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Yule love these holiday recipes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As our nuclear and extended families have evolved through the years, so has the tenor of our Christmas celebrations.

But one constant has always been the role food plays in them.

From a bountiful Christmas Eve feast shared around the table to a big brunch buffet to sustain us throughout Christmas Day, no one's going hungry around the Keith house.

It's also the one time of year I let myself indulge guilt-free, so everything just seems to taste better, too.

A hearty breakfast casserole and a basket of warm sausage balls always grace the table Christmas morning, but co-stars that accompany them often change from time to time.

Here are two I'm thinking about throwing into the mix this year: Eggnog Scones with Dried Cranberries and Ginger Pear Muffins. How much more Christmas-y can you get? And how great would either go with a cup of coffee or mug of hot chocolate, possibly spiked with a splash of Christmas cheer? (Bailey's Caramel is my latest obsession.)

Both recipes come from Select Registry, a North American group of distinguished B&Bs, lodges and inns so designated for their stellar service, accommodations and food.

West Virginia currently has three Select Registry properties - Thomas Shepherd Inn in Shepherdstown, Hillbrook Inn in Charles Town, North Fork Mountain Inn in Cabins - and The General Lewis Inn (Lewisburg) and Deep Park Country Inn (Buckhannon) are previous members.

So if you're familiar with the fine food at those places, you'll know these recipes are top notch as well.

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How great is cream cheese? I mean, seriously.

The stuff is so versatile, starring in a variety of sweet and savory uses - smeared onto a bagel, piped into a muffin, stuffed with peppers inside a spicy enchilada, blended with herbs to make a tasty spread.

And speaking of spreads, they don't get any better than the Cream Cheese Chutney I devoured at a Christmas party last weekend. The list of ingredients seems overly complicated at first glance. Curry, ginger, mustard, mango, sugar, sherry, scallions, lime and almonds. But this dazzling array of flavors blends beautifully into an infinitely satisfying, seriously addictive treat.

Go to the store, pick up the ingredients and see for yourself. Like tonight.

The recipe came to me via a friend of a friend, who passed along this serving advice, too.

"The traditional vessel is a hollowed-out pineapple half, but I put the dip in a carved-out pumpkin for a fall party and shape it into a snowman for a Christmas party."

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Another recipe that brings goat cheese, pancetta, almonds and honey together in a savory and slightly sweet treat comes from the pages of "The Bonne Femme Cookbook," which highlights elegant but simple French-inspired dishes that any home cook can make.

Simple is right. This one features just six ingredients, but they truly sing when joining forces in a great party finger food.

Contact writer Steven Keith at dailymailfoodguy@aol.com or 304-348-1721. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy/.

Eggnog Scones with Dried Cranberries

3 cups unbleached white flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

1 cup eggnog

1/2 cups dried cranberries

grated rind of half an orange

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Add butter and stir until the mixture forms coarse crumbs, leaving some large crumbs. Add dried cranberries, orange rind and eggnog, and stir gently until the dough pulls together and no dry parts remain in bowl, being careful not to over-mix.

2. Gather dough and knead a few times to make a cohesive mass. Roll out to a thickness of 1 inch and cut into triangles or desired shape. Place on lightly greased baking sheet.

3. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar before placing in oven. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Serve warm.

Makes 24 scones. Recipe from Shelburne Inn & China Beach Retreat in Seaview, Wash.

Ginger Pear Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 Tbsp. baking powder

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

8 ounces diced pears with juice drained

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp. fresh peeled and grated ginger (or 1/2 Tbsp. powdered)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place eggs and drained pears in a large mixing bowl and top with all dry ingredients. Add half the milk and mix.

2. Keep adding milk until the mixture has the texture of wet sand. Scoop with a standard muffin scoop into sprayed muffin pans.

3. Bake 20-25 minutes, then let cool before removing from pan.

Makes 12 muffins. Recipe from Asa Ransom House in Clarence, N.Y.

Chutney Cream Cheese Spread

1 1/2 pounds (3 bars) cream cheese, room temperature

3 Tbsp. dry sherry

3 Tbsp. light brown sugar

1 Tbsp. curry powder

1 Tbsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and finely chopped

2/3 cup mango chutney, finely chopped

6 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

grated zest of 1 lime

6 oz. hickory-smoked almonds, coarsely chopped

1. Mix all ingredients except almonds together, either stirring by spoon or with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer. Start with cream cheese, then add spices, etc.

2. Stir in chopped almonds, then place in a dish or hollowed out fruit/vegetable and serve with crackers or crudite.

Mini-Toasts with Goat Cheese, Almonds, Pancetta and Honey

10 ounces thinly sliced pancetta

20 ounces soft-ripened goat cheese, crumbled or diced

2/3 cup sliced almonds

30-40 mini bread slices, toasted

extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup honey

1. Preheat oven broiler. Place pancetta in a skillet over medium heat and cook, turning once, until barely crisp, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to cool slightly.

2. Crumble pancetta into a bowl. Add the goat cheese and almonds and stir to combine. Set aside.

3. Brush one side of each toasted bread slice with olive oil. Arrange the bread slices, oiled sides up, on a baking sheet. Pile the goat cheese and pancetta mixture atop the toasted bread, making sure to cover the entire bread surface, including the crusts, so the bread does not burn.

4. Broil the toasts 3-4 inches from heat until the cheese is melted and lightly browned in places, about 3 minutes, but watch carefully to prevent burning. Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle with honey and serve.

Serves 10 as an appetizer. Recipe from "The Bonne Femme Cookbook."


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