It took an hour last week for the howling wind to get me out of bed. Finally I dragged myself to the window. Newly sparse trees provided a prime view of the blustery, gray-turning-blue sky. Leaves, raked and awaiting pickup in brown bags, circled my car faster than ranch hands hungry for the cook to serve up the day's stew on their journey west.
The time to be serious about chili and cranberries, cookies and pie has arrived. This likable search for holiday recipes requires no suitcase, just a taste for new and old ideas. Looking forward to having our family come together on the Thanksgiving holiday, I know that a drought-damaged crop of pecans in Texas will be no excuse for skipping that pie on our table. Several cans of pumpkin already are lined up to avoid any accidental glitch on my shopping list.
Take note of festive dishes using peanut butter. Home cooks can submit recipes at jif.com in the Jif New Classics Recipe Contest by Jan. 16. The winner in each category — sweet or savory — wins a $10,000 kitchen makeover. The tasty peanut butter cookie may be a classic, but Jif's maker wants your original rendition. The holiday dish should include at least 2 tablespoons of any variety of Jif peanut butter and serve at least six.
Peanut butter's roasted taste enhances both sides of the flavor coin as a sensational sauce for sliced ham or a glamorous sticky bun.
Last year's savory winner was Peanut Romesco Rigatoni with Grilled Shrimp. A generous amount of extra-crunchy peanut butter in a well-seasoned tomato sauce with red peppers was served over pasta with a bonus of grilled shrimp on top. The sweet winner combined brown sugar and butter to give French toast over-the-top richness with peanut butter as it bakes in time for a holiday brunch.
Kids may be just as pleased with a time-tested favorite like "ants on a log," filling their rib of celery with peanut butter and topping it with raisins. Parents can mix up this recipe by offering a variety of different ingredients for each child's taste, letting them make individual snack creations. Use granola, peanuts, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds for the "ants."
Kids' skills will be displayed in January, when 10 finalists in Jif's Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest are named for online voting.
Jif and Smucker's, its parent company, are among sponsors of the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. One finalist receives $5,000 for using at least 1/4 cup of Jif Peanut Butter most creatively. Winner of the last contest's prize was Lenore Klass, of Koloa, Hawaii, who probably stepped into her backyard to use a local flavor in Banana Peanut Butter Cream Tart. Recipes for 2012 contest finalists, already named, will be released in January.
BANANA PEANUT BUTTER CREAM TART
1 refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on package
6 tbsp. butter, softened
1 pkg. (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1-1/2 cups sliced (1/4 inch thick) firm-ripe bananas (about 2 medium)
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup party peanuts, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Unroll pie crust and place in ungreased 9- or 9-1/2-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press crust firmly against bottom and side of pan; fold excess over and gently press into side of pan to double thickness. Using fork, prick bottom of crust several times.
Bake in preheated oven 9 to 11 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely, about 25 minutes.
In medium bowl, using electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla until well blended. Gradually add confectioner's sugar, beating until smooth and creamy.
Spread peanut butter filling in cool shell, building up side 1 inch and leaving shallow indentation in center of filling. Fill indentation with bananas and gently press into filling.
In small bowl, beat whipping cream on high speed of mixer until soft peaks form (do not overbeat). Spread whipped cream over filling and bananas. Sprinkle peanuts around edge of tart. Refrigerate 1 hour or until chilled.
Store, covered, in refrigerator.
Makes 8 servings.