Like you, we lead busy lives. In addition to meeting our monthly deadlines, we also have to tend to our personal lives, which at this time of year means cooking and baking for family gatherings, open houses, cookie exchanges and office parties. So, we thought we’d share our favorite quick-and-easy dishes with you.
Briana W. Hess
Every time my birthday, Thanksgiving or Christmas rolled around, my “Granny” would always ask me what I wanted on the table. My answer was always the same: Butterfinger Cake. Now living almost 1,000 miles away, she still asks that question, but instead of birthdays and holidays it’s asked before I make my visit to Alabama. This cake is a hit with everyone in my family. (My younger cousin has followed in my footsteps and now asks for the tasty dessert for her birthday.) Not only is it easy to make, but it is also fun to make with young ones at home. The dulce de leche-like caramel sauce helps to make the cake moist while the light, whipped topping holds the Butterfinger crumbles perfectly on top.
Texas Caviar is made with protein-packing, heart-healthy, nutrient-rich beans and colorful vegetables that look as good as they taste. Whether it’s served as an appetizer, side dish or a late-night snack, this versatile salad is a favorite of mine! It does need time to marinate, so it’s perfect to make the night before your event. Other than that, it couldn’t be easier to create. It’s perfect for holiday parties, relaxed gatherings, backyard barbecues or watching a football game or movie on television. Of course, you’ll want to serve it with crunchy tortilla chips! Leftovers keep well for at least a week (when chilled), but I guarantee you it won’t last that long.
Heart disease has always been a part of my life. My father had a heart condition, and my husband was born with a heart defect that affected his bicuspid aortic valve. As a result, I’ve become more aware of what I serve for parties and family gatherings and always include a few things that are heart healthy. This salad is a case in point. Guests always love it (it doesn’t matter whether they are watching their weight or sodium levels or not). The addition of berries provides natural sweetness, while the nuts deliver crunch. The swirl of colors is eye-catching, especially for holiday gatherings. Best of all, it’s simple to make, which is good for my heart! As for the dressing, take the easy route. We’ve found some tasty vinaigrettes at Panera Bread (low-sodium raspberry), Stauffers and Giant (Marzetti’s Simply Dressed Pomegranate).
I first tasted this versatile “salad” in 1979 at a cookie exchange/brunch one of my neighbors in Lake Ridge, Virginia, hosted. Fortunately, she always sent us home with a book of recipes. That Christmas I tested the recipe out on my family, and they loved it. Since then, it’s been a go-to dish for the holidays. It’s also perfect for office parties, potlucks and bridal/baby showers. It’s simple to make. Feel free to improvise. Add fresh fruit or fruit you preserved/froze. Apples, bananas and nuts are great additions, too. Lately, I’m into using pomegranate and fresh berries to garnish the salad. I like to serve it in “memorable” pieces such as the Champagne glasses (seen here) my parents received as a wedding gift in the 40s. I’ve also served it in my grandmother’s Haviland China tea cups, the Waterford wine glasses I received over the course of several Christmases from my sister, and whatever else I may find.
Growing up we were always encouraged to learn how to do things. I learned how to sew by making Barbie Doll clothing and how to cook by making desserts and easy side dishes. I always looked forward to Christmas, which meant I could help make cookies. The cookies pictured here are more of a cross between a cookie and candy. They’re so easy to make; the recipe is foolproof.