Hold on to your hats – you’re not going to believe this: I actually did some of my own Christmas shopping this year! I picked up little things, and a few big ones, throughout the year. Now the problem is remembering for whom I bought each item. I think next year I will wrap each gift as I buy it and put the appropriate tag on it. Then when the time comes, I might not remember what each package contains, but I’ll at least know for whom it was intended. And we’ll both be surprised!

Whether you are entertaining at home or going out to a party for Christmas and/or New Year’s Eve, you might want to try today’s recipes—for either occasion. Make an early dinner of wild rice soup and cheesy puff pastry rolls to dampen your appetite, so when you get to that fabulous buffet, you will be less likely to overindulge.

Both the soup and the rolls are quick to make and would make a filling meal anytime. Accompany them with salad fixings and let everyone make their own salad.

The soup recipe came from BreeDe, who shared it with betterrecipes.com. She enthuses “Yummy, creamy and full of flavor, this dish acts as the perfect quick meal. Hearty and satisfying!”

The two-ingredient rolls couldn’t be quicker or easier, unless someone else made them for you. This recipe also came from betterrecipes.com, courtesy of Lucy Holden, who recommends making “a ton of them to satisfy everyone” at virtually any meal.

I found the cream puff snowflakes at sizzlingeats.com. they won’t sizzle, but I guarantee they’ll satisfy, and go like hotcakes! Puff pastry once again makes for a quick and easy, but delicious light treat. You’ll have plenty of time to whip up the filling while the puffs bake. They could be put together in no time if you are expecting last-minute company.

Currently we have an anonymous request for lemon baked goods in which the lemon flavor does not bake out. Just in time for Christmas, Cathy Bulera has shared with us a lemon cookie from FoodNetworkTV’s Giada De Laurentiis. Cathy says “This recipe [calls for] fresh lemon juice and lemon zest ... the flavor definitely does not bake out. They are a pillow-like bite of lemony goodness! The glaze provides even more of a flavor boost!”

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

2 cups chicken broth

½ pound baby bellas, sautéed until brown

1 cup diced carrots

½ cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon chicken bouillon

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ cup butter, melted

¼ cup flour

1 can cream of mushroom soup

½ cup dry white wine

3 cups cooked wild rice

2 cups rotisserie chicken, cubed

In saucepan, combine chicken broth, mushrooms, carrots, onions, chicken bouillon, garlic powder and thyme; bring to a boil. reduce heat; cover and simmer 30 minutes. After 25 minutes, melt butter in microwave. Add flour; whisk until roux is smooth. Gradually whisk roux into veggie mixture; stir well. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes until soup has thickened. Add mushroom soup, wine, rice and chicken. Mix well until soup is heated through. Serve hot. (breede; betterrecipes.com)

Cheesy Puff Pastry Rolls

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed

3 cups grated cheese, your choice

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll each puff pastry sheet into a 10x12-inch rectangle. Leaving a small border all around edges, spread 1½ cups cheese evenly across each pastry. Roll into a log; trim ends even. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate 20 minutes. Remove from refrigerator; unwrap and cut in ½- to ¾-inch slices. Spread out on baking sheets, making sure they don’t touch. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool briefly before serving. (lucyholden; betterrecipes.com)

20 Minute Snowflake Cream Puffs

1 box Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets


1 pint heavy whipping cream, whipped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out slightly thawed and pliable puff pastry dough into a 10x12-inch rectangle. Carefully cut out snowflakes; place on a jumbo-sized parchment-lined baking sheet. Re-roll dough to make more snowflakes. Bake 14 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool before carefully slicing in half. Cream: Place ingredients in a large bowl; beat on high until firm peaks form. Spoon cream into a pastry bag and pipe onto each snowflake bottom; add top and dust with confectioners’ sugar. (sizzlingeats.com).

Giada’s Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze


1 stick unsalted butter. Softened

2 cups sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese:

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

2½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt


1½ cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cookies: In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto baking sheets. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Let cookies rest on baking sheet 20 minutes. Glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about ½-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Made 24 to 36 cookies. (Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis on Food Network.; shared by Cathy Bulera)

Liven up your Thursday mornings by tuning in to Coulee Region Cooks from 10 to 11 a.m. on WIZM-AM radio, 1410 on the dial. Spend an hour with Mike Hayes and a different guest(s) each week in his studio kitchen, sharing recipes and cooking tips, along with a generous serving of fun. This Thursday I’ll be visiting with Mike and his famished fellow radio folks, sharing holiday entertaining ideas.

Send requests, recipes and/or cooking tips and techniques to Alice P. Clark at: Reader Exchange, c/o La Crosse Tribune, 401 N. Third St., La Crosse, Wis. 54601; e-mail: readerexchange@lacrossetribune.com; or send a fax to 608.782.9723, attn: Reader Exchange.


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