published Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Holiday Cooking: Winning Recipes

APPETIZERS:

WINNER: CANDYCE RECTOR

JUDGES COMMENT:

“I like this recipe for two reasons. First, there’s no mayonnaise, so it can sit out for as long as you want. Also, I love something different during the holidays.”

— Chef Michael Locasio, Public House

Feta Artichoke Bites

1 jar (7 1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts

1 cup diced seeded tomatoes

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 loaf sourdough baguette

Drain artichokes, reserving 2 tablespoons marinade. Chop artichokes and place in a large bowl. Stir in the tomatoes, cheeses, onions and reserved marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Cut baguette into 1/2-inch slices. Spread with artichoke mixture. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Broil 4-6 inches from the heat for 4-5 minutes or until edges of bread are browned. Serve immediately. Makes about 12 servings.

BREAD

WINNER: JOYCE ROGERS

JUDGE’S COMMENT:

“These are good and versatile. You could make them as muffins or as a coffeecake.”

John Sweet, owner and breadmaker, Niedlov’s Breadworks

Apricot Muffins

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup boiling water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Soak apricots in boiling water for 5 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter till fluffy. Add sour cream; mix well. Combine dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture just till moistened. Fold apricots, orange peel and nuts into batter. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 400 F for 18-20 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. Makes 1 dozen.

Judge’s suggestion: The batter is stiff, so do not drain any water from the apricots. Also, when the dry ingredients are added, only mix halfway before adding the fruits and nuts because the batter is too stiff without the fruit.

— Joyce Rogers

SIDE DISH

WINNER: Willie Mae Plumlee

JUDGES COMMENT: “I really like the grated orange and lemon rind in this dish. And I like that it uses fresh sweet potatoes instead of canned. This is food for the holidays that h as great eye appeal garnished with orange curls and pecan halves.”

— Chef John Lopopolo, Mount Vernon Restaurant

Sweet Potatoes With Apricot Glaze

6 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 3/4 pounds)

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup apricot nectar

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Garnishes: orange curls and pecan halves

Cook sweet potatoes in boiling water to cover for 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool to touch; peel and cut into 1/3-inch slices. Arrange in a lightly greased, shallow, 2-quart baking dish; set aside.

Combine brown sugar and next five ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Drizzle half of brown sugar mixture over potatoes; bake at 325 F for 15 minutes. Drizzle with remaining brown sugar mixture and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Bake an additional 15 minutes or until heated through. Garnish if desired. Makes 8 servings.

ENTREE

Winner: Karen Hoag

JUDGE’S COMMENT

“I like that it was a good holiday meal. And it takes the pressure off the cook on Christmas morning because it’s so easy to make. You can make it the night before and cook it the next morning. And it was so good. I really liked it.”

— Chef John Palacio, Porter’s Steakhouse

Sausage Strata

6 slices white bread (buttered)

1 pound bulk pork sausage

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

4 ounces shredded Swiss cheese

3 eggs, slightly beaten

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash nutmeg

Place bread in bottom of 12- by 7- by 2-inch baking dish. Brown sausage, drain and stir in mustard. Spoon sausage evenly over bread; sprinkle with cheese. Combine eggs, milk, Worcestershire sauce and nutmeg and pour over cheese. Bake at 325 F for 30 minutes or until set. Especially good on Christmas morning.

DESSERT

WINNER: Dena vonWerssowetz

JUDGE’S COMMENT:

“In the South, red velvet cake is a favorite, and everyone loves cheesecake, too. So this is the perfect combination. And the colors are great for Christmas, but the flavors are good for Thanksgiving, too.”

— Chef Denise Ware, Virginia’s Southside Cafe

Red Velvet Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs (Use chocolate Teddy Grahams and crush them if you can't find these.)

1/4 cup melted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs-lightly beaten

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

2 (1-ounce) bottles red food coloring

Icing:

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese-softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and 1 tablespoon sugar. Press mixture into bottom of a (9-inch) springform pan.

Beat 3 (8-ounce) cream cheeses and 1 1/2 cups sugar at medium-low speed with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Add eggs and next 6 ingredients, mixing on low speed just until fully combined. Pour batter into crust.

Bake at 325 F for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 300 F and bake 1 hour and 15 minutes until center is firm. Run knife along outer edge. Turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes. Remove from oven, cool in pan on rack 30 minutes. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Icing: Beat 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter at medium speed with mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beat until smooth. Spread over cheesecake. Remove sides of springform pan.

Note: You can make this more fancy by trimming the edges and drizzling melted chocolate on top of icing. It is beautiful when cut.

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