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Edition Date: December 18, 2006
Simple twists add a special touch to holiday classics
Photo's courtesy of Family Features

At the heart of any holiday celebration is food. Certain tastes and aromas instantly conjure up images of the holidays, evoking memories of family, friends and seasons past. Everyone has a favorite dish, so hosts look for new ways to add special touches without snubbing tradition.

According to a survey conducted by Equation Research, 81 percent of people say they look for new recipes to help put a fresh twist on holiday classics. And, while the main course tends to remain constant, cooks want simple ideas to bring new flavor and flair to appetizers, side dishes and desserts.

The classic Green Bean Casserole, which gets its unmistakable flavor from cream of mushroom soup, has been a mainstay on holiday menus for more than 50 years. To add a festive touch of color, mix in chopped red pepper. Using chicken broth instead of water adds rich flavor to Moist & Savory Stuffing. Pecans and cranberries lend a flavorful twist.

Of course, no holiday gathering would be complete without scrumptious desserts. Easier Than Apple Pie — a festive interpretation of the all-American favorite — showcases the classic tastes of apples and cinnamon in a simple, rustic tart. Or, trade in traditional pumpkin pie for Spiced Pumpkin Cake, an ultra-moist treat with spiced cream cheese frosting that will win rave reviews.

For more recipes that blend tradition and creativity, visit www.campbellskitchen.com, www.mccormick.com or www.swansonbroth.com.

To-Do — Pantry Check

Before making the grocery list, check pantry staples to ensure all holiday cooking and baking starts with fresh ingredients. Some items to check: spices, dried herbs, flour, sugar, chocolate, and nuts. Even soup and broth have expiration dates.

ImageGreen Bean Casserole
Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 30 minutes
Makes 12 servings
2 cans (10 3/4 ounces each) Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 cups cooked cut green beans
1 can (6 ounces) French’s French Fried Onions (2 2/3 cups)
1. Stir soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper, beans and 1 1/3 cups onions in 3-quart casserole.
2. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until hot. Stir.
3. Top with remaining onions. Bake for 5 minutes more.
For a Festive Touch: stir in 1/2 cup chopped red pepper with soup.

Onion Gratin
Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 45 minutes
Makes 8 servings
2 pounds small whole white onions (about 30 to 32), peeled
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)
3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (about 5 ounces), divided
1/2 cup crushed corn flakes
1. Arrange onions in 12 x 8-inch shallow baking dish.
2. Mix soup, milk and 1/4 cup cheese in small bowl and pour over onions.
3. Mix corn flake crumbs with remaining cheese in small bowl and sprinkle over onions.
4. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly and onions are tender.
Try This Easy Method: For peeling small white onions, cut off ends of onions and place them in a bowl. Pour boiling water over onions and let stand for 5 minutes. Pour off water and then slip the skins off the onions.

ImageMoist & Savory Stuffing
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Makes 4 cups
1 3/4 cups Swanson Chicken Broth (Regular, Natural Goodness or Certified Organic)
Generous dash ground black pepper
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
4 cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing
1. Heat broth, pepper, celery and onion in 2-quart saucepan over high heat to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
2. Add stuffing and stir lightly to coat.
Savory Stuffing With Cranberries and Pecans: Stir 1/2 cup each dried cranberries and chopped pecans into stuffing mixture.
Sausage & Mushroom Stuffing: Add 1 cup sliced mushrooms to vegetables while cooking. Stir 1/2 pound cooked and crumbled pork sausage into stuffing mixture.

ImageEasier Than Apple Pie
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 20 to 25 minutes
Makes 8 servings
1 refrigerated pie crust (from 15-ounce package)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon McCormick Ground Cinnamon
4 cups thinly sliced peeled apples (about 4 medium)
1 teaspoon sugar
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Prepare crust as directed on package. Place on foil-lined 12-inch pizza pan. If necessary, press out any folds or creases. Brush crust with about 1/2 of beaten egg white.
2. Mix 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in medium bowl. Toss with apples. Spoon into center of crust, spreading to within 2 inches of edges. Fold 2-inch edge of crust up over apples, pleating or folding crust as needed. Brush crust with remaining egg white; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until apples are tender. Cool slightly before serving.

Spiced Pumpkin Cake
Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 35 minutes
Makes 18 servings
1 package (18 1/4 ounces) yellow cake mix
1 package (4-serving size) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon McCormick Ground Cloves
Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat all ingredients except frosting in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed just until moistened, scraping side of bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes or until well blended.
2. Pour into greased and floured 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Spread with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting.
Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened; 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened; 1 teaspoon McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract; and 1/4 teaspoon McCormick Ground Cloves in large bowl until well blended. Gradually add 1 package (16 ounces) powdered sugar (about 4 cups), beating until well blended after each addition.