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Dec 28, 2008 08:02 AM

Your simpler Holiday "Sleepers"

I love reading the threads about everything CHer made and turned out great. There are always dishes you make that take a lot of work, but you have the feeling they're going to be wonderful and they are. But, did you have any sleepers these holidays? Something that was easy, that you threw in last minute and was the big hit? It's always nice to have quick easy add-on dishes, and a great surprise when they're a hit (FWIW, I don't mean the "dirty" secrets one that rely on processed food, since there's already a thread on that).

I had planned to make sweet potato gnocchi but decided against it for 25 people. I did Ruth's Chris's sweet potato casserole instead. Everyone loved it. It took no time to prepare and could be done in advance.

The other thing was angel food cake. I haven't made angel food cake since I was a kid but had a dozen leftover egg whites, after making tiramisu eggnot trifle, and decided to tack it on. I covered w/ dulce de leche and toasted coconut. For something that took so little time, it was the big hit of the dessert table. Non fat and people are still talking about it, even more than the much more time consuming tiramisu and key lime cake w/ key lime curd and whipped cream mascarpone cheese frosting.

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  1. I have mentioned this before, but it's easy and decadent: bread pudding made with a Trader Joe's pumpkin spice cake (the small bundt, which is not spicy at all, sold in the bakery section) 2 eggs, and 2-1/2 cups of Hood's Pumpkin Eggnog, with the rest of the container used as a cold sauce with the warm bread pudding.

    1 Reply
    1. re: greygarious

      Thanks for inspiring my latest blog's my recipes for bacon wrapped dates and deviled eggs - both using kitchen staples and no reliance on convenience foods:

    2. Fruit salad for Christmas Breakfast: Just peeled navel orange, sliced Granny Smith apples, and some whole fresh raspberries. Delicious, tart, and a clean counterbalance to a very rich strata that contained sausage, cheddar cheese, and mushrooms.

      Orange, nut cake for Christmas dinner dessert: Until my mother-in-law passed away, she always made Plum Pudding for our Christmas dinner. Last year I made a sticky toffee pudding, which turned out well but was a lot of work. This year I made a recipe called "Aunt Nettie's Orange Cake," which I had clipped from the Chicago Tribune earlier in the year:


      (I used Craisins rather than raisins and did not bother to top it with confectioners sugar.)

      It was easy and delicious. And, because it was a very moist cake containing bits of orange, orange peel, and dried cranberries, it was in consistency and taste not dissimilar from Plum pudding. I'll definitely be making this again next year.

      5 Replies
      1. re: masha

        Thanks for the link masha, it looks delicious and it looks kind of like Nigella Lawson's clementine cake except hers uses ground almonds and no flour.

        1. re: Athena

          The recipe says "ground nuts." I used walnuts because I had a lot on hand but I suspect that almonds would work too. Also, the recipe just says "one orange," without specifying the type or size. I used a very large navel orange. The consensus was that there may have been a bit too much orange flavor that overwhelmed the cranberries. Next time, I'll use a smaller navel (no seeds), or just not use all of the orange if the same size as I used this year.

        2. re: masha

          That sounds good. Is it at all bitter with the whole orange? What kind of orange did you use? It sounds like a good every day type cake. I'd love your recipe for sticky toffee pudding. I've gotten into Haagen Daz's sticky toffee pudding ice cream lately and love the bits.

          1. re: chowser

            Cake is a bit tart, but not bitter. And, the recipe calls for dusting with confectioner's sugar, which I did not do. We thought it was plenty sweet without it.

            Here is the sticky toffee pudding recipe, which I only made the one time:

        3. My evening-after leftover pheasant casserole was a big hit and for me, lazy cooking at its best! I just threw everything in a pan, added enough fresh herbs, spices and stock and SO was more complimentary than ever (and certainly more than when I spend hours concocting an exotic dish or something 'special') and polished two platefuls of it which is unusual in him. Made me think about the inverse proportionality that sometimes apply in these matters (or Murphy's Law) whereby the least effort you put in, the better results you achieve...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Paula76

            I made a three nut pecan-ish pie and peanut butter kiss cookies, but hands down the big hit were the Oreo Cookie Truffles. They are amazing.

            1. re: dolores

              Oreo truffles are always a surprise to me on how much people love them. I don't get it but I can make a batch in under half an hour and they're pretty so I do it. I used TJ's candy cane Joe Joe's the last time, sprinkled w/ red/white candy cane sprinkles. Big hit and it's something that doesn't tempt me.

          2. I had two items go over particularly well this year- and both required up-front time, but absolutely zero investment during the season. This summer I canned Asian plum sauce from plums I purchased at the local farm (garlic, ginger, plums, soy sauce: cook till thick, can- easy!) and hot pepper jelly with garden produce. I brought the hot pepper jelly served over a soft mild cheese with crostini, and the plum sauce with homemade egg rolls (also pretty easy to make with store-bought wrappers). These were both contributions to holiday party pot-lucks.

            I usually slave over something complicated and gourmet, and end up with so-so results. These two items drew the best and biggest response I've ever had! Not bad, considering that the work happened in Aug/Sept- all I had to do during Christmas was open the jar.

            3 Replies
            1. re: happybellynh

              I've never had home made asian plum sauce. It's always been one of those sickly sweet processed foods that I avoid at restaurants but I'll bet home made would be great. Do you have a more detailed recipe?

              1. re: chowser

                I actually got the recipe from a book at my library called Blue Ribbon Preserves, and I didn't write down the recipe (so I'll have to go find it again- it's a keeper!). It's a great condiment to have on hand, since it's chemical-free. Fairly certain that the ingredients were: Plums (pitted and diced, not peeled), brown sugar, mustard seed, fresh ginger, garlic, splash soy sauce, and that's it. After I cooked it down, I don't think I even strained it- just whirred it up with my immersion blender.

                1. re: happybellynh

                  I'll check it out. Thanks for the idea.

            2. I made mincemeat. It takes all of 30 minutes to make (I think my recipe is 2 sticks of butter, 2 c. brown sugar, 2 c. raisins, 1 c. currants, 1 c. golden raisins, and 1/3 c. chopped candied peel, melted together, boiled for 15 minutes or so, and finished with 1/3 c. brandy) and is a big hit in pies.