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Newspaper readers share holiday recipes

by: Barb Randall, Alice Richmond's Armenian Spinach Bureck were festively presented for the competition.

Once again, the judges for the Review and Tidings' Best Kept Secret Holiday Recipe contest had their work cut out for them.

Selecting winners was, as is always the case, difficult. You presented tantalizing, fragrant - not to mention delicious - food for the contest.

This contest has proven to be a festive way to connect with our community and we thank all those who entered for taking time to participate during this busy season.

Our overall winner was a traditional, perfectly baked cookie, Pecan Sandies. Baked by 14-year-old Sydney Quinton-Cox of Lake Oswego, these cookies, aka Russian Teacakes and Mexican Wedding Cakes, heralded to all judges the holiday season was here!

Pecan Sandies

Makes about 3 dozen

1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup sugar

1 cup flour

½ to ¾ cups chopped or smashed pecans

Cream together butter, vanilla and sugar and then add flour and nuts. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Bake at 375ºF. for 11 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 1 to 2 minutes and then roll in powdered sugar.

Enjoy!

Sydney Quinton-Cox

Lake Oswego

Another cookie receiving the thumbs up was Jo Ann Frost's butter cookies. Judges felt these cut-out cookies were a holiday season must-have.

Marcella Butter Cookies

I always double the recipe for six dozen cookies.

1/2 cup butter

½ cup sugar

1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

2 ½ cups flour

½ teaspoon soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Cream together butter and sugar; add the egg and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add the flour and the soda milk mixture and mix well. Chill dough overnight or at least 2 to 3 hours.

Remove the dough from the fridge and working with about a quarter of the dough at a time, roll it between sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of about 1/8 to ¼ inch. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters and place on cookie sheets. (Jo Ann chose to provide two shapes: Hearts in hands and teapots).

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden.

Frost with Butter Cream Frosting (recipe follows).

Butter Cream Frosting

½ box of powdered sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons softened butter

splash of vanilla

Drops of milk

Place the sugar and butter into a bowl and cream. Add a splash of vanilla and milk, drop by drop, until you have reached the desired consistency.

Tint frosting with food coloring, if desired.

Frost cookies and decorate with sanding sugars if desired.

Jo Ann Frost, Lake Oswego

The jury was hung when pressed to select a top winner in the hors d'oeuvres category.

We settled on a three-way tie for first between Esther Cramer's Chile Relleños Michuacan Style, Alice Richmond's Armenian Spinach Bureck and West Linn Mayor-elect Patti Galle's Proscuitto Wrapped Bleu Cheese, Raisin and Pistachio Bites. All residents of West Linn, these ladies gave the words 'festive and fabulous' a whole new meaning.

Esther's chile relleños were a delightful sampling of authentic Mexican cuisine. We are glad we have the recipe - several of us plan to make them for our families.

Alice's presentation of neatly cut diamond shaped philo savories was the most festive of the all entries. Her gracious spirit shown through every detail of her tray.

Patti's Proscuitto Wrapped Bleu Cheese, Raisin and Pistachio Bites showcased her resourcefulness and sophisticated taste. Using what she had on hand, she created an hors douevers that not only packed a powerful punch of flavor into a small bit, but did so in a very elegant manner.

You will want to try all three.

Chile Relleños

Michuacan Style

Makes 12

These relleños and tamales are traditional Christmas foods for my family. I named them for my mother's native area.

Wash 12 pasilla chiles with warm water and a wash cloth. Put chiles on the grill to roast them. Put chiles in a bowl and cover with a towel. When they have cooled, peel them (only the roasted parts should be peeled).

Dice 5 roma tomatoes

Dice or mince ½ a red onion

Dice or mince 3 cloves garlic

Dice one handful of cilantro

Cut Mozzarella cheese into 24 slices, about ½ inch x ¼ inch x 2 inches.

Make about a one-inch slit in each roasted chile. Through the slit you can remove the seeds, or leave them in if you like them spicy. Put the cheese into the chile through the slit.

Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Whip 4 egg whites until they are stiff, and then add 3 egg yolks. Dip the stuffed chiles into the egg mixture and then fry in the hot oil. Remove from the hot oil and continue frying until all chiles are fried.

Sauté the diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, and cilantro in the same frying pan and add salt to taste. Return the chiles to the pan and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

Heat corn or flour tortillas and set aside. Pull the stem of each chile out, and place the chile in a warmed tortilla, rolling it up burrito-style.

To serve as an hors d'ouevres, cut the rolls into 8 slices, place on platter cut side up.

Enjoy with more salsa.

Esther Cramer

West Linn

Armenian Spinach Bureck

Makes 18 pieces

Anything in philo always looks dressy but Alice's presentation was way over the top. Her savory pastries were nestled in paper cups on holiday- motif plates with fresh holly and herbs and a lighted candle. Fancy!

1 8-ounce bag pre-washed spinach

1 bunch green onions, sliced thinly to within one inch of the root

¼ cup plus 2 cups butter

¾ cup small curd cottage cheese

¾ cup parsley

1 egg, beaten

16 sheets philo dough, cut to fit a 9x12 inch pan

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt ¼ cup butter in a large sauté pan and sauté the onion about 4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until it is just wilted. Remove from the heat and add the cottage cheese, parsley and beaten egg. Fold thoroughly and set aside.

Clarify the remaining 2 cups butter and brush the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan, then brush eight sheets of philo dough, stacking them in the pan. Spread the spinach mixture evenly over the philo and top with eight more buttered sheets of philo. Cut into squares or diamonds and bake to a medium gold color.

Enjoy this gourmet treat with friends and social conversation and a glass of light wine or your preferred beverage.

Alice Richmond

West Linn

Proscuitto Wrapped Bleu Cheese, Raisin and Pistachio Bites

This is one of those recipes you can make on the spur of the moment using ingredients you probably have on hand. The garnish looks just like a holly berry!

You will need equal quantities of good quality aged bleu cheese, raisins and shelled pistachio nuts. Add these to a bowl and mix well.

Lay out slices of proscuitto and place dollops of the cheese mixture in the middle of the proscuitto lengthwise and roll the cheese up in the proscuitto, forming a log. Cut the log into 1 inch pieces.

Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and a dried cranberry for a festive appearance.

Patty Galle

West Linn

***

One entry fit neither the dessert or hors d'oeuvres category, but definitely fulfilled the criteria of being a Best Kept Secret Recipe.

With that in mind, we deemed Cliff Michael's Baked Eggs the Best Kept Secret Recipe.

Cliff proudly presented his family's traditional English Christmas breakfast dish, and even provided gold forks with which to eat them. This is comfort food in the Michael family, and he told us sharing the recipe brought back years of warm family memories.

Baked Eggs

Makes 4

These are an English tradition my mother used to make. We have them Christmas morning and other special occasions. Make a few or as many as you need with these simple instructions. They should be eaten with a gold fork!

4 eggs

4 handfulls of Wheaties or other hearty grain flake cereal

Salt, pepper

Dab of butter

Skiff of cream or milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line a muffin tin with paper muffin liners. Crush a handful of Wheaties and cover the bottom of the muffin liner with a layer of cereal. Break an egg into the muffin cup over the cereal. Top with salt, pepper and a dab of butter. Pour a skiff of milk (no more than a tablespoon) over the egg. Top with the remainder of the handful of crushed Wheaties.

Bake the eggs for about 25 minutes. Remove from muffin tin and take off paper liner before serving.

These are best served with bacon and toast and eaten with a golden fork.

Cliff Michael

Gresham

Special thanks goes to Barbara Dawson of In Good Taste for providing prizes for our contest. Be sure to shop with them at either the Portland location at 231 N.W. 11th or the Lake Oswego location, 6302 S.W. Meadows Road or visit their Web site at www.ingoodtastestore.com .

Bon Appetit! Happy Holidays!

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811, ext. 101 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Champagne, Cava, Asti, Spumante, Cap Classique, Crèmant, Sekt - all are classic examples of Sparkling Wines, the perfect accompaniment to our festive holiday foods. How do they differ? What makes a sparkling versus a semi-sparkling wine? What makes Champagne so special?

These questions and more will be discussed in next week's primer focusing on Bubbly Beverages 101, timed to help you make the right selection for your New Year's toasts.