Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pepper Cookies, Marinated Mushrooms, and Waffle Sandwiches (It's a Crazy Mixed Up Day)

It has come to the time of year when we have impromptu "mini parties".  You know, a couple friends drop by, and you pull out whatever you have in the pantry. We make some mixed drinks, or brew a pot of coffee,  and viola, you have a party.
I love having a well stocked pantry, because it affords me the tools necessary to entertain in a pinch.   I have pickles and salsa and pickled vegetables, cans and jars of olives, spiced fruits I have canned, dried fruits, a bowl full of fresh fruits.  We keep flavored crackers, and dried soup mix.  I stock up on cream or Neufatchel cheese, and keep sour cream on hand for making hors d'oeuvres. 
I have gotten my Christmas platters out, and washed them.  They are stacked at the ready in my white cupboard in my pantry.  Thanks to my decision to bake for the holidays this year, I have a ready stash of cookies.
It's not so much about what you serve to company, but how you serve it.  If you are well stocked, you can lay out a spread, and be relaxed in doing it.  It makes people feel at home, whether it's salsa and tortilla chips warm out of the oven, or a scones and honey butter, and people will enjoy themselves. My mother made me a quilted nine patch table cloth out of Christmas fabric.  In the center of the squares, she quilted snowman, and bells and gingerbread men.  That and a few candles in the window, and already it feels like a party.  It's those things that make the holidays seem cozy.   
We spent our Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin's house.  I took a couple cold salads, and a red hot apple jello.  I also took a jar of these quick marinated mushrooms.  You could use whole mushrooms, but I always have a couple containers of sliced mushrooms in the fridge. 

Marinated Mushrooms

1 boxes fresh sliced button mushrooms
Equal parts fat free Italian dressing, rice wine vinegar, olive oil.  I started with 1/2 C each.
Fresh thyme leaves

In a clean quart canning jar, stuff as many mushrooms as you can.  Heat marinating liquid in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.  Pour over mushrooms.  Press down mushrooms to release air, and add more mushrooms, then marinade if necessary.  Let stand at least 2 hours or longer.  After marinating, I spooned out the mushrooms into a covered jar, and topped with a little of the marinade.  We are enjoying the leftover marinade on salads, it is an excellent dresssing.  The mushrooms will keep a good week in the fridge.

This next recipe uses the waffle iron.  To heck with Pannini presses, I've already got a waffle iron!  My old iron does have removeable plates that reverse to a flat surface, but I like the look that the waffle iron makes on the bread. 

Waffle Sandwiches

Small rounded loaf of wheat bread
1 brick Cream cheese (goat cheese, boursin cheese, etc)
1 T Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning
Sliced fresh pears or apples
Thinly sliced ham or turkey

Heat waffle iron.  Butter one side of the bread pieces.  It will take 8 slices to fill the waffle iron.  On the other side of four slices, spread cream cheese that you've mixed with seasoning.  Add sliced fruit and meat, and top with the other four slices of buttered bread, butter side out.  Grill until golden brown and crisp, and cut into triangles. Really good served with some homemade jelly, or cranberry relish.

Spiced Black Pepper Cookies

2 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 C shortening
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 C sugar
1/3 C molasses
1 egg
1 T milk
Raisins or currants

Sift dry ing.  Cream shortening and spices with sugar.  Add molasses.  Beat in egg and milk.  Add dry ingredients, and drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheets.  Top each with a raisin and bake at 350*F for fifteen minutes or until browned around the edges.  Cool on wire racks.  Makes 3-5 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the spoonfuls.

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