The holiday season is the time to pull out all the stops when celebrating and entertaining. It’s the time to take your culinary ventures to the next level. Whether it be elegant or whimsical, below are some recipe favorites that will help you to do the holidays up right.

Cheddar Broccoli Chicken Christmas Wreath

You will need 2 packages of Pillsbury Crescent rolls, a cup of finely chopped broccoli, ½ cup diced onion, a cup of shredded chicken, a cup of mayonnaise, and a cup of cheddar cheese. Open the crescent rolls and separate the triangles. Place the triangles shorter side on a baking sheet with the pointier end facing the edge of a baking sheet, overlapping the triangles to create a circle. Press the dough together. Mix the other ingredients in a bowl and mound that mixture on top of the center of the dough wreath. Fold back the pointy end of the dough over the chicken mixture and continue with all the other triangles to form a wreath. Bake according to crescent roll directions. Garnish with circular bits of red and green peppers to represent berries and decorate your wreath.

Croquembouche

Don’t be intimidated by the French name or how time-consuming this recipe can be because we are going to take the easy way out. I saw Martha Stewart make one of these from scratch 20 years ago on her show, but you don’t have to go to the trouble that she did to impress your guests with this traditional French dessert—a Christmas tree made of stacked cream puffs draped in spun caramel or chocolate.

Unless you want to spend more time in the kitchen making cream puffs from scratch, we’re going to use ready-made, frozen cream puffs. In addition to purchasing store-bought cream puffs, purchase a white Styrofoam cone approximately 6 inches tall from the craft store. Cover the cone in foil. You will need approximately 30 cream puffs. Thaw them slightly and then insert a toothpick into the bottom of the cone and then insert a cream puff onto the toothpick. Keep adding cream puffs to the cone in the same manner until the entire cone is covered.

You can drape the tree in spun melted caramel or melt dipping chocolate and using the tines of a fork dipped into the chocolate, drip the chocolate over the tree.

Hot Buttered Rum

This traditional holiday drink was always a treat when visiting the old Tramps’ Restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh. To make the butter, blend together 2/3 cup brown sugar, ½ stick of butter, ¼ cup of honey, ½ tsp. of cinnamon, ¼ tsp of nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. ground cloves until smooth. Boil a quart of water. In a mug put a shot of spiced rum, add 2 cups of water, and then place a dollop of the butter mixture on top and garnish with a cinnamon stick, which you can use to stir the butter in the to the drink. There’s nothing better on a cold winter night!

Italian Red and Green Christmas Cheese Spread

Buy a jar of already prepared pesto. Finely chop a package of sundried tomatoes. Mix together 8 oz. cream cheese and a cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Line a small bowl with plastic wrap. Place 1/3 of the cheese mixture in the bottom of the bowl. Add a layer of the sundried tomatoes and then add a layer of 1/3 of the cheese and then a layer of the pesto, finishing with the last part of the cheese. Cover the dip with the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, unwrap the top of the spread, and then invert the spread onto a serving platter. Serve with pita chips or small pieces of focaccia bread.

Reindeer Cookies

This recipe requires no mixing and will delight the kids. Take a log of Pillsbury Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies and form the log into a triangular shape, and then slice the cookies and bake according to directions. When the cookies are cooled, ice the triangles with white icing. On one point of the triangle, place a red candy for Rudolph’s nose, and on the upper points, stick on mini pretzels to create antlers. Either add candy eyes or make them with mini chocolate chips to complete Rudolph’s face.

Snowman Pops

Insert a lollipop stick into filling of a Golden Oreo cookie. Melt white dipping chocolate and dip the Oreos in the chocolate. Let the chocolate set. Decorate the pop with candy eyes and orange Cake Make writing icing to make a carrot nose and black Cake Mate icing to pipe a mouth.

Janice Lane Palko