Savory and sweet treats create tasty holiday gathering

Being the creative person I am, I enjoy trying new recipes and adding a fun variety of flavors to my menus. My cooking constantly evolves. I find inspiration from all over — the Internet, cooking magazines, a new cookbook, a trip somewhere, a new-to-me ingredient, or just making a wonderful, fresh, in-season ingredient taste the best it can.

This is exciting and fun and allows me to express my creativity and love of cooking through the food I make and serve. It’s something I can do every day of my life and is very much a part of who I am.

The Other Fisherman and our kids love sweets, while I am partial to savory. At Christmas time they clamor for me to make cookies and candies, while I would rather make appetizers, breads and colorful salads. Enjoy making recipes that reflect holiday traditions, memories of childhood, favorite ingredients and something you just like to eat because it just tastes good.


Sweet Sticky Asian Chicken Bites

Serve these yummy tidbits at a holiday party. These tasty bites resemble the “mall food court” chicken.

Sauce ingredients:

• 1/3 cup honey

• 1/4 cup ketchup

• 3 tablespoons soy sauce

• 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar

• 2 tablespoons brown sugar

•1 tablespoon minced garlic

• Pinch of Kosher salt

Other ingredients:

• 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, or a mix, cut into 1-inch pieces

• 1/4 cup cornstarch

• Oil for the pan

• 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, for topping


Heat the oven to 375°F.

Whisk the honey, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and garlic in a bowl until smooth.

Place the chicken in another bowl, season with a little salt, and dust with the cornstarch, tossing to coat and shaking off the excess.

Heat enough oil in a large skillet over high heat to coat the pan and keep the chicken from sticking. Working in batches, add just enough chicken to cover the bottom of the pan with a little space between each piece, sear the chicken, forming a light crust, gently turn over each piece with a tongs and cook a little on the other side. Transfer the chicken to baking dish. You may have to add more oil to the pan after each batch of chicken as a little will get absorbed by the meat.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and toss to coat. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is bubbling and thick, about 20 minutes.

Scatter with sesame seeds. Serve with toothpicks if serving as an appetizer.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

The most amazing butter I ever tasted was from France when I visited Spain. I ate little bites of it with a spoon it was so delicious. This little cookie recipe has a depth to it as it is made with brown sugar, rather than white sugar which is used in a basic shortbread.


• 1 cup butter, softened

• 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


In large mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add vanilla; then gradually beat in flour, blending thoroughly.

Gather dough into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm (1 hour) or for up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

On lightly floured board, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut, place on lightly greased sheets. Bake 35-40 minutes or until firm to the touch (press very lightly to test). Transfer to racks and let cool. Decorate them if desired. One idea is to dip half the cookie in melted chocolate and then in chopped nuts. Store in an airtight container.


Warm Beer Cheddar Dip

The Wisconsin girl in me cannot not have cheese every day. We brought home an entire cooler of it when we visited the mother state this autumn. The Other Fisherman has a palate for good craft beer. This dip is a little of both combined.

Made with beer and lots of cheddar cheese, this warm, hearty dip is just the thing for game day or a holiday get together. Be sure to add the cheese slowly, allowing each batch to melt before adding more, to ensure smooth results.


• 2 tablespoons butter

• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

•1/2 cup whole milk

• 3/4 cup ale or darker beer

• 1 teaspoon dry mustard, such as Colman’s

• 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

• Hot sauce, to taste

• 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated — use a very good quality cheese, please!

• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

• Soft pretzels, toast points, crostini and crudités for serving


In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and beer, increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the mustard, Worcestershire and hot sauce and cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes.

Working in batches, add the cheese in large handfuls, whisking until each batch has completely melted before adding more. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm with soft pretzels, toast points, crostini and crudités (veggies) for dipping. Keep it warm in that groovy old fondue pot that is new again. Makes about 2 cups.


Classic Caramel Corn


• Cooking Spray

• 4 quarts popped popcorn

• 1 cup brown sugar

• 1/2 cup light corn syrup

• 1/2 cup butter

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Spray a large shallow roasting pan with cooking spray. Add popcorn and place in preheated 250 degrees F oven while preparing caramel.

Mix brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat.

Boil 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla; mix well.

Pour syrup over warm popcorn, stirring to coat evenly.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and spread on foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Cool; break apart. Store in tightly covered container. Watch it disappear!



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