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Sand Tarts

You’ve heard me kvetching about cut-out cookies in the past. As much as I love to bake, I’ve got very little patience for the flouring, rolling, cutting, baking, and individual decorating involved in making cut-out cookies. And all too often, I just don’t find the results to be worth the effort. But I have one big exception to this sentiment; Sand Tarts.

I found the recipe for these Sand Tarts several years ago, nestled in the back pages of an old Better Homes and Gardens A Festive Christmas cookbook. They are essentially a sugar cookie, accented with lemon and garnished with cinnamon sugar and almonds, which gives them the appearance of perfectly round, perfectly delicious sand dollars.

They are cut-out cookies. They require that floured work surface, rolling, cutting, baking, and individual decorating I have such low tolerance for. But, with these particular cut-out cookies, the end result is worth the work. I make these almost every year.

There is something about the particular combination of flavors and proportion of ingredients in this recipe which produces the most perfectly delicious cookie with the most spectacular texture. They are crisp around the edges with an excellent chewy pull to the center. This recipe is pretty perfect as is, so I’ve shared it almost exactly as it’s written in the cookbook. Give them a try. I think you’ll be happy you did!

Sand Tarts

Very slightly adapted from the Sand Tarts in Better Homes and Gardens’

A Festive Christmas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) Butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lemon Extract
  • 1 Egg White, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Sliced Almonds

Directions

Beat butter with an electric mixer for a few seconds, until creamy. Beat in half of the flour, the 2 cups sugar, eggs, and lemon extract until well combined. Stir in the remaining flour.

Divide the dough in half, wrap each half, and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Handling one half of the dough at a time, roll the dough onto a well-floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. Use a 2-3 inch round cookie cutter to cut the cookies. Place the cut cookies onto a baking sheet about 1 inch apart. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Brush each cookie with the beaten egg white. Then, sprinkle with a bit of the cinnamon sugar and arrange 3-5 almonds on top. Bake for about 8-9 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.

Makes 4-5 dozen


Cherry Vanilla Drops

My baking equipment is in revolt. I don’t blame it. I outright lied. The proof is in yesterday’s post. I’d promised my baking equipment a small break from this baking madness. It’s served me well these last few weeks. It really deserved a break. And then the cookie mania took hold again. I just had to have those little thumbprint cookies with the marashino cherries. It couldn’t wait a few days. I needed them immediately.

So, moments after I hit the publish button on yesterday’s post, I took three sticks of butter out of the fridge to soften. I’m pretty sure that’s what clued the baking equipment in; those conspicuous sticks of butter sitting on the counter. If I were smart, I would have hidden them in the dining room. But, on the counter they sat. And then, when it came time to mix up the cookie dough, my electric mixer was nowhere to be found. Nowhere.

Now, for anyone who knows me and my not-so-borderline obsessive compulsive tendencies, you’d realize that this is an unusual occurrence. I don’t misplace things very often. Everything has a place. In this case, the mixer’s place is back in its original box, in the pantry, next to the mini food processor. But when I went to said place, there was no mixer. Just an empty box. Befuddled doesn’t begin to explain my reaction. I scanned the kitchen, scanned the pantry, scanned the dining room. No mixer.

After a bit of searching, I finally found the mixer, cord wrapped around it, hiding in a basket in the pantry, under a pile of chocolate chips and marshmallows. That is most definitely not where I would have put my mixer.

My current theory is that the mixer caught sight of the butter on the counter and tried to make a run for it. When it realized it had no legs or other form of locomotion, it simply took cover and hoped for the best. Sorry dear mixer, my best is better than your best. I win. We’re making cookies.

I started with a Martha Stewart recipe for thumbprint cookies, but since my version doesn’t involve any thumb-sized indentations, it hardly seems appropriate to call them thumbprint cookies. So, based on my addition of a healthy dose of vanilla and sweet marashino cherries, I’m dubbing these little guys Cherry Vanilla Drops.

Cherry Vanilla Drops

Adapted from Aunt Maggie’s Jam Thumbprints via Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 3 1/4 cups Flour
  • 4 dozen Marashino Cherries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat for another minute or two, until well combined. Gradually add the flour, until evenly blended. Roll the dough into balls, about 1″ diameter. Place about two inches apart on a baking sheet. Press a marashino cherry into the center of each ball. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the edges just begin to turn golden. Cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen

Asian-Style Turkey Meatball Sandwiches

I’m pretty sure I’m done with my holiday cookie baking for the year. Well, sort of. Ok, not really. I want to be done baking. I really do. I’ve softened more sticks of butter than I can count and my baking sheets are screaming for a break. The kids’ red wagon in the garage is overflowing with containers of cookies and chocolate confections, waiting to be sorted onto platters and into tins. By all accounts, I should be done. But then I keep thinking of just one more cookie I need to make this year. The current cookie nagging at me are those little buttery thumbprint cookies with marashino cherries. It may be my somewhat irrational pregnancy brain at work here, but I’m just not sure I can get through the season without those thumbprint cookies.

At the very least, I’m done baking for the next few days. I’ve still got a few more cookie recipes to share with you; Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies, Sand Tarts, and two chocolatey treats. But I’m giving the baking sheets a brief rest as I move on to thinking about holiday parties!

This Saturday, I’ll be preparing the food for a friend’s holiday party. Though I’ve cooked for plenty of my own parties and brought dishes for potlucks, I’ve never actually cooked for someone else’s party. I am very excited for the opportunity. And she’s having my favorite kind of party to cook for; one with an all-hors d’oeuvres menu. I love hors d’oeuvres so much that my hubby and I skipped the full sit-down dinner route for our wedding and went with an all hors d’oeuvres extravaganza. It was an hors d’oeuvres dream come true. To me, there’s just nothing better than a perfect bite-sized package of flavor.

As excited as I am to be cooking for this party, I’m also nervous in a way I don’t usually feel about my own parties. There’s a different level of pressure in making the food for someone else’s soiree; an added self-imposed expectation that everything is perfect. As such, I’ve been doing test runs of each item on the menu; working out the final touches and fine-tuning the reheating procedures.

Earlier this week, I decided to test the Asian-Style Turkey Meatballs with Hoisin Peanut Sauce. They’ll be served as an hors d’oeuvres during the party, with party picks and a bowl of the dipping sauce. But, for the purpose of my test-run, I turned them into a dinner sandwich, complete with a soft, doughy bun and crisp broccoli slaw.

Not only does this recipe make a perfect bite-sized appetizer for your next gathering, it makes a very satisfying meal any night of the week. All components can be made ahead of time, then reheated and assembled later, making it a perfect option for your upcoming holiday celebrations or a tasty weeknight dinner!

Asian-Style Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Ground Turkey
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 3 Green Onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • Olive Oil, for baking pan

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wipe the bottom of a baking pan with a bit of olive oil. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix together until well combined. If the mixture is too moist to roll, add additional bread crumbs, a little at a time. Roll small balls, about 1″ diameter, and place in an even layer in the baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until fully cooked.

If preparing ahead of time, refrigerate until serving. To reheat, bake for 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Makes 25-30 cocktail-sized meatballs


Hoisin Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Hoisin Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon Red Curry Paste (or Cayenne Pepper)
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce

Directions

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. If preparing ahead of time, refrigerate until serving. The sauce will become thick when cooled. Warm for a few seconds in the microwave to loosen up the sauce before serving.


Broccoli Slaw

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 3 cups Broccoli Slaw Mix (Julienned Broccoli, Carrots, and Red Cabbage)

Directions

Combine mayonnaise, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt, and cayenne until well blended. Add the broccoli slaw mix. Stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, stirring occasionally to distribute the dressing.

 

Rainbow Cookies

So many family events and special occasions in my life have ended with a great big tray of Italian cookies. You know, those huge colorful platters of pink butter cookies, green butter cookies, butter cookies with cherries, butter cookies with sprinkles, butter cookies dipped in chocolate and butter cookies with jam. And mixed within all of those buttery sweets would be a handful of the premium cookies; the Florentines, the Pirouettes filled with chocolate, and my favorite of all, the Rainbow Cookies. I just love those sweet, little cakey confections.

I can still feel a bit of that panic I felt every time the cookie platter was placed on the table; waiting for the moment when it was appropriate to begin serving myself; worried that the prized gems of the cookie platter would be scooped up before I got my turn at the platter. As I pretended to be engaged in conversation, I watched that cookie platter with eagle eyes for the signal that dessert was officially served. Then, I’d swoop in and gobble up a few of those delectable Rainbow Cookies before anyone knew they were there. Even now, I still feel a possessive panic in the presence of those cookies.

My grocery store sells little plastic containers of Rainbow cookies for a king’s ransom. Every so often, I pick up a container and selfishly hoard them for myself. I just can’t seem to lose that fear that there won’t be enough for me. I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making these beloved cookies for ages and decided that this would finally be the year. After a few initial set-backs, including an epic battle against some Nut Lace cookies, another snow storm, and a broken glass bowl of melted butter on my kitchen floor, I finally managed to whip up a batch of these tasty goodies. The good news is that, as long as you slow down and don’t try to rush the process, these cookies are quite manageable to make and oh, so delicious!

When I began my search for a Rainbow Cookie recipe, I quickly discovered that nearly every source listed practically identical recipes. Apparently, the recipe is fairly standard. The variations were minor, basically addressing the quantity of butter, the length of time to let the layers chill, and the flavor of jam between the layers. I took the middle ground at each decision point and the cookies worked out perfectly.

Rainbow Cookies

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine’s Rainbow Cookies

Ingredients

  • 4 Eggs, separated
  • 1 8-ounce can Almond Paste
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 1/2 sticks Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Almond Extract
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • Green Food Coloring
  • Red Food Coloring
  • 1 12-ounce jar Seedless Raspberry Jam
  • 12 ounces Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • Chocolate Sprinkles (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease three 13×9 inch baking pans with vegetable shortening.* Line each baking pan with parchment paper, slightly extending the paper on two ends.** Grease the paper with vegetable shortening.

Place the four egg whites into a clean bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Use a fork to break up the almond paste into smaller pieces. Combine the almond paste and sugar in a food processor and grind until no lumps appear.

Transfer the almond mixture to a large bowl. Add the butter and beat until well combined. Add the egg yolks and almond extract and beat until blended. Beat in the flour and salt. The dough will be quite thick.

Stir one third of the beaten egg whites into the dough. This will slightly lighten the mixture. Then, fold in the remaining egg whites until well blended.

Divide the dough into three equal portions. Use the food coloring to color one portion red and another portion green. The remaining portion will remain uncolored.

Use a spatula to spread each portion of dough into the three prepared baking pans.

Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 7-10 minutes, until the cakes are set and the edges just begin to turn golden.

While the cake is still hot, use a knife to loosen the edges. Then, carefully invert the cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely.

Once cool, carefully move the green layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread 1/2 of the jam over the green layer. Place the white layer over the jam, then spread the remaining jam on top. Top with the red layer.

Place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the red layer. Then, weight down the layers with a cutting board or another baking sheet and refrigerate for about 5 hours.

Remove from the fridge and trim the edges to create an even rectangle.

Melt half of the chocolate and spread it over the pink layer. Scatter chocolate sprinkles into the melted chocolate, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until the chocolate is firm. Then, flip the layers over, melt the remaining chocolate, and spread over the green layer. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm.

To cut, allow the chocolate to come to room temperature. Then, cut into small rectangles or diamonds.

Makes about 4 dozen

*Baking all three layers at once will save you time. If you don’t have three baking pans, use disposable aluminum pans. This will also make your clean up easier!

**For safety reasons, do not allow too much extra paper to overhang the pans; just enough to help you lift and remove the cakes once they’re cooked.

Coconut Macaroons

I had big plans for yesterday’s cookie endeavors. First, I’d whip up some Nut Lace Cookies, then move onto the Rainbow Cookies, and finish with the Macaroons. For a chilly Sunday afternoon, it seemed like a reasonable to-do list. Well, the day didn’t go exactly as planned. I always seem to forget how finicky those Nut Lace Cookies can be. The recipe is deceptively simple, but the execution is ridden with potential for frustration. After fighting with the Nut Lace Cookies, there was no way I was about to embark on the Rainbow Cookie adventure. Thankfully, the Macaroons are a cinch to make. So, I jumped straight to the stress-free Macaroons and finished up the day with some Dark Chocolate Holiday Bark and Chocolate-Covered Spiders.

I love adding macaroons to my holiday cookie collection each year. They’re quick and easy to make and I’m pretty sure that everyone loves them. For the past few years, I’ve been using a recipe from the cookbook, The Great Big Cookie Book by Hilaire Walden. My only adaptation is in using parchment paper instead of the original recipe’s suggested wax paper. I’ve had issues in the past with wax paper sticking to the bottoms of the macaroons. And there’s nothing I hate more than having to pick off tiny bits of wax paper from the bottoms of my cookies! Using parchment paper completely eliminated this issue.

I like to drizzle the tops of my macaroons with melted semi-sweet chocolate. A disposable pastry bag, fitted with a small, round pastry tip works well for this task, but a plastic freezer bag with a tiny bit of the corner cut off would do the trick too. In the past, I’ve dipped half of the macaroon directly in chocolate, but found that amount of chocolate to be overwhelming on the macaroons, even for a chocoholic like myself. Just a little drizzle of chocolate over the top adds the perfect finishing touch.

Chocolate-Drizzled Coconut Macaroons

Adapted from the Macaroons in The Great Big Cookie Book by Hilaire Walden

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Grease the paper with vegetable shortening. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the coconut. Add the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Stir until well combined. Drop rounded tablespoons of the mixture about an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

Once cool, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or over a double boiler. Carefully transfer the melted chocolate into a pastry bag fitted with a small, round pastry tip. Drizzle the chocolate over the macaroons. Refrigerate until the chocolate has set. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 6 dozen

As far as those Nut Lace Cookies go, I think I’m going to hold off on posting that recipe. I’ve got a couple ideas for simplifying the process that I’d like to try first. Stay tuned!

Also, coming up… Rainbow Cookies and Two Chocolately Treats – Dark Chocolate Holiday Bark and Chocolate-Covered Spiders!

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

When I sat down to make my list of cookies to tackle this holiday cookie season, I started with a few of my standard favorites; Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Sand Tarts, Chocolate Covered Spiders, Macaroons, and Nut Lace Cookies with Chocolate. Then, I started thinking outside of my standards. I knew I’d make the Pfeffernüsse for my dad and I’ve been itching to make Rainbow Cookies for a while. After exploring a few other options, I got the idea in my head to make a Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookie; sort of combining the flavors of a peppermint patty with the texture of a chewy chocolate chip cookie.

I go weak in the knees for chocolate, especially rich, dark chocolate. And these cookies are exactly that; rich and chocolatey, with crisp edges and a chewy center. I started with a basic Hershey’s chocolate cookie recipe and proceeded from there. I went heavy on the cocoa, threw in some semi-sweet chocolate chips, and substituted part of the vanilla for a hefty dose of peppermint extract. The resulting cookie exceeded my expectations. I’ve definitely found a new yearly regular for my cookie collection.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Adapted from Hershey’s

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 sticks Butter, softened
  • 1 cup White Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons Peppermint Extract
  • 1 (12-ounce) package Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the eggs and extracts. Beat for another minute or two, until well blended. Gradually blend in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Roll the dough into small balls (about 1″ diameter) and place about 1 1/2″ apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before moving the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies


Gideon’s Peanut Butter Fudge

When I was younger, my family had an Irish Wolfhound as a pet. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Irish Wolfhound breed, they are, on average, the tallest breed of dog. They are the size of small pony, with the most gentle, protective, and obedient personalities. Our Irish Wolfhound’s name was Gideon, named for the angel, Gideon, in the 1985 movie, One Magic Christmas. Sadly, as with many large dog breeds, their lifespan is not long and we lost him long before anyone was ready. It was an honor to have Gideon in our lives.

My siblings and I remember the day our family first met Gideon. He was a few months old at that point. The breeder, an older woman, had initially planned on keeping him, but quickly realized she didn’t have the stamina for another pony-sized puppy. As my parents and the breeder sat inside to discuss the purchase details, my siblings and I were send outside to play with the ‘puppy’. This ‘puppy’ was already the size of a full grown German Shepherd with all of the energy of an 8-week-old Labrador. He wanted nothing more than to romp around that yard and tackle me and my sisters. We shrieked and screamed and laughed.  And when the negotiations were complete, we took our new puppy home.

But this post isn’t really about Gideon. It’s about Gideon’s fudge. My mom has been making this fudge at Christmastime for as long as I can remember. Each year, she’d make a two-pound batch of the fudge, package it in a tin or plastic container, and place the fudge on a counter, along with the other annual Christmas goodies. Well, Gideon’s head was easily counter-height, a fact we too often forgot. You can imagine what happens next. My family arrived home one day to find Gideon, lying on the living room floor, moaning as his stomach furiously growled. It didn’t take long to find the empty container of peanut butter fudge. Thankfully, a call to the veterinary poison control center assured us that a dog his size would need to consume at least nine pounds of the chocolate-glazed peanut butter fudge to be in any real trouble. His bellyache eventually subsided and we all learned a valuable lesson about safe places to store food.

The origin of this recipe has long been forgotten, but to us, it will always be Gideon’s fudge. I’ve doubled the original recipe, since what are you going to do with an open can of undiluted evaporated milk anyway?? Otherwise, the recipe is the same as the fudge Gideon enjoyed years ago. It’s amazingly simple to put together and makes a great addition to any holiday treat collection. Store in an airtight container in a high place, safe from dogs, who will find the scent irresistible.

One more little note… I haven’t tried it yet, but I suspect this recipe would easily make a nice chocolate fudge by substituting chocolate chips for the peanut butter chips.

Gideon’s Peanut Butter Fudge

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups Sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups Undiluted Evaporated Milk
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 4 cups Mini Marshmallows
  • 3 cups Peanut Butter Chips
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 2 cups Chocolate Chips

Directions

Lightly butter two 8×8 inch baking dishes or one 13×9 baking dish. Combine sugar, milk, butter, and salt in pan over medium heat. Bring to a full boil. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low if the mixture bubbles up too vigorously. Remove from heat. Stir in the marshmallows, peanut butter chips, and vanilla until melted. Pour the fudge into the baking dish(es) and cool completely at room temperature. Slowly melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or over a double-boiler. Pour the melted chocolate over the fudge. Refrigerate until firm. Remove the fudge from the baking dish and cut into small squares. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

Makes 4 pounds


Choco-Cherry-Coconut Bars

We’re still working on building our Christmas cookie collection over here. Shamefully, I think I’m eating as many cookies as I’m saving for cookie platters. I have a sneaking suspicion that my weigh-in at my next prenatal appointment is going to be a shocker. Do you think I can blame it on the baby?? A wild holiday growth spurt, perhaps?

Though I may be taste-testing an excess of these holiday goodies, I’ve got to say they’re being thoroughly enjoyed. And if you’re going to indulge in holiday treats, these next cookies make it worth it! This recipe comes from my mom, whose recipe card notes that it originally came from a package of Durkee coconut. I’m not sure Durkee even makes coconut anymore, but my family has been making these delicious cookie bars for as long as I can remember. How can you go wrong with a mix of chocolate, cherries, and coconut? The best part is that these are cookie bars, which means you just press the dough into a baking dish, bake, and slice. No floured tables, no rolling, no cookie-cutting, no decorating. This is my kind of simple recipe!

I made a few tiny adjustments to the recipe, mostly related to the quantities of the fillings and the baking time. The original recipe also calls for chopped walnuts, which I omitted since one of my cookies recipients is allergic to nuts. If nut-allergies aren’t an issue in your home, go ahead and throw in about a half-cup of chopped walnuts! Finally, I like using a disposable aluminum baking dish for this recipe, since it gives you a little more flexibility in popping out the baked dough for slicing.

Choco-Cherry-Coconut Bars

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 2 sticks Butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 3/4 cup Chocolate Chips
  • 3/4 cup Sweetened Flaked Coconut
  • 1/2 cup Marashino Cherries, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 13×9 inch baking dish with vegetable shortening. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another minute or two, until well-blended. Gradually blend in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips, coconut, and cherries. Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish in an even layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the baking dish. Then, carefully invert over a cutting board. Make 4 cuts lengthwise and 8 cuts across to form 32 cookie bars.

Makes 32 Cookie Bars


Santa’s Favorite Cookie – Pfeffernussen

According to my father, Pfeffernüsse are Santa’s favorite cookies. As children, we took this statement to be truth, without question. Even now, though I’m grown, and have long understood that Santa exists more in spirit than in flesh, I still believe that Pfeffernüsse are Santa’s favorite cookie.

Christmas was always a magical time for me. I held on to my belief in Santa for longer than most children and cried tears of true grief when I discovered the truth. And though I felt briefly, but truly, heartbroken the year I found out about Santa, I am thankful to my parents for the magic they added to the holiday. As a parent, I am conscious about instilling an understanding of the true meaning of Christmas in my children. But, as much as I want them to understand the theological significance of the day, I yearn for them to feel the same swell of excitement I felt as a child on Christmas morning.

My first Christmas, post-Santa, was just as special, but for entirely different reasons. As the oldest of my siblings, I became the first to learn of and share in the traditions which made our Christmas so special. I giggled as my dad climbed up to the attic with jingle bells in hand, to stomp around in Santa fashion. I held my breath as I tiptoed upstairs with my mom to help gather the wrapped gifts from Santa. I enjoyed sips of my dad’s Christmas Eve eggnog. And best of all, once my siblings were sound asleep, I was allowed to sneak downstairs to help my parents decorate the tree.

The tradition of decorating the tree on Christmas Eve was my most favorite tradition of all. Weeks before Christmas, my family would select our tree. The tree would then wait outside until Christmas Eve, at which point, my father would set the tree in the stand and string it with lights. That was it. My siblings and I would go to bed, convinced we heard Santa on the rooftop, just as we drifted off with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. In the morning, we’d awake to a brilliant, fully-decorated tree, in a living room magically filled with gifts. By all appearances, Santa had come during the night, winked his eyes, and transformed our living room into a Christmas vision. There was nothing like that moment, peering down the stairs to see the tree, fully adorned, for the very first time on Christmas morning.

As much as the memories of that tradition fill me with joy, I’ve been reluctant to begin it with my own family. I just don’t have the self-control necessary to wait until Christmas Eve to put up our tree. My compromise with this issue has been to set up a small undecorated tree on our kitchen table, near our plate of Santa’s cookies, for Santa to decorate each year. And though I suspect that pfeffernüsse was more of my father’s favorite cookie than Santa’s, you can bet there will be some pfeffernüsse on that plate for Santa.

This was my first time making pfeffernüsse, which are a peppery German cookie, so I turned to a reliable source for cookie recipes; Martha Stewart. I made her recipe as written and it was fantastic. No alterations required. The dough comes together easily and the flavors are exactly as I remember. I’m certain that my dad (my childhood Santa) will enjoy tasting these delicious cookies.

Santa’s Favorite Pfeffernüsse

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pfeffernussen

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 stick Butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Molasses
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the flour, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and molasses until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat for another minute or two until well-blended. Gradually blend in the flour mixture until a smooth dough forms. Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll balls, about 1″ in diameter. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet, about an inch or so apart. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden and slightly cracked. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Place the confectioner’s sugar in a container. In small batches, gently toss the cooled cookies in the sugar. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes 2-3 Dozen

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Craisin Cookies

It’s cookie time!

We’re on our fourth consecutive day of non-stop snow around here. They call this Lake Effect Snow, since it results from our proximity to the Great Lakes. It seems to appear without warning and quickly covers the area with mounds of snow, which are practically taller than my children. But, large snowfalls are nothing new to the area, so for the most part, people just move on with their business. Personally, I prefer to hole up in the warmth of my home until the snow stops.

The timing of this particular snow event is perfect though. I had nothing more planned for the week besides baking Christmas cookies. And so, as the snow continues to fall outside, we’re staying warm in the kitchen and beginning this year’s Christmas cookie collection. The tree is lit, the house smells of pine, and we’re well stocked with cocoa and candy canes. It’s time to get our Christmas baking on.

We’re starting with a personal favorite; oatmeal chocolate chip. This is a small variation on a recipe I’ve shared before, which is a slight adaptation of the recipe you can find on the inside cover of a barrel of Quaker Oats. In my opinion, these are truly the best oatmeal cookies ever. They’re perfectly sweet and buttery, with crisp edges and a slightly chewy center. I almost always add chocolate chips and typically some chopped dried apricot when I make these cookies. With the holidays approaching, dried cranberries felt a bit more festive, so we’re swapping the apricots for craisins.

Stay tuned during the next two weeks for more cookie recipes!

Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Craisin Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 sticks Salted Butter, softened
  • 1 cup Light Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup White Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 3 cups Quaker Oats
  • 1 cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 3/4 cup Dried Cranberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the vanilla and eggs to the butter mixture. Blend until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and apricots. Form into small balls, about 1 inch diameter, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 14-15 minutes, until the edges begin to brown and the center appears cooked. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a minute before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen*

*It’s actually more like 4 dozen, if you count the taste-testing cookies, that is… I’m firmly committed to quality control, you know.


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