Planning to host a dinner party or gathering to ring in the New Year? The Leader-Herald asked several local food and hospitality pros to suggest a few recipes our readers might try to liven up their celebrations.
Chauncey McCormick, owner of Grandma Millie's Bakery in Johnstown, shared a couple of festive treats - one savory and one sweet - perfect for party time.
The first is a chip dip that couldn't be simpler to prepare.
Ellen McCormick shows off platters of cupcakes on Friday at Grandma Millie’s Bakery, at the Fulton County Airport on Route 67 in Johnstown. The varieties, from left, are Chocolate-Covered Strawberry, Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Frosting and Vanilla Coconut Snowball. Grandma Millie’s will be closed until Wednesday while the staff rests up from the holidays and brainstorms new recipes for 2013, but the bakery has a recipe for Pink Champagne Cupcakes that readers may want to try at home on New Year’s Eve. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Ackerbauer)
"It's so easy," she said. "You just toss it all in a bowl, and you're done. My family and I use this recipe a lot, because with our hectic schedules, it's fast and easy to make and it's really delicious. And it really does taste like eating a loaded baked potato."
McCormick says it's important to make sure the bacon is crispy.
"This dip has a lot of colors and flavors, and it's just delicious," she said.
Baked Potato Dip
16 ounces sour cream
16 slices (12-ounce package) bacon, crispy, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces (about 2 cups) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup snipped fresh chives, plus additional for garnish
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Potato chips for dipping
In a medium size mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and stir well. Refrigerate or serve immediately in a glass dish and serve with potato chips.
Chauncey's daughter-in-law Ellen McCormick is the bakery's cupcake specialist.
"What better combination?" she says of this desert recipe. "Champagne and cupcakes all in one, and they're pink!"
The cupcakes are very light, she says, "with just a touch of champagne in the frosting - a great way to celebrate the New Year."
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups white sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup milk
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup Champagne
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 egg whites
4 to 5 drops pink food color
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup champagne
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 to 5 drops pink food coloring
For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 24 cupcake liners.
In a very large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the milk, shortening, Champagne and vanilla. Beat on low to medium speed for about 30 seconds or until just combined. Scraping the bowl constantly, beat on medium speed for two minutes. Add the egg whites and beat for two minutes.
Fill the cupcake liners half-full with batter and bake until the center springs back when touched, about 12 minutes. Cool before frosting.
For the frosting: In medium bowl, beat frosting ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.
Frost cupcakes as desired, and sprinkle with edible pearls (optional). Present on a tiered stand or in champagne glasses. Store leftovers loosely covered.
Anita Hanaburgh, author of our weekly hospitality column, "Anita a la Carte," recalls sharing her grandmother's special recipe for sugar cookies in a past column.
"My 'Mema,' she could bake," Hanaburgh wrote. "Her father, a German immigrant, owned a bakery, and he taught my Mema the secrets of creating wonderful confections. Her sugar cookies were legendary. In this world of maple-flavored, strawberry-glazed, double-stuffed Oreos ... there is nothing like a simple, delicious sugar cookie."
(Editor's note: See Page 5C in today's edition for Anita's "foodie resolutions" for the New Year.)
Mema's Sugar Cookies
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
One cup shortening (optional: substitute 2 tablespoons of butter for 2 tablespoons of the shortening)
Two eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (preferred) or sour milk
2 small teaspoons baking soda
3 to 4 cups flour
Vanilla or lemon extract or cinnamon
Combine the salt and sugar and cream with the shortening. Add the eggs, blend well.
Add the baking soda to the buttermilk, then gradually mix in the flour and, if desired, add extract or cinnamon.
Divide the dough into three sections; roll out one at a time. Use a lot of flour on the hand and use a small round cookie cutter.
Roll the sugar into the dough.
Bake in a 375-degree oven for 12 minutes.
For those who want to get a jump on resolutions to eat healthier in 2013, here's a recipe for a fresh salad that can be made with locally produced ingredients, courtesy of Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market in Gloversville and Crystal Stewart, one of the co-op's officers who also is an agriculture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension's Capital District Vegetable and Small Fruit Program.
"Local greens are a treat as winter sets in," Stewart said. "This fresh salad makes a great addition to a holiday meal or to a soup-and-salad dinner."
Baby Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad
8 ounces baby arugula, washed and patted dry
4 ounces soft goat cheese
4 or 5 small beets, boiled, peeled and chopped
2 to 4 ounces toasted walnuts
Toast the walnuts in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring regularly until fragrant and lightly browned, about three to five minutes. Set aside to cool.
Trim the tops from the beets and save for another recipe or stock. Place beets in boiling water and simmer until tender when pierced with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes. Run the beets under cool water and slip the skins off by rubbing them under the water. Chop beets in half and dice into quarter-inch slices. Set aside.
Pull goat cheese into small pieces with finger or a knife and fork. Set aside.
Place arugula in salad bowl. Toss in beets and walnuts. Add salad dressing to taste and toss to coat. Sprinkle goat cheese over the top of the salad and serve.
Local chefs and other food enthusiasts interested in contributing recipes for future holiday-themed articles are welcome to contact Features Editor Bill Ackerbauer at 725-8616, Ext. 250, or email@example.com.