'Tis the season for some Holiday Treats!

This is the season to have fun and enjoy your family, friends and all that is holiday time. Forget about how much you have to buy just for the moment and try to remember that this is a season of spending time with those you love. Sharing stories and good food is what many plan to do. So pick a few that you like and take the time to make them perhaps with friends or kids or family members to create lasting memories and traditions that will last for years to come. Here are a few recipes I think would make this holiday season fun for all! Covering appetizers, drinks, side dish and of course cookies I hope this adds some inspiration to enjoy and have fun this holiday season. 

Asiago & Prosciutto Shortbread Crackers

This savoury shortbread adapted from Gay Lea Foods has a hit of salty prosciutto and rich Asiago cheese. These savoury delicate shortbreads are perfect to be served alongside a sparkling wine or your favourite holiday cocktail. Add them to your holiday cheese tray for a unique twist.

3 slices prosciutto
1 1/12 cups (375 mL) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely shredded Asiago cheese
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each garlic powder, salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh ground nutmeg
1 cup (250 mL) cold unsalted butter

Place prosciutto on small parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake in preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until browned and crisp. Let cool and crumble.

Place flour, cheese, garlic powder, salt, pepper, nutmeg and crumbled prosciutto in food processor. Pulse to combine and add butter. Process until dough comes together in a ball. Form into a rectangular log about 2 1/2 inches x 1 1/2 inches (6.25 cm x 4 cm). Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm enough to slice.

Slice about half of the log into 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick crackers and transfer to parchment paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate remaining log. Gently prick shortbreads with a fork. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden. Let cool completely before removing from baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. 

Makes about 2 dozen crackers.

Tips: You can substitute coarsely shredded Parmesan for the Asiago.

Unbaked log or baked shortbreads can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Candy Cane Martini

Enjoy a tasty Iceberg vodka drink during this holiday season with a cheery and minty martini. It will make your guests toast you for being such a great host!

Crushed candy cane 
1 1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz vanilla liqueur
1/2 oz peppermint schnapps
1 oz club soda
1 to 2 drops red or green food colouring

Rub the rim of the martini glass with water and dip the rim into crushed candy cane, rotating the glass to coat evenly. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine vodka, vanilla liqueur, schnapps and soda. Cover and shake. Strain into glass and add food colouring. Garnish glass with a small candy cane.

Makes 1 serving. 

Cauliflower and Grape Tomatoes

This could possibly become everyone’s favourite side dish that gets turned into a main meal with leftovers or on purpose! Sweet grape tomatoes create a delicious sauce for the florets of cauliflower and the hit of salty pancetta creates a memorable side dish for the holiday table.

1 pkg (about 200 g) diced pancetta
1 head of cauliflower (about 1 lb/454 g)
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 cup (250 mL) chicken broth
2 tbsp (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 anchovy fillets, chopped

In a large shallow saucepan, sauté pancetta over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp. Remove pancetta to plate and remove all but 1 tbsp of the rendered fat. 

Meanwhile, cut cauliflower into florets and add to saucepan with tomatoes. Pour in stock and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 6 minutes or until cauliflower is tender crisp. Uncover and add oil, garlic and anchovies and cook for about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Sprinkle with pancetta to serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Tip: Want a tasty pasta dish? Cook up 1 pkg (350 g) fresh linguine and toss it with the hot cauliflower and grape tomato dish and serve sprinkled with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Winter Wonderland Snowmen Shortbreads

Great high quality butter like Gay Lea unsalted makes this tasty and simply easy shortbread delicious and fun to play with. The cookies can be made ahead so that when the kids are home they can help create a fabulous winter scene that will be good enough to eat! 

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (175 mL) icing sugar 
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) vanilla
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
3 cups (750 mL) all purpose flour
Icing sugar

Candy for decorating:
Mini chocolate chips, gum drops, licorice whips, jelly beans, fruit leather, etc

Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with icing sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir in flour and mix well, using hands if necessary to get all the flour. (If the dough seems really soft, refrigerate for a bit to firm up and make it easy to handle)

Measure level 2 tbsp (30 mL) portions into 10 balls for snowman bases; arrange on one prepared baking sheet. Measure level 1 tbsp (15 mL) and 2 tsp (10 mL) portions respectively for 8 bellies and 8 heads of snowmen. Arrange on baking sheets. Chill dough balls for 30 minutes.

In batches, bake largest balls in preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for 18 minutes, medium balls for 15 minutes and smallest balls for 12 minutes or until balls are golden on the bottom and set. Let cool completely.

Roll shortbread balls into icing sugar. Create a paste using additional icing sugar and water (see tip). Use paste to stack and assemble balls into a snowman shape. Decorate as desired with candies.

Makes about 10 snowmen.

Tip: Easy Icing Sugar Glue: Stir 6 tbsp (90 mL) of icing sugar with 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) water and spoon a small dab between balls to assemble snowmen. Use toothpicks to help paste on small items such as mini chocolate chips for eyes and buttons.


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