(Family Features) Hosting holiday dinners can be stressful, even for the most seasoned home cooks. Between gift giving, cookie baking, home decorating and more, there’s often little time left to think through a festive feast for a hungry crowd of family and friends.
While the main entree and dessert are usually the first courses to be accounted for when planning, seasonal appetizers and sides can set your spread apart. Perfect for intimate gatherings or larger parties, a simple app like Cranberry Walnut and Brie Bites, filled with ingredients like Willow Tree Classic Chicken Salad and creamy Brie cheese, can leave guests anxiously awaiting the rest of the meal.
Round out your menu with must-have sides like potatoes. For example, a traditional French dish like Dauphinoise Potatoes are easy to make and feature a homemade butter and garlic sauce, thinly sliced potatoes and rich Gruyere cheese.
Once the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over, however, one of the last things many hosts want to do is cook another big meal. With an option like Willow Tree Chicken Pies, you can skip the hassle and get a meal on the table quickly.
For more easy hosting ideas and recipes, visit willowtreefarm.com.
Cranberry Walnut and Brie Bites
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
- 2 packages (17 ounces each) puff pastry
- 1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup sugar, plus additional, to taste
- 1 orange or lemon, zest only, cut into strips
- 2 tablespoons water
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 container (7 1/2 ounces) Willow Tree Classic Chicken Salad
- 4 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 48 pieces
- 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- Heat oven to 375° F.
- Thaw puff pastry sheets according to package instructions. Once thawed, unfold into thirds.
- Cut each third into 12 equal squares to make 48 squares.
- Grease two mini muffin tins; press each puff pastry square into muffin cup.
- Bake 8-10 minutes; remove from oven and press center of each cup in with end of wooden spoon.
- While puff pastry is baking, prepare cranberry sauce. Add bag of cranberries into saucepan. In pan over low heat, combine sugar, one strip orange or lemon zest and water; cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium and cook until cranberries burst, about 12 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add sugar, salt and pepper, to taste; let cool slightly and reserve.
- Fill center of each puff pastry cup with chicken salad, 1/2 teaspoon cranberry sauce and one piece Brie cheese.
- Bake 5-7 minutes, until Brie is melted.
- Top with chopped walnuts and minced sage. Serve warm.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30-45 minutes
- 8 ounces potatoes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 ounce Gruyere cheese, for garnish
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- Peel and finely slice potatoes.
- Add butter to saucepan and melt. Finely mince garlic and add to saucepan; saute gently until garlic is pale golden color.
- Add cream to saucepan and bring to rapid simmer but do not boil.
- In oven-safe dish, arrange slices of potato in even layers.
- Pour warm cream over potatoes slowly, allowing to seep between layers without overflowing dish.
- Top generously with sliced Gruyere cheese and place in oven, 30-45 minutes per portion. When done, potatoes should be golden-brown on top, bubbling at edges and a knife should slide easily into center.
Note: Recipe can be multiplied for additional servings.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Dauphinoise Potatoes)
Source: Willow Tree
(Family Features) With summer comes the opening of farmers markets bursting with fresh produce ripe for the taking. Pair your fresh-picked bounty with wholesome pecans for power-packed seasonal recipes from salads and snacks to side dishes and main courses.
American Pecans are The Original Supernut; a naturally sweet superfood that’s nutritious, versatile and local as it’s the only major tree nut native to America. Pecans are also among the highest in “good” monounsaturated fats and contain plant protein, fiber, flavonoids and essential minerals, including copper, manganese and zinc, so you can feel good when adding them to your next meal or snack.
After a morning at the farmers market, cook up a nourishing spread for breakfast or lunch. For a quick, mess-free brunch, try Sheet Pan Eggs with Pecan Breakfast “Sausage.” Substitute flavored ground pecans for your sausage and add fresh greens for a quick, good-for-you option with plant-based protein.
For a simple yet sweet take on dessert, try Mini Pecan Lemon Berry Tarts with a three-ingredient, pecan-based crumb as the base, topped with a light filling and fresh berries.
To find additional seasonal recipes, nutrition information and cooking tips, and to learn more about America’s native nut, visit AmericanPecan.com.
Mini Pecan Lemon Berry Tarts
Mini Pecan Crusts:
- 2 cups pecan pieces or halves
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 24 Mini Pecan Crusts
- 1/2 cup lemon curd
- 1/2 cup blueberries or raspberries
- powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
- To make Mini Pecan Crusts: Heat oven to 350° F. Line mini muffin tin with paper liners.
- In food processor, blend pecans, butter and sugar until mixture forms coarse dough.
- Scoop about 2 teaspoons pecan mixture into each muffin tin. Use back of wooden spoon or fingers to press mixture evenly along bottom and up sides of each muffin cup.
- Bake 12 minutes, or until crusts are golden brown. Allow crusts to cool completely before removing from pan.
- Spoon 1 teaspoon lemon curd into each Mini Pecan Crust. Top each with one raspberry or three small blueberries. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.
Sheet Pan Eggs with Pecan Breakfast “Sausage”
Pecan Breakfast Sausage:
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
- 1 teaspoon sage
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup raw pecan halves
Sheet Pan Eggs:
- 12 eggs, beaten
- 3/4 cup fat-free or low-fat milk
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
- nonstick cooking spray
- Heat oven to 325° F.
- To make Pecan Breakfast “Sausage”: In pan over medium heat, add olive oil, onion, coconut aminos, sage, thyme, nutmeg, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Cook about 4 minutes until onion is translucent.
- In food processor, pulse onion mixture and pecans until consistency of ground beef is reached, about 8-10 pulses.
- To make Sheet Pan Eggs: In large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper until combined.
- Add pecan “sausage” and spinach to eggs and stir. Lightly spray nonstick 12-by-17-inch sheet pan with cooking spray. Pour egg mixture onto prepared pan. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until eggs are fully cooked.
Source: American Pecan Council
(Family Features) From patio potlucks to backyard barbecues, summer is the ultimate time to kick back and enjoy delicious food with your favorite people. If you’re looking to add big flavor to your warm-weather menu, get inspired by these recipes from celebrity chef Jose Garces.
For a taste of Southern cooking, pair Classic Cheddar Pierogies with a buttermilk ranch sauce in Garces’s Chicken-Fried Pierogies. Also enjoy a delicious twist on an Asian favorite by serving up Garces’s Szechuan-Style Pierogies featuring savory Garlic & Parmesan Pierogies, one of 16 different varieties from Mrs. T’s Pierogies, which are the perfect canvas for your favorite ingredients and spices.
For more recipe inspiration, visit MrsTsPierogies.com.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Jose Garces
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white peppercorn
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground dried sage
- 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 box (16 ounces) Mrs. T’s Classic Cheddar Pierogies
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups flour dredge (recipe below)
- canola oil
- large kosher pickles, cut into round slices
- ranch dressing
- To make flour dredge: In large mixing bowl, mix all flour dredge ingredients until thoroughly combined.
- To make pierogies: Bring large pot of water to boil. Place pierogies in boiling water until no longer frozen in center, about 2 minutes. Remove pierogies from water and cool in refrigerator 10 minutes.
- Place buttermilk, eggs and flour dredge in three separate bowls. One at a time, dip pierogies in buttermilk then in eggs and finally in flour dredge. Once all pierogies are dredged, fry in deep fryer at 350 F in canola oil, approximately 3 minutes until golden brown. Repeat flour dredge process with pickle slices and fry 3 minutes.
- To serve, place fried pierogies and pickles on serving plate. Serve with ranch.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Jose Garces
- 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, vegetable oil, divided
- 3 Arbol chilies
- 1/4 cup Szechuan chili sauce
- 4 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons, fresh minced ginger, divided
- 2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon, garlic, minced (about 5 cloves), divided
- 1/2 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
- 1/2 cup black bean garlic sauce
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion (white parts only)
- 1 cup ground pork
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 box (16 ounces) Mrs. T’s Garlic & Parmesan Pierogies
- 1 tablespoon peeled edamame
- 2 tablespoons firm tofu, diced
- 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
- Place 1/2 cup oil and chilies in saucepan. Cook over low heat 2 minutes, or until chilies turn brown. Remove chilies from oil and discard oil.
- Add Szechuan sauce to saucepan; cook 3 minutes. Add 4 tablespoons ginger, 2 tablespoons minced garlic and ground peppercorns; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add black bean sauce and cook another 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 20 minutes. Reserve.
- In saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add remaining ginger, remaining garlic and scallions; cook 1 minute. Add pork and cook 5 minutes, breaking up with wooden spoon. Add soy sauce and combine. Reserve.
- In saute pan, melt butter and remaining vegetable oil. Add pierogies and sear lightly, about 7 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Reserve.
- In large saute pan, combine Szechuan sauce, ground pork mixture, seared pierogies, edamame and tofu. Cook over medium-high heat until combined, about 2 minutes. Garnish with bean sprouts.
Source: Mrs. T's Pierogies
(Family Features) The holiday season evokes thoughts of delicious, hearty and festive meals. Whether planning a family feast or flitting among gatherings, you may find it harder than ever to maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep your weight management goals on track. However, with the right approach, you can still enjoy many of your holiday favorites and serve foods your guests will appreciate as much as your waistline does. The key is managing your carbohydrate and sugar intake.
If you’re looking to lose or maintain weight, you know the importance of relying on a lifestyle with proven results – without feeling deprived. A low carb approach is backed by more than 80 scientific studies and still allows you to enjoy a wide variety of delicious foods. When you control your carbohydrate intake, you start burning stored fat as your fuel source instead of carbohydrates. A long-term, well-balanced, low carb eating plan such as Atkins encourages reduced levels of refined carbohydrates and added sugars, while optimizing levels of protein, high fiber carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats.
This wide range of foods makes it easy to find delicious ways to celebrate the holidays without feeling restricted. Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., offers several tips to help stay on track this season:
- Leading up to the big meal or holiday party, snack on proteins that contain healthy fats such as nuts or grab some cubes of cheese.
- When crafting a holiday menu, identify a savory main dish that offers a healthy serving of protein, such as this Low Carb Cranberry-Ginger Pork Roast. Finish off the meal with a Low Carb Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake, and you and your taste buds will be very satisfied.
- When alcoholic beverages are being served, confine yourself to a glass (or two at most) of wine or one glass of spirits. Just be sure to have your spirits with club soda and a slice of lemon or lime, or a mixer made without sugar. And make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Low Carb Cranberry-Ginger Pork Roast
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours
- Cooking oil
- 2 pounds pork chops or roast (center rib, bone-in)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional for seasoning
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning
- 1/2 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
- 1/2 cup cranberries
- 1/8 cup sugar-free maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1/2 cup chicken broth, bouillon or consomme
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) water
- 1/8 teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter stick (optional)
- Prepare skillet with small amount of oil over medium-high heat. Season chops or roast with salt and pepper then place into skillet and brown each side for about 1 minute, 4 minutes total, to help seal in moisture and give it color. Set aside on plate to cool slightly.
- Finely dice chipotle pepper and chop cranberries, if desired.
- In small bowl, combine syrup, diced chipotle, ginger, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Rub mixture onto roast then place it into slow cooker. Add cranberries and pour chicken broth down side of pan (avoiding rinsing rub from roast).
- Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.
- Remove roast and set on serving platter covered with tent of aluminum foil; reserving liquid.
- Keep slow cooker on low and add water and guar gum or xanthan gum to reserved mixture, whisking to combine. Continue to cook on low heat until sauce thickens slightly. Once thick, enrich sauce, if desired, with butter, adding additional salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve sauce over pork roast.
Tip: While it is not necessary to chop cranberries (they will break down while cooking), chopping them makes sauce smoother.
Low Carb Browned Pumpkin with Maple and Sage
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter stick
- 1/2 pound pumpkin
- 1/8 cup chopped shallots
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup bouillon vegetable broth
- 1/16 cup sugar-free maple syrup
- 1/8 teaspoon sage, ground
- In medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat butter. Cube pumpkin into 3/4-inch chunks.
- Add pumpkin and shallots to pan; season with salt and pepper. Saute until pumpkin is lightly browned and shallots are translucent, approximately 5-6 minutes.
- Turn heat to low, add vegetable broth and simmer, covered, 8-10 minutes until pumpkin is tender.
- Add maple syrup and sage, tossing to combine. Serve immediately.
Tip: Use fresh sage (7-8 leaves), if possible.
Low Carb Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
- 2/3 cup halved pecan nuts
- 2/3 cup sucralose-based sweetener (sugar substitute), plus 1 tablespoon
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 tablespoon unsalted butter stick
- 1/2 large egg white
- 9 2/3 ounces cream cheese
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 6 ounces canned pumpkin, without salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 1/4 large eggs
- To make crust: Heat oven to 350° F.
- In food processor, combine pecans, 1 tablespoon sugar substitute and cinnamon. Process until finely ground. Toss with butter and egg white; press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan, rounding up to cover pan seam. Bake until golden and set, 8-10 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.
- To make filling: Reduce oven heat to 325° F.
- In large bowl, combine cream cheese, 2/3 cup sugar substitute and cream. With electric mixer at medium speed, beat until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice, mixing to combine. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until just combined.
- Pour batter over crust. Bake until just set, 45-50 minutes. Turn off oven and let stand 10 minutes; transfer to wire rack and cool completely.
- Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 4 hours or overnight. Slice and serve.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
(Family Features) - In the restaurant world, professional chefs can afford to spend hours on their culinary creations. When they come home after a long day, however, even the most passionate cooks tend to relish a few cooking shortcuts. From simple recipes to pantry essentials, there are a variety of tips and tricks that home cooks can add to their repertoire, too.
Timesaving products, such as prepared stock and mashed potatoes, allow home cooks to replicate restaurant-quality dishes without spending all day over a hot stove. Here are a few recipes that are easy to prepare, but rich with flavor.
For an elegant main course, try Pan Sautéed Chicken With Vegetables and Herbs. This moist, flavorful dish gets its richness from Swanson chicken stock. Or trade in the traditional salmon filet for savory Butter and Herb Salmon Cakes. Made with cayenne, tarragon, garlic and Idahoan Butter and Herb Mashed Potatoes, these cakes are a cinch to prepare, but friends and family will think you ordered in.
Butternut Squash Soup With Sage is a show-stopping first course that is accented with the flavors of sweet apples and sage. For an appetizer that will please a crowd, try Four-Cheese Potato-Stuffed Mushrooms.
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 bone-in chicken breast halves
- 2 small red onions, cut into quarters
- 1 pound new potatoes, cut into quarters
- 8 ounces fresh whole baby carrots (about 16), green tops trimmed to 1 inch
- 1 1/2 cups Swanson chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Heat oven to 350°F. Combine black pepper, paprika and flour in small bowl. Coat chicken with flour mixture.
- Heat the oil in 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until it's well browned on all sides. Remove chicken from skillet.
- Add onions and potatoes to skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Add carrots, stock, lemon juice and oregano and heat to a boil. Return the chicken to the skillet. Cover the skillet.
- Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Uncover the skillet and bake for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with the thyme.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 medium Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 cups Swanson chicken broth (regular, Natural Goodness or Certified Organic)
- 1 tablespoon butter OR margarine
- 12 fresh sage leaves
- Heat oil in saucepot over medium heat. Add squash, apples and onion and cook until almost tender. Stir in sugar, coriander and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir 2 minutes.
- Add broth. Heat to a boil. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until squash is tender.
- Place cooked squash mixture in food processor, using a slotted spoon. Cover and blend until smooth, adding enough cooking liquid to make soup of desired consistency.
- Heat butter in small skillet. Add sage and cook until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Reserve butter in skillet. Divide soup among 4 bowls. Drizzle each with sage butter and garnish with fried sage leaves.
- 4 cups water
- 1 1/2 lemons
- 1 10 to 12-ounce salmon filet
- 1/3 cup celery, finely diced
- 1/3 cup onion, finely diced
- 3 teaspoons mayonnaise
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon tarragon
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 4-ounce pouch Idahoan Butter and Herb Mashed Potatoes, dry
- Canola oil
- In a medium pot, boil 4 cups water with the juice of the lemons, placing one lemon half in the water. Reduce heat to a simmering boil. Poach salmon filet in water by cooking, covered, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until done. Remove with spatula. Set aside to cool.
- When salmon is cool, combine with celery, onion, mayonnaise, cayenne, tarragon, garlic, dry mustard, salt and black pepper in large bowl and mix well. Add dry potatoes slowly while mixing until everything is moist.
- Form patties and cook in preheated canola oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat until both sides are brown (3 minutes per side).
- Serve hot.
- 1 4-ounce package Idahoan Four Cheese Mashed Potatoes
- 12 large mushrooms or 18 medium mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons butter, margarine or olive oil
- 3 tablespoons chopped chives
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Prepare potatoes as package directs.
- Remove stems from mushrooms; chop stems and set aside. Carefully scoop out center of each mushroom cap with a spoon, leaving 1/2-inch shell.
- Melt butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add chopped mushroom stems and cook 3 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and stir in mashed potatoes, 2 tablespoons chives and salt.
- Fill each mushroom cap with potato mixture, mounding it slightly. Bake 10 minutes or until potatoes are lightly golden. Sprinkle mushrooms with remaining 1 tablespoon chives.