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Three of my Favorite Things for Christmas

December 13, 2010

Photo by Gerik

Christmas is coming quickly and being prepared means cooking, baking and everything that produces heavenly aromas throughout the house.

Three of my favorite things for dessert covers the holidays from impromptu cocktail parties to Christmas Eve dinner. What is charming about these selections is that they can be made before Thanksgiving and frozen in anticipation of gatherings to come. Some quick finish work just beforehand produces a stunning collection of fun desserts for your party guests or family.

First on my list is Cheesecake Bites. Lightly flavored with fresh lemon and almond and bursting with creamy goodness, they are just big enough for one bite, maybe two. The easy recipe is baked in mini muffin tins and after being cooled can be frozen in an air tight container until needed. Once thawed, decorate with whip cream and a single fresh berry to finish the presentation.

Coming in second is French Cigarettes. It’s a strange name but makes a beautiful addition to the table. The taste reminds me a bit of Baklava which I absolutely love! This recipe features egg roll wrappers, nuts and a honey lemon glaze. Rolling the cigarettes are easy and the rolls can be frozen in a ziplock bag. When ready to serve, they are fried crispy in oil and soaked in the glaze for a bit.

Last but not least, Key Lime Tartlettes. Traditional pie crust shells filled with Key Lime Curd are topped with whip cream and freshly grated lime rind. They are finished off with a quarter slice of Kiwi or small fruit of your choice. Strawberry slices and raspberries are also a favorite.

It’s not too late to try these little bites. At our house the bites will be served on a plated three tier stand and enjoyed with steaming hot chocolate after the Christmas Eve Service. From my family to yours, a Very Merry and Tasty Christmas!

Cheesecake Bites

Photo by Gerik


Makes 24

¾ c. sugar
1 pound cream cheese, room temp.
3 eggs
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp almond extract

crushed graham crackers
Pam spray

Spray 2 mini muffin tins with Pam spray. Pour crushed graham crackers into each tin and shake until the muffin insets are coated well with crumbs. Dump out the excess.

In a bowl, mix the sugar into the soft cream cheese with a fork. Stir in the rest of the ingredients with a whip being careful to mix only until there are no lumps left.

Fill each inset with cheesecake mix. They should be filled almost to the top!

Bake at 350 degrees about 15 minutes, they should be barely turning golden on top edge.

Cool, remove by sliding a knife around the sides to release them. Store in refrig or freezer.

French Cigarettes

1 package of won ton wrappers
equal portions of granulated sugar and ground nuts (pecans or almonds are my favorite)
sprinkle of cinnamon
orange rind, small amount for flavor, optional
Honey Lemon Syrup, recipe included below

Make a ½ cup mixture of the sugar, nuts, cinnamon and orange rind
Make syrup and let it cool, can be stored in refrigerator for later

To make a cigarette, place the won ton wrapper on point and spread about ½ teaspoon of the sugar nut mixture in the middle. Fold the bottom point up and make one roll, tuck in the sides and finish rolling. Paste the cigarette closed by using water on the top point. Completed cigarettes can be stored in a ziplock bag for storage in the refrigerator or freezer.

To serve: Early in the day fry the cigarettes about 3 minutes in about 1 inch of hot oil. They will be golden and crispy. Drain.

Place the cigarettes in a deep sided baking dish and pour all the syrup over the top and let them soak 1 hour. Remove from syrup and let drain for awhile. I have also prepared them a day in advance and they keep well at room temp.

Place on serving dish, layering them up. Sprinkle with additional nuts.

Honey and Lemon Syrup
3 cup sugar
1 ½ cup water
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 T honey
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, water and lemon juice and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring. Once it comes to a boil do not stir. Remove from heat when the temp. comes to 212 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir in 2 T. honey. Let cool.

Key Lime Tartlettes

Photo by Gerik

Makes 24

Pie crust, recipe included
Key Lime Curd, recipe included
Whip cream
Berries for garnishing

Pie crust
2 cups flour
⅔ cup shortening
1 tsp. salt
¼ cup cold water or more to bring the dough together
Mix the flour and salt together. Add the shortening to the flour and rub in with fingers to make flour coated shortening flakes. Don’t mix too much. Add water and stir with a fork until mixture makes a ball. Roll out the dough like you would a pie. Use a biscuit cutter to cut circles and fit into the bottom of muffin pans using your finger to press into the tin. Prick the bottoms with a fork and bake in a 450 degree oven until golden. Let cool before bagging for storage.

Key Lime Curd
Makes 1 cup
¾ c sugar
½ cup fresh key lime juice
1 tsp. heaping, cornstarch
2 eggs, well beaten
2 T butter
½ tsp. grated lime rind

Combine first 3 ingredients in insert of a double boiler or medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Whisk a small amount of the hot mixture into the eggs while stirring vigorously to temper the eggs. Pour the egg mixture into the hot mixture and stir rapidly. Place the pan over boiling water
and cook 2 minutes. Do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and lime rind. Let cool to room temp. and then refrigerate. If desired, pour the hot mixture in a canning jar and seal with a lid and rind before letting cool. Refrigerate.

To serve: Fill the tart shells with key lime curd, top with whipped cream and berry garnish. Refrigerate until serving time.

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