Cooking with Kate: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas season is here! Bring on the twinkle lights, hot chocolate by the fireplace, and fun times with family and friends at a myriad of Christmas parties. With all the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by party details. Whether you’re serving adults or a roomful of kiddos, keep things simple and quick with a few make-ahead appetizers and a decked out hot chocolate bar. Here are two crowd pleasing party appetizers and my favorite recipe for homemade hot chocolate mix.

Merry Christmas to you and your family as you celebrate this season!

Polish Mistake(s)

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb Owens hot ground sausage
  • 1 lb Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 2 packages cocktail rye bread 

In a large skillet, brown ground meat and sausage over medium high heat until fully cooked. Drain well. Add cubed Velveeta cheese to the meat mixture and heat until melted. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Mixture can be made up to 4 days ahead of time and refrigerated. To serve – Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Spread meat mixture over sliced cocktail rye and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned. Enjoy immediately.

Pinecone Dip

  • 2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 package Hormel dried beef, diced
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small can chopped black olives
  • 3 tablespoons Accent seasoning
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped (no stems)
  • 1 small package sliced almonds
  • assorted crackers and pita chips, for serving

Blend cream cheese, dried beef, green onions, black olives and Accent seasoning in medium bowl until well combined. Shape into desired shape (pinecone or Christmas tree, etc) on serving platter. Press sliced almonds into dip to resemble a pinecone and sprinkle with chopped parsley. If making a Christmas tree – use almonds as tree trunk, chopped parsley as leaves/needles, and pieces of red/yellow bell pepper as ornaments. Cover and chill well until ready to serve. Dip can be made up to 2 days in advance.

FC’s Hot Chocolate Mix

  • 1 cup powdered coffee creamer, original or plain
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 ¾ cups powdered chocolate milk mix (like Nestle Quick)
  • 3 cups powdered milk
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a large air tight container. Hot chocolate mix can be stored for up to one year in an airtight container in a cool, dry area. To use: Mix 2-3 tablespoons of mix with 8-10 ozs hot water until blended. Add additional mix to taste.

Topping ideas for the hot chocolate bar:

  • whipped cream
  • chocolate and caramel syrups
  • mini marshmallows
  • flavored marshmallows – French vanilla, peppermint, toasted coconut, cinnamon bun, pumpkin spice
  • Kraft caramel bits (small balls of caramel used for caramel apples)
  • Andes mint pieces (found on the baking aisle near the chocolate chips)
  • Heath toffee bits (found on the baking aisle near the chocolate chips)
  • Chopped peppermint bits (use soft peppermint sticks)
Cooking with Kate: Full of Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Many in my family love to cook and we always have delicious food, but more importantly, my family has a tradition we call, “Share Time.” One by one, from the youngest to the oldest, we share what we are thankful for and then encourage another member of our family to do the same. It’s a sweet time for our family to be together and remember what has happened over the year. I hope you have time, as you make your Thanksgiving plans, to gather around a table with your family and friends and share why you are thankful this year. If you're looking for tried and true traditional Thanksgiving dish, I'd love to share my family's favorites. Many blessings for a Happy Thanksgiving!

Aunt Sandra's Homemade Yeast Rolls

  • 3 ½ teaspoons rapid rise yeast (1 ½ pkgs)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups hot tap water – not boiling, but hot to the touch
  • ½ cup butter-flavored Crisco, melted
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick butter, melted

In a large bowl (or using an electric mixer with a dough hook) mix hot water, sugar, and salt. Add yeast and melted shortening. Slowly add the flour and mix until dough begins to form. Work the remaining flour into the dough with your hands (or with the mixer on low speed). Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a large bowl and cover with a clean dish cloth. Let the dough rise until doubled in size (about an hour) in a warm area of your kitchen. Punch down the dough and knead for five minutes. Prepare 2 rimmed cookie sheets by adding 4 tablespoons of melted butter to each. Tilt the sheets in all directions to coat the bottoms with the butter. Pinch off pieces of dough and shape into rolls. Lay the rolls on the buttered sheets, turning them over so that they're coated with butter on both sides. Let rolls rise another 30-45 minutes. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until brown. Enjoy immediately.

Cheesy Broccoli Casserole

(A slightly different take on the traditional green bean casserole)

  • 2 (16 oz) bags frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • 1 (10.75 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 (8 oz) carton sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 (6 oz) can French fried onions, divided

Preheat oven to350°F. Mix thawed broccoli, mushroom soup, sour cream, 1 ½ cups cheese, and 1 cup fried onions in a large bowl. Spread in a baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Stir well and continuing baking for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and uncover. Sprinkle with additional cheese and fried onions. Bake uncovered for another 10 minutes until onions are crisp and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

 

New Year's Wine Resolutions for 2015

Drink Better – It’s all about WHINE Down Time

Unlike most of the normal New Year’s resolutions that we routinely fail to stick to—lose weight, work out or save money, this year you can actually keep some of your resolutions by making them wine-related.  In other words, relax and enjoy some wine after work and tune out the ‘whining’!

Better Wine Storage

Stock up!  Most folks are getting rid of things during the first part of the new year. We suggest you add something to your inventory. Get a wine rack or even better, a wine refrigerator or cellar.  You’ll always know what you have on hand and available and your wine collection won’t waste away.

Drink More Broadly

Uncork or twist off the possibilities!  Broaden your horizons and try something different.  There are some really good wines coming from more parts of the world than ever before.  Have an open mind and dare to try something new and different. You never know what you might find, maybe even a new favorite!

What are your wine-drinking resolutions for 2015?  We’d like to sip and see them!