Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday Food & Drinks

Tis the season to host parties and have no idea what have for food and drinks! I don't know about you but I'm tired of the store bought egg nog, and the cider that is just too watered down. So I looked up some holiday drink ideas for you.

Homemade Eggnog-This is so simple to make from scratch -- and so much fresher tasting and satisfying when you do! At my local market, I buy Ronnybrook Farms brand milk and cream, which makes a huge difference with their thick texture and deep flavor. I even substitute skim milk for whole milk!6 egg yolks½ pound superfine Sugar½ quart milk½ quart heavy cream1 tablespoon vanilla¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg½ teaspoon ground cinnamon½ teaspoon ground dry gingerzest from ½ orange½ quart rum (optional)In a bowl, gently whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Whisk in the milk, cream, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and orange zest. For best results, make the mix the day before and allow to "rest" overnight in the refrigerator. Strain before serving if you like a smoother texture.

Mulled Cider-A "straight" apple cider, labeled "sweet," is often made from mixed varieties of apples and sometimes enriched with crab apples, which offer an additional boost of pectin to thicken the cider and a tart flavor that makes it more refreshing to drink. "Hard" cider has been left to ferment and is considered an alcoholic beverage. For this recipe, I like a cloudy and murky sweet cider.1 quart apple cider10 whole cloves5 large cinnamon sticks½ teaspoon nutmeg¼ cup dark brown sugar1 knob fresh ginger, peeled and pricked with a forkzest from ½ lemon1 apple, such as Macoun or McIntosh varieties, washed, cored, and dicedHeat the cider on the stove until hot but not boiling. Add all of the other ingredients (except the lemon zest) and stir to blend. Bring to a gentle simmer over low heat. Remove the ginger (and whole spices, if desired). Add the lemon zest and diced apple. Serve immediately!

Quick Grape Spritzer- I get wonderful local grape juices at my market at the same stand where I buy my grapes. I especially like white grape juice for this recipe, but anything will work!1 quart chilled grape juice1 tablespoon honey2 cups chilled seltzer or naturally sparkling water24 to 30 grapes, stemmed, washed, and frozen Mix the grape juice and honey together. Fill some glasses ¾ full with grape juice and top with the sparkling water. Drop a few grapes into each glass for a festive garnish that doubles as an ice cube!

Now that the drinks are served, you have some time to make some food. I found everything from appetizers to main courses and desserts. Here are some of the many I found.

Ham & Cheese Calzones.

1 (11 ounce) can refrigerated soft breadsticks
1/2 cup KRAFT Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
12 slices OSCAR MAYER Shaved Honey Ham
2 tablespoons KRAFT 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Unroll dough; separate into 12 breadsticks. Cut each breadstick crosswise in half; flatten dough to 2-inch width.
Spoon 1 tsp. cheese onto center of each ham piece. Fold ham over cheese to create a tight roll. Place ham roll near the end of each piece of breadstick dough, leaving a border. Fold dough over ham, pinching edges to seal. Repeat process for all ham pieces. Place calzones on baking sheet. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake 12 to 15 min. or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Yield: 24 servings

Make sure ham and cheese are completely enclosed to prevent cheese from leaking.

Penne with Roasted Butternut Squash and Ham


2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons dried sage
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup half-and-half
3 scallions including green tops, chopped
3/4 pound penne
1/4 pound sliced smoked ham, such as Black Forest, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup grated Parmesan


Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put the squash on a large baking sheet and toss with the oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, and sage. Spread the squash out in a single layer. Roast, turning occasionally, until tender and starting to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, stir together the mascarpone, half-and-half, scallions, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the penne until just done, about 13 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta-cooking water and drain. Return the pasta to the hot pan. Stir in the squash, mascarpone sauce, and ham. If the sauce seems too thick, add some of the reserved pasta-cooking water. Serve topped with the Parmesan.
Yield: 4 servings

Variations: Instead of butternut squash, roast cubes of another winter squash, such as pumpkin or acorn squash--or try roasting cubed sweet potatoes.

So sit back and enjoy this holiday season with these wonderful reciepes.


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