Christmas

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

make-ahead-mashed-potatoes

There is so much cooking to do on Thanksgiving Day which is why I like to do as much prep as possible the day before.  This way, I can enjoy the day and just pop things into the oven.  Peeling, boiling, and mashing potatoes, while trying to time all of the other dishes, is one of the most frustrating parts of preparing the Thanksgiving feast.  So, a few years ago, I started making these mashed potatoes and I haven’t looked back.

They are just as creamy and luscious as any potatoes I’ve ever made on the day and the cheesy parmesan crust makes these Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes even better than the standard version of mashed potatoes!

This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten’s Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes Recipe.

Ingredients:

Approximately 8 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

Milk, to taste

1 bar cream cheese

1 stick of butter

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Grated parmesan cheese

Boil the potatoes in a large pot until soft all the way through.  Drain the potatoes in a colander and remove all of excess water.  Immediately put the potatoes back into the pot, add the cube of butter and bar of cream cheese.  Put the lid back on the pot and let sit for five to ten minutes, so the butter can melt and the cream cheese can soften.

Using a hand mixer, blend the potatoes until they are broken apart and well blended with the butter and cream cheese.  Add the milk in small parts and continue mixing until they are smooth and have very few lumps.  Make sure the potatoes are a little runnier than you like, as they will lose some moisture in the fridge overnight.  This way, they will be the perfect consistency when you serve them.  Also, the cream cheese helps prevent the potatoes from drying out.

Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Put the potatoes in a buttered 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.  Let cool completely, cover, and store in the refrigerator.  Take the casserole out of the fridge approximately one hour before baking time so they are at room temperature when you put them in the oven.

Sprinkle them generously with the parmesan cheese.  Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes or until the cheese is browned on top and the potatoes are heated through.  A good way to test this is to insert a knife in the center.  If a good amount of steam comes out, then they’re ready!

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars with cream cheese and Heath Bar bits!  These moist, chocolately bars are simple to prepare.  The combination of pumpkin, spices, and chocolate chips make these perfect for any Fall-themed or holiday potluck dessert.

Joanna brought these yummy treats to a work potluck and they were a total hit.  Her addition of the cream cheese and Heath Bar to the original recipe puts these bars over the top (genius!).

Ingredients:

1 box of spice cake mix (dry)

1 – 15 oz. can of pumpkin

1 cup chocolate chips (I can’t lie. I added a little more than this.)

1 bar cream cheese, softened

1 bag of Heath Bar bits

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl with a mixer.  Don’t worry if there are some chunks of cream cheese after your finished mixing (bonus bites of cream cheese in these bars is a good thing!)

Grease a 9 x 13″ pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Cut into squares and store in an airtight container until potluck time!

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

One of my favorite holiday candies (I love everything candy cane!), this peppermint bark is ridiculously easy to make.  The double layers of white chocolate, crushed candy cane, and the soft peppermint chocolate center make these delectable treats a festive addition to the potluck table!

Having just purchased a few 10 oz. bags of Atkinson’s Crushed Peppermint Candy for Baking (I will never crush my own candy cane again!) at World Market, I needed to make up some quick holiday treats and didn’t want to make a trip to the store for supplies.  Since I had an excess of white chocolate chips and all of the other ingredients on hand, I decided to attempt Peppermint Bark.

This is a variation of the recipe listed on the back of the crushed peppermint candy bag.

Ingredients:

3 – 10 oz. bags of white chocolate chips

1 – 12 oz. bag of semisweet chocolate chips

6 T. heavy cream

1 tsp. peppermint extract

1 cup crushed candy cane

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Using a double boiler with barely simmering water, melt 1 1/2 bags of white chocolate chips until smooth.  Spread as evenly as possible on the foil (don’t worry each layer will be a little uneven and that’s fine).  Top with 1/2 cup of crushed candy.  Then, chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

While the first layer is chilling, melt the semisweet chocolate chips, heavy cream, and peppermint extract in a double boiler also with barely simmering water.  Set aside and let cool for 5 minutes.  Spread evenly over the chilled white chocolate/candy cane layer and then put it back into the fridge for 30 minutes or until set.

Melt the remaining 1 1/2 bags of white chocolate chips over the double boiler (again with barely simmering water) until smooth.  Let cool for a few minutes.  Spread evenly over the semisweet chocolate layer.  If the white chocolate melts the semisweet chocolate a bit and it swirls, that’s fine.  Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of crushed candy cane.

Chill in the fridge until set.  Trim off the edges of the bark and cut into squares.  Store in the fridge in an airtight container.  Serve the bark at room temperature.

 

Brussels Sprouts Bon Vivant

Brussel Sprouts Bon Vivant

Not a fan of brussels sprouts? This Brussels Sprouts Bon Vivant recipe will change your mind!  Tender brussels sprouts are layered with a swiss cheese white sauce, sausage, stuffing, water chestnuts, and topped with more swiss cheese.

We love brussels sprouts at my house and this casserole is a big hit!  It’s especially suitable for an Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas potluck.  But really, it’s delicious anytime.  Thank you to Joyce for sharing this recipe!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. brussels sprouts

2 tsp. grated onion

1 cup water chestnuts, sliced

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1 cup prepared poultry dressing (I used Stove Top chicken stuffing. It worked perfectly and only took a few minutes to prepare.)

1/4 lb. ground pork sausage

3 T. butter

3 T. flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1/2 cup grated swiss cheese, plus extra for top of casserole

Additional nutmeg

Cook sprouts in salted water with grated onion and drain.

Make white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and cook for one minute.  Whisk in milk and cream gradually, making sure that there aren’t any lumps.  Continue whisking and cooking until white sauce is thick.  Take off heat and mix in cheese until melted.  Add nutmeg.

Saute’ sausage and drain well. Add in cooked poultry dressing and chestnuts and sauté it with enough butter to coat it evenly.

In a buttered baking dish, put half the sprouts, half of the sausage mixture, and half of the sauce.  Repeat.  Top with additional cheese.  Sprinkle with more nutmeg.

Bake at 400 degrees for approx. 30 minutes or until cheese melts and is bubbly.

Sweet and Saltines – Holiday Version

Sweet and Saltines - Holiday Version

 

This is our holiday version of Sweet and Saltines.  You can use white chocolate or semisweet chocolate.  And they taste as lovely as they look!

Ingredients:

35 to 40 Saltine Crackers

2 sticks (1 cup) butter

1 cup light brown sugar

8 ozs. semisweet or white chocolate (I used chocolate chips)

Crushed candy cane

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line 1 large or 2 small jelly roll pans with aluminum foil, spray with nonstick spray and arrange the saltines salt-side down in a single layer.

In a medium pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together and boil until it turns a caramel color, a few minutes.  Remove from the heat and pour over the crackers, covering them evenly.  Put the jelly roll pan into the oven and bake for 3 to 5 minutes or until just bubbly, watching carefully.  Remove from the oven and pour the chocolate chips over the crackers.  When the chips melt a bit, spread them over the crackers with a knife. Then sprinkle candy cane on the top.

Transfer the pan to the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until completely cold.  They will form one big sheet.  Break up into pieces.  Store in an airtight containe

Cranberry and Pumpkin Seed Bark

Cranberry & Pumpkin Seed Bark

When you need to whip up something sweet for a potluck, this Cranberry and Pumpkin Seed Bark is quick and easy to make.  You’ll love the sweetness of the chocolate and cranberries combined with the salty pumpkin seeds.  And it looks pretty, too!  This bark is especially great for holiday potlucks.

This recipe was inspired by Bon Appe’tit Desserts cookbook “Dried Fruit and Nut Chocolate Bark” with slight variations.

Ingredients:

12 ozs. semisweet chocolate chips

Dried cranberries

Salted and toasted pumpkin seeds

Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Melt chocolate chips in medium bowl over saucepan of simmering water, stirring until melted and smooth.  Pour the chocolate onto the foil and spread with a rubber spatula to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Sprinkle cranberries and pumpkin seeds over the chocolate.  Chill in the fridge until the chocolate is firm.

Break into pieces.  Store in the fridge in an airtight container, separated by layers of wax or parchment paper, until potluck time.  This bark is best when served slightly chilled.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies

Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies

These Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies are absolutely decadent!  They are soft and chewy on the inside with a crispy outer layer.  You can easily make these with gluten and dairy free ingredients (double check your labels!) and your GF/DF friends (and everyone else) will love you for making these at your next potluck.

For a larger crowd, you should definitely double the batch.  A single batch makes 24 to 30 cookies and no one can eat just one!  This recipe is from Bon Appe’tit Desserts cookbook.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 9 ozs.), divided

3 large egg whites, room temperature

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 T. cornstarch

1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line 2 heavy, large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in glass bowl in microwave, stirring twice, about 2 minutes.  Cool slightly.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in 1 cup powdered sugar.  Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow creme.  In a separate bowl, whisk 1 cup powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt until blended.  On low speed, beat dry ingredients into meringue.  Stir in lukewarm chocolate and remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dough will become very stiff).

Place remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar in small bowl (I always need more powdered sugar for rolled cookies, so make sure you have some extra on hand).  Roll dough into rounded tablespoons (or use a melon baller for no mess and uniform cookies).  Roll balls in powdered sugar, coating thickly.  Place them on the baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cookies are puffed and the tops crack.  Cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes.  Then, transfer cookies to a rack and cool completely.  Store in an airtight container until potluck time!

Tater Tot Breakfast Strata

Tater Tot Strata

 

This Strata is one of my family’s favorites.  It is also a great dish for a breakfast potluck, especially at the office.

Ingredients:

1 Package Tater Tots

8 Eggs

2 cups milk or half & half

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Grease a 9 x 13″ glass casserole dish.  Beat together the eggs and milk. Layer tater tots, cheese, and egg/milk mixture.  Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm with ketchup, salsa, or whatever you like with your eggs and potatoes!