The next few weeks can be pretty hectic, so it’s wise to prepare a few appetizers and sweets to carry you over the holiday season now—whatever can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated.
Rum balls and Christmas cakes are the classic make-ahead sweets, because both age well over the weeks until the holidays are over.
But, most cookies will last for several weeks as long as they’re kept in airtight containers and they’re well-hidden from the family sweet tooth.
Slices and squares often can be made up ahead and frozen, ready to be thawed when needed, as do cakes and loaves like this Yogurt Loaf with Blueberries. I’m a real fan of ice cream pies and frozen desserts which you can make ahead of a special occasion, because they’re all ready to serve when the big day arrives.
For those dishes you can’t make ahead of time, do as much of the preparation as far ahead as possible, so all that’s needed at the last minute is to combine and cook them, or a final assembly.
With these make-ahead preparations, you can enjoy the festive season as much as the friends and family you’ve invited to share a bite with you.
And, that’s most important of all.
Food traditions are important to continue or begin over the coming weeks, whether it’s a baking day with your favourite munchkins or a special recipe. They’re what memories are made of.
For instance, the following appetizer is a favourite in our house, traditional at this time of year, and it’s one of about 200 recipes in my new book, Jude’s Kitchen, now available in bookstores and wine shops. It’s organized through all the seasons of the year, featuring local produce from around B.C. when it’s fresh and at its best.
There are also wine tasting notes from noted B.C. wine writer John Schreiner that accompany many of the recipes.
Incidentally, my apologies for a typo in last week's Laredo Beef Stew recipe: It's for two lb. stew beef, not one.
At a promotional event in Summerland last weekend for my book, Jude’s Kitchen, I made a batch of these up to provide a taste of some holiday appie recipes from the book. They were a real hit and were excellent with several of the very elegant wines from Bottleneck Drive wineries. They can be made up well ahead of time, formed into rolls and frozen. The rolls also keep well in the fridge for a week or two.
1 c. (250 ml) flour
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) paprika
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) dry mustard
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) salt
1/2 c. (125 ml) butter
1 tsp. (5 ml) Worcestershire
3 c. (750 ml) cheddar cheese
hot pepper sauce
sesame or poppy seeds
Combine dry ingredients and set aside.
Cream softened butter, beating in Worcestershire sauce, then grated sharp cheddar cheese.
Thoroughly mix in dry ingredients, using your fingers at the end to shape into four rolls, about the diameter of a penny or a nickel.
Wrap each in wax paper and refrigerate until firm. These will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, ready to be sliced and baked as company comes in the door.
To bake, pre-heat oven to 400 F.
Slice roll into quarter-inch thick coins, placing each on a baking sheet, some distance apart. Add a drop of hot sauce (I used the locally-made Caramoomel Last Rites Hot Sauce and it was delicious) to the top of each, smear it around, and top with sesame or poppy seeds. Press into the dough.
Bake for eight to 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. Let cool.
This probably makes 8-10 dozen, depending on the thickness of your slices and the diameter of your roll.
Yogurt Loaf with Blueberries
This is not overly sweet, but the blueberries just burst with flavour in this tender loaf.
It's excellent served alongside a cheese plate or with a slice of sharp cheddar. You can make a couple of regular-sized loaves, or three or four smaller ones.
I like the small ones for serving to company because they look so nice and there’s no need to cut each slice in half for a party plate.
1 1/4 c. (310 ml) flour
1 c. (250 ml) whole wheat flour
1/2 c. (125 ml) brown sugar
1/4 c. (60 ml) oat bran
2 tsp. (10 ml) minced lemon zest
1 tsp. (5 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) salt
1 c. (250 ml) plain, fat-free yogurt
1/2 c. (125 ml) olive oil
1 1/4 c. (310 ml) blueberries
Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, oat bran, minced lemon zest, baking soda and salt.
In a smaller bowl whisk the eggs, then add the yogurt and whisk until smooth, then add the oil and whisk again.
Combine the yogurt mixture with the flour mixture and stir briefly, but until most of the flour is no longer visible. Briefly mix in the blueberries, fresh or frozen.
Spray loaf pans with oil, and divide the batter up amongst them.
Don’t smooth the top too much.
You may sprinkle the top with a very light dusting of sugar for a bit of a sparkle.
Bake for about 30 minutes.
Makes 2 regular loaves.