Special to the Gazette
Courtesy of The Pampered Chef
Niagara Gazette —
This holiday season, reduce stress and be a less hectic hostess by planning ahead.
The last thing you want to do when guests arrive is spend time in the kitchen mixing ingredients, when you should be mixing and mingling. Here are a few simple solutions to survive the holidays:
• Get a head start. Choose dishes that can be made in advance, and get all of your chopping, dicing and mixing out of the way the day before. Keep fresh cut produce from oxidizing by refrigerating fruits, like apples and pears, in lemon-lime soda and vegetables, such as potatoes, celery and carrots in water.
• Refresh a favorite. For the hostess short on time, stick with favorite recipes and add some holiday flair. For a spin on seasonal staples, use your brownie pan or muffin pan to make personal-size stuffing, rolls or cornbread. Not only will you be practicing portion control, but the bite-size versions also cut down on total cooking time.
• Save time, make two. Get your holiday baking and gift-giving done all at once. Prepare one batch for you, and make a second batch to give as a gift to a friend or family member. Homemade gifts offer an extra personal touch to gift-giving and when decorated with holiday ribbon and other cheery colors, they become the season’s most special presents.
Candy Cane Brownie Lollipops
These irresistible treats make adorable hostess gifts or take-home goodies.
1 pkg (18-21 oz or 450 g) fudge brownie mix (plus ingredients to make brownies)
24 candy canes
10 oz chocolate-flavored almond bark (crushed)
Additional decorations such as red jimmies (optional)
Line medium sheet pan with a 13-inch piece of parchment paper; lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions; pour batter into pan. Bake 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Remove from oven to stackable cooling rack; cool 20 minutes or until still slightly warm.
Meanwhile, cut straight ends of candy canes off to form 4½-inch sticks using utility knife. Place candy cane tops into resealable plastic bag and crush using flat side of meat tenderizer; set aside.
Using medium scoop, scoop brownie into 24 rounded scoops, packing brownie into scoop using hands. (Entire brownie will be used.) Roll brownie scoops into smooth balls. Insert candy cane sticks into centers of balls, mounding brownie around each stick.
Place almond bark into small batter bowl; microwave according to package directions until smooth. Spoon melted bark evenly over each brownie ball, turning to coat completely. Allow excess bark to drip off. Dip into reserved crushed candy canes or jimmies and stand upright on a piece of parchment paper. Repeat with remaining almond bark, lollipops and crushed candy. Let stand until set. Place into miniature cupcake liners. Makes 24 servings.
Cook’s Tips: Although the edges of the brownies are crusty, they don’t need to be discarded. Simply scoop the edges along with the center; they’ll soften as they stand.
If desired, lollipop sticks or stick candies can be substituted for the candy canes.
Wrap lollipops in cellophane, tie with ribbon and use as table décor, place cards or take-home goodies for a special holiday touch.
Batter Bowl Brownie Mix
Looking for an easy and unique gift? Start with a small batter bowl and layer the brownie ingredients.
11⁄3 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup candy-coated chocolate miniature baking bits
1/2 cup white chocolate morsels
1/2 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped
In small bowl, combine 2/3 cup of the sugar and cinnamon; mix well and set aside. In small batter bowl, layer ingredients as follows, gently patting each layer before adding the next ingredient: salt, baking powder, 1/2 cup of the flour, cocoa powder, remaining 2/3 cup sugar, baking bits and remaining 1 cup flour. Top with reserved cinnamon-sugar mixture, chocolate morsels and walnuts. Cover with lid. Attach gift tag that includes directions for cooking Batter Bowl Brownies (see box) and give it as a gift.
Batter Bowl Brownies
1 recipe Batter Bowl Brownie Mix
1/2 cup (250 mL) vegetable oil
1/4 cup (50 mL) water
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla
Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly spray square baker pan with vegetable oil. In large bowl, combine brownie mix, oil, eggs, water and vanilla; mix until well blended. Spread mixture into baker. Bake 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.
Makes 20 brownies.
Christmas Tree Brownies
To make Christmas Tree Brownies: Bake brownies in a square pan. Once cooled, cut brownies into squares, then cut each piece on the diagonal to create triangles. Use a candy cane stick as a tree stem and ice with festive frosting to decorate each brownie tree.
Recipes courtesy of The Pampered Chef. For more holiday recipes and free homemade gift how-to’s and gift tags, visit PamperedChef.com.