'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the kitchen, this baker was wondering which cookie would best tempt jolly ole Saint Nick. Okay, that doesn't even come close to rhyming but who cares? Everyone who believes in Santa knows his weakness for sweets so I felt it was my duty to make sure he's not disappointed when he comes to my house this year - that is, assuming he does come to my house. I haven't exactly been a good girl this year :)
I had a few days to myself this week and decided to get my holiday baking underway. At the rate that I've been baking, there's no way Santa could possibly eat all of these cookies before Valentine's Day! I decided to try a few new recipes that I've had in my file for quite some time in addition to the old family favorites that appear on Santa's plate every year. This is only a sampling of the items that I've made so far. I figured even Santa's sweet tooth needs a break so I'll split my accomplishments up into two different posts. I hope some of these cookies wind up on Santa's plate at your house this year!
My favorite so far has been these molasses cookies that are said to be from the Silver Palate cookbook. If you like gingersnaps, you'll love these. Instead of being hard like a gingersnap, they're soft and I used a small scoop to portion them and they baked up perfectly round. Unless Santa comes early this year, I'm afraid he won't be getting any of these because I've almost demolished the whole batch myself (see what I mean about not being a good girl?)
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 350.
Melt butter, add sugar and molasses, and mix thoroughly. Lightly beat egg and add to butter mixture; blend well.
Sift flour with spices, salt and baking soda, and add to first mixture; mix. Batter will be wet.
Lay a sheet of foil on a cookie sheet (I used parchment paper). Drop tablespoons of cookie batter on foil, leaving 3 inches between the cookies. They will spread during baking.
Bake until cookies start to darken, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven while still soft. Let cool on foil.
I may have mentioned before that I film a cooking segment on our local TV station here in Hot Springs that is centered around my catering business, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself in my old age. The segment is only about 10 minutes long and if you've ever wondered how Rachel Ray pulls off those 30 minute meals that she's famous for, well, let me just tell you that alot of what you see happens thanks to the magic of TV. The guys who film my segment are constantly telling me, "it doesn't really have to be...it only has to seem to be." It can be quite a challenge to find recipes that are quick and easy to prepare and, after being edited to fit into the time slot, are still coherent enough for viewers to follow.
During my last round of filming, I decided to focus on items that could be prepared in the kitchen and given as gifts during the holidays. I, for one, love to give gifts of homemade goodies to my friends and neighbors and the idea for this theme came to me while I was browsing through a Taste of Home cookbook that my mother had. These items are creative, thoughtful and easy to prepare and can be presented in a decorative container or jar decorated with a bit of holiday material or ribbon. So, this year spend more time and love (and less money) by presenting your loved ones with some homemade goodies for Christmas!
This first recipe tasted so good that I immediately came home from filming and whipped up a batch for myself. I used it for my Thanksgiving turkey and it's going to make an appearance during Christmas with cream cheese. The original recipe called for 1 teaspoon of cinnamon but it was a bit overpowering so I cut it back to 1/2 when I made the second batch.
Holiday Cranberry Chutney from Taste of Home
Yield: 3 cups
1 bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1-1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 large tart apple, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer for 15-20 minutes or until apple is tender and mixture is thickened. Cool completely. Package in small jars, store in the refrigerator and instruct your gift recipients to use as a condiment for pork, ham, or chicken. Or, they can serve it over cream cheese with crackers as an appetizer for an impromptu holiday gathering.
This recipe is an old family favorite and makes a regular appearance almost every year in my kitchen. Please be warned, this recipe makes ALOT!! I'm talking you'd better get the largest container in your kitchen to mix it in and I guarantee that it still won't be large enough to hold it. This is great to prepare if you have alot of coworkers, friends, or neighbors on your gift list. Or, think about doing this if you have kids who have multiple teachers to give to. I like to package the mix in a clear plastic gift bag and stuff it into a holiday mug or pick up some decorative jars at The Dollar Tree - I love that store! Last year I found some shaped like snowmen that were perfect.
1 largest can powdered Nestle Quik
1 largest can powdered nondairy creamer
8 quarts Instant dry milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Mix well. Store in airtight container. Attach a note with instructions: Use 1/3 cup to 8 oz. hot water. For added treat, add a dollop of whipped topping, vanilla ice cream, or marshmallows.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of this recipe, but rest assured it makes an excellent gift presentation with all the colorful layers of cheese, herbs, and peppers.
Marinated Mozzarella Cubes (I think this is also from Taste of Home, but wouldn't swear to it)
1 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
7 ounces roasted red pepper, drained and cut into bite sized pieces
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-14 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crush red pepper flakes
In a quart jar with a tight fitting lid, layer a third of the cheese, peppers, thyme, and garlic. Repeat layers twice. In a small bowl, combine the oil, rosemary, Italian seasonings, and pepper flakes. Pour into jar; seal and turn upside down. Refrigerate overnight, turning several times. Serve with bread or crackers.
Coconut Dulce de Leche from Bon Appetit (photo taken from Bon Appetit's website)
2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
1-1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Whisk coconut milk, sugar, and coarse salt in heavy large skillet over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and boil until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Transfer sauce to small jars. Cool completely, then cover sauce and chill. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 month ahead. Keep chilled. Your friends can enjoy this over ice cream garnished with toasted coconut, over pound cake, cheesecake...the possibilities are endless!