are puff pastry dough, brie, and chutney, can you really go wrong?
Apparently not, or else I would certainly have some tips on how NOT to make this recipe, but instead I came out with an edible treat on my first try.

You basically just buy pre-made puff pastry dough at the store. Roll it flat (unless you are super lazy like me and buy the pre-rolled puff pastry), and cut it into squares. Place a small, thin square of brie in the middle, and top it with chutney. I used a apple, cider, and fig version that is seriously yummy.
Once the Brie and chutney are on board, press the four corners of the dough together. You can use water to help them stick, or allow them to open a bit while baking. It all tastes the same, just depends on what you're going for with presentation. I opted for the open look.
Then bake them in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or so.
Easy and yummy. The only problem was that we had to let the book group know if we were making a sweet or savoury dish so that we could make sure we had a balance of the two. What would you classify Brie Bites under? I went with savoury, but they definitely go a long way for satisfying my sweet tooth.
They were so simple that I decided to make them for the White Elephant gift exchange party with my girl friends, and I got really gutsy and tried the same formula with goat cheese and honey. Amen. Not to toot my own oven, but they were good.
Since I was hosting the White Elephant Gift exchange, I also made peanut butter cookies, bruschetta, and Swedish meatballs. I mentioned in a previous post that I spent a small fortune on grape jelly and Heinz chilli sauce so that I could make this recipe for cocktail meatballs. When I actually went to make them I noticed the recipe called for three cans of jelly and three jars of Heinz chilli sauce.

Since I didn’t want to spend a month’s salary one on dish, I decided to improvise. I still used a full jar of jelly and chili sauce, but I added about 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard to the mix and only made 30 meatballs. I was worried there wouldn’t be enough marinade, but there was plenty. This dish was so easy to make and are a perfect snack for an at-home get together. I forgot to snap a photo so here is one from the site where I found the original recipe, and this is the link for the source.
A few of us decided to do a last minute Christmas Eve dinner and Jonathan volunteered to bring 3 of the 5 pheasants he brought home from his recent hunt. Since we needed space in our itty bitty freezer and cooking full birds freaks me out, I decided to let him be in charge of our Christmas dish.

However, not to be outdone, I went ahead and made Reindeer Bark to bring along as well. I made these last year as gifts, and have been collecting the necessary ingredients ever since we got to Aberdeen.
They don’t sell the Christmas M&Ms so I had to physically sort out the red and green M&Ms from 3 mega-packs I bought. I’m nothing if not resourceful. And now I’m left with a giant ziplock of all the non-Christmas colored M&Ms. Oh well they all taste the same in a buttery bag of popcorn, so I’m not sweating it.
It’s another simple and easy recipe that you really can’t mess up unless you just so happen to burn the white chocolate, which is really one of those things that you only do once…Lesson learned.

Monkey bread is another Christmas favorite of mine that I refused to live without this year. Our traditional recipe requires canned biscuits, which you can’t find in Scotland. I knew that if I could just make the biscuit dough from scratch, I should be able to replicate the breakfast food. When I spotted a box of ridiculously inflated bisquik, I decided to splurge so that I could later use it for this purpose.

However, two days before Christmas I started doing research and it seemed that monkey bread recipes made with bisquik didn’t turn out as good as the canned biscuit version. With my expectations lowered I decided to go a bit smaller and make Monkey Bread Muffins instead of a bundt cake. This meant I had to also alter the caramel sauce poured on top to avoid a big sticky mess.

This is the recipe I worked from, combining it with my inherent knowledge of monkey bread after years of assisting my Mom. I just substituted canned biscuits for dough made with Bisquik, and added a bit of sugar and cinnamon to the dough to sweeten it up. Next time I’ll use butter milk in place of skim to give it a richer flavoring. 
The Bisquik directions were simple enough, except for the requirement of kneading the dough 8 times. Kneading? Eight Times? Why not 7? Or 9? When instructions are that specific, I get a bit scared. Secondly…what the heck is kneading? I racked my brain and remembered that kneading is the setting on the manicurist massage chairs when it feels like someone is grinding their brass knuckles into your back. So I grounded my fists in a rolling motion over the dough 8 times.
Jonathan walked in during this process and instantly told me that I wasn’t ‘kneading’ correctly. Apparently, kneading does not call for a full body massage of the dough. Whatevs, it came out looking like the stuff that comes out of a can so I proceeded to roll it flat with a rolling pin and cut the dough into small squares, each the size of a quarter biscuit.

I rolled each quarter into a ball and then I plopped them into a butter and maple syrup mixture. Once they had been coated with butter, I plopped them into a ziplock bag full of sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Once they were coated in sugar, I plopped them into a cupcake tin 5 at a time, and gently pressed down so that the little biscuit pieces stuck together.
(Notice that this method involves a lot of plopping. That direction is to be strictly followed. There can be no placing of bisuit dough into required ingredients. They must be plopped. Trust me.) 

I then drizzled some more of the butter/syrup concoction over them before plopping them in the oven for 17 minutes or so.
They turned out pretty good. Not quite so good as the full loaf of monkey bread, but enough to fill the void on Christmas morning. Plus, the muffins were an excellent way to maintain portion control. Instead of slicing off a big heaping piece of cake I just had one muffin for breakfast...and one for a mid-morning snack...and one for a pre-lunch appetizer, 1 for a post-lunch dessert, 1 with my afternoon tea, and 5 for Christmas dessert. Everything in moderation.

Follow these links to find the recipes that inspired the ones in this post:
Brie Bites
Swedish Meatballs
Reindeer Bark
Monkey Bread Muffins

And here is the flesh and blood, life-size monkey bread recipe that I have been loving my whole entire life:

Monkey Bread
½ cup pecans chopped
½ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 10 oz cans buttermilk biscuits
¾ cup finely packed brown sugar
½ cup melted butter

Sprinkle pecans in bottom of well greased bundt pan
Combine sugar and cinnamon
Cut biscuits in quarters
Roll each quarter in sugar mixture
Layer in pan
Combine brown sugar and butter and pour over biscuits
Bake at 350 for 30 or 40 minutes
Invert pan on serving platter

Great, now I'm drooling. What Christmas foods would you miss the most if you had to spend the day away from family?


  1. I would miss cornbread dressing, green beans casserole and Harvest Corn Bake.

    Thanks for the recipes. I'm trying these out next holiday season.

    1. Southern Pecan Pie, Cornbread Dressing and German Chocolate Cake. I was home with family and didn't make the cake as I am the only one who eats it.

      Copper Pennies is another dish I would miss even though I could make it away from family I don't think I would. I came across the dish the first Christmas I spent without my extended family while in Saudi Arabia when you were a baby. The family that had us over for Christmas had them and I have made them every Christmas since.

      However, no food can take the place of family. We missed you dearly and know you were missing us too!!! Love you