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Quick & Easy Holiday cooking

The holiday season is a time for family gatherings, entertaining and cooking.

Whether you're hosting a dinner for a large family or a few close friends, planning a holiday meal can be a lot of work. Consider the following time-saving tips to help make the most of your time in the kitchen so that you can focus on what is truly important--family and friends.

--Stock up on non-perishable baking ingredients that can be used in an assortment of dishes. Pantry staples such as jelly, preserves, peanut butter and flour can be used in a variety of delicious recipes.

--Plan ahead by setting the table the day before the main event.

--Choose one or two dishes that can be made a day ahead, such as the Strawberry and Peanut Butter Cream Cake Roll. This dish is actually better the next day because flavors have time to meld and intensify.

--Lay out items you'll need in advance, such as Hungry Jack pancake mix and Smucker's Peach Preserves, and wash, trim and chop other ingredients so they are accessible during meal preparation.

--Skip the scrubbing. Prep your casserole dishes with Crisco No-Stick Cooking Spray for easy clean up.


Peaches and Cream Crepes

Quick Crepe Batter
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons Crisco Vegetable Oil
1 cup Hungry Jack Buttermilk Pancake Mix-Complete
Crisco Original No-Stick Spray

Filling and Topping

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract, divided
1/2 cup Smucker's Peach Preserves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 7-ounce can whipped cream
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted*

Prepare Quick Crepe Batter recipe by placing eggs, milk and oil into blender. Cover and process by pulsing several times. Add pancake mix and process until smooth. Scrape down sides of blender with a spatula; blend again until smooth. Spray a 10-inch non-stick skillet with the no-stick spray and heat over medium-high heat. Remove skillet from heat and pour 3 to 4 tablespoons crepe batter into center of the pan. Quickly rotate the pan, tilting to coat the surface. Cook until the crepe's center and edges appear dry and lightly browned. Carefully turn the crepe over and cook the other side. Turn out the crepe onto a plate; cover to keep warm, if desired. Repeat with remaining batter to make 7 more crepes. For filling, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon almond extract in a small bowl, mixing until smooth. Combine peach preserves, butter and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract in a small microwave-safe bowl. Cook mixture on high (100 percent power) 45 to 60 seconds, or until butter is melted and well combined with preserves. Divide the cream cheese mixture evenly between the 8 crepes, spreading the cheese over the crepes. Fold each crepe in half, then in half again, forming a triangle. Place two crepes on each plate. Just before serving, top with peach preserves, whipped cream and toasted almonds. Makes 8 (8-inch) crepes.

*Toasting nuts: Place nuts in a dry non-stick skillet and cook over medium heat shaking the pan until the nuts are browned lightly.


Cheesy Vegetable Tarts

Pastry

1 1/4 cups Pillsbury BEST All Purpose Flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening or 1/3 Crisco Stick
1/3 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 to 2 tablespoons cold water

Filling

1 16-ounce bag frozen vegetable blend (like cauliflower, broccoli and carrots )

Sauce

2 tablespoons Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening or 2 tablespoons Crisco Stick
2 tablespoons Pillsbury BEST All Purpose Flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash white pepper
2 tablespoons whipping cream
2/3 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese

For pastry, preheat oven to 425 F. Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles cornmeal. Stir in cheese, egg and enough water to form dough. Roll out pastry to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using the lid from a 3-pound Crisco can as a pattern, cut 8 circles (about 5 1/4 inches each). Place pastry circles over backs of inverted 2 3/4-inch muffin-pan cups or small custard cups. Pierce dough with a fork. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a rack 2 to 3 minutes, then carefully remove shells from muffin pans. For filling, prepare vegetables according to package directions. Reserve 8 vegetable pieces for garnish. Chop remaining vegetables to 1/2-inch pieces. Keep all vegetables warm while preparing sauce. For sauce, melt shortening in saucepan. Add flour and cook 2 minutes. Add milk slowly and cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Remove sauce from heat; stir in salt, pepper, cream and cheddar cheese. Spoon vegetables into baked tart shells. Spoon sauce over vegetables. Garnish with vegetable pieces. Serve hot. Makes 8 servings.


Cherry-Glazed Ham

1 10-pound fully cooked whole ham
1 cup Smucker's Cherry Preserves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
3 tablespoons water

Place ham on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 325 F about 1 1/2 hours (or until thermometer registers 140 F). Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine cherry preserves, vinegar, corn syrup and spices. Cook and stir until boiling. Reduce heat; simmer two minutes. Stir in almonds. Remove from heat. Set aside 3/4 cup of the glaze. About 15 minutes before the meat is done, spoon glaze over the ham, basting occasionally. Remove ham from oven; place on a heated serving platter. Stir the water into reserved 3/4-cup glaze; heat and serve along with ham. Makes 10 to 12 servings.


Strawberry and Peanut Butter Cream Cake Roll

Cake

Crisco Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup Pillsbury BEST All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup Smucker's Low-Sugar Strawberry Fruit Spread, divided
Confectioners' sugar

For cake, preheat oven to 375 F. Sift confectioners' sugar generously over a 12- by 17-inch area of a clean thin kitchen towel. Spray a 15- by 10- by 1-inch jelly roll pan with no-stick spray. Line pan with waxed paper and spray paper. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Place eggs in mixer bowl; turn to medium-high speed and beat eggs with wire whisk until light and lemon colored. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add sugar, water, vanilla extract and sifted flour mixture; stop and scrape bowl. Turn to medium speed and beat 1 minute more. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately loosen the cake around the edges and invert cake onto the prepared towel. Carefully remove waxed paper. Roll the cake beginning at the narrow end. Cool on a wire rack 30 to 40 minutes. For filling, combine cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, peanut butter and almond extract in mixer bowl. Turn to low speed, mixing until powdered sugar is incorporated. Turn to medium-low speed and beat until smooth. Unroll cake; spread peanut butter cream evenly to edges of the cake. Reserve 2 tablespoons fruit spread in a resealable plastic bag for garnish; spread remaining fruit spread over peanut butter cream. Re-roll cake; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours before serving. Right before serving, microwave reserved fruit spread on high for 10 seconds; sprinkle cake with confectioners' sugar and drizzle with fruit spread. Makes 10 servings.


Tuxedo Strawberries

24 to 36 strawberries (about two 1-pint baskets), stems intact
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening or 2 tablespoons Crisco Stick, divided
1 1/2 cups white chocolate, chopped

Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper. Wipe strawberries clean; dry with paper towels. Place semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon shortening in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Cook at 50 percent power, or defrost, for 45 seconds. Press finger into chocolate to see if it is melted, if not, heat for another 45 seconds. Repeat process until chocolate is soft and shortening is melted. Stir until mixture is smooth. Repeat process with white chocolate and remaining 1 tablespoon shortening. Holding a strawberry by its green top, dip 3/4 of berry into melted white chocolate. Let excess chocolate drip off. Repeat with remaining berries. Place on waxed paper-lined sheet. Dip each cooled white chocolate-dipped berry at an angle into the semi-sweet chocolate, creating one side of the tuxedo "lapel." Repeat the process at an angle on the other side of the berry. Place on waxed paper-lined sheet. Place a small amount of melted semi-sweet chocolate into a small plastic zipper bag. Cut the tip of the corner, creating a very small opening. Pipe decorative buttons and bow ties onto strawberries. Refrigerate until chocolate coating is firm, about 1 hour. (Can be prepared 8 hours ahead, but they are best eaten the same day. Keep refrigerated.) Makes 24 to 26 strawberries.


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