The delicate flavor of eggnog makes delectable desserts

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

The Christmas holiday is marked by many activities occurring only once a year. Cookie cutters, carol books, and Christmas wreaths are hauled out of cardboard boxes and dusted off once again for a brief but happy time. For many the taste of eggnog is also a tradition, it too being enjoyed but once a year.

It brings back childhood memories of family get-togethers and open houses at the neighbors, of tables laden with sweets, and special cookies and candies made for this warm and happy season.

The first glass of eggnog makes one wonder why its delicate flavor is savored but two or three months out of the year. It is in itself a dessert in a glass, loaded with creamy richness.

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The dictionary definition of eggnog is eggs beaten with sugar and milk, but there's no skimping when it comes to producing a truly delectable nog. The dairy products must be top-notch.

Since eggnog is commercially available only during the Christmas holiday, there's no reason to confine the flavor of eggnog to only a beverage.

Here are some different recipes. Try them for a new twist on an old favorite during this Christmas season. Mincemeat Eggnog Pie 2 cups prepared mincemeat 1 9-inch pastry shell, baked and cooled 1 3 5/8- or 3 3/4-ounce package instant vanilla pudding mix 2 cups light cream 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Spoon mincemeat into bottom of pastry shell, reserving 2 tablespoons, if desired, for garnish.

Prepare pudding mix according to package directions using the light cream and nutmeg in place of milk.

Let stand until mixture mounds when spooned, about 1/2 minute. Immediately turn into mincemeat-lined pastry shell. Chill several hours.

To serve, sprinkle with additional nutmeg and garnish with more mincemeat. Eggnog Chocolate Chiffon Pie 1 1/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs 1/4 cup sugar 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin 1/3 cup cold water 2 cups dairy eggnog 1 cup whipping cream 1/4 cup chopped maraschino cherries 1 square (1 ounce) semisweet chocolate, grated 1/4 cup chopped maraschino cherries

Combine crumbs, sugar, and butter or margarine; mix well. Press into 9-inch pie plate.

In saucepan, soften gelatin in water; add 1 cup of the eggnog. Heat and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat; stir in remaining eggnog.

Chill until partially set; whip until fluffy.

Whip 1/2 cup of the cream into soft peaks; fold into eggnog mixture with chopped cherries and grated chocolate. Turn into crust; chill thoroughly.

To serve, whip remaining cream into peaks; spoon on top of pie. Garnish with whole maraschino cherries. Frozen Eggnog Rounds 1 3 3/4 or 3 5/8-ounce package instant vanilla pudding mix 2 cups dairy eggnog 1 cup whipping cream 3/4 cup finely chopped red and green candied cherries 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted almonds

Prepare pudding mix according to package directions, using the eggnog in place of milk.

Whip cream; fold into pudding mixture with cherries. Turn mixture into 2 16 -ounce fruit or vegetable cans. Cover and freeze several hours or overnight.

To unmold, remove bottoms of cans and push logs through. Roll logs in toasted almonds. Let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes; cut each log into five slices. Serves 10. Cranberry Eggnog 3 eggs, separated 1/2 cup sugar 1 pint cranberry juice 1/2 pint whipping cream

Beat egg yolks with wire whisk or fork until thick and lemon-colored. Add half the sugar and blend thoroughly.

Begin adding cranberry juice, a little at a time, beating until blended. Add remaining sugar and stir until dissolved.

Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Whip cream until stiff. Fold cream into egg whites, then into cranberry juice mixture. Ladle into eggnog cups. Serves 6. Chocolate Eggnog 3 quarts eggnog, chilled 1 1/4 cups chocolate syrup 1 1/2 cups whipping cream 3 tablespoons sugar 1 tablespoon cocoa 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, grated, to garnish

In large punch bowl combine eggnog and chocolate syrup.

In small bowl with electric mixer at high speed, whip cream, sugar, and cocoa until stiff. Spoon cream onto eggnog. Sprinkle with chocolate. Yields 24 (1/2 cup) servings. Orange Eggnog Topping 2 egg yolks Dash of salt 1 teaspoon grated orange peel 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup orange juice 1/2 cup heavy cream

Beat egg yolks with salt and grated peel. Beat in sugar and orange juice.

Whip cream and add egg mixture to it, folding together lightly. Makes about 3 cups of topping for cakes, brownies.

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