Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Warm Your Heart with 4 Comforting Christmas Recipes

You might think it's the parties and get-togethers with friends and family that make the holidays special, but it's also the exceptional Christmas recipes that help make the season so heartwarming. Just consider it: holiday gatherings are always centered around food. Tasty holiday cookies that only get made once each year, delicious appetizers served at a cocktail party or before Christmas dinner, succulent roasted meats and decadent Christmas desserts -- every one of them the epitome of comfort food. 

Gift yourself and your loved ones with comforting holiday fare that satisfies the body and the spirit. If you don't already have a few Christmas recipes that are your favorites, here are four that are guaranteed to warm your heart and make your spirits bright. 

Gingerbread Friends 

There's few things more Christmas-y than a plateful of gingerbread men -- and women. Place cinnamon red hot candies on these little guys for eyes and buttons before baking and pipe on a smile after they've cooled with tubes of icing. Or you can frost their whole bodies and decorate with colored sugars and Christmas candies. 

* 3/4 cup butter, softened
* 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
* 1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) butterscotch instant pudding
* 1 egg
* 2 cups flour
* 1 tsp. baking soda
* 1 Tbsp. ground ginger * 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

* Beat butter, sugar, dry pudding mix and egg in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Mix remaining ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.
* Heat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness; cut into gingerbread shapes with 4-inch cookie cutter, rerolling trimmings. Place, 2 inches apart, on baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray. Use straw to make hole near top of each cutout.
* Bake 10 to 12 min. or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 3 min. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. Decorate as desired. Insert ribbon through holes to hang cookies on.

Edible Antipasto Holiday Wreath 

This cheesy, spicy holiday wreath is practically too pretty to eat...almost. Once you scoop up a sample on your favorite cracker it might be hard to stop. This is a great recipe to make ahead of time as you can store the cheese mixture in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Just shape and decorate when you're ready to serve your Christmas appetizers.

* 2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
* 3/4 cup chopped pepperoni
* 1/2 cup grated blend of three cheeses, pre-packaged or your choice
* 1/4 cup chopped black olives
* 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
* 6 Tbsp. chopped roasted red peppers, divided
* 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
* Fresh basil leaves
* Crackers 

* Mix first 5 ingredients and 2 Tbsp. peppers until well blended. Shape into 16-inch log; wrap in plastic wrap.
* Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm enough to handle. Form into wreath shape on large plate.
* Top with remaining peppers and parsley. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with crackers. 

Juicy Roast Beef 

This oh-so-easy roast gets all of its flavor from the special sauce it's served with. Make the sauce ahead of time so that it can chill, allowing the flavors to meld while the meat roasts. Cover your roast with foil after you remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before you start carving. The meat will be juicier and easier to slice. 

* 1/2 cup whipping cream
* 1/3 cup steak sauce
* 2 green onions, chopped
* 3 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
* 1 beef eye round roast (2 lb.) 

* Heat oven to 325°F.
* Beat whipping cream with mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Mix steak sauce, onions and horseradish in medium bowl. Add whipped cream; stir gently until well blended. Cover. Refrigerate until ready to use.
* Place meat in roasting pan.
* Bake 45 min. to 1 hour 15 min. or until done (160°F). Cut meat into thin slices. Serve with horseradish sauce. 

Chocolate Cream Cheese Cake 

This extra-special Christmas cake is all dressed up and has somewhere to go with your traditional Christmas dinner as the destination. Make the presentation especially stunning with a garnish of semi-sweet and white chocolate curls you create by pulling a vegetable peeler over the surface of chocolate bars.

* 1 pkg. (2-layer size) devil's food cake mix
* 1 pkg. (3.9 oz.) chocolate instant pudding
* 1-1/2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
* 1/2 cup butter, softened
* 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
* 6 cups powdered sugar
* 1/2 of 8-oz. tub frozen non-dairy whipped topping (Do not thaw.)
* 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate 

* Prepare cake batter and bake as directed on package for 2 (9-inch) round cake layers, blending dry pudding mix into batter before pouring into prepared pans. Cool 10 min. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with knife. Invert onto wire racks; gently remove pans. Cool cakes completely.
* Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until blended. Gradually beat in sugar.
* Cut each cake layer horizontally in half. Stack on plate, spreading 3/4 cup cream cheese frosting between each layer. Spread remaining frosting onto top and side of cake.
* Microwave whipped topping and chocolate in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1-1/2 min., stirring after 1 min.; stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended. Cool 5 min. 

What is your favorite holiday recipe?

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