Cooking up creativity
The Downtown Rhinelander, Inc., office on Brown Street is decked out for the holidays. Color coordinated wreathes adorn the walls, decorations fill the table and desk tops and the Christmas tree looks like one from a magazine. Spreading Christmas joy isn’t necessarily part of the job description, but executive director Maggie Steffen and administrative assistant Kate Bauman are happy to assume the duties.
“We’re doing something special each day, just to make it fun,” Maggie said. “Today is hat day, and we have other theme days planned.”
Anyone who knows the two women would not find it unusual that they have added more to their holiday ‘to do’ list by creating dress up days, even if they are the only two participants. Keeping it fun, and engaging visitors in laughter are important in a busy office where a full calendar greets them each morning. A normally slower time of year, this week is not. There are new board members and officers to meet with, a funding grant application to look at, promotions to coordinate and meetings to attend. Creative energy involved job leaves little time for kitchen creativity, the two say.
“I have my stand bys, like chili, jambalaya, lasagna, as far as entertaining goes” said Maggie. “I don’t have a lot of time to experiment.”
Kate agreed, saying she loves to bake and plans to whip up her yearly bunch of Christmas cookies this weekend. “After that I’m pretty much done for the year,” she laughed. “My husband, Elvis, was a cook in the Army, so he does a lot of our cooking –and is good at making large amounts of food, too!”
Kate shared her favorite cookie recipes and Maggie contributed some of her favorite dishes, below. Enjoy!
Velvet Cut-Out Cookies (The best cut-outs I’ve ever had. They’re not dry at all, like the old stand-by)
2 C butter, softened
1- 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
2 C sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
4 ½ C flour
¼ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks & vanilla and mix well. Gradually stir in flour & salt. Chill for 2 hours. Roll dough out on floured surface & cut into shapes. Place on greased baking sheets and bake for 9-12mins. Cool on cookie sheets before removing to wire racks.
Velvet Cut-Out Cookie Frosting:
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1- 3 oz package cream cheese, softened
3 C powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
½ tsp vanilla
Beat together butter, cream cheese and one cup powdered sugar until smooth. Add in milk and vanilla. Gradually stir in remaining powdered sugar until smooth and spreadable. Color if desired.
Fantasy Fudge – my grandma’s recipe
3 C sugar
¾ C margarine
2/3 C evaporated milk
1 12oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 7oz jar of marshmallow crème
1 tsp vanilla
1 C chopped nuts – optional
Mix first three ingredients in a 3 qt saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil 5 minutes over Medium heat. Remove from heat, gradually stir in chocolate chips until melted. Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Pour into a 9X13” pan. Cool at room temperature. Cut into squares. Makes about 3 lbs.
Peanut Butter Cornflake Cookies
1 C sugar
1 C light corn syrup
1 ½ C peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
8 C cornflakes
Combine sugar and syrup in saucepan; heat to a full boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Pour mixture over cornflakes and stir until flakes are completely coated. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Makes 3 Dozen.
1 stick of butter
1 C light or dark brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 bag of milk chocolate chips nuts, sprinkles, or M&M’s (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and spray generously with cooking spray. Cover cookie sheet with one layer of saltine crackers. Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil, stirring continuously for 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat; add one teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Pour mixture over crackers, and then bake for 6 minutes.
Remove from oven; pour a bag of milk chocolate chips on top of crackers. Allow to soften for a minute or two, and then spread chocolate evenly on top of crackers.
Cool, and then break up into bite size pieces.
Optional – add nuts, sprinkles, or M & M’s on top of melted chocolate.
Cheesey Potatoes in Foil
3 large baking potatoes
4-5 slices of bacon, cooked crisp
1 large onion, sliced
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cubed (2 cups)
Salt and pepper
Slice potatoes into a big piece of heavy foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Crumble bacon over. Add onion and cheese. Slice butter over all. Mix on the foil. Seal well, leaving space for expansion, Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until tender. Turn packet several times during baking process.
Meatloaf Potato Surprise
1 C soft bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp italian seasoning
1/3 C parmesan cheese
1 tsp onion salt
3 C frozen shredded hash browns thawed
1/2 C beef broth
4 tsp dried minced onion
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 lbs hamburger
1/4 C minced fresh parsley
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1/4 C beef broth
2 tsp prepared mustard
additional parmesan cheese
IN a bowl combine crumbs, broth, egg and seasonings; let stand for two minutes. Add beef and mix well. On a piece of waxed paper, pat meat mixture into a 10 inch square. Combine hash browns, cheese, parsley and onion salt; spoon over meat. Roll up, jelly roll style, removing wax paper as you roll. Pinch edges and ends to seal. Place seam-side down in an ungreased baking pan. Bake 40 minutes at 375 degrees. Combine the first three sauce ingredients; spoon over loaf. Return to the oven for 10 minutes, Sprinkle with parmesan if desired. Serves 8.
Black Forest Pie
Pastry for one 9 inch pie
3/4 C sugar
1/3 C cocoa
2 Tbsp flour
1/3 C milk
1/4 C margarine or butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 21-oz can cherry pie filling
1 Tbsp cocoa
1 Tbsp milk
1 8-oz container (3 C) whipped topping, thawed.
On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry to a 12 inch circle. Place in a 9 inch pie plate. Turn the edge under; flute. Combine sugar, cocoa and flour in saucepoan; add milk and margarine or butter, Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir small amount of hot mixture into eggs; return to hot mixture. Add half of pie filling to chocolate mixture; mix well. Pour into shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until center is set but still shiny. Cool and chill one hour.
Combine coca and milk; fold into two cups of whipped topping. Spread over pie. Top with remaining pie filling and whipped topping. Chill at least 30 minutes. Serves 8-10.