After preparing all those lavish meals during the holiday season, about the last thing most of us want to do now is spend hours in the kitchen. It's time for recipes that look like they take all day to prepare, but actually go together in minutes.
One sure-fire way to save time is to begin with convenience ingredients--products that are partially prepared, but still allow for individual creativity. Mini doughnuts and holes can be made from a tube of refrigerated biscuits. They take practically no time to prepare and are at their best when still warm from frying. We suggest dusting them with sugar and cinnamon, but an orange or maple glaze might also be used. They make a fun addition to a simple breakfast of an orange and hot or cold cereal with milk.
Ham and Cheese Biscuit-Wiches, cooked in a waffle iron, are another quick idea using refrigerated biscuits. The recipe calls for cutting rounds of sliced ham and cheese the same size as the biscuits, but this is also a good way to use any small scraps of these ingredients you happen to have on hand. Be certain the cheese doesn't extend beyond the biscuit edges, or it will melt onto the waffle iron and be difficult to remove. Green chiles give a spark of Southwestern flavor to the mini sandwiches. Coat the waffle iron with vegetable spray and keep it on the lowest setting so the biscuit-wiches cook through before becoming too brown. A cup of coffee or glass of milk makes a good accompaniment.
Remember old-fashioned funnel cakes? The batter for this recipe can be quickly processed in a blender, then poured through a funnel into hot oil. Move the funnel to form a spiral or lacy pattern. Size of the frying vessel will help determine the shape--we tested the recipe with a six-inch diameter deep-fat fryer. These crispy, still warm cakes are usually enjoyed sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with syrup, but for an interesting change, try our recipe for Papaya Sauce. Serve with bacon or sausage, coffee or milk.
A tube of refrigerated dinner rolls and an easy filling add up to today's recipe for an eye-appealing Apricot-Cheese Braid. It takes only minutes to form the dough into a rectangle, then cut the edges and overlap to encase the filling and give the braid appearance. If baked ahead and refrigerated, bring the coffeecake to room temperature before serving. The braid makes an excellent addition to a breakfast or brunch of scrambled eggs and sausage or bacon.
Even those on the run won't miss the morning meal when a Meal in a Muffin is ready to grab on the way out the door. Frozen puff pastry is used used for the pastry shells, filled with sausage, green onions, eggs and cheese. Bake them on the weekend, then individually wrap any extras and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Rewarm the muffins in a microwave oven at home, school or the office.
Pineapple-Macadamia Coffeecake takes a little longer than the other recipes to prepare, but frozen bread dough saves time compared to making the dough from scratch. For even more speed or convenience, the frozen dough may be thawed in a microwave oven or overnight in the refrigerator.
Because you'll probably need to thaw two loaves of bread for the recipe, we've included directions for using the remaining half loaf to make six cloverleaf dinner rolls. The other loaf and a half get sliced and dipped in cardamom-flavored melted butter. Layer the slices in a tube pan with brown sugar, crushed pineapple and macadamia nuts, let rise and bake until golden brown. Leaving the pan inverted over the cake for a few minutes after baking allows all the upside-down-style topping to release. The result is an impressive looking, flavorful coffeecake to round out a brunch buffet.
1 1/2 (1-pound) loaves frozen bread dough
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Thaw bread dough until pliable. Butter tube pan. Sprinkle 1/3 cup brown sugar, pineapple and 3 tablespoons chopped nuts in bottom of pan. Drizzle with corn syrup.
Melt 1 cup butter and stir in cardamom. Slice bread dough 1/4-inch thick. Dip half bread slices in butter and arrange overlapping in pan. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup brown sugar and 3 tablespoons nuts.
Dip remaining bread slices in butter and arrange overlapping in pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons nuts. Drizzle with any remaining butter. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled.
Bake at 375 degrees about 30 minutes or until browned. Invert coffeecake on wire rack and allow to stand several minutes before removing pan. Makes about 10 servings.
Note: If 2 loaves bread are thawed, remaining 1/2 loaf thawed bread dough may be used to make 6 cloverleaf dinner rolls. Cut dough into 18 pieces. Using small amount flour on fingers, shape each dough piece into ball. Coat dough pieces with melted butter and place 3 in each cavity of lightly greased muffin pan. Let rise until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Bread dough may be thawed in refrigerator overnight. To thaw in microwave oven, place frozen loaf in plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap. Cook on LOW power 6 minutes, rotating occasionally.
MINI BISCUIT DOUGHNUTS
1 (10-ounce) package refrigerated biscuits
Oil for deep frying
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Open and carefully separate biscuits. Using detachable center from doughnut cutter, cut hole in center of each biscuit. Heat oil to 375 degrees in deep-fat fryer or saucepan. Combine sugar and cinnamon in paper bag.
Fry biscuits and holes, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Drain briefly on paper towels, then place in bag with cinnamon-sugar and shake until coated. Makes about 10 doughnuts and 10 doughnut holes.
Note: For optimum flavor, prepare just before serving.
HAM AND CHEESE BISCUIT-WICHES
Sliced fully cooked ham
Sliced Jack cheese
1 (10-ounce) package refrigerated biscuits
1 (7-ounce) can whole green chiles
Using 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut 10 rounds from ham and cheese slices. Open and carefully separate biscuits. Divide each biscuit into halves horizontally. Place 1 round ham and 1 round cheese on half biscuits. Top with desired amount of green chile, not overlapping biscuit edges.
Place biscuit-wiches in waffle iron heated to lowest setting. Bake until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Makes 10 servings.
Note: For best results, use non-stick vegetable spray on waffle iron before baking.
FUNNEL CAKES WITH PAPAYA SAUCE
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Oil for deep frying
Place eggs and milk in blender container and blend well. Add flour, baking powder and salt and blend until smooth. Heat oil to 360 degrees in deep-fat fryer, deep 6-inch skillet or 6-inch diameter saucepan.
Using finger to cover 1/2-inch diameter funnel spout, pour 1/4 cup batter into funnel. Position funnel over oil, remove finger and release batter into hot oil, moving funnel in circular motion to form spiral or lacy pattern.
Fry, carefully turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with Papaya Sauce. Makes 12 (5 1/2-inch) funnel cakes.
Note: Diameter of equipment used for frying will determine funnel cake size.
1 papaya, peeled and seeded
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon minced ginger root
3 tablespoons sugar
Cut papaya in chunks and place in blender or food processor fitted with metal blade. Puree. Add lime juice, ginger and sugar, blending well. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 tablespoon raisins
1 (8-ounce) package refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
Bring cream cheese to room temperature. Combine with powdered sugar, preserves and raisins. Open dinner rolls and separate into 2 large rectangles. Place on baking sheet, overlapping long sides to form 13x7-inch rectangle. Firmly press edges and perforations to seal.
Spread cream cheese mixture lengthwise down center 1/3 of dough and to within 1-inch of ends. Make diagonal cuts 3/4-inch apart on each side from outer edge to filling. Alternating sides, fold dough strips over filling in braid fashion.
Bake at 375 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly, then drizzle with Glaze. Serve at room temperature. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon apricot preserves
1 tablespoon milk, about
Whisk together powdered sugar, preserves and enough milk to make glaze with consistency to drizzle.
MEAL IN A MUFFIN
1 pound sausage
2 (17 1/4-ounce) packages frozen puff pastry sheets
3 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Saute sausage until browned, crumbling into small pieces. Drain on paper towels.
Thaw puff pastry. Cut 2 (5-inch) circles and 2 (4-inch) circles from each pastry sheet. Fit each 5-inch circle into individual muffin pan cup, pressing pastry against sides and bottom to form smooth lining. Pastry should extend 1/4- to 1/2-inch above rim of pan.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sausage and 1 teaspoon green onion into each pastry cup. Break 1 egg into each cup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cheese. Cover with 4-inch circles, pinching together and fluting edges of top and bottom crusts to seal.
Fill any empty muffin cups with about 2 tablespoons water. Bake at 425 degrees 20 to 22 minutes until golden brown. Makes 8 servings.
Food Styling by Donna Deane and Minnie Bernardino