Gingerbread Cookies

We enjoyed having friends over to decorate giant gingerbread people Рcandy, icing, sprinkles, the works! It was much less work than houses for our age group.

So I was in search of the perfect gingerbread cookie recipe and I think this one is pretty close! The recipe I adapted it from received great reviews but after reading them and reading the recipe, I adjusted the spices. So, this is my version of gingerbread.

I rolled these out but I’m also thinking you could form them into balls, dip the bottom of a cup in sugar and flatten the cookies before baking. If you do the latter, I think the refrigeration time would matter less.

These make your house smell wonderful and they are truly delicious – not too sweet. It was so fun making memories with my kids and their friends as they decorated their people. Their cookies were be-decked with candy – too cute! My examples are not nearly as cute. ūüôā

GINGERBREAD COOKIES
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3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground allspice
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp/ salt
1/4 tsp. freshly milled black pepper
2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
2/3 c. unsulfured molasses
1 large egg

Position the racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper into a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In a large mixer, beat the butter and vegetable shortening until well-combined, about 1 minute.  Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and egg.  Gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough.  Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until chilled Рat least 3 hours.  (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)

To roll out the cookies, work with one disk at a time, keeping the other disk refrigerated.¬† Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking, about 10 minutes. (If the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours, it may need a few more minutes.) Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.¬† Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick, being sure that the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface (run a long meal spatula or knife under the dough occasionally just to be sure, and dust the surface with more flour, if needed).¬† For softer cookies, roll out slightly thicker (about 1/4 inch or a little less).¬† Using cookie cutters (or these templates – I printed the large boy and girl¬†on cardstock and cut around them), cut out the cookies and transfer to nonstick cookie sheets, placing the cookies 1 inch apart.¬† Gently knead the scraps together and form into another disk.¬† Wrap and chill for 5 minutes before rolling if it is sticking and then cut out more cookies.

Bake until the edges of the cookies are set and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely.  Decorate as desired.  (The cookies can be prepared up to 1 week ahead, stored in airtight containers at room temperature.) Makes about 3 dozen depending on size of the cookies.

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Cocoa Thumbprints

Welcome to our week-long Christmas treats extravaganza! Our focus will be on chocolate, but we might sneak something else in as well. We hope you find plenty of inspiration for your holiday baking!

I enjoy a good jam-filled thumbprint cookie. Last year I made lovely little butter thumbprint cookies. This year I was imagining a chocolate cookie base with a berry jam center. And what do I find in the December issue of Food Network Magazine? That’s right, Cocoa Thumbprints!

I tinkered with the recipe a bit to make them gluten-free. I cut-back on the sugar by a couple of Tablespoonfuls. And I used a slightly sweet, four-fruit jam as the center. Oh my, these are tasty!

As usual, if you are not gluten-free, feel free to substitute all-purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum.

COCOA THUMBPRINTS
(slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine, Dec. 2011)
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1 1/2 c. gluten-free all-purpose flour
scant 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. confectioner’s sugar (for rolling)
1/4 c. granulated sugar (for rolling)
favorite jam (for filling)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, scant 3/4 cup sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum. Add the melted butter and eggs and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325¬įF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the confectioner’s sugar and the granulated sugar in two separate bowls. Roll scant Tablespoonfuls of dough into balls. Roll each in granulated sugar and then in confectioner’s sugar. Place 1-inch apart on baking sheets.

Make a deep indentation with thumb in each cookie. Place 1/2 teaspoon of jam in the indentation. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and slightly cracked. Let cool 3 minutes on the baking sheet. Then transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled.

Gluten-Free Pie Crust

If you are new to the gluten-free lifestyle, the holidays may seem rather daunting. However, this time of year can be joyful in the kitchen for you as well. You don’t have to pass up on all desserts. If you have a favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, you can very often substitute one-for-one by replacing all-purpose wheat flour, with your gluten-free mix. For some recipes you will need to add a little xanthan gum for texture, but that’s about it.

And, if you love pie, I’m here to share my favorite pie crust recipe. I’ve posted this before, but thought now would be a great time to remind you how possible it is to live gluten-free. This recipe is quite simple and freezes well, if you want make several batches to have on hand. I’ve served this to gluten eaters and they don’t notice a difference. So, go ahead, eat a piece of pie this holiday season!

TRADITIONAL PIE CRUST
(from The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook)
Print This Recipe

1 c. + 2 Tbsp Brown Rice Flour Mix*
2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces (don’t use margarine)
1 large egg
2 tsp orange juice or lemon juice

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together the flours, sugar, xanthan gum and salt. Add the butter and mix until the mixture is crumbly and resembles a coarse meal.

Add the egg and orange juice. Mix on low speed until the dough holds together; it should not be sticky. Form the dough into a ball using your hands and place on a sheet of wax paper. Top with a second sheet of wax paper and flatten the dough into a 1-inch thickness. Roll out the dough (if it seems tacky, refrigerate for 15 minutes). Remove top wax paper and invert into 9-inch pie pan. Remove second sheet of wax paper and crimp the edges. Fill with desired filling.

Makes 1 9-inch pie crust.

*Brown Rice Flour Mix: 2 c. Brown rice flour; 2/3 c. Potato starch (not potato flour!); 1/3 c. Tapioca flour.

 

Sage Squash

Squash is such a fall speciality. It is featured in recipes and in decorations. It evokes feeling of fall, warmth, and comfort and there are SO many varieties. As Steph and I wandered through the farmer’s market, we admired many squash¬†and finally settled on a buttercup squash. It was a new one for both of us. While I prefer delicata and perhaps butternut¬†squast¬†over the buttercup, I did really enjoy this recipe. You could successfully substitute your favorite squash in this recipe.

If you are looking for a new side dish or a different way of preparing squash, then you will surely enjoy this. It is simple but delicious and certainly fancy enough for your holiday feasting.

SAGE SQUASH
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1 Squash of your choice (about 3 -4 cups cubed)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. butter, melted
Salt & pepper to taste
2 Tb. butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 tsp. fresh sage
1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Peel and cube the squash. Toss with olive oil, 1 tsp. melted butter, salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper). Roast until tender about 15-20 minutes.

Melt 2 Tb. butter in a sauté pan. Add onion and cook until tender. Add sage and rosemary and a little more butter if needed and sauté until fragrant and onion is lightly browned. Add roasted squash and gently toss to coat with butter onion mixture. Garnish with more sage if desired.

 

Roasted Radishes

I would not characterize myself as a big fan of radishes. Sometimes I enjoy them, sometimes I find them too strong. I have mostly (maybe always?!) eaten them raw. Radishes grow best in cooler weather (early spring or fall) and the tops are edible also. They are easy to store and there are a number of varieties. We’ve grown them in our garden and I have used them in salads or on a crudites tray with dip.

When I saw a recipe for roasted radishes, I knew I had to try them. It was easy and best of all, I really couldn’t stop eating them. They were delicious! I tried them with and without¬†a squeeze of lemon juice and never did decide which I preferred. They were good¬†hot from the oven and still good at room temperature.¬†These would be such a unique addition to your holiday table. The colors are gorgeous and so festive!

ROASTED RADISHES
Print This Recipe

1 bunch of radishes
1 Tb. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh lemon juice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 1/4 or 1/8th the radishes depending on their size. Toss the radishes with the butter, salt, and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Squeeze lemon over all if desired.

Party Snacks

It’s that time of year with parties and gatherings galore!¬† In honor of New Year’s Eve tomorrow evening, I offer you two simple and delicious snack ideas. Neither of these are super sweet, but both are quite satisfying and a nice addition to a party spread.

I occasionally peruse the blog Nourishing Gourmet, and not too long ago she offered this spiced nut recipe. I love spiced nuts, but was happy to find a recipe not so laden with sugar, so I don’t have to feel guilty while indulging a little bit! These would also make a lovely gift, if you were so inclined.

CINNAMON VANILLA SPICED NUTS
(from The Nourishing Gourmet)
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1 egg white
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 c. sugar (sucanat, coconut sugar, maple sugar are all alternatives to refined sugar that work just fine here)
2 1/2 c. nuts (I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 300¬įF. Lightly oil a baking sheet or cover with parchment paper.

Lightly beat the egg white with a whisk just until a bit foamy. Stir in the cinnamon, vanilla, salt and sugar. Add the nuts and stir to coat well.

Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon (allowing extra coating to drip out), and spread out in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove and cool for 20 minutes. Can store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

This recipe came from the December issue of Cooking Light and was frankly the only recipe I found of any particular interest. I did scale the sweetener back a little bit and thought it perfect, like slightly spicy caramel corn. I also decided we weren’t eating the whole batch the night I made it, so I did pop this in the oven for 10 minutes at 250¬įF to dry it out just a little bit so I could store it without lots of clumping. We happily consumed the leftovers the next day in our lunches.

SPICY MAPLE-CASHEW POPCORN
(from Cooking Light, December 2010)
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1 Tbsp canola or coconut oil
1/4 c. popcorn kernels (about 6c. popped)
1/4 c. dry-roasted cashews
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat oil in a pan and pop the popcorn. (I use a Whirlypop Pan, but you can use a traditional pan, just make sure you shake often as it’s popping.)

Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Stir the cashews into popped corn.

Combine sugar, maple syrup, butter, salt and cayenne in a small pan; bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool 1 minute.

Pour hot syrup over popcorn mixture. Toss to coat. Immediately spread onto prepared pan. Cool 3 minutes. Enjoy!

Baker’s Delight: Pie

(Alaina) This past week, my November Martha Stewart Living arrived – it’s a new subscription for me. The cover had delicious looking pies. So when I wanted to try a new pie to suggest for the blog, I turned to this issue. I selected the Pear Streusel which is actually a pear and cranberry pie. It is fabulous. Perfect balance of flavors – sweet and tart.

PEAR STREUSEL PIE
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, November 2010)
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1 recipe single pie crust

FOR THE CRANBERRY SAUCE
6 oz. fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (1 1/2 cups )
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. packed light-brown sugar (I did a little less)
3/4 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Coarse salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

FOR THE FILLING
1 1/2 lb. firm, ripe pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/4 c. granulated sugar
Coarse salt
2 Tb. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Make the crust: Roll out dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp edges. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the cranberry sauce: Bring cranberries, granulated sugar, water, and cinnamon to a simmer in a pot. Cook until cranberries are tender and start to burst and sauce is thick, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the streusel: Whisk together flour, brown sugar, oats, ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until combined and mixture resembles coarse meal with some large pieces remaining. Refrigerate.

Make the filling: Mix together pears, granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, the flour, and lemon juice. Stir in cooled cranberry sauce.

Transfer filling to crust; top with streusel. Bake until filling is bubbling in the center and top is golden, about 1 hour and 10-20 minutes. Let cool.

(Stephanie) As requested, I’m sharing my pumpkin pie recipe,which is actually my mom’s recipe. When I made this pie, I made a gluten-free pie crust. This was my first venture into gluten-free pies and I was happy with the recipe I found in The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook by Annalise Roberts.

MOM’S PUMPKIN PIE
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1 9-inch pie crust (unbaked)
16-oz can pumpkin
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1-1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2-1 tsp ginger
1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4-1/2 tsp cloves
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 c. evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 425¬į. Prepare pie crust and set aside.

Thoroughly combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, and spices. Blend the eggs and evaporated milk into the pumpkin mixture.

Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425¬į for 15 minutes.¬† Then decrease oven to 350¬į and bake for 35-45 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

TRADITIONAL PIE CRUST
(from The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook)
Print This Recipe

1 c. + 2 Tbsp Brown Rice Flour Mix*
2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces (don’t use margarine)
1 large egg
2 tsp orange juice or lemon juice

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together the flours, sugar, xanthan gum and salt. Add the butter and mix until the mixture is crumbly and resembles a coarse meal.

Add the egg and orange juice. Mix on low speed until the dough holds together; it should not be sticky. Form the dough into a ball using your hands and place on a sheet of wax paper. Top with a second sheet of wax paper and flatten the dough into a 1-inch thickness. Roll out the dough (if it seems tacky, refrigerate for 15 minutes). Remove top wax paper and invert into 9-inch pie pan. Remove second sheet of wax paper and crimp the edges. Fill with desired filling.

Makes 1 9-inch pie crust.

*Brown Rice Flour Mix: 2 c. Brown rice flour; 2/3 c. Potato starch (not potato flour!); 1/3 c. Tapioca flour.

Here are some previous ideas!
Rustic Apple Tart
Cranberry Blueberry Pie
French Silk Pie
Cranberry Chess Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin White Chocolate Cheesecake

Gluten-free Walnut & Pecan Tart

Thanksgiving Sides

The traditonal Thanksgiving menu can be updated and brightened with some new variations on side dishes!

(Alaina) This green bean recipe is adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe. It is delicious and I plan to make it for our celebration. I like that it is served at room temperature and the vinaigrette adds great flavor. I wasn’t sure about the mint but it added a whole flavor profile that was amazing.

GREEN BEANS w/TOASTED WALNUTS & CRANBERRY VINAIGRETTE
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1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 c. minced red onion
3 Tb. plus 2 tsp. Champagne Vinegar
2 Tb. chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. black pepper plus additional (for sprinkling)
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1 1/2 lb. trimmed slender green beans (such as haricots verts)
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted, chopped

Whisk first 6 ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Mix in dried cherries; set aside. DO AHEAD Vinaigrette can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature; whisk before using.

Fill large bowl with water and ice; set aside. Cook green beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl with ice water; cool. Drain. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in paper towels; enclose in resealable plastic bag and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before continuing.Toss green beans, walnuts, and vinaigrette in large bowl. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Transfer to platter and serve.

(Stephanie) We are big fans of broccoli around here and I’m always looking for new variations.¬† This is a tasty, slightly sweet/slightly tangy recipe I created. Feel free to mess around with the honey and mustard quantities to suit your taste.

ROASTED BROCCOLI AND PEARL ONIONS w/ BACON AND HONEY MUSTARD
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2 heads broccoli separated into large florets
6 oz frozen pearl onions
4 slices bacon
1 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
water (optional)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400¬į. In a large bowl, drizzle melted butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil over broccoli and onions; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a greased baking pan and roast until fork-tender, about 25 minutes.¬† Place strips of bacon on baking pan and bake until crisp.

Mix together, remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, honey, dijon mustard, and minced garlic (if it seems to thick, thin down with a 1-2 tsp of water).

Drizzle honey mustard mixture of broccoli and onions, toss to coat.  Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Top with crumbled bacon.

Here are some Thanksgiving ideas from previous posts!
Roasted Sweet & Savory Squash
Mashed Potatoes & Turnips
Green Beans & Walnuts w/Lemon Vinaigrette

Real Creamed Corn Pudding
Catherine’s Streusel Cranberry Sweet Potatoes

Holiday Feast: Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner¬†is for many the major¬†food attraction of the entire holiday season. Every family has their own tradition — some may prefer a day of finger foods and snacks, while others go all out and prepare a second Thanksgiving feast. The important thing is¬†choosing a menu¬†that is¬†best for your family and your circumstances. We thought we’d each share some of what is traditional in our families.

In my family (Heather), Christmas dinner is a big event. Its menu is planned for weeks ahead and thought is given to setting the table with¬† festive tablecloth, napkins and a centerpiece. It is not set in stone what our menu will be. Creative reign is given to the host to decide if she would like to cook a turkey, ham, or some other form of meat. Why all the fuss? Our family loves sitting around the table sharing good food, enjoying lovely surroundings and one another’s company.

Last year I decided to make a stuffed pork loin for Christmas dinner. It was not difficult and provided a stunning centerpiece to the Christmas¬†dinner. This year I’m thinking ham, accompanied by a potato/parsnip gratin¬†(recipe yet to be created), spinach salad with grapefruit and maybe spiced pepitas, rolls, savory roasted sweet potatoes (if I have oven room), and chiffonade¬†of Brussel sprouts. Dessert will be cookies, eggnog and Christmas pudding (a simple recipe will appear on Dec. 24).

STUFFED PORK LOIN
(Heather)

1 boneless half roast pork loin (mine weighed about 5 pounds)

Stuffing:
4 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
salt & pepper
3 c. fresh white bread cubes (1/4-inch cubes)
1/8 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. water or broth

Glaze:
apricot jam
fresh rosemary, sage, thyme (about 1 Tbsp. each or 1 tsp. dried)

Gravy:
pan drippings
1/4 c. port or red wine (use water or apple juice as a substitute)
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. apricot jam (or apple jelly)
2 tsp. cornstarch

Melt butter in a saute pan and tip in onions and celery. Cook until onions are translucent. Add apple and cook until apple is beginning to go soft.

Meanwhile, cube bread and place in a large bowl. Add dried cranberries and chopped herbs. Mix in cooked apple and onion mixture and pour on enough broth to make the mixture come together.

Lay the pork loin on a cutting board and carefully begin cutting the loin in a spiral so that it unfolds to be flat.

Place kitchen twine at intervals underneath the pork loin and carefully pat on the stuffing.

Roll the pork loin up slowly, stuffing bits of bread back in as it falls out. Enlist the help of someone close by to help tie the twine as tightly as possible.

Place the pork loin in a roasting pan with the knots of the twine underneath. You can either cover and refrigerate up to one day, or bake the roast immediately.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F. Spread apricot jam on top of the pork loin and sprinkle with chopped herbs.

Roast uncovered in the 350F oven until instant read thermometer reads 160F (mine took about 2 hours). Remove the roast from the oven, transfer to a cutting board and cover with foil to keep warm while it rests.

Meanwhile, mix the pan drippings with the port, chicken broth and apricot jam. Bring to a boil. Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and add to the gravy. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until thickened and keep warm until ready to serve.

Slice the pork roast and lay on a platter, pouring the gravy over top or serving alongside.

Christmas dinner for my family (Alaina) can be anything from lasagna or soup to ham or beef. Traditionally, my grandparents have made ham and I’ll admit that is probably my favorite. I like to buy the spiral cut, semi-boneless, half ham. It’s usually fully cooked and I just heat it in the oven for a couple of hours depending on the size.

HONEY MUSTARD HAM GLAZE
(Alaina) 

1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. dijon mustard
2 Tb. prepared yellow mustard

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat. Brush glaze over the entire ham about 30 minutes before it is finished in the oven. Carve & enjoy!

Finding the perfect side dishes can be a challenge. Here are two side dishes that we really enjoy with ham! The first is a twice baked potato recipe that is a beautiful presentation and tastes so wonderful!

TWO-TONE TWICE BAKED POTATOES
(this is a recipe my Mom first made – Alaina)

4 lg baking potatoes (8 servings)
vegetable oil
2 Tb.butter
¬Ĺ c. sour cream
¬ľ c. milk
¬Ĺ tsp. salt
¬ľ tsp. pepper
1 Tb. Chives (opt.)

Rub potatoes with oil and place in baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until tender. Cool completely. Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp leaving ¬ľ in. shell; set shells aside.

In mixing bowl combine pulp, butter, sour cream, & milk; beat until creamy. Stir in salt, pepper, and 1 Tb. Chives. Spoon or pipe filling into half of each prepared shell.

SWEET POTATO FILLING
4 medium sweet potatoes
¬ľ c. sour cream or plain yogurt
2 Tb. Butter
2 Tb. Brown sugar
¬Ĺ tsp. nutmeg
¬ľ tsp. cinnamon
¬ľ tsp. salt

Bake or peel and boil sweet potatoes until tender. Put pulp in large bowl and add sour cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Whip until creamy and smooth. Pipe sweet potato in the other half of the prepared potato shells.

Return potatoes to baking pan ‚Äď bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned.

*These can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to a couple of months.*

THREE CHEESE SPINACH BAKE
(adapted from Taste of Home – Alaina)

1 c. flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. milk
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 med. onion, finely diced
2 Tb. Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 c. monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

In a lg. bowl, whisk the flour, eggs, milk, butter, onion, Parmesan, garlic, salt and cayenne until combined. Fold in spinach and other cheese. Transfer to a greased 1 1/2 qt. dish.

Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes of until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

The final recipe is for an appetizer. I came up with this because it combined flavors that I love.

CHERRY ALMOND BRIE EN CROUTE
(Alaina)

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 20 oz. wheel of brie
1/2 c. cherry jam
1/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1 egg, beaten

Roll out the puff pastry into a square (about 12×12 or a little smaller). Cut the wheel of brie horizontally. Place half of the brie rind side down on the puff pastry. Top with cherry jam, sprinkle with the almonds.

Place the other half of the brie on top (cut side down). Pull the puff pastry up around the brie. Brush the top with the beaten egg.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until puff pastry is golden and cheese is soft. Serve with crackers.