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Make It a Homemade Holiday with Pantry Favorites

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Sweet Cherry Bars
Mini Sweet Cherry Tarts
Chocolate Sweet Cherry Surprise Cake
Sweet Cherry Cut-Out Cookies

(Family Features) - The holiday season is filled with surprises -- special gifts, family announcements and unexpected houseguests. This year, seasonal baking offers pleasant surprises for harried home cooks who have more people around the dinner table and less time to prepare. Surprising uses for an all-American favorite and a cooking oil help bring no-fuss festivity to your holiday table.

Don't set butter out to soften -- open your pantry and begin baking with canola oil. Canola oil is recognized as a heart- healthy oil by the American Heart Association, but many people don't realize it's great for baking because of its versatility and light flavor. Always producing soft-moist baked goods is as simple as replacing all cooking oils with canola oil. It can also be substituted in most recipes for butter or margarine, which reduces total fat by 20 to 25 percent.

While discovering new uses for canola oil, utilize a family favorite and holiday tradition -- cherries! Don't stop with cherry pie this holiday season. Sweet canned, frozen and maraschino cherries offer versatility when baking and serve up a sophisticated finish to holiday meals with ingredients straight from the pantry and freezer. And forget about a new tablecloth. Sweet cherries' bright red color instantly makes any table dressed for the season. For more cherry recipes, visit www.nwcherries.com.

This season, holiday baking can be surprisingly simple and chic, making guests a welcome addition to the festivities. Fill your family and friends with homemade holiday goodness, prepared with a familiar taste and a healthier alternative.

Baking Substitution

Solid Fat to Canola Oil

1 cup = 3/4 cup

3/4 cup = 2/3 cup

1/2 cup = 1/3 cup

1/4 cup = 3 tablespoons

1 tablespoon = 2 teaspoons

1 teaspoon = 3/4 teaspoon

Using canola oil instead of butter or shortening will reduce the (bad) saturated fats and replace them with healthier mono- and polyunsaturated fats. This substitution technique works best with certain baked goods such as muffins, pastries, cakes, brownies and some cookie recipes.

For more information and recipes, visit www.canolainfo.org.

Sweet Cherry Bars

Ingredients
Crust
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Filling
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1 cup maraschino cherries, drained, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Icing
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice

Preparation
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Crust: Combine all ingredients; mix well. Pat firmly into 8-inch square cake pan. Bake 12 minutes or until golden.
    3. Filling: Beat egg whites and brown sugar. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into egg mixture; mix well. Stir in coconut, cherries and pecans. Spread over crust. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
    4. Icing: Beat all ingredients together until creamy. Drop spoonfuls of icing onto warmed bars; spread gently. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Serves
Makes 16 bars

Mini Sweet Cherry Tarts

Ingredients
Crust
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup cold milk
Cream cheese layer
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
Cherry topping
  • 1 cup canned sweet cherries, pitted/drained (reserve juice)
  • 1/2 cup reserved cherry juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water

Preparation
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Crust - Mix flour, salt and sugar. Combine liquids; do not stir. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients; stir with fork until flour is dampened. Form dough into balls; cut in half. Roll each half between wax paper; cut pastry to tart shell size. Put in mini muffin pan.
    3. Cream cheese layer - Cream together all ingredients.
    4. Cherry topping - Combine cherries, cherry juice, sugar and extract in heavy saucepan; bring to boil on medium-low heat. Combine cornstarch and water; add to cherry mixture, constantly stirring until boiling. Take off heat; set aside.
    5. Spread 1 teaspoon cream cheese mixture on bottom of each shell. Fill 3/4 full with cherry topping. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until pastry is golden.

Serves
Makes 24 mini tarts

Chocolate Sweet Cherry Surprise Cake

Ingredients
Chocolate cake
  • 5 squares (1 ounce each) semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour, sifted
Sweet cherry filling
  • 1 cup frozen sweet cherries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • A few drops of red food coloring (optional)
Garnish
  • confectioner's sugar, mint sprigs, cherry juice
  • Preparation
      1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
      2. Chocolate cake: Cut squares of chocolate into small pieces and place in double boiler with canola oil. Melt chocolate; cool. Beat eggs and egg yolks with sugar until fluffy. Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg mixture. Add flour; beat until fluffy and glossy, approximately 5 minutes.
      3. Sweet cherry filling: Combine sweet cherries, 1/2 cup water, sugar and red food coloring in heavy saucepan; bring to boil on medium-low heat. Combine cornstarch and cold water. Add to sweet cherry mixture, constantly stirring until boiling. Remove from heat; set aside until completely cooled.
      4. Oil and flour 3-inch muffin tin. Fill each muffin tin 1/2 full with cake mixture; add 1 tablespoon cherry filling to each, then add additional cake mixture to fill. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until center is wobbly and sides are cooked. Run a knife around edge of cakes to loosen; tip out onto plates. Garnish with sweet cherry juice, confectioner's sugar and mint sprigs.

    Serves
    Makes 12 individual 3-inch cakes

    Notes, Tips & Suggestions
    Note: Freezes well. Remove uncooked filled muffin tin from freezer and bake at 350°F 30 to 35 minutes.

    Sweet Cherry Cut-Out Cookies

    Ingredients
    Dough
    • 1 can (10 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
    • 1/3 cup canola oil
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 2 eggs
    • 3 cups flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    Cherry filling
    • 2/3 cup maraschino cherries, drained, reserve juice
    • 1/3 cup reserved cherry juice
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • 1 tablespoon cold water
    Glaze
    • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
    • 3/4 tablespoon milk
    • Garnish: Maraschino cherries

    Preparation
      1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
      2. Dough: Combine condensed milk, canola oil, vanilla and eggs. Add flour, baking powder and salt; will be sticky. Separate mixture into thirds; place on plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour or freeze 15 minutes. Knead on well-floured surface, roll into 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 12 minutes until golden. Cool completely.
      3. Cherry filling: Combine cherries and cherry juice in heavy saucepan; bring to boil on medium-low heat. Combine cornstarch and cold water; add to cherry mixture, constantly stirring until it boils. Remove from heat; set aside. In blender, puree mixture until smooth; cool.
      4. After cookies cool completely, spread cherry filling on 1 cookie. Place another cookie on top; press together gently. Glaze: Combine all ingredients; blend until smooth; glaze cookies.

    Serves
    Makes 30 individual 2-inch cookie sandwiches.

    Notes, Tips & Suggestions
    Note: Amount of filling to use will depend on size of cookies.

    SOURCE: Canola Info
    National Sweet Cherry Foundation


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