Savor The Season
Sugar and Spice and
Everything Naughty and Nice


By Victoria Scott


With this month's hustle and bustle, your overloaded schedule may be even more hectic than usual. Yet, even busy Triangle women crave the comfort and joy of hearth and home this season.

Holiday meals bring family and friends together to celebrate over food, whether it's warm-from-the-oven regulars or so-good-you-have-to-take-two treats.

Here are recipes from recent cookbooks featuring both traditional dishes as well as some that just could become the next family favorite.



Comfort Food Fix
Feel-Good Favorites Made Healthy

Published by John Wiley & Sons





Devilish Crab Dip
This dreamy, creamy, warm dip is loaded with succulent crab and has the perfect spicy kick. The addition of chopped spinach gives it a touch of beautiful color and a nutritional boost. It is so delicious that it will certainly be devoured before it has a chance to cool.

Nonstick cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large rib celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Neufchatel cheese (reduced-fat cream cheese; 4 ounces), at room temperature
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, like Tabasco
One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 pound lump crabmeat, drained and picked over for shells and cartilage
1 scallion, green part only, chopped

Move the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 1-quart shallow baking dish or 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, mustard, salt and hot pepper sauce into a food processor and process until smooth. Add the onion-celery mixture and pulse to combine. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.

Place the spinach into a strainer and press out as much liquid as you can. Stir the spinach into the cream cheese mixture, then gently fold in the crabmeat and scallion. Bake until heated through, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot with crackers and crudites.

Makes 12 servings

Stuffed Mushrooms
These mushrooms owe their mouthwatering sensibility to umami - the fifth taste that, loosely translated from Japanese, means "deliciousness." Sun-dried tomatoes, aged cheese and the mushrooms themselves are all umami heavy hitters. Together, they make for edible proof that you don't need lots of fat for flavor.

16 white button mushrooms (12 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Light-and-Crisp Whole-Wheat Breadcrumbs (recipe below)
3 sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted in hot water if very dry, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wipe the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Carefully remove the stems. Trim any tough ends from the stems and discard. Finely chop the remaining stems.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook until they release their liquid, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the bread crumbs, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes and stir until well combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.

Makes 4 servings


Light-and-Crisp Whole-Wheat Breadcrumbs
Homemade breadcrumbs are one of those "chef's secrets" - an important but often overlooked detail that can make a dish. These easy-to-make crumbs are flaky, mild and versatile - they don't have that heavy, whole-wheat taste and dense texture that most store-bought brands have. Since breadcrumbs are a comfort-food cornerstone used in everything from cutlet coatings to casserole toppings, it's key to have the best.

4 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread (about 1 ounce each)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the bread in a food processor and process until fine crumbs form, 25 to 30 seconds. Place the crumbs on a baking sheet, spreading them evenly. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Store the bread crumbs in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 4 servings

The Brisket Book
A Love Story With Recipes

Published by Andrews McMeel





My Mother's Brisket
A truly delectable brisket, this has the distinction of being the only recipe in this book where the lid on the baking pan is left ajar. If you prefer a richer sauce, substitute half beef broth and half wine for the water. Tip: It's really important for the flavor and the color of the finished sauce to slowly cook the onions until deep golden.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
One (5- to 6-pound) first-cut beef brisket
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 or 3 large cloves garlic, or to taste, minced
1 teaspoon paprika, preferably Hungarian

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a Dutch oven or other heavy baking pan large enough to hold the brisket, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the oven for 10 minutes. Pat the brisket dry and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast the brisket in the pan, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

While the brisket is roasting, in a large, heavy skillet cook the onions in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over moderately high heat, stirring, until they soften and begin to turn golden. Reduce the heat and cook the onions, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat if necessary, until deep golden, about 20 minutes more. Stir in the garlic, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Stir in 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Spoon the onion mixture over the brisket and bake, covered, with lid 1/2-inch ajar, until the brisket is fork-tender, about 3 1/2 hours. (Check the pan every hour; if necessary, add more water.) Remove the brisket from the oven and cool in the onion mixture for 1 hour.

Remove the brisket from the pan, scraping the onion mixture back into the pan, and chill, wrapped in aluminum foil, overnight. Spoon the onion mixture into a 1-quart measuring cup and chill, covered, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Discard the fat from the onion mixture, add enough water to the mixture to measure 3 cups total, if necessary, and in a blender blend the gravy until smooth. Trim the fat, then slice the brisket against the grain (thick or thin). In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the gravy until hot, add the brisket, cover with foil, and heat in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Makes 10-12 servings


My Former Best Friend's Ex-Mother-in-Law's Brisket
If you love your brisket bathed in a sweet, rich, thick tomato-y sauce, this is for you. When I got this recipe, I had never made a brisket before. And suddenly, I was a star. This takes next to no prep time, uses simple ingredients and always gets raves. I add fresh carrots for sweetness, texture and to assuage my guilt about using so many packaged ingredients. Tiny tips: The foil just adds an extra seal. And if the sauce is too thin at the end, just reduce it in a pan on top of the stove.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
One (3- to 4-pound) beef brisket, trimmed
1 cup red wine (something big and rich, like a Malbec)
1 cup Heinz chili sauce
1 cup Heinz ketchup
1 envelope Lipton dry golden onion soup mix
4 large carrots, peeled, trimmed and sliced on the bias into 1-inch pieces
Handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the brisket and brown on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a platter and set aside. In a bowl, combine the wine, chili sauce, ketchup and 1 cup of water and set aside.

Line an ovenproof, enameled cast-iron pot or other heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, just large enough to hold the brisket snugly, with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving enough overhang to seal over the brisket. Sprinkle half of the soup mix on the bottom of the foil, then top with the brisket. Sprinkle the remaining soup mix on top of the brisket. Pour the reserved liquid mixture on top of the brisket. Place the carrots around the brisket, making sure they are covered with the sauce. Sprinkle the parsley over everything.

Tightly seal the foil, encasing the brisket and all the other ingredients inside the packet. Cover the pot, then place in the oven and braise until fork-tender, about 3-1/2 hours. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and slice the meat against the grain to the desired thickness. Serve with the sauce and carrots

Makes 6-8 servings

The Ultimate Casseroles Book
More Than 400 Comfort Food classics

Published by John Wiley & Sons






Carolina Low Country Dressing
Although safe to eat and available year-round, oysters are always best in the winter months, when waters are cold.

1 pint shucked oysters
1/2 cup butter
1 stalk celery, (1/2 cup), chopped
1 medium onion, (1/2 cup), chopped
1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 cups crumbled corn bread (to make, prepare and bake two 8.5-ounce packages corn bread according to package directions)
Six 2-1/4-inch baked flaky biscuits, torn into bite-size pieces (about 3 cups)
1 cup cooked white or brown rice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain oysters, reserving liquid. Coarsely chop oysters.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add celery, onion, sage, salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes or until tender. Add chopped oysters. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more.

In an extra-large bowl, combine oyster mixture, corn bread, biscuits, rice and eggs. Toss just until combined. Drizzle with reserved oyster liquid and enough broth to moisten, tossing lightly to combine. Spoon into an ungreased, 3-quart, rectangular baking dish.

Cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover. Bake about 15 minutes more or until heated through and light brown. Dressing is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of mixture registers 170 degrees.

Makes 16 servings


Souffle Hoppin' John
Black-eyed peas, an essential ingredient in Hoppin' John, are a popular legume in the South. The small, beige bean has a black, circular "eye" at its inner curve. If using dried peas, you'll need to soak them before cooking.

1/2 chopped onion (1 medium)
1/2 cup finely chopped red sweet pepper (1 small)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or several dashes hot pepper sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk, half-and-half or light cream
2 egg yolks
2 cups cooked white rice
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas; or 2 cups frozen black-eyed peas, thawed; or one 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup finely chopped prosciutto or cooked ham
2 egg whites
1/3 cup snipped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 2-quart square baking dish; set aside.

For sauce, in a large saucepan, cook onion, on medium heat, until onion is tender. Stir in flour, cayenne and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Remove from heat.

Gradually stir about 1/4 cup of the sauce into egg yolks. Stir yolk mixture into the remaining sauce in saucepan. Stir in cooked rice, black-eyed peas and prosciutto.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold beaten egg whites into the rice mixture. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 10-12 servings


300 Best Potato Recipes
A Complete Cook's Guide

Published by Robert Rose






Classic Scalloped Spuds
I grew up with scalloped potatoes, not - great as they are - potatoes au gratin. There is something decidedly comforting about real scalloped potatoes, which are cooked at lower heat for a longer time, served perhaps with a clove-studded ham and buttered green cabbage.

6 tablespoons butter
6 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup (approximately) all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk
1 cup table or heavy or whipping cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a prepared baking dish, arrange a quarter of the potatoes in a single layer, scatter evenly with a quarter of the onion, dot with a quarter of the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Repeat three times. Place dish on prepared baking sheet.

In a bowl, combine milk and cream. Place baking sheet holding dish on center rack in preheated oven. Carefully pour milk mixture evenly over potato mixture to just cover (don't overfill). Loosely cover dish with parchment paper or buttered foil (it shouldn't touch the potatoes) and bake for 1 hour.

Uncover, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes or until potato mixture is golden brown and bubbling. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings


All-American Potato Pancakes
These easy-to-make griddle cakes use shredded cooked potato, so they have a different texture and are a little lighter than those made from raw potatoes.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
4 eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter
2-1/2 cups shredded, boiled, floury or all-purpose potatoes
Finely chopped onion and parsley to taste

Preheat oven to 140 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Mix well. Add milk and beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Continue to beat until batter is smooth. Beat in melted butter. Add potatoes and mix well.

Heat nonstick griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Ladle about ΒΌ cup batter onto hot griddle (do two at a time if you have room) and cook until bubbles form on top and pancake is beginning to dry around the edges, about 1 minute. Flip and cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 1 minute. Transfer to a platter and keep warm in preheated oven while you make the remaining pancakes. Serve hot.


Serves 2-4



Very Merry Cookies

Published by John Wiley & Sons






Gingerbread Cutouts
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 recipe Royal Icing (recipe below)
Decorative candies (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the molasses, egg and vinegar until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill dough about 3 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2-1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out dough into desired shape. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. If desired, decorate cookies with Royal Icing and candies.

Makes 36 to 48 cookies


Royal Icing
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 tablespoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 2-4 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, stir together powdered sugar, meringue powder and cream of tartar. Add 1/2 cup warm water and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, then on high speed for 7 to 10 minutes or until very stiff. Beat in 2 to 4 tablespoons additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make an icing of spreading consistency. If desired, tint portions of icing with food coloring.


Gingerbread People Cutouts

Prepare as directed, except roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 4-1/2 to 6-inch people-shape cookie cutter, cut out dough. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute.

To make ahead and store: Layer cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes about 18 cookies


"The Best" Sugar Cookies
2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 recipe Royal Icing - recipe included
Small decorative candies (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill dough about 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2-1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut dough into desired shapes. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until edges are very light brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. If desired, frost with Royal Icing and decorate with decorative candies.

To make ahead and store: Layer cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes about 36 cookies


Inside the Jewish Bakery
Recipes and Memories From the Golden Age of Jewish Baking

Published by Camino Books





Yeast-Raised Jelly Doughnuts
Although fried pastries, called "krapfen," were common in the Middle Ages, deep-frying was not an everyday cooking technique in traditional Jewish baking. However, doughnuts - along with other fried foods, such as potato latkes - were especially popular during Hanukkah, the holiday that commemorates the miracle of the light. Doughnut dough freezes especially well, and this recipe makes enough so that you can freeze some for later. Just place the frozen doughnuts on your frying screens, let thaw and proof, and fry as below.

1/2 cup shortening
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2-3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
2 large eggs, beaten
2-1/4 cups water
1-1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
6-2/3 cups bread flour, unsifted
2 tablespoons + 2-1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
Oil, for frying
Simple Icing (recipe below)

Put the shortening, sugar, salt and dry milk into a mixing bowl and blend until smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes if by hand, and about 4 to 5 minutes using the flat (paddle) beater at medium speed if by machine.

Beat the egg lightly and incorporate into the shortening mixture and continue blending until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes, then add the water and flavorings, mixing to form a slurry.

Reduce to low speed and slowly incorporate the flour and instant yeast, forming a smooth dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough forms a ball around the hook and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured board until it's no longer sticky, then form it into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic and ferment until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a moderately floured board, flour the top surface lightly but evenly to prevent sticking and punch down. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into balls of thickness 1/4- to 3/8-inch. Place the balls on frying screens or on sheets of parchment if you intend to freeze them. Gather, reroll and recut any scraps.

Preheat your frying oil to 350 to 375 degrees.

Proof until slightly less than doubled in size and when a finger gently pressed into the dough leaves an indentation that doesn't spring back, 45 to 60 minutes. Be very careful when you handle the doughnuts, as too much touching will result in a collapsed product. Don't under any circumstances transfer the doughnuts to the oil by hand.

Lower the frying screen with the doughnuts into the oil and fry until golden brown on the bottom. Turn the doughnuts using the handle of a wooden spoon or a pair of bamboo chopsticks and fry for another minute.

Lift the frying screen and the doughnuts out of the oil; let any excess oil run off and transfer to paper towels to drain.
When cool, use a pastry bag and plain tip to inject with jelly or other smooth filling and top with simple icing.

Makes about 3 dozen


Simple Icing
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/3 cups powdered sugar

Combine the water, light corn syrup and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Add the hot liquid gradually to the powdered sugar, stirring constantly until the icing reaches the desired consistency.

For chocolate icing, blend 3 to 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder with the sugar, then proceed as above.

For orange icing, substitute orange juice for the water.


100 Percent Cream Cheese Cheesecake
1 cup cake, cookie or graham cracker crumbs to line pan
4 cups cream cheese, cut or broken into walnut-size lumps
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
2-1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup egg, beaten
1/3 cup light cream
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with the baking surface in the middle of the oven. Generously grease the sides and bottom of a 9 x 2-inch round cake pan and apply a thick coating of cake or graham cracker crumbs by putting the crumbs inside the greased pan and moving them around so they adhere to the grease.

In a large saucepan or stockpot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Put the cream cheese, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl and cream until smooth, either by hand or at lowest speed with the flat (paddle) beater of a stand mixer.
Add the beaten egg in four to five parts, mixing thoroughly after each addition until evenly blended. Add the cream and flavorings with the final addition of egg. Note: Keep your mixing speed low to avoid incorporating any air into the custard, since bubbles will create brown spots on the top surface of the cake during baking.

Place in the oven a pan large enough and deep enough to accommodate the cake pan - a turkey roaster is ideal. Fill the cake pan with the batter to within 1/4-inch of the top and carefully place it in the larger pan, then carefully add the boiling water to the roasting pan to within 1/2-inch of the top of the cake pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the edge of the cake turns medium brown and pulls away from the pan when lightly touched.

Remove the cake to a rack and let it cool for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. To remove from the pan, cover the cake with a piece of parchment and a plate or baking sheet, then turn it upside down. Put your serving platter on the bottom of the cake and flip it over once more. Top with cherry or berry filling if desired. Refrigerate until serving.

Makes one 9-inch round cake

Cherry or Berry Filling
1 to 1-1/4 cups canned or thawed frozen berries or sour cherries
2/3 cup apple juice, white grape juice or water
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup Instant ClearJel, cornstarch or arrowroot powder
3-4 drops red food coloring, if desired

If using canned, look for fruit packed in juice or light syrup. Drain the fruit into a strainer and reserve the liquid. Add juice and water, if necessary, to bring the liquid to the required amount. Add the food coloring, if desired, and stir to blend.

Thicken the liquid. If using Instant ClearJel, blend the sugar and Instant ClearJel evenly in a separate bowl (Note: This must be done in order to avoid clumping and the formation of white flecks in the topping.) Add the mixture to the cold liquid in a thin but steady stream, stirring constantly until thickened, less than 1 minute.

If using cornstarch or arrowroot, reserve 1/4 cup of liquid and put the remainder in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the cornstarch or arrowroot, mixed with the reserved liquid, and return the liquid to a simmer, stirring constantly until thickened, 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the fruit and stir to blend. If cooked, let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate any unused portion.

Makes about 2 cups