December delights


 It’s the holiday entertaining season, and everyone needs delicious, easy recipes by their side. Whether you want to make a gift from your kitchen, take a dish to church, or host an open house, these recipes will help get you through. They are quick, simple and delightful.

Ranch Bacon Oyster Crackers                                             

1 stick of butter

¼ cup canola oil

1 (1 oz.) packet Ranch dressing mix

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 (9 oz.) bag of oyster crackers

1 (2.5 oz.) bag real bacon pieces

1 cup french-fried onions

Heat oven to 300 F.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put crackers in a large bowl.

Melt the butter and then whisk it together with the oil, Ranch dressing mix and black pepper. Pour over the oyster crackers and add the bacon pieces. Stir to thoroughly combine. Spread the crackers out on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes, then stir. Add french-fried onions and bake another 10 minutes.

Cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container. Crackers must be cooled before storing.

These are great wrapped up as a savory gift or served at a party.

Maple Bacon Oyster Crackers

1 stick of butter

2/3 cup dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 (9 oz.) bag of oyster crackers

2 (2.5 oz.) bags real bacon pieces

Sprinkle of sea salt

Heat oven to 300 F.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Empty the bag of oyster crackers in a large bowl and then top with bacon. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup, stirring to combine. Cook until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup, then pour it over the oyster crackers. Stir to thoroughly coat and spread the mixture out on a baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, stir and then bake 10 more minutes. When the
mixture is done, add a sprinkle of sea salt to the top.

Cool completely before serving and before storing. Store in an airtight container.

These sweet and salty snacks are addictive.

Pistachio Walnut Orange Christmas Bark

1 (24 oz.) package vanilla-flavored almond bark

Zest from 1 large orange                                             

2/3 cup salted pistachios

1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

½ cup dried cranberries

Parchment paper

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Zest the orange and mix the pistachios, walnuts and cranberries together on a plate.

Place package of almond bark in a microwave-safe dish and microwave according to package directions, until smooth. As soon as the mixture has melted, spread it out on the parchment paper. Sprinkle the zest all over the bark and then add the nut and cranberry mixture, trying to distribute it as evenly as possible.

Allow it to cool and harden for 1 hour. Break the bark into desired pieces. Store in airtight container.


Easy Pecan Chocolate Coconut Tart

1 puff pastry sheet, thawed                        

1 small egg

1 teaspoon water

2/3 cup shredded coconut

3/4 cup chocolate chips

3/4 cup pecan pieces

Parchment paper

Heat oven to 375 F.

Roll pastry out on parchment paper, into the shape of a square. Lay paper and pastry on a cookie sheet.

Sprinkle the coconut over the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with chocolate chips, reserving 1 tablespoon. Spread pecans over the chocolate and then add the last tablespoon of chocolate chips. Fold up the puff pastry around the tart.

Whisk together egg and water and use it to brush the crust before baking. Bake 20 minutes, or until tart is golden. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing.


Caramel-Dipped  Pretzel Rods

1 can sweetened condensed milk                 

1 tablespoon butter

1 bag pretzel rods

2/3 cup chocolate sprinkles

2/3 cup crushed pecans

2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Wax paper

This makes three different types of rods, but our family favorite is the pecan-encrusted. You can mix and match or make just one variety.

Spread a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet. Set aside. Break pretzel rods in half.

Place pecans in a food processor and pulse to mince the nuts. Place pecans on a small plate. Place ½ cup chocolate on another plate. Place coconut and remaining chocolate on another plate. It’s important to have all your ingredients ready before you begin because once the condensed milk caramelizes, you will have to work quickly.

Empty sweetened condensed milk into a small pot and add the butter. Turn the heat to medium and stir constantly until mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes. As soon as it is thick enough to coat a pretzel, dip half the rod in the caramelized mixture and use a butter knife to twist the mixture around the rod (be careful not to touch mixture with your fingers). Then roll the rod in the pecans, or chocolate, or chocolate and coconut mixture. Lay on wax paper to dry. Repeat until you have dipped all the pretzel rods. Cool completely before serving.

Juliana Goodwin is a food columnist, cookbook author and avid traveler.
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