Christmas is quickly approaching! And you know what that means!? Party time! Christmas parties and potlucks are some of my favorite get-togethers of the whole year, but there’s always the question of what to bring. No one wants to be the person whose dish doesn’t get eaten. So how do you know what will be popular? My advice, bring a classic. Stick to the normal crowd pleasers and then dress them up in their Christmas best! I know time is always an issue, so here are some of my favorite simple treats for potlucks that I’ve found on Pinterest. Whether you’re hosting or just attending, these are guaranteed to get gone.
However, if you’re looking for something a little fancier, keep reading.
My mom’s birthday was right before Thanksgiving, and I made her a classic chocolate cake with whipped ganache. I found the inspiration on, you guessed it, Pinterest, and was able to easily recreate it! The design looks elaborate but is really very simple. It would make a stunning dessert for Christmas dinner. Here is the Pinterest picture I found.So here’s what I did. I’ll be willing to bet most of you already have a killer chocolate cake recipe, so I won’t bore you with mine, but I would recommend jazzing it up with espresso or your favorite liquor (I used Bailey’s Irish Cream). I filled and iced the layers with a traditional whipped ganache (also flavored with Bailey’s), and then covered it with a soft ganache. After that, I simply piped rosettes and topped them with my favorite Lindor chocolate truffles.
Here’s where I first started piping, but the ganache was too soft so I had to re-whip it. You may need to do this after icing the cake.
This is the re-whip.
The tricky part was the basket in the middle. This cake would still be spectacular without it, but it does add a very dazzling showpiece. I had never made a basket like this before and was able to get it on the first try. It really isn’t as complicated as It looks. I know you can do it if you have time!
You make the baskets by drizzling melted almond bark (or tempered chocolate if you’re brave) over some air-filled water balloons (I happened to have those on hand because I’m a child) and set them up in some cups. Put those babies in the freezer to chill, then just pop the balloons. Tips! Make sure you POP the ballon instead of letting the air slowly seep out. I did that at first and it made the chocolate break because it was too slow. You just gotta rip it out like a band-aid. Also, make more than one. Even I, being the culinary genius that I am, make lots of mistakes. 😉 I think at least two of the four that I made broke.
After you finish decorating, cut the cake with a HOT knife to get those beautiful, picture-perfect slices.
Well, there it is! I hope you can wow your friends with this fabulous cake! Merry Christmas!
It’s that time of year when all things turn orange, and I am not just saying that because I live in the very orange state of Tennessee!
Recently we had some little-people visitors and I wanted to give them a treat before they left for home. I was thinking of something not-too-sugary but still fun to eat! I remembered this fun Popcorn cake I made a couple of years ago at Christmas.
This was the perfect combination with lots of popcorn held together with melted marshmallows. Adding a few drops of orange food coloring turned this into a perfect autumn treat!
I tossed in a small handful of candy corn to make it a true fall celebration!
This recipe is a fun kids-in-the-kitchen kind of treat. It is easy and definitely a hands-on recipe kids like to make! Let your imagination run wild with the possibilities for this dessert.
Have fun! ~Catherine
Click here for a few more details when making this cake!
Every once in a while I get out of the kitchen and make way for my Sous-chef dishwashing mom to create something wonderful! That is exactly what happened recently after she was leafing through the fall Southern Living magazine and came upon this recipe.
The minute she saw it she knew it was meant for us! Even though I adore Southern Living magazine, I leave it to mom to let me know what I need to see and read! We have several cast iron skillets — and even though skillet is well-worn and not too pretty — oh my what a nicely browned, flaky crispy crust it makes! This recipe works in a regular pie plate, but dig out the cast iron if you have one.
I was reading through the recipe before typing this blog post and I read “The rich, bourbon-y caramel sauce makes the tender, lightly spiced apple filling, and flaky crust even more irresistible.” Whaaat? Bourbon? Maybe Jack Daniels?
Hmmm …. I am going to have a little chat with my Sous-chef Apple-pie making momma because I am pretty sure she didn’t include a local hometown ingredient. (Have I ever mentioned that we live only a couple of miles from the only place on earth where Jack Daniels Whiskey is made? ) I am sure we are now going to need to make another one and include a little Jack. Maybe their Tennessee Honey. Yum.
The recipe calls for Fuji apples. Mom used Fuji. Although this recipe works made with most apples, you will want to get the Fuji if you can because the tart-sweet flavor works well with the sweet caramel, and the apples hold their shape when baked instead of turning to mush.
Mom made a second pie and I asked her to use up some Macintosh apples we had on hand. BIG MISTAKE! They really did turn to mush and just made one big gob of apple in the center of the pie. (Not pretty, not too tasty either.)
The recipe calls for two store-bought refrigerated piecrusts, but you can use your favorite homemade pie dough recipe if you prefer. If you use store-bought, we suggest Pillsbury. For $1 or more per box, you can get Kroger brand or another brand. Don’t do it, the crust will be a disappointment. If you have time to make your own crust you can check out my favorite recipe and a little tutorial:
Mom was concerned that the pie crust wouldn’t stretch up and over the skillet edge. We discovered it really doesn’t need to. Just place the crust in the skillet up to the edge and gently fill. Then when placing the top crust crimp edges of bottom and top crusts together.
Place the skillet in a preheated oven on the middle oven rack until the crust is golden, the apples are tender, and the filling is bubbly, about 55 minutes to one hour. IMPORTANT: Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil after about 40 minutes to prevent excessive browning — or earlier if the pie begins to over-brown on the top.
Let the pie cool completely before serving to allow the filling to set. This is also important so that each piece will come out picture perfect!
Besides the really flaky crust, the homemade salted caramel sauce is what separates this pie from all the rest! The caramel sauce goes in the pie and on top of the pie! Oh my goodness, can’t you just taste it?
Top each serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and extra caramel sauce, there is plenty to go around!
Thank you to my Sous-chef Dish-washing Apple pie-Making momma for this wonderful dessert!
Nothing says "southern" quite like making an all-American apple pie in a cast iron skillet! Top it with homemade caramel sauce and you will be the talk of the town!
Author: Adapted by Catherine Daugherty
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 6-8 servings
1 (14.1-oz.) pkg. refrigerated piecrusts
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons half-and-half
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon or whiskey *(optional)
3 pounds Fuji apples (about 4½ medium apples), peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
2½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
Fit 1 piecrust on the bottom and press up sides of a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Transfer skillet to refrigerator, and let chill while assembling caramel sauce and apple filling.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Stir together light brown sugar, butter, half-and-half, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Cook, stirring, until butter melts and mixture begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to thicken, about 2 more minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla extract, and, if desired, bourbon or whiskey*. Let caramel sauce cool to almost room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Toss apples with cornstarch in a large bowl.
Pour ⅓ cup caramel sauce over apples, and toss to coat. Reserve remaining caramel sauce for serving. Pour apple filling into prepared skillet.
Place remaining piecrust over apple filling. Crimp edges of bottom and top crusts together.
Using a sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 (1-inch) slits in top crust for steam to escape. Whisk together egg yolk and water in a small bowl; brush over crust.
Bake pie in preheated oven on middle oven rack until crust is golden, apples are tender, and filling is bubbly, about 55 minutes to 1 hour, shielding loosely with aluminum foil after about 40 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Transfer pie to a wire rack, and cool completely, about 3 hours. Serve with reserved caramel sauce.
*Bourbon or Whiskey optional for a little boozy-flavoring.
If you enter the National Banana Pudding contest and win third place instead of first place … is it still “Award-Winning” banana pudding?
It all started a long time ago when I moved from Nebraska to Tennessee. Whenever talking food I would often hear … “oh! Banana Pudding! Yum!” Then I tasted it in a restaurant and truly said, “yuck.” My Banana-pudding-lovin‘ husband said, “that isn’t true banana pudding. The banana pudding in my memory is creamy, delicious and topped mile high with oven-browned meringue!”
That is when my sister-in-law, Liz, gave me Southern Living’s Banana Pudding recipe. She said, “this is the one he is talking about.” I made it and the rest is history. These pictures are some of the most shared pictures on Pinterest and the recipe still receives a lot of views on this blog.
Last August (2016) my Chief Banana Pudding-Lovin’ Husband read about the National Banana Pudding Festival held every year in Centerville, Tennessee. He said, “Catherine, you should enter your banana pudding recipe in the National Banana Pudding Festival Cook-off!”
I said, “Sorry darling, it has to be an original recipe and mine is from Southern Living!”
Without even missing one little beat he said, “well, tweak it and make it an original!” I had just taken an Apple Praline Cake out of the oven and I had pralines and caramel thoughts dancing in my head!
I started researching what it takes to enter the contest and again I was stopped by the “original, non-published” requirement for the banana pudding recipe that I could submit. However, The Chief continued to encourage me to get creative. I let my fingers do the walking through and was pleasantly surprised not to find any recipes for pralines and cream banana pudding. So, I had my title, now I just needed to create a recipe.
Over the next month, my sous-chef dish-washing mom and my Chief Banana Pudding Eater sampled several versions of what would become my original recipe. Each time they would say “Yeah! this is the best one.” I quickly learned they were not an objective source for my recipe because they loved them all!
Finally, I settled on a recipe and the night before the deadline, I emailed off the application and my original recipe. Three days later I received the surprise call — my recipe was chosen and I was one of 10 finalists chosen for the cook-off to be held in October.
As the information settled on my brain I got to thinking how I don’t even like to watch Food Network challenge cooking shows because it makes me too nervous and hypes me up! Cook-off? In front of judges? On a stage, in front of people? What in the world was I thinking?
My husband was thrilled, my sous-chef dish-washing mom was “all-in” for a trip to Centerville, Tennessee and I was … well, sorta numb. I received information that they were providing a hotel room for us the night before and that I would need to arrive at 7:30 a.m. at the Festival. The cook-off would begin at 9 a.m. with 5 cooks on stage at one time. We had ONE HOUR to make our pudding, layer it, top it and finish it. Oh, yes, and by the way, we needed to make TWO batches, one for the judges and audience to taste and the other to auction off to the highest bidder.
The informational documents I received said each contestant would have a gas stove and oven to use. Perfect, I could make my pudding faster as long as I stirred like a crazy woman! No problem, I was feeling quite crazy. If there was any part of the recipe I couldn’t make in the one-hour time frame, I could do prep work at home. For my recipe, I made the pecan pralines ahead of time and brought them with me.
The stage was in a large open-air building with a solid wall behind the stage, but was open on the sides. Chairs were set up in the middle for the audience to sit. My position on the stage was first in a lineup of 5. That was good, I felt like the corner gave me some extra moving around space. I set up all my ingredients and utensils.
The Festival sponsors provided all the bananas and Nilla wafers that we needed. Then I turned around to heat up the oven. OH, MY GOODNESS! Shock set in – the “stove and oven” was a little apartment size that actually was heated with propane, not natural gas. I don’t know the technical part of heating with propane vs. natural gas but I do know that propane doesn’t heat as quickly or efficiently. The day was a bit windy and when I turned on the stove the flames skirted off to the side a little bit. The oven seemed to be heating up okay.
Little did I know when I started that the pudding was going to be very difficult to cook. My pan was larger than the burner on the stove. Trouble. One of the judges approached me and began chatting as my hour began. Trouble. The flames were blowing to the side instead of heating up the bottom of my pot. Trouble.
Fast forward one hour. Two puddings were done, layered with bananas, Nilla wafers, pecan pralines, topped with meringue and baked. I was given table space to display them. I had designed my space to hopefully grab some attention. The clock ticked, the bell rang. It was over.
At home, the pudding took 10 to 12 minutes to cook on my induction stove. The propane-fired miniature stove took 30 minutes of stir time to make my pudding. In the end, I added some extra flour and sugar attempting to thicken the pudding quicker. The pudding ended up grain and not as creamy as I would have liked.
At one point I held the electric mixer in one hand beating the meringue while layering the bananas, Nilla wafers and pudding with the other hand. I had to of looked out of control and I certainly felt that way.
All-in-all it was a fun experience. I didn’t know I was going to be given a hand-made pottery “pudding pot” as part of my 3rd place prize package. That pudding pot made it all worth it! I love it.
I don’t want to do it again. However, I have tweaked my recipe a little bit since that time. The recipe I am sharing with you is the “tweaked” version and we agree, it’s our favorite!
If you’ve never made banana pudding, it is fun to do and guarantees rave reviews. If you have made it, you may want to try this version because the caramel flavoring and pecan pralines send it over-the-top on the flavor scale.
Happy Cooking! ~ Catherine
P.S. Another best part — my sweet banana-pudding-lovin’ husband washed up all my pots and pans at the Festival. ❤️
No matter where you take this bowl of banana pudding, it will return empty! My original recipe won 3rd place at the National Banana Pudding Festival in 2016. In this version, I added caramel flavoring which only served to improve the over-all recipe.
Author: Catherine Daugherty
Recipe type: Dessert
1 cup whole pecans
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
½ tsp. caramel flavoring
⅔ cup white sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
2 cups whole milk
4 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. caramel flavoring
1 (11 oz.) packaged of vanilla wafers
4 bananas, sliced (dipped in lemon water or sprinkled with fruit fresh)
1 teaspoon banana extract
⅓ cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. F.
In a medium bowl combine whole pecans, brown sugar, cream, and caramel flavoring. Mix well coating the pecans evenly. Spread onto a baking sheet, sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the coating is dry and slightly crystallized, stirring at least once. Remove from oven to cool and break apart any pieces that are sticking together. Set aside.
To make pudding
Combine ⅔ cup sugar, flour, and salt in a heavy saucepan. In a separate bowl whisk together condensed milk, whole milk, and egg yolks; stir into the dry ingredients. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until smooth and thickened. Use the largest whisk you have to stir while cooking the pudding. This usually takes 10 to 15 minutes, but really depends on your stove or heat source.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and caramel flavoring. Cool the pudding at this point on the counter until just barely warm.
Using a 2 to 3-quart baking dish, arrange ⅓ of the wafers in the bottom of the dish, laying each one flat. Layer 2 sliced bananas over the wafers. Pour ½ of the pudding mixture over the wafer and banana layer. Repeat with a second layer ending with pudding on top.
Beat egg whites on high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add banana extract. Continue beating at high speed, adding ⅓ cup sugar just one tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until egg whites are very stiff.
Spread egg white mixture over the pudding, sealing it up against the edge of the bowl. Arrange remaining wafers around the outside of the dish. Dot around the edge with praline pecans.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Drizzle with caramel ice cream topping if desired. Serve pudding warm at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve cold. Enjoy!
Note: This pudding will fit a 9” x 13” baking dish or a 2 or 3-quart dish. Also – be sure and use sweetened condensed milk and NOT evaporated milk!