The holidays are upon us and sometimes we are looking for a new recipe or two to add a new touch to our holiday table. Here are three recipes that I just won Blue Ribbons for at the Cape Fear County Fair, and they will definitely add a new taste to your holiday menu. My favorite is the sweet potato bread.

I am presenting a Fall Recipe Cooking Workshop on Nov. 17 at the Hampstead Public Library at 6 p.m.. Come and get some new recipes for your holiday dinners. Call the library at 910-270-4603 to let them know you are coming.



Sweet Potato Bread (Blue Ribbon Winner)

Makes 2 loaves.

2 cups granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups cold mashed sweet potatoes

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons Chinese Five-Spice powder or ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup butter melted

1 cup chopped pecans (Optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans ( 8 x 4 –inches)

In a bowl stir together sugar, eggs, sweet potatoes, and vanilla; mix well.

In another bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and Chinese Five-Spice; stir into sweet potato mixture, blend well. Stir in melted butter and mix well. Fold in nuts if desired.

Pour batter into 2 greased 8 x 4 – inch loaf pans.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1-hour or until it tests done.

Cool in pans for 15 minutes then remove from pans and place on a wire rack to cool completely.


Poppy Seed Muffins (Blue Ribbon Winner)

Makes 6-8 muffins. This recipe may be doubled.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon plus one teaspoons poppy seeds

¾ cup buttermilk

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup butter, melted

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 large orange

2 ½ teaspoons orange zest

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

2-3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin pan.

In a bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and poppy seeds; make a well in the center of the mixture.

In another bowl mix together buttermilk, sugar, melted butter, and orange zest. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.

Spoon the batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 2/3 full.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Immediately remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

In a bowl stir together confectioners’ sugar and orange juice (add some poppy seeds, if desired) until smooth and is desired consistency. Dip the tops of the muffins into the glaze. Let stand for 15 minutes or until the glaze is set.


Cheese and Kernel Corn Cornbread (Blue Ribbon Winner)

¼ cup butter, melted

1 ¼ cups stone ground yellow cornmeal

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

4 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 can yellow kernel corn, drained

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish, set aside.

In a bowl whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl mix together buttermilk and eggs; add to dry ingredients, mix well.

Stir in melted butter and mix well, then fold in shredded cheese and corn; mix well, do not over mix just until moistened.

Bake in 425 degree oven for 25 minutes or until a golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Warm Spinach and Crab Dip

Serves 8-10.

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup sweet onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced then smashed

1 -ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 5.2 ounce Boursin garlic and herbs chees

¼ cup milk

¼ cup cream or half-and-half

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup white wine or chicken broth

1 teaspoon seafood seasoning

1 6-ounce can lump crabmeat, drained and picked over

1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Crackers or tortilla chips

In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream cheese and Boursin cheese until melted. Stir in milk, cream, and wine. Add seafood seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in crab, spinach, and cheddar cheese until cheese melts and mixture is bubbly. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with assorted crackers.


Roasted Cauliflower

4 cups small cauliflower florets

1 small sweet onion, cut into small wedges

Coking spray

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Place a rimmed baking pan in a preheated 450 degree oven.

Place cauliflower and onions on preheated pan. Lightly coat vegetables with cooking spray, and toss with olive oil. Bake at 450 degrees until browned and tender about 12-15 minutes. Drizzle with melted butter; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Crescent Roll Lemon Cream Cheese Bars

From “Allrecipes”

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

2 8-ounce packages refrigerated crescent roll rough, divided

2 lemons, zested and juiced, set aside

½ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with parchment paper, overlapping sides of dish, and spray with cooking spray.

Press one can crescent roll dough into bottom of prepared baking dish, stretching to the edges.

Mix zest of 1 ½ lemons and juice from 2 lemons together in a bowl. Beat cream cheese and ½ cup sugar with an electric mixer into lemon zest mixture until smooth and creamy; spread over crescent roll dough layer.

Unroll second can of crescent roll dough and layer over cream cheese mixture, gently stretching dough to the edges. Brush melted butter over crescent roll dough layer. Mix remaining lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of sugar together in a bowl; sprinkle over butter.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until top is golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Left dessert from baking dish using parchment paper; transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares, leaving on parchment paper. Return dessert to baking dish and refrigerate until chilled, about 2-3 hours.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival — winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012; placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing and winning second place for her Sweet Blueberry Pepper Jelly in 2015; and winning first in 2016 for her spoon blueberry muffins with apricot sauce and second for her blueberry crisp squares — and has won various other contest awards — including three blue ribbons at the 2016 Cape Fear County Fair — for her blueberry cheesecake, muffins, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.