By Lisa Shrewsberry
So the holiday hustle has left your kitchen more ho-hum than ho-ho-ho. Take your lack of expendable hours for baking, sprinkle in a pinch of culinary craftiness and you can still make a dazzling, homemade impression with a last-minute dessert for gatherings.
“I hate baking,” admits Michele Koeniger-Holsten, certified dietary manager at the Raleigh Center, Daniels; award-winning chef and overscheduled mom. This year, the torch has passed to her to be head chef of the holidays at home, among a family of eager food enthusiasts.
As one with a penchant for entrées, her culinary cunning has helped her adapt quick desserts, with taste not reflective of her limited patience for pastry.
Below, Michele took the challenge of creating original, no-fuss and festive confections that can be constructed in about 30 minutes (a few are closer to 15).
To get the really creative juices flowing, she had to prepare one dish based on an ingredient she could find at the convenience store. Her choice? The omnipresent sugar wafer.
Banana Sugar Wafer Sandwiches (serves 12):
12 each Vanilla Wafer Sugar Cookies
12 each Strawberry Wafer Sugar Cookies
3 snack pack size Chocolate Pudding
1 - 4 oz jar Strawberry Topping
1 - 4 oz jar Chocolate Syrup
1 each Banana
Few sprigs Fresh Mint
1. Squeeze the lemon into a bowl and add about 1/2 cup water. Slice the banana in thin slices and let set in the lemon juice so the banana slices won’t turn brown.
2. Take one of the sugar wafers and spread about a tablespoon worth of pudding on it.
3. Evenly lay about 4 to 5 slices of banana on the wafer and top with a wafer of the opposite flavor. Example: if you started off with a vanilla wafer, top with a strawberry wafer.
4. Continue until all wafers are used.
5. On a serving platter, pour on the strawberry topping and spread evenly.
6. Line the wafer sandwiches on the topping and then drizzle with the chocolate syrup.
7. Garnish with fresh mint and serve.
Pumpkin Mango Cheesecake Bites (serves 6):
1 package Filo Cups (15 cups per package)
8 ounces Pumpkin Pie Filling
8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
1 fresh Mango
1. Peel the mango. Cut the flesh off the seed of the mango. Make 15 small slivers of mango for the garnish. Set them aside. Take the rest of the mango and chop it into small pieces.
2. In a medium size bowl, add the cream cheese, pumpkin, powdered sugar, and mango. Blend well.
3. Fill each filo shell with the mixture and garnish with the mango slivers.
4. Place on a serving platter. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve.
Peppermint Chocolate Covered Pretzels (serves 6):
3 each Candy Canes
1 - 12 ounce bag Chocolate Covered Pretzels
1. Place candy canes in a zip lock bag and crush with the bottom of a frying pan or a meat mallet. Set aside.
2. On a greased baking sheet, lay out the pretzels.
3. Place in a 350 degree oven for 35 seconds, just long enough to soften the chocolate, not long enough for the chocolate to melt off completely.
4. Remove from oven and sprinkle the crushed candy canes all over.
5. Place in the refrigerator so the chocolate sets back up.
6. Gently remove using a spatula. Place in a nice festive holiday glass bowl.
Cranberry Pecan Ambrosia Salad (serves 12):
1 - 11 ounce can Mandarin Oranges, drained
1 - 8 ounce can Pineapple Tidbits, drained
1 - 5 ounce bag dried Cranberries
1/2 cup chopped Pecans
3 cups frozen Whipped Topping, thawed
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 cup shredded Coconut, toasted
2 cups Mini Marshmallows
Green Food Coloring
1. In a medium bowl, combine the whip topping, sour cream and a couple drops green food coloring. Blend well.
2. Add the oranges, pineapples, cranberries, pecans, marshmallows and mix until everything is coated.
3. Add the toasted coconut and blend.
4. Pour into a festive bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.