Party, Party, Party!

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Last night we had the family over for a big Christmas party. I love having people over during the holidays – I get to show off my Christmas decorations, serve my favorite snack foods, and most importantly, have a good time with the people I love. There were 16 people total, so of course there was lots and lots of food! I made 2 big batches of my toasted oatmeal cookies, a batch of M&M cookies, spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and peppermint bark (to name a few).

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

M&M Cookies

M&M Cookies

My sister brought her famous “soggy sandwiches” (you assemble a bunch of turkey and cheese sandwiches, put them all in a big jelly roll pan,  pour melted butter over the tops, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, and bake for 5 minutes until the cheese melts – sinful!!), my Aunt Josie brought a chocolate roll-up cake, and Nana brought crockpot cocktail weenies. And my sweet Grandaddy brought me a big, beautiful Poinsettia! Some of my favorites from the party include:

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Sausage balls – SO good! It absolutely would not be a party in our family without these babies! Recently, my sister found that adding milk makes them a lot more moist. We love to use maple sausage – it adds such great flavor!

Sausage Balls
3 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 pound maple pork sausage
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
pinch Cayenne Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (it’s easiest if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer – use the dough hook), roll into 1 inch balls and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the balls are golden brown. Cool completely.

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My mom’s Christmas Wassail – just like the sausage balls, it really wouldn’t be Christmas without this wassail. My mom’s been making it every single Christmas since the  ’80′s and every year we look forward to it! It simmers for 2 hours, so the entire house smells heavenly! Keep the container that your apple cider came in to store any leftover wassail; then just pour yourself individual cups and microwave anytime you want hot wassail!

Christmas Wassail
2 quarts apple cider
1 46-oz. can pineapple juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon allspice
15-20 cloves, stuck into an orange or apple
3-5 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a large pot or crockpot on high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours.
*You’ll notice all kinds of stuff floating around in my picture – I added some Williams Sonoma mulling spices that I had on hand; it’s not needed, though.

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And finally, my favorite – Granna’s Green Stuff. This is seriously the best stuff ever – fluffy…creamy…….green. Originally, my great-grandmother would always make this every Christmas, now her daughter-in-law, my grandmother (Granna), makes it a lot, as we request it a LOT! It’s GOOD!! This recipe is as close as I can get to my great-grandmother’s recipe – she never would tell anyone what was in it! I’m pretty sure this is it, though…

“Green Stuff” (It’s really called Lime Jello Salad, but we’ve always known it as green stuff)

1 (3 oz.) pkg. lime Jello
1 c. hot water

(Heat up drained pineapple juice for part of liquid.)
Mix. Stir until well dissolved. Set until jelly-like consistency then carefully whip with electric mixer.

1/2 pkg. (4 oz.) cream cheese
1 can (15 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 c. whipping cream

Whip cream until stiff. Add cream cheese. Mix in Jello and blend thoroughly. Fold in pineapple and nuts. Put into a serving bowl and chill for at least 4 hours.

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Just look at that fluffy green goodness!! Anyway, we had an absolutely delightful party last night – thanks to everyone who came and brought delicious food and great company!


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Winning Feels Good…(really good!!)

I’ve been holding onto a little piece of news for a couple of weeks now – about a month ago, I entered a cookie contest for a newspaper in the DFW area. A week went by and I got an email saying my cookies (Toasted Oatmeal with Golden Raisins, Pecans and Coconut) made it onto the Semi-Finals! Woo-Hoo! Honestly, I never expected them to even get that far. The next step was for me to take a plate of my cookies to the newspaper office for more judging. Shortly thereafter, I got another email – onto the Final round! Oh YEAH! This time, professional pastry chefs and bakery owners would make my cookies following the recipe I provided (um, talk about nerve-wracking!). Then, I got a call from super-sweet Stephanie saying I WON! Holy cow, this was a total and utter shock! What an awesome surprise…my humble little oatmeal cookie won a contest; now that will brighten anyone’s day!

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This is an awesome opportunity because my cookies are going to be sold at a bakery in Fort Worth for 2 weeks this month! How cool is that?! They can even be shipped nation-wide; and all the proceeds go to charity – really cool! I got to have my picture in the paper and everything (that’s a big deal for ‘lil ‘ol me!) – the photo shoot was so much fun…the photographer had me make all kinds of fun poses/faces! I’m just glad they chose a semi-normal looking picture for the article!

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Just for fun, here is the article, which includes the recipe (sorry, it’s no longer online!). Thanks again, Stephanie, all the other Fort Worth Star Telegram employees and pastry chefs who chose my cookie and gave me a really fun treat this holiday season!!

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins, Coconut and Pecans

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (one stick) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp.
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 – 1 cup (however much you want, really) shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oats, coconut and pecans and spread on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until the coconut becomes fragrant, stirring frequently. Let cool. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream both sugars and butter until light, fluffy and smooth. Add egg, half and half and vanilla and blend until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture, the toasted oat mixture, then the raisins. Drop dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in rounded spoonfuls (or you can use a cookie scoop) about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 12 -15 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

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Cookies For Santa…

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Here’s something sort of weird about me (one of many): I love M&M’s in my Christmas cookies, but I’m not a big fan of them by themselves. It always kind of baffles me when people say their favorite candy is M&M’s. I mean, there are so many varieties of candies out there…why M&M’s?? To each his own, I guess. Now, when it comes to cookies, however, I love to bake with M&M’s (but only if they’re red and green, of course!). Whether it’s my Monster Cookies, chocolate chip cookies with M&M’s, or these yummy, simple drop cookies, they’re always delicious and they always make me feel a little “jollier” around Christmastime (it’s very important to feel jolly at Christmas! :-)). When my sister and I were little, we always left Santa M&M cookies on Christmas Eve, so naturally, this kind of cookie just screams Christmas for me.

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Speaking of Christmas-y things, what color lights do you prefer on your Christmas tree?? Me, I love the colored lights – they’re much happier and cheery looking. Oddly enough, this year we have a white-lighted tree….just not the same… Anyway, back to business. I went searching for a good ‘ol drop cookie recipe and decided to check the King Arthur Flour site, which is quickly becoming my favorite online resource for baking recipes, and found this recipe.  It’s totally simple, straight-forward and really, really tasty. The thing I loved most was that the cookie part wasn’t too buttery and sweet; it was nicely balanced and let the M&M’s be the star. These are just plain ‘ol, simple M&M cookies, but just seeing a plate full of them makes you feel warm and fuzzy…and of course, jolly! If you have kids, these are perfect cookies to make for Santa – they’re easy enough that the kids can help, and they end up looking very Christmas-y and fun! Enjoy!

M&M Christmas Cookies
-King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, light or dark, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons milk, optional
2 cups Holiday M&M’s

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment. Beat together the butter, sugars, salt, vanilla, baking soda, and baking powder until well combined. Add the egg, beating until smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat again until smooth.
Add the flour, mixing it in completely.  Stir in the milk, then carefully stir in the M&M’s.
Drop the cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2″ apart. A cookie scoop works well here.
Bake the cookies for 14 to 16 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown, and a bit darker around the edges.
Remove them from the oven, and cool right on the baking sheets.

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pfeffernusse1

You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this time of year to get here! I absolutely love the Holiday season….and more importantly, the baking adventures it brings. I’ve already been baking all kinds of cookies and having tons of fun trying new recipes. Like these Pfeffernüsse – German spice cookies, traditionally made at Christmas.

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I first fell in love with these in college while taking a German course. My professor had just gotten back from Germany and brought us a whole array of German Christmas cookies to try. These were among them, and ooooh boy, were they good! Since then, I’ve been searching for the perfect recipe for Pfeffernüsse, so I can make them at home. This recipe is a Martha Stewart, and while it’s close….it’s not exactly what I’m looking for. However, the cookies were delicious (sort of like a molasses cookie) and my co-workers seemed to really enjoy them.

Pfeffernüsse
-Martha Stewart

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place confectioners’ sugar in a brown paper bag (I used a bowl).
In a medium bowl, combine flour, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda. Set aside.
Place butter, brown sugar, and molasses in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture; beat until just combined. Pinch off dough in tablespoon amounts; roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Arrange balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (Dough can be frozen at this point, covered tightly with plastic wrap, up to 1 month).

Bake until cookies are golden and firm to the touch with slight cracking, about 15 minutes. Transfer sheets to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Working in batches, place cookies in paper bag; shake until well coated. Let cool completely on wire rack. Store in airtight container.

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And now here’s the part that I’m most excited about: my first giveaway!!! It being cookie season and all (and because they started playing Christmas music on XM radio!), I thought it only fitting to give you a little something to get you started.

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I recently saw this book reviewed on The National Cookie Network blog and immediately bought one. Great tips and pictures showing you how to perfectly decorate cookies for any occasion (with an entire section dedicated to Christmas cookies!). Perfect for a cookie decorating idiot like myself. And since it’s so fantastic, I decided to get an extra copy for you!! AND since you can’t make great holiday cookies without some fabulous cookie cutters: this Holiday Linzer Cookie Cut-Out set is yours as well. Woo Hoo!!

giveaway

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All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment on this post answering this little question:

What Holiday cookie are you dying to try this year?

RULES:

1.) Only one entry per person, please

2.) You have until midnight Friday, Nov. 20. I’ll post the winner on Monday.

Good luck!!

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holidaybundt1

This is such a great cake – there’s pumpkin, pecans, fresh cranberries, and lots of spice. SO full of yummy holiday flavors! Dorie’s All In One Holiday Bundt Cake was chosen by Britin of The Nitty Britty. I absolutely loved it – this reminds me a lot of the Cranberry Orange Bread I make every year at Thanksgiving…in fact, now that I think of it, this cake would be delicious with a bit of orange zest/juice! Next time, definitely!

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The texture is nice and chunky, and the cranberries give so much extra flavor. I left out the apples because I just didn’t feel like apples in my cake that day. I will most definitely be making this cake again and again. It really is perfect for the holidays! Thanks, Britin, for a great pick!

All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake
-Dorie Greenspan

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground ginger
10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and ginger, set aside.

Beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low and add pumpkin and chopped apple, don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. With rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 60 minutes or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool to room temperature. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

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Some Christmas Goodies…

This is probably going to be a short post because I still have a tiny bit of shopping left to do today!

Here are just a couple of little things I wanted to share with you because they’re simple, take practically no time to prepare, and they’re darned TASTY! They are: my great-grandmother’s gingerbread and quick and easy saltine toffees. So good!! So here we go!

These toffee squares are just about the easiest snack/dessert to make and they’re oh-my-gosh delicious to boot! Perfect for parties or homemade gifts! I had some unexpected company this weekend and decided to whip these up for a little snack and they were a huge hit! It took literally about 10 minutes to make. I know it sounds weird because you make it with saltine crackers, but I’m telling you, it works!

Saltine Toffees

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
40 saltine crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Lay a flat layer of crackers out on the foil. In a medium saucepan, melt the sugar and butter until it starts to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until mixture is thickened and sugar is completely dissolved. Pour this mixture over the crackers and spread to coat evenly. Bake for 2-3 minutes, or until the toffee becomes bubbly. After removing the pan from the oven, let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips, let them soften and melt, and then spread them into an even layer. Refrigerate to harden, then break into chunks for serving. (These are soooooooooo good!!)

Ok, next up is my Baba’s gingerbread – I had been searching everywhere for a good gingerbread recipe to make for hubby one night (and coming up sort of empty handed). I should’ve known that all it took was one phone call to my mother to fix everything! She gave me this recipe – my great-grandmother, Baba’s recipe; and it’s DELICIOUS!  It has just the right amount of spice and molassess….it was so good served warm with a (big ‘ol) dollop of whipped cream on top! Hubby loved it! Thanks again Baba, for yet another perfect recipe!

(Unfortunately, I was in a big hurry and didn’t have time to take very good pictures of this – I would’ve liked to top it with a little powdered sugar and some whipped cream so you could get the real effect of how good this is…but you’ll just have to use your imagination!)

Baba’s Gingerbread

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup molassess
1 egg
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup boiling water

Mix together the butter and sugar, then add the egg and molassess, mixing well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, spices, soda and salt, then add to wet mixture. Stir to combine, then add the boiling water and mix. Pour batter into a greased square pan and bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until springy.

I hope you enjoy these recipes….they’re perfect for the holidays! Merry Christmas and happy baking!

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A Monster of a Cookie!

To me, one of the best things about the Christmas season is baking cookies…lots of them! These are slowly becoming my favorite Christmas cookie – you can make them in a flash and everybody always seems to love them. What cookie am I talking about? Why, Monster Cookies, of course!

Oatmeal, peanut butter, holiday M&M’s….these cookies are chock full of goodies! Normally I don’t really like peanut butter-y desserts, but I made these last year for the first time and fell in love! They’re chewy, not-too-sweet, and have a little crunch, thanks to the M&M’s. I made a huge batch of these the other night for a party (yeah, the same party that I made the buttery jam cookies for) and they were definitely everyone’s favorite – especially my good buddy Susan – she loves her some cookies!

These are flourless, which I always thought was kind of weird, but it really works out – I’m tellin’ ya, these are awesome cookies! Probably a great cookie to make with your kids…if you have any….I definitely don’t have any…..not really a “kid” person….there’s a bird that sleeps on our front porch every night….that’s about as close to having kids as I get…..I doubt the bird would want to make monster cookies with me, though………….um, right…well anyway – if you’ve got some peanut butter, oats and chocolate chips or M&M’s lying around in your pantry, you can definitely make these cookies TODAY! Do it!

Monster Cookies
-slightly adapted from allrecipes.com

6 eggs
2 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup butter
2 2/3 cups peanut butter
9 cups rolled oats
2 cups M&M’s candy (I use the holiday kind)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Cream butter and peanut butter together. Add the sugars and stir until well mixed. Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. Mix oatmeal and baking soda separately, then stir into batter. Add M&M’s last. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

*NOTE: the above recipe makes about 10 gazillion cookies…I was smart and cut the recipe in half and still got about 3 dozen or more

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The Simple Things….

**There is an updated post on this recipe- if you’d like to see it, click here

I like to think of myself as sort of a “fancy” girl – I really love big, elaborate, overdone things….nothing gets me excited like getting a big fat present, or being on stage and getting one heck of an applause. Big, elaborate stuff is great…really; but honestly, it’s the simple little things that make me really happy. Simple things like my hubby getting home from work everyday (I get so excited when I hear the garage door opening); or having a fire going in my fireplace; my mom loading me up with all of her leftover Christmas decorations; watching my favorite Christmas movie with a mug of hot chocolate; the hot guy on Lost. It’s all about the simple things.

This cake is definitely one of those simple things that puts a big ‘ol smile on my face and a “mmmMMM!” on my lips. My mom’s Cinnamon Pound Cake.

I didn’t really have that much of an appreciation for this cake when I was a little younger. My mom would make it (usually around Christmas, or in the winter) and everybody just scarfed it up (um, yeah, ‘scarfed’ is a word) and went on and on about how good it was. I personally didn’t think it was all that great- I mean, I liked it alright…I just didn’t get the “wow” factor. Don’t know why. I was in high school…I had to be difficult – otherwise everybody would’ve been bored. It wasn’t until after I was married, and was having my parents and in-laws over for a nice dinner before Christmas that I ever made this cake on my own. I was searching for a really good dessert – something that would make everybody know in their heart of hearts that I was the best little wife and cook there ever was (I don’t think such a dessert exists…) and I kept coming up empty handed. Either it was too difficult or too simple. Finally I somehow decided on the cinnamon pound cake, and as it turned out, that cake was the perfect end to a mediocre dinner (I had only been married like, 2 months…I was still working on the whole “company over for dinner” thing. I think I served a casserole…hehe). It was so delicious with a big cup of strong coffee – everybody loved it. Including me! Somehow, my tastes had changed and I grew to love that cake in just one evening! Now I make it every single year….and it’s SOOOOOO good! And SOOOOOO simple!! And the best thing is, it tastes best in the morning with your coffee…I love cake for breakfast. This cake always gets rave reviews, no matter where I take it. I sent some to work with hubby and he said his coworkers went nuts over it. Try it! I promise you’ll love it!

Cinnamon Pound Cake

4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 yellow butter cake mix (don’t use white cake mix – it has to be butter!)
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup canola oil
1 – 8 oz. container sour cream (you can use reduced fat, but in my opinion, it doesn’t taste the same)
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan.
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and sprinkle half of the mixture in the greased bundt pan – shake it all around to coat the entire pan. Mix cake mix with pudding, oil, sour cream, eggs and other half of cinnamon/sugar mixture. Pour into pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes until springy. Cool for 20 minutes before taking out of pan.

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Well, I’d be lying if I said I had baked my cookies this week like a good little TWD baker – I didn’t. In fact, I was so busy making those 12 batches of cookies for my mother-in-law, I didn’t even get around to thinking about this weeks’ recipe! I know….bad Amy, bad! BUT- the good news is, I’ve made these cookies before, so I can at least say that I’ve tried them and they’re the most perfect sugar cookies I’ve ever eaten!

This week, Ulrike of Kuchenlatein chose Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Coookies, and let me tell you – these are awesome sugar cookies! They’re my go-to sugar cookie recipe from now on. I made them when my nephew came to visit for a few days and we made these together – he said they were the best cookies he’d ever had!

Go check out Ulrike’s blog for the recipe! Sorry I sort of “cheated” this week and posted re-run pictures! Happy baking!

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Cookies Galore!

First, let me clarify – before I got married, the extent of my baking (besides helping my mom in the kitchen every now and then) was break and bake cookies or a boxed cake mix of some sort. In college, I baked a few things from time to time for Tyler and Seth, the boys who lived across the way from my roommate and me; but really, when it came to “real” baking – not using boxed mixes or slice-n-bake cookies- I didn’t do much of it at all! Then I started dating my hubby and somehow, my affections came out through baking…who ever saw that coming! I would send him boxes of cookies in the mail (he was at one college, and I was at another) and bake him special cakes when he’d come to visit for the weekend. So now, after two years of marriage, somehow my baking abilities have gone from store bought cookie dough to making up my own kinds of cookie recipes, homemade frostings, ganache, and all kinds of other things! Yay me! I totally found my niche…baking is what I love doing now (besides opera) and I’m getting better and better everyday! (I still have a LONG way to go, however!)

So since I’ve started this food blog, my friends and family have started seeing me as more of a serious cook/baker. They ask for recipes and call with cooking questions, which is amazingly flattering; and most recently, my mother-in-law asked if I would make cookies for her work Christmas party! How exciting! Can I call myself a professional caterer now?? No? Ok fine….worth a try….

She said I could make any kinds I wanted, but the only request she had was for me to make the oatmeal with golden raisins, pecans and coconut that I had made for them recently. No problem! So…without further ado, here are the heaps and mounds of cookies I made yesterday!

First up, Jan’s favorite. Essentially, an oatmeal raisin cookie, jazzed up a bit…Amy style! (I’m also sending these particular cookies into Joelen’s Holiday Cookie Swap blogging event, by the way!)

Oatmeal with Golden Raisins, Coconut and Pecans

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (one stick) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp.
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 – 1 cup (however much you want, really) shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream both sugars and butter until light and fluffy and smooth. Add egg, half and half and vanilla and blend until smooth. Stir in the oat mixture, walnuts, raisins and coconut. Drop dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in rounded spoonfuls (or you can use a cookie scoop) about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 13 -15 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

Second: the chocolate mint cookies (which I have appropriately re-named, “Chocolate Mint Puddles”). A full recipe makes about a TON of these cookies…but they’re so amazingly good!! My favorite Christmas cookie, as a matter of fact! How can you go wrong with chocolate and Andes mints??

Chocolate Mint Puddles
-allrecipes.com

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 (4.5 ounce) packages chocolate covered thin mints (Andes mints)

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the sugar, butter and water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove from heat, stir in the chocolate chips until melted and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl, and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets. Roll cookie dough into walnut sized balls and place 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, be careful not to overbake. When cookies come out of the oven, Press one mint wafer into the top of each cookie and let sit for 1 minute. When the mint is softened, swirl with the back of a spoon or toothpick to make a pattern with the green filling of the mint wafer. For smaller cookies, break mints in half.

Third on the list, my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookie – the “BFCCC” (big, fat, chocolate chip cookies…I think chewy is supposed to go in there somewhere, too…). I made these not long after hubby and I were married and they became an instant hit with my entire family!

And in the haste of my cookie-making….this happened: A prime example of what NOT to do when you’re making cookies for your mother-in-law:

UGH. Just don’t ask…..its the spatula’s fault! That’s all I’m going to say about it!

Big, Fat, Chocolate Chip Cookies (the BEST!)
-allrecipes.com

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I use almost an entire package of chips…)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.
Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted (If you’re making smaller cookies like mine, bake them for about 12 minutes). Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

And last but not least, last week’s Tuesdays with Dorie cookie – the Linzer Sable (except that I didn’t make them into sandwich cookies, so I guess they’re just Sables…)

Linzer Sables
-Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 large egg
2 teaspoons water
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar

Whisk together the ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Using a fork, stir the egg and water together in a small bowl.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the egg mixture and beat for 1 minute more. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. If the dough comes together but some dry crumbs remain in the bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer and finish blending the ingredients with a rubber spatula or your hands.
Divide the dough in half. Working ,,~th one half at a time, put the dough between two large sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. Using your hands, flatten the dough into a disk, then grab a rolling pin and roll out the dough, turning it over frequently so that the paper doesn’t cut into it, until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Leave the dough in the paper and repeat with the second piece of dough. Transfer the wrapped dough to a baking sheet or cutting board (to keep it flat) and refrigerate or freeze it until it is very firm, about 2 hours in the refrigerator or about 45 minutes in the freezer. The rolled-out dough can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Just thaw the dough enough to cut out the cookies and go on from there.

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Peel off the top sheet of wax paper from one piece of dough and, using a 2-inch round cookie cutter-a scalloped cutter is nice for these-cut out as many cookies as you can.  Transfer the rounds to the baking sheets, leaving a little space between the cookies. Set the scraps aside-you can combine them with the scraps from the second disk and roll and cut more cookies.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden, dry and just firm to the touch. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature.
Repeat with the second disk of dough, making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches. Gather the scraps of dough together, press them into a disk, roll them between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, then cut and bake.

So there you have it – the plethora of cookies (12 batches in all) I’ve been busy making. This has really been a lot of fun, though… I couldn’t justify making all these different kinds of cookies for just hubby and me – so this gave me an excuse to get in the kitchen and bake my little heart out! :-) Happy baking and Merry Christmas!!

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