FOOD - DECEMBER 1995
by Betty Thompson
It's handy at this time of year to have a quick dessert or do-ahead that is homemade, looks pretty, tastes delicious and requires little effort.
Years ago I was under the impression that one had to spend lots of time and dirty lots of dishes to have something presentable. Not so. I keep a few supplies in the freezer for last-minute preparations.
My favorites are frozen berries, nuts, angel cake, pound cake, short cake cups and cookies -- such as amaretti, Stella D'oro Anisette or Almond Toast, and chocolate wafers. A few handy shelf items include canned pie filling, apricot or raspberry jam and graham cracker crumbs. With a few items on hand one can make a quick dessert with a minimum amount of shopping, work and dishes.
One very easy dessert with many variations is flavored whipped cream:
Easy Grasshopper Parfaits are made using whipped cream flavored with two tablespoons green creme de menthe and a tablespoon white creme de cacao and layered with chocolate cookie pieces. Add a few cut pieces of marshmallow to all of the cream mixtures. They add sweetness, but more importantly they contribute volume and gelatin to help keep the cream suspended.
Spoon some cookie crumbs in a parfait glass or foil-lined cupcake papers and top with flavored whipped cream and freeze. Pile the mixture high, as it shrinks when frozen. Freeze filled cupcake papers in muffin pans and after frozen remove to a box or plastic container. Wrap or cover well.
A tart and refreshing holiday frozen dessert, which is very easy but must be mixed and frozen ahead, is Cranberry Pineapple Frost. A combination of freshly ground cranberries, crushed pineapple and cream is frozen in juice or soup cans or baby foil loaf tins. This makes it easy to pull out small amounts and the slices look pretty.
When ready to serve, cut out the bottom of the can, and push the roll through and slice into rounds or tip out of the loaf tins and slice.
Our favorite fast dessert during the holidays is Cheese Delights. These beautiful little unbaked cheese cakes topped with a spoonful of cherry or blueberry pie filling can be put together in the length of time it takes to whip the cream cheese.
If the addition of a raw egg is a concern, coddle the egg (dip it in the shell in boiling water) for 30 to 45 seconds. Puncture a hole in the fat end of the egg first so the shell does not crack when it hits the boiling water.
I use graham cracker crumbs, sometimes flavored with a little cinnamon or nutmeg, in the small cupcake size. I use larger crushed cookies such as the Almond or Anise toast layered in the parfait glasses.
More cookie pieces fill the glass so the portion of cheese cake is a reasonable amount for one serving. Another variation is to spoon the cream cheese mixture into prepared shortcakes and top with pecans and rum-flavored caramel sauce.
Note that all of these desserts are prepared so that one can use dessert for one or more. Amounts are already portioned out so serving is easy. There is no baking and no crusts to be mixed and formed.
It's important to pay attention to color, presentation and garnishes. Do not garnish food items directly with inedible leaves. Some good choices are citrus, fresh bay and mint leaves.
Nothing sells food like eye appeal. Use pretty dishes and glassware. When serving surround them with evergreens and candles. Tuck in a few ornaments.
This month's recipes are fast and festive; they can be prepared well ahead to make holiday entertaining more enjoyable.
This holiday favorite was given to me years ago by the late Elaine Hnilo of Arcata.
8 ounces of cream cheese (low-fat is good)
2 tablespoons soft butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Graham cracker crumbs
Cherry or blueberry pie filling
Mix cheese, egg, butter, sugar and vanilla with the electric mixer until smooth. Put one tablespoon graham cracker crumbs in cup cake papers. Top with one spoonful of the cheese mixture and one spoonful of the pie filling.
Makes 12-15 cupcake paper size or layer in 8 to 10 parfait glasses using cookie crumbs. Refrigerate until served.
1 recipe Cheese Delight filling flavored with1/2 teaspoon rum
8 short-cake cups
1 cup orange juice
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping flavored with 1/2 teaspoon rum
Place shortcakes on a serving tray. Depress centers with a small glass. Spoon two tablespoons orange juice over each cake. Fill the center with cream cheese filling. Top with pecans.
Just before serving drizzle with caramel topping. Top with a birthday candle and light.
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1/2 cup small marshmallows, cut up
3 tablespoons maraschino cherries, quartered
1/4 cup crumbled macaroons
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
Fold ingredients together. Pile rather high into foil cupcake papers, garnish with toasted chopped almonds and a stemmed maraschino cherry. Freeze.
Variation: Omit cherries, macaroons almonds and almond extract and add 1/4 cup crushed peanut brittle, toffee or peppermint candy. Freeze candy first to facilitate crushing. Garnish with a little extra candy.
Variation: Add one small can drained pineapple, three tablespoons orange marmalade and a tablespoon slivered candied ginger. Garnish with a pineapple chunk and a mint leaf.
The fruits in this colorful dessert need to stand several hours before combining them with the cream.
one 12-ounce bag cranberries, ground
1 cup sugar
one 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 pound small marshmallows.
1 cup cream, whipped
In two separate bowls, combine cranberries with sugar and pineapple with marshmallows. Let stand several hours or overnight.
Fold into one cup cream, whipped, and fill frozen juice cans or baby loaf tins or a 9x13 baking dish. Freeze.
To remove from juice cans, cut out bottom and push through. To serve cut into half-inch slices and serve three on a plate. Garnish with citrus leaves and whole fresh cranberries.
Betty Thompson has taught cooking classes locally since 1974.
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