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Happy holidays! Looking for some great appetizers and main dish recipes to serve your family and friends as you welcome in 2014 … try these delicious favorites! Here’s wishing all of you a safe, happy and healthy New Year! Enjoy!

New Year’s Soup

(A must have tradition for
New Year’s day!)

1 pint black-eyed peas

1 tablespoon salt

1 ham hock or 1/2 pound piece of ham

1 large onion, chopped

1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 (3-ounce) can green chilies, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

Sour cream, for garnish

Chopped fresh dill, for garnish

Wash beans thoroughly. Cover the beans with water and add salt; soak overnight. Drain beans. Put into a pan with 2 quarts of cold water. Add ham, onion, tomatoes, garlic and green chilies. Simmer slowly 3 hours or until beans are tender. Remove ham hock, chopping any meat left. Just before serving, add lemon juice. Serve garnished with sour cream and chopped dill. Yield: 6 servings.

Bacon-Cheddar Deviled Eggs

12 hard-cooked eggs

1/2 cup mayonnaise

4 bacon strips, cooked until crisp, crumbled

2 tablespoons finely shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon honey mustard

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Slice eggs in half lengthwise; remove yolks and set whites aside. In a small bowl, mash yolks. Stir in the mayonnaise, bacon, cheese, mustard and pepper. Stuff or pipe into egg whites. Arrange egg halves on a serving tray; keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Yield: 2 dozen.

Sweet and Sour Ham Balls

2 pounds freshly ground ham

1-1/2 cups dry bread crumbs (unseasoned)

1 cup milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

For Sauce:

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup crushed pineapple with juice

Preheat oven to 325°. Mix all ingredients and shape ham mixture into 1-inch balls; arrange on a greased baking pan.

To make sauce: Mix sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, for approximately 2-3 minutes. Pour sauce over meatballs and bake uncovered for 1 hour, basting frequently. Yield: 8 servings.

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

2 packages large, fresh mushrooms

1 stick butter

2 small onions, chopped

8 to 10 links Italian sweet sausage

Plain bread crumbs

Vegetable cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°. Rinse and detach stems of mushrooms; save stems. Hollow out inside of mushroom. Cut stems into small pieces. Melt margarine in large skillet. Squeeze out sausage from casing. Sauté stems, onions and sausage until browned. Remove from heat when fully cooked. Break the cooked ingredients into small pieces or process in food processor a few seconds. Add bread crumbs to mixture, just to a solid consistency. (Do not add too much bread crumbs or it will be too dry). Stuff mushrooms; place on cookie sheet sprayed with vegetable cooking spray. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Pork Chops with Sauerkraut Stuffing

5 cups herb seasoned croutons

2 cups sauerkraut

3 tablespoons brown sugar, firmly packed

1 cup thinly sliced apples, pared

2 tablespoons shortening

6 pork loin chops, 3/4 inch thick

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°. Pour croutons into a large mixing bowl. Add sauerkraut, brown sugar, and apples. Stir until combined. Set aside, heat shortening in a fry pan. Brown pork chops on both sides; add salt and pepper to taste. Place in bottom of a greased shallow 2 quart rectangular baking dish. Spoon stuffing evenly over pork chops. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Yield: 6 servings.

Sauted Scallops

1 pound fresh bay or sea scallops

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

All-purpose flour, for dredging

1/2 stick unsalted butter, divided

1/2 cup chopped shallots (about 2 large)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 lemon, cut in half

Note: If using bay scallops, keep whole. However, if sea scallops are used, cut each one in half horizontally before cooking.

Prepare scallops by sprinkling them with salt and pepper. Next, spoon some flour in a large plastic baggie and gently toss the scallops in the flour (do one handful at a time making sure that each is coated), remove the scallops and shake off the excess flour.

In a very large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over high heat until sizzling and add a single layer of scallops. (Do not crowd the scallops in the pan.) Lower the heat to medium and allow scallops to brown lightly on one side without moving them, then turn and brown lightly on the other side. This should take approximately 3 to 4 minutes.

Melt remaining butter in the pan with scallops; add shallots, garlic, and parsley and sauté for 2 more minutes, tossing the seasonings with the scallops. Add the wine and cook for an additional 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon juice. Yield: approximately 6 servings.

Caramel Layer Cake

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 stick butter, softened

2 large eggs

1 large egg white

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/4 cups fat-free milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

Cooking spray

For Frosting:

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup evaporated fat-free milk

2-1/2 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons light-colored corn syrup

Dash of salt

2 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms with wax paper.

Beat sugar and butter at medium speed of electric mixer about 5 minutes. Add eggs and egg white, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder and salt with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into prepared pans and sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350º for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire rack; remove from pans. Carefully peel off wax paper and cool completely.

To make frosting: Combine brown sugar and next 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth and slightly warm. Cool. Frosting will be thin, but thickens as it cools. Place layer cake on plate; spoon 1/2 cup frosting on cake layer spreading to cover. Top with remaining layer, then frost top and sides of cake. Store loosely covered in refrigerator. Yield: 18 servings.

Kitchen HolidayTip:

When cooking hard boiled eggs, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the water while boiling. This will help to make the egg shell peel off easier.

Any comments, questions or favorite recipes? I would like to hear from you. Please email me at Please write “Helen’s Kitchen Request” or “Helen’s Kitchen Holiday Recipe Exchange” in the subject line to make sure that I receive your email!

Peppermint Meltaway Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

For Frosting:

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

2 to 3 drops red food coloring, optional

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies

Red food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to at 350°. In a small mixing bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in extract. Combine flour and cornstarch; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls, and place about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

To make frosting: In a small mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, extract and, if desired, food coloring for a light pink color; beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cookies; sprinkle with crushed candies.

Store cookies in an airtight container. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen cookies.