The holiday season brings many joys to my household and family. I’m home from Blacksburg for a whole month, giving me plenty of time to relax, see my best friend and her family, build up my Scrabble record with my mom (4-0 so far this break), spend some quality time with my instruments, and of course, bake.
I love baking. It’s a fun and productive way to be creative, especially around the holidays. Our kitchen soon fills with endless varieties of cookies, chocolates, candies, breads, cupcakes, and other delectable treats. In theory, we could live on sweets for about two weeks and not run out of anything. That would be delicious…
Anyway, I would like to take a post to share some of my favourite recipes with my readers. Consider giving them a try yourselves…you won’t regret it!
Or you might, these are quite addicting. You’ve been warned!
My Favourite Banana Bread
This is a staple in my diet. Seriously, I could eat a whole loaf on my own in one sitting. Here is the recipe I’ve been eating and baking for as long as I can remember; it comes from a cookbook compiled by the North Carolina Association of Educational Office Personnel (my mom has had this book for ages).
2 cups flour ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 tsp baking powder 2 eggs
¾ tsp salt 3 medium bananas, mashed
½ tsp baking soda 1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar* 1 cup chopped pecans**
* I use half sugar, half Splenda for family health reasons. Still just as good.
** Optional. You can use walnuts too, or chocolate chips. Or whatever else tickles your fancy. Or nothing at all, banana bread is just as good plain.
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients (flour – sugar) in a deep mixing bowl. Mash bananas in a separate bowl and set aside. Add softened butter, eggs, lemon juice, and half of the mashed bananas to the dry stuff, and mix with a rubber spatula for a minute or two. Once it is lightly combined, mix with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the mashed bananas, and finish mixing. Cut the mixer off. Fold in whatever mix-ins you choose to add, if any at all. Pour the batter into a greased bread pan (or two small ones). Bake for 1 hour.
My Kryptonite: Sausage Balls
These can be enjoyed year-round, but we love them the most at the holidays. They’re usually our snack food for our road trip down to North Carolina. Sometimes they don’t even last one 10-hour drive. If you make them yourself, you’ll understand why.
1 one-pound roll Jimmy Dean sausage (especially good with spicy sausage)
10 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups Bisquick mix
Red pepper to taste
Smush all of the above in a mixing bowl with your hands (yes, it’s a little messy). It takes a little bit, so be patient. Once they’re all combined into a large mass, break it into small sections and shape into small balls, about one inch in diameter. Place rolled balls onto an ungreased baking sheet. They can be close together since they don’t spread or grow when they bake. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
Om nom nom.
Best Ever Truffles with Amaretto
By far my favourite holiday treat. A batch of these disappears in about two days at my house. Chocolatey goodness of which I can’t get enough. Mmmmmm.
12 one-ounce squares semi-sweet baking chocolate (we use Baker’s)
4 Tbsp butter
2 egg yolks
½ cup whipping cream
¼ cup Amaretto (could probably use Kaluha or Bailey’s too; we just always use Amaretto)
In addition to 12 oz above, a bag of chocolate chips or chocolate candy melts
Plastic/silicone candy trays
In a medium-sized bowl, melt the 12 ounces of baking chocolate. Add butter 1 Tbsp at a time. Beat egg yolks until thick. Stir in about ¼ of the chocolate mixture to temper. Once tempered, add the rest of the chocolate, stirring constantly. Add whipping cream and amaretto. Stir until thick. Refrigerate minimum of 3-4 hours; overnight works best.
When ready to assemble:
Melt chocolate chips/candy melts (if using chocolate chips, add 1 Tbsp butter and shaved paraffin wax). Using a pastry brush (or small paint brush), coat the insides of the wells of the candy trays with a decently thick layer of chocolate. Put in freezer to harden, usually takes about 15 minutes. Set remaining chocolate aside.
Remove chocolate filling from refrigerator. Form 1-inch balls of “goo” and fit inside the wells in the candy trays. Cover tops with leftover melted chocolate. Put in freezer to set, about 20-30 minutes. When ready, gently tap the tray against a countertop; the truffles should pop out easily.
I could share more, but I think my top three should cover it. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year to everyone! And of course, happy baking!
Sizzle. Fizz. Splash. The kitchen bustles with culinary action, while the thick, distinct scent of roasting turkey drifts through the air. Our counter is covered with bowls of casseroles, potatoes, fruit, and a massive bag of pecans that are on their way to the stove to be spiced. The table is set with the special utensils and plates we only use on holidays and special occasions. Dad turns on the TV and catches the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; it is followed by a Black Friday commercial…”SALE STARTS AT 4AM!” Seems like they get earlier and earlier every year. Now he switches to the dog show. Football should be starting soon, too.
The oven beeps. The turkey is done.
It’s Thanksgiving Day, the one day when it is socially acceptable to stuff our faces with mounds of food and lounge around watching football. I do the latter just about every weekend already, but that’s besides the point. We have been cooking since yesterday and won’t slow down ’til tonight when we run out of food. We usually don’t travel for Thanksgiving, considering all of our extended family resides in North Carolina, which is a bit of a drive from Pennsylvania, so we stay put and celebrate on our own. This year, though, our family friends are joining us. We are sharing a traditional American Thanksgiving with them (they are German), and I can’t wait to spend the day with their daughters, who are two of my best and closest friends. It has been way too long since we have all been together, and I’m in need of some best-friend time!
But what Thanksgiving is really about is being thankful and grateful for all we have been blessed with in our lives. Today–and always, but especially today–I am thankful for my wonderful family and cat who are always supportive and caring (even the cat). I’m thankful for a loving God who wakes me up in the morning, and who has blessed me with the life I have. I’m thankful for the gift of music, one of my many outlets for expressing my emotions and my creativity. I’m thankful for my school, the beautiful Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University–Virginia Tech for those of you who don’t know its full name, and now understand why we shorten it–and everything I have learned since I have been attending. I’m thankful for the gifts of learning and knowledge, and my ability to write. But above all, I am and always will be ever so thankful for the amazing people in my life…friends, family, pastors, teachers, professors…you have all blessed my life in more ways than I can explain. All I can say is “thank you” for being so wonderful.
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