Sunday, December 26, 2010


Christmas Eve at Moms
Christmas Day in D.C.
Baking Christmas Cookies

I still have not posted my blog about Thanksgiving, but I'm going to skip that for now and move straight on to Christmas in Cleveland. I'm from there so we drive up at Thanksgiving and Christmas each year to be with my family. We traditionally do Christmas Eve with my family and then on the way home, we stop in the D.C. area to spend the morning and part of the afternoon with my husband's family.

My Mom just celebrated her 80 something birthday (not sure she'd want me to post her real age here so I won't). But she still makes a beautiful Christmas for us and gets most of it done before any of us arrives. My sister took her grocery shopping the day before and usually helps her get the house cleaned up, vacuuming, etc. Downstairs Mom had already set a beautiful festive table. Upstairs, she had already decorated her tree and wrapped and arranged all the goodies she had for everyone. Most of the dinner was well on its way too. We spent the day cooking and preparing everything together. There was ham, turkey, salmon, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, red cabbage, cornbread bake, pickled beets with onions and horseradish, and broccoli with cheese sauce. She also made home made cheddar cheese stuffed bread shaped like a Christmas tree! Of course there were also appetizers. Pickled white asparagus spears with olives, Crab Tartlets, shrimp cocktail, and cheese and crackers.

There were no "special" recipes for the ham, or the turkey or the salmon. The turkey we simply salted and sprinkled with rosemary. The ham baked until it was hot, and the salmon .. only salt and lemon pepper. My mom likes to cut the salmon into big chunks so that the servings are small. That way there's less waste if someone takes a whole piece and doesn't eat it. Happens a lot with the little ones. The broccoli was simply steamed and we used a can of Campbell's Cheddar Cheese soup thinned down with a little half and half to make the cheese sauce. No special recipes, but oh, so delicious!

But the Crab Tartlets we made from scratch with a little help from some store bought biscuits. You can also find the recipe at

My Mom used a muffin top baking pan to make these, so they were much larger than the recipe calls to make them. My niece referred to them as little crab pizzas! We rolled out the biscuit halves to be about 5 inches across and then pressed them into the muffin top pan. This allowed for 1 tart per person, where the smaller ones would allow for 3 - 4 per person for 10 - 12 people. You can use the kind you would use to make tiny quiche, which is the kind of pan the recipe calls for.

Crab Tartlets
2 - 12 oz. biscuits
1 -8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 -6 oz. can crab meat drained
2 T. mayo
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. shredded cheddar
2 T thinly sliced green onions
1 t. worcestershire sauce
2 T. Roasted red peppers, chopped (Optional)
pinch paprika for garnish

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Separate the biscuits and pull each one in half to make two rounds. Insert them into a tart pan and press to fit into cups. Set aside the prepared tart shells.

In a medium bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients except for the paprika. Mix thoroughly. Fill each tart with about 1 T of filling, or 2-3 T if you are using a larger crust and spread to cover the top of the tart leaving a small edge like you see in the picture above.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the crusts are golden brown. These were delicious! I recommend them for any gathering where you want some finger food! If anyone has allergy to shellfish, you can always substitute with imitation crab meat, but read the label to make sure there are no other shellfish products in it. Garnish the hot tartlets with a little paprika. (If you use the roasted red peppers in your recipe, you won't need to garnish with paprika, they will have a nice rosy color from the peppers.)

My niece brought eggnog cupcakes with rum eggnog frosting! Oh my! Mom also served pumpkin ice cream for anyone who wanted it!

We always have such fun when we get together and Christmas Eve 2010 was no exception! Thanks Mom!

The next morning we left at 5:30 a.m. to drive to the D.C. area to spend some time with my in-laws. The weather was pretty dicey so we didn't get there until around 11:30. We have such fun with them too! My sister in law had lots of lovely hearty appetizers -- a big spiral ham for small sandwiches, spanakopeta, mini quiche, ham and cheese crescent rolls that my other sister in law makes every year.

Ham and Cheese Crescent Rolls

Take a package of crescent rolls (you could use the reduce fat ones). Separate them into 4 rectangles (leave two wedges together.) Lay a piece of swiss cheese and a slice of ham on the rectangle. Roll it up as tightly as you can and slice the roll into about 4-5 pieces. Place them cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake until golden about 8 - 10 minutes. I recommend using parchment paper so the cheese doesn't stick.

She can't make enough of these and she can't make them fast enough. As soon as they come off the cookie sheet, they are GONE! and someone is standing in front of the oven waiting for the next batch. I think she makes 6 cookie sheets full of them! There were also lots of yummy cookies. My sister-in-law's mother-in-law made ..... I don't know what they were called so I tried to find it on the internet. I think they may be called Praline Graham Cracker Cookies.

So Good They Hurt!
About 15 Chocolate (or regular) Graham Crackers squares
Sliced Almonds (some recipes use pecans and/or choc chips)
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter (2 sticks)

Grease a cookie sheet lightly or line with foil.
Cover they cookie sheet with regular or chocolate Graham Crackers. (She used chocolate). Melt the brown sugar with the butter. Sprinkle the tops of the crackers with almond slices. Pour the melted butter and sugar over the crackers. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until bubbly in a 325 oven. Careful not to burn the sugar! Before they get too cool, use a pizza cutter to cut the graham squares apart. They will just break into pieces if you let them cool too much before cutting.

Anyway, I ate too much while I was there. :( But it was worth it. And just like at my Mom's house, we had a really nice time.

Baking Cookies!

About a week before Christmas I baked cookies too. A friend and I each baked a few kinds and then shared. It was a lot of fun to bake together. I used to do that years and years ago with a friend in Cleveland, and then for years, I baked by myself. Over 100 dozen (8 - 10 kinds) each year. I packed up big boxes for gifts. But of course it's much more fun to bake with someone else. We drank eggnog (ahem) and coffee and sampled cookies as they came out of the oven. I baked Brown Sugar Chocolate Chips, Jam Thumbprints, Coconut Macaroons with Cherries and Viennese Almond Crescents. My friend made Butterscotch Coconut, Sugar Cookies, Chocolate with White Chips, and No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter (these are more like fudge than cookies).

All in all it was a wonderful Christmas. I'm looking forward to New Year's Eve when I can start working seriously on my New Year's Resolution -- A New Attitude! A better me inside and out - sleeker and sassier than ever! I've already lost a few pounds, but I'll work on losing a few more. I'll keep doing my yoga and line dancing classes. Now if I can just stay away from the Christmas Cookies!

Friday, December 10, 2010


Home from work last night and digging through the fridge and freezer to figure out what to make. Half a bag of home grown, frozen lima beans. Half a bag of frozen corn. Frozen salmon steaks. Wasn't sure what I'd do with it, but at first it was just going to be sauteed salmon with steamed veggies. I wanted something a little more .... comforting. I looked in the frig again and found about two cups of leftover rice. It came to me.

Let's start right off by saying that if you don't like lima beans, substitute green beans or peas. If you don't like salmon, substitute a nice meaty white fish like cod, tilapia or even catfish. If you don't like any of these ingredients, well, just click away and go to your e-mail or Facebook Page and check in on what's going on. We happen to love vegetables of all kinds and we love salmon. This was surprisingly yummy, and easy peasy!

3 T. Butter
2 T. all purpose flour or rice flour
1 c. low fat milk
1 c. low sodium, low fat chicken broth (you can use water, just add more seasoning to the finished sauce.)
1 T. oyster sauce
about 2 c. frozen lima beans
about 2 c. of frozen corn
about 2 c. cooked rice

4 - 4 oz. pieces of salmon (you could substitute a nice meaty white fish like cod)
salt pepper
4 T. flour or rice flour
3 T. olive or canola oil for frying

For the sauce: In a microwave proof container, mix the milk and chicken broth. Warm until just steaming. Not too hot. You need this liquid to be warm or the sauce you will make has a good chance of being lumpy. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for a minute or two. Now quickly whisk in the warm milk. Let the mixture come back to a boil, when it will reach its full thickness. Add more liquid if its too thick. If too thin, don't worry about it, it'll be fine. You have just made a Bechemel Sauce (basic white sauce).

Add the oyster sauce. If you don't have any oyster sauce, I suppose a little soy sauce might work. But oyster sauce has such a wonderful, complex flavor, you should invest in a bottle. I keep one in the fridge all the time. Great in soups, stews and stir fries. It keeps practically forever. You can use it in lots of dishes to add a depth of flavor that you won't believe!

OK, now that the sauce is made, it should be about the same thickness as creamed corn from a can. Add the frozen corn and lima beans and let them simmer over low heat in the sauce while you prepare the salmon.

Place a large skillet on medium high heat with the olive or canola oil. Make sure the salmon is thawed well if it was frozen, and dry. Pat them well with paper towels. Now sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dredge them in the flour. Lay each one on a paper plate or paper towel while you prepare all the pieces. When they have all been seasoned and dredged, test the oil in the skillet. Dust a little flour into the oil. It should foam right up. If it does, add the salmon and sautee for about 2 minutes on each side. A little longer if your pieces are thicker or bigger. They should get a little browned, and will cook quickly.

While they are cooking, add the rice to the sauce with the lima beans and corn. Continue cooking the sauce long enough to warm the rice. When the fish is done. Turn off the heat on everything and remove the fish to a plate.

Place a nice serving of the creamy succotash on a plate and place a piece of salmon on top.

Makes 4 servings (with leftover Creamy Succotash).