Christmas Cookies with the Grands, 2021

Last year was their first adventure helping. It was a fun time of getting sprinkles all over the kitchen floor as well as all over the cookie sheets, and sometimes even on the cookies themselves. Not to mention stuck to their fingers and all over their faces.

This year was no exception, but the decorating did turn out a little bit better.

A book I just finished reading yesterday had a scene with kids helping make Christmas cookies and getting flour all over the counters rather than in the mixing bowl. But as their grandmother explained to their worried mother, “if you’re cooking with children, it’s about keeping it fun and simple. The end result isn’t always important.”

I probably need to keep that in mind. 

Now I didn’t let them help with mixing up the ingredients, because we were on a time schedule, and we had guests coming over, along with the kids having to be somewhere else as well. 

Next year we can attempt to do that. They’ll each be a year older, and it might not be quite as messy. Well, wishful thinking there, too. But you never know.

To save time I’d already mixed the dough and was ready to put it in the cookie press when they arrived. I’d even pulled the jars of sprinkles and colored sugars out and set them on the counter. And their Christmas aprons were all ready for them, too. 

Little cookie bakers and tasters, after all, have to have the appropriate aprons to protect their clothes from stray sprinkles. 

Of course, like last year, they decided it was easier to decorate the cookies while sitting on the floor. Which means it was also easier to get the sprinkles on the floor as well as on the cookies. And yes, we blocked the dogs from coming in there to help!

It’s always an adventure when you’re doing pressed cookies with grandchildren. No sooner did I get them pressed out on the cookie sheets and put them in front of the girls, then they picked their favorite decorating colors and dumped the sugar on them. 

Actually, Ryleigh grabbed a jar of sprinkles with no inner plastic lid for shaking and dumped them out, so their mommy had some scooping up to do so we could at least see the cookies under the pile of red sugar. 

Because Rachel is older she did a little better job, and actually tried to help her little sister. And they were both really proud of their creations. 

I promised them next year they could help with mixing the dough and possibly helping me press them out. (Maybe we can practice on Easter cookies?) They do need to learn, and it’s not too early to start.

And for those of you who want a good pressed cookie recipe, here’s the one we use. There’s still time to make a batch! And I have two granddaughters who’d be happy to help!

Pressed Sugar/Spritz Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat butter for 30 seconds on high. Add sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat til combined, Beat in egg, vanilla and almond extract. Beat in flour, a little at a time, until mixed.

Force unchilled dough through cookie press onto cookie sheet. Decorate with colored sugar and sprinkles as desired. Or watch the kids or grandkids do their thing.

Bake 8 minutes til edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

Happy baking, and Merry Christmas from all of us!

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 4

Being that someone I’ve already told you about who just has to buy a few (ok, sometimes quite a few) new ornaments every year, eventually that family tree started really, really getting full. Again.

Yes, I’d already added a tree in the living room, but I soon noticed I was going to be “forced” into adding another one if I wanted to keep up with my collecting ornaments every year.

And I couldn’t have that, could I?

Looking around at the ornaments I had on that tree, I realized there were a lot of them in the candy/cookie/gingerbread theme. Maybe there weren’t enough (yet) to fill another big tree, and we didn’t have room for another really big one. But being the resourceful fanatical ornament collector that I’ve become, there was always a way.

So…we have a fish tank in our side foyer off the kitchen, and I noticed there would be a space for another tree if we moved the big silk plant beside the tank. I think I remember asking my husband if we could. Or maybe I just brought another 5 foot tree home and set it up to surprise him. I can’t quite remember.

But the fish needed to have a little Christmas in their space as well, didn’t they? And the smaller trees I can usually set up by myself, just in case I want to surprise someone.

Yes, he thought I was really getting a bit crazy by now (he had no Idea what was coming), but he did agree that the fish probably needed a little Christmas, too, and that’s all I needed!

I collected all the cooking and Christmas treat ornaments I already had, and of course added a few (dozen) more. And once again, very conveniently, the craft stores that year were filled with those clay cookie ornaments that you could even personalize, so I was thrilled to get them (on sale, of course)!

Combining those with all the similar ones I already had, and adding my old candy garland from many years ago, made my Christmas baking tree really easy to put together.

Hallmark had even cooperated with me and came out with a series of cooking appliance ornaments, like mixers and things, and their own line of cupcakes, so what more did I need!?

That tree of course has now expanded by more (ok, quite a few more) ornaments in the same theme, and our grandchildren just love it! They spend probably half an hour looking at it when it first goes up, and it’s so cute when our granddaughter Rachel keeps telling her little sister not to touch it as she points out her favorite ornaments. And of course, she’s touching them as she says that!

Looking at some of my collection of ornaments on here, you can tell this is definitely a tree that children just love!. And since it’s right off the kitchen, where we always bake our Christmas cookies, how more appropriate can it be?

So what do you think of this one? It would probably look better if I knew how to take better Christmas tree pictures, but you get the idea.

seem to be

The fish seem to be happy, too! And they’re even happier now since last year my husband gave them their own set of decorations for their tank! So their home gets decorated when ours does.

And what did I do next? Find out in “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 5” to be published December 13.

Christmasy Snowball Cookies

I love the look and taste of those Russian tea cookies, especially for Christmas. They look so much like miniature snowballs, sitting on a Christmasy plate or in a crystal bowl decorated with a sprig of holly, just waiting to be enjoyed.

Most of the recipes I’ve seen are pretty much the same…flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, finely chopped nuts, baked and rolled in lots of confectioners’ sugar.

However, I always felt something was missing in them, and as a huge fan of chocolate (I don’t know too many people who aren’t), I finally figured it out. And adding miniature chocolate chips to them makes all the difference in the world! It’s like finding a sweet hidden surprise when you bite into them! And who wouldn’t want that?!

chocolate-chip-snowball-cookies-1-of-4And I’m also thinking about what else I could put in them to make a bit more of a surprise?! Maybe some finely chopped candied cherries, chopped pieces of candy canes, or other assorted baking pieces you find in the store this time of year.

Now here’s an idea I’ve always thought about doing; making them in different sizes, stacking 2-3 snowballs together, and anchoring them together with frosting so you’d have a round cookie snowman! You could use dots of decorating gel for eyes and buttons, and can you just imagine the cuteness!? It’s certainly something I’m going to try when our granddaughter is a bit older. How fun will making those be??

But for now I’ll continue to bake them as usual and just enjoy eating them one by one. In a few years though, who knows…??

Frosty the Snowman may make his appearance!

 

Christmasy Snowballs

3 sticks butter, softened
3/4 c confectioners’ sugar
1 tbl vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 c flour
2 c miniature chocolate morsels
1/2 c finely chopped pecans
Additional confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, & salt until creamy. Gradually beat in flour.

Stir in chocolate morsels and nuts. Shape into 1 1/4″ balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake until lightly browned.

Sift (not roll!!) confectioners’ sugar over HOT cookies while on baking sheet. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove cookies to wire racks to cool. Sprinkle with additional sugar if desired. Store in airtight container.

Tip: Combine 1/3 c confectioners’ sugar and colored sprinkles together in plastic freezer bag. After cookies are baked, gently roll and shake cookies in mixture for a festive look! Serve on serving platter with springs of holly and a Christmas ornament or two for decoration!

Red Velvet Christmas Cookies

Last week I mentioned my red velvet Christmas Cookies in my Christmas fudge blog. Well, I had a lot of requests for the recipe, so after making a batch of them this week, and sampling far too many of them, I decided I needed to share the recipe so you can enjoy them as much as we do!

The recipe isn’t original. I found it on several websites as well as quite a few Pinterest boards. But one thing is totally true; they are delicious!! Yes, I modified them just a bit, but the end justifies the means, as the saying goes. In fact they’re so good my best friend (who does NOT like cooking in any way!) asked me to show her how to make them for their church cookie exchange!

red-velvet-crinkle-cookies9-editsrgbRed velvet is a special taste, although many people say they can’t tell the difference between red velvet and chocolate. Perhaps it’s the red color, or perhaps it’s just what the name seems to imply; a richness that you can’t get just anywhere, or in any other recipe.

I will warn you, rolling them into balls to put on the cookie sheets will most definitely turn your hands red! No matter how chilled the dough is! It also helps to rub confectioners’ sugar on your hands (instead of flour) during the process so the dough won’t stick quite as much. But the finished product is worth it. If you love red velvet desserts as much as we do, that is!

So here is the recipe we used. Feel free to enjoy And a word of advice from my husband; they’re even better warm from the oven and served with vanilla ice cream!

 

 

Sinful Red Velvet Cookies

8 oz cream cheese, softened (the last time I made them I had to run to store to get the cream cheese before we went to dinner and ended up bringing it inside the restaurant in my purse to soften while we ate!)

1 stick butter, softened (I never use anything but real butter)
1 egg, room temperature
1 tbl vanilla
18 oz box red velvet cake mix
3/4 c white baking chips

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.

Beat in cake mix. Blend in chips by hand.

Cover mixture and chill at least 2 hours until easy to handle.

Roll into tablespoon size balls and roll in confectioners’ sugar. Place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet. I usually make a slight thumbprint on each one before baking.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Cookies will be soft and gooey. Sprinkle with more confectioners’ sugar and red sprinkles for a festive touch.

Remove to wire rack and let cool. Store in airtight container.

And watch them quickly disappear!

What’s So Special About Christmas Cookies?

I admit that cooking is not my most favorite pastime. You can ask my friends, and especially my husband, and they will quickly agree.

They’ll also tell you that I’m not a bad cook at all, when I really decide to do it.

However, there’s something about this time of year…the Christmas season…that actually makes me want to venture into the kitchen, pull out all kinds of wonderful ingredients and recipes, and begin to put my creative talents to work.

You see, there’s one type of food I really truly enjoy making…Christmas cookies!!!


There’s just something special about creating these sugary delights, loaded with chocolate, cherries, colored sugars, colorful icings, and of course the calories are removed just for the Christmas season!

You didn’t know that? Well yes, they are! Santa Claus takes care of it, because after all, he has to eat some of all the cookies those thousands of children leave out for him on Christmas Eve, and if he didn’t remove the calories, well, he’d probably end up very sick and so overweight he couldn’t ride in his sleigh ever again! How does he do it? Well, I’ve been told by a reliable source that he breaks them in half and the calories fall out! Wonder if that’ll work for us!?

Although I have a collection of favorite cookie recipes I make every year, each new year I greedily go through the Christmas issues of my favorite magazines to see if there are any new cookie recipes that are just screaming out to “try ME this year!” And of course, there usually are.

The pictures are gorgeous in those magazines. And the finished products look so delicious I sometimes want to run to the store, grab the ingredients, and whip up a batch, not caring that it’s almost midnight and I should be in bed!


Of course, the cookies I bake never seem to look quite like the ones in the magazines, or in the pictures on my Cookie Pinterest board. But they sure taste good!

I think it’s an obsession. And I have no idea how it started, although I do have vague memories of being in the kitchen with my mom at a very young age decorating cutout sugar cookies in the shape of stars and reindeer. But I just know that every year I go through this, and end up making at least a dozen different kinds to share with family, friends, and co-workers.

Last year I shared some of my Christmas cookie recipes with you. Goodies like my Grandmother’s Fruitcake Cookies, Ben’s Lemon Drops, Candy Cane Snowballs, and Orange Kool-Aid cookies. This year I’ll try to add a few more, along with the Christmas Fudge recipes I already posted; in between my baking marathon, that is.


For now, enjoy the pictures of these wonderful culinary delights, and then try your hand at baking a batch or two. And share your pictures if you’d like.

What’s so special about Christmas cookies? Try making a batch or two, and you’ll find out for yourself! Even if you’re not known for your culinary talents, you may surprise yourself!

Happy baking! And happy eating!

Disclaimer: All content posted here is assumed to be in the public domain. If you find one of your images here and wish it to be removed please contact me.

Photo Sources: 1st Row: bakingbites.com; lilluna.com; onelittleproject.com; 2nd Row: sweetpeaskitchen.com; tasteofhome.com; tasteofhome.com; 3rd Row: keeppycome.com; gimmesomeoven.com; bettycrocker.com; 4th Row: recipelion.com; yesiwantcake.com; bettycrocker.com

Christmas Fudge

One of my mother’s favorites to make for Christmas was chocolate fudge. Along with her Christmas cookies, of course. And she made it every year. It was devoured within a few days.

There’s just something about that smooth, chocolatey sweetness that just screams Christmas! Especially if you add a few shopped candy canes on top of it for decoration. My mother didn’t do that, but if I’m going to cook, I have to put my own touch on whatever I make.

I remember my mom standing in the kitchen, patiently stirring and testing the consistency to make sure it didn’t get grainy or scalded. There is a trick to good fudge making, you know. And with the recipes I have, you really need to use a candy thermometer.

And you also have to remember NOT to try to taste the chocolate mixture as you’re putting it in the pan, because it’s hot and will DEFINITELY burn your mouth! No, I didn’t try it, but just don’t ask who did…..

So I’m happy to share my mother’s fudge recipe with you, as well as a couple others that you may want to try. Yes, you can buy fudge already made, cut apart, and boxed, but this time of year, there’s just something about making real homemade candy and cookies.

Even for someone like me who doesn’t really cook that much!

So here is my mother’s fudge recipe. Feel free to try it, and see how you like it!

 

fudgeRachel’s Chocolate Fudge:
3 c sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 c milk
1 c. light syrup (she used Karo syrup)
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 1/4 c butter (real butter, not margarine)

Combine ingredients and cook on low-medium heat until it reaches soft ball stage. Use a candy thermometer unless you want to drip a little bit of candy in a cup of cold water to see if it forms a soft ball. Personally, to be safe, use the candy thermometer!

Remove mixture from heat and stir in 2 tsp of vanilla. Cool for 25 minutes, then beat with a large spoon (not electric mixer) until it thickens.

Spread into lightly buttered 8x8x2 glass baking pan. Let cool, and then cut into squares.
Mom always made two batches; one with nuts, and one without, since I’m not a fan of nuts in cookies or fudge. Try it whatever way you like!

I’ve also included two other recipes here that I’m going to make this year. Please note they are not original creations, and the creators are noted. Please also feel free to visit their websites for more yummy creations!

 

red-velvet-fudge-taste-of-homeRed Velvet Candy Cane Fudge – Taste of Home (recipe created by Crystal Schlueter)
(I love red velvet cake, and I have a red velvet cookie recipe, so I am SO going to try this one!)

2 pkg white baking chips, divided
2/3 c semisweet chocolate chips
3 tsp shortening, divided
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ tsp red paste food coloring
4 c confectioners sugar, divided
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
3 tbl crushed peppermint candies

Line a 13×9″ pan with foil; grease foil with butter.

In large microwave safe bowl combine 3 ¼ c white baking chips, chocolate chips, and tsp shortening. Microwave on high, uncovered, 1 minute. Stir. Microwave at additional 15 sec intervals until smooth. Stir in milk and food coloring. Gradually add 1 c confectioners sugar. Spread into prepared pan. [Sounds easy so far! – Deb]

In another large microwave safe bowl, me; remaining white baking chips and shortening. Stir until smooth. Beat in cream cheese and extracts. Gradually beat in remaining confectioners sugar until smooth. Spread over red layer; sprinkle with crushed candies. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.

Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Remove foil; cut fudge into 1” squares. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container.

Visit Taste of Home for more recipes!

 

mint-chocolate-chip-fudge-recipe-chocolatechocolateandmore-60aMint Chocolate Chip Fudge – Chocolate, Chocolate and More©
(Since I really like chocolate mint chip ice cream, this one really looks good!)

3 ¼ c white baking chips
2 tbl butter
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2-3 tsp mint extract (not peppermint)
Green food coloring as needed
3/4 c mini chocolate chips, divided

Line an 8x8x2″ pan with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, microwave white chips and butter on high for 60 seconds. Let rest one minute and check to see if melted. If needed, microwave further at 15 second intervals. Stir until all lumps are gone.

Stir in milk, and extract. Add food coloring to desired color. Let cool for a few minutes and fold in ½ c mini chocolate chips.

Press fudge into prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining mini chocolate chips on top and gently press into fudge. Refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours to set before cutting into squares. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container.

Visit Chocolate, Chocolate and More© to view this recipe and more!

So are you ready for holiday candy making? Let the fun begin!

Candy Cane Snowball Cookies

Once again, this isn’t one of those family recipes handed down from my mother to me to Ashley, but they are so much fun and so Christmasy, when I found the recipe and tried them the first time, they became an instant favorite Christmas tradition!

I just can’t convince Ben not to try and eat them before the topping is put on. He always picks one up and complains there’s no flavor as he eats half of it and throws the other part away. Well, there’s a reason there’s no flavor to them because the main flavors are in the topping and you AREN’T supposed to eat them without it! But I guess scolding the husband is part of the yearly tradition of making them!

Another part of the fun of making these cookies is crushing the candy canes to make the topping. Ashley has always enjoyed this part…it’s a good way to take your frustrations out! We always use a small kitchen hammer. The best way to smash them is in a plastic freezer bag on top of a soft dish towel; NOT directly on your counter top, especially if you have granite countertops. It would not be a pretty sight. (We also discovered this year that if you buy the mini candy canes that are individually wrapped and smash them inside the wrapping, it’s easier, because you can just cut the wrapper open and dump the pieces into a bowl.

So give them a try. The worst part is you have to refrigerate the dough for some 3-4 hours after you make it before you can bake them. Don’t try to bake them without doing that, because you’ll have a mess, and won’t be able to shape them properly. Recipes have directions for a reason!

And don’t worry about completing them in one day. If you leave the dough in the refrigerator for a day or up to two, it will still be fine. Just not any longer.

Candy Cane Snowballs

2 c butter, softened (NOT margarine….only butter works)
1 c confectioner’s sugar
Cream together in large bowl. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla

Gradually add 3 ½ c all-purpose flour
Stir in 1 c chopped pecans; mix well

Refrigerate in bowl (covered with plastic wrap) 3-4 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough in 1” balls (dough may be a bit hard at first so you may have to use a spoon to get the right amount, and if it’s a bit bigger, it’s ok), Place 2” apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove immediately to wire racks and cool thoroughly.

Topping:

½ – ¾ c crushed candy canes or peppermint candies (I usually have Ashley crush the whole box of 12 candy canes. See instructions above.)

At least 1-2 packages of candy melts (sold in craft stores or specialty cake stores). Two packages are best because you can use two different colors for the topping – I like pink and red; white isn’t as festive.

In microwave safe bowl, melt about 1/3 c of the candy melts (1 color at a time) per package directions, stirring til smooth. Dip the top of each cooled cookie into candy coating, and then immediately into the crushed candy canes. Put them back on the wire racks to allow candy melts to harden and store in covered containers. They will keep for several weeks if necessary.

They are yummy and make 5-6 dozen! Enjoy!

Kool-Aid Cookies

All of us who grew up in a certain era remember the ads for Kool-Aid…that round frosted pitcher with the smiling face drawn on it in the condensation! It certainly enticed us to beg our mothers to buy a package and make up a batch! My favorite was the cherry, of course. But if it spilled…what a mess we had!

So when I found a recipe for cookies made with powdered Kool-Aid, or a similar product, they looked so good I had to try it out. So this isn’t an old family recipe by any means, at least not one that dates back to my grandmother or mother. But I can say it’s a recipe that will continue on every year as a new family recipe, because we all like them! And they aren’t hard to make at all. I even had Ashley making them this year, because, after all, she has to continue the Christmas cookie baking tradition now that she and her husband are having a little girl next year!

Even though I make them for Christmas, they do tend to remind me a little bit of summer, and one of these days I may actually make them to enjoy around the pool. But until then, here’s the recipe to try out for yourself! Enjoy!

Fruit Dream Cookies (or, as we call them, Kool-Aid Cookies)

1/2 c butter, softened (butter…not margarine! margarine doesn’t work)
1/2 c Crisco
Beat together in large bowl for 30 sec.

Add: 1 c sugar
1/2 c Kool aid sugar-sweetened or similar powdered fruit drink mix (I usually use orange, but cherry or lemon is good also) and do NOT use the sugar-free mix
1/2 tsp baking powde
1/4 tsp baking soda
Beat til fluffy, scraping sides of bowl.

Beat in:
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Beat in 2 1/2 c flour

With mixing spoon, stir in 1 1/2 c white baking pieces (NOT white chocolate, but the white baking chips)

Cover bowl and chill dough for at least 30 minutes or til easy to handle.

Shape dough in 1″ balls. Roll in colored or coarse sugar (I use a combination of red and yellow for the orange ones). Place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9-11 minutes at 375 degrees until edges are set (centers will be soft).

Let cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.

2015-12-12 15.41.45

Ben’s Favorite Lemon Drops

My mother really loved her son-in-law, and she always tried to make him some of his favorite dishes when she knew we were visiting.

I don’t remember when she first found this recipe. It wasn’t handed down to her from her mother, like a lot of our recipes were. She probably found it in a magazine somewhere and just decided to try it one day when we were coming to visit.

Ben always made sure to go over to the kitchen counter when we got to my mother’s to see what goodies she had baked for us. And on one occasion, there were these yellow crinkled up cookies dusted with powdered sugar cooling on her old wire cookie racks.

Who knew they’d turn out to be one of his very favorites? And from that time on, we’ve always made these cookies at Christmas. And other times of the year, as well.

Ashley has been my official lemon drop cookie maker, though, because they’re a bit messy to make, since you have to mix them with your hands. And she really didn’t mind. At least I don’t think she did. Except now that she has her own home, who’s going to make them? Any volunteers before I have to do it?

So in our newest tradition of presenting weekly (hopefully) family recipes, here’s the super easy and quick lemon cookie recipe!

1 box lemon cake mix
1 egg
1 cup Cool Whip
1 ½ tbl lemon juice

Mix ingredients together by hand. Literally. Because they really won’t mix together well any other way. You can start out with a spoon, but once it gets mixed good, you gotta get your fingers in there! It’s also easier to coat your hands in flour or powdered sugar when you’re doing them, so you won’t have such a mess when you’re done!

After they’re mixed, roll in 1 – 1 ½” balls, dip them in powdered sugar, and place on a greased cookie sheet about 1 – 1 ½” apart. Make an indentation in the middle with your thumb, or whichever finger your prefer. We’re not doing fingerprints!

Bake in preheated 350 degree over 8-10 minutes until done. Cool on a wire rack, and store any that are left after they family grabs them in a sealed container. If they last long enough and start to get a little hard, put a slice of white bread in the container with them, and you’ll be amazed at how moist they become again!

Let me know how you like them! You can also use strawberry cake mix, or chocolate (add vanilla in place of the lemon juice) but I really like these lemon ones the best!

My Grandmother’s Fruitcake (Cookies)

In my recipe box, filed under “cookies”, there’s a tattered and yellowed sheet of paper, written in my grandmother’s old-fashioned handwriting, for a cookie recipe I never really thought I liked. Now I make them almost every year.

You all know about the tradition of fruitcake at Christmas. Did you know that it’s claimed that the ancient Egyptians actually placed an early version of fruitcake in the tombs of their loved ones? And please, no jokes about those same fruitcakes still being around now. I mean, really…. We’ve all heard the jokes about giving fruitcake for gifts at Christmas time. It’s an old joke that no one likes it.

Well, guess what! I actually do like it, as long as it’s moist and overflowing with that sweet, sticky candied fruit we can only find in stores at the holiday season. I’ve actually made fruitcake once or twice, but since I’m the only one in the family who eats it, I gave up. Plus, as much as I like to bake, I don’t enjoy baking cakes. Cupcakes, yes, but cakes have never been my specialty. Probably because I’m no good at doing the icing, but that’s a different story entirely.

fruitcake 3

Cookies are a different matter. They don’t have to look perfect, unless you’re doing those fancy cut-out ones, and that requires almost a degree in art, as far as I’m concerned, so I don’t make those. Besides, they never look like the pictures you see in the magazines.

But these cookies are more creative, because I discovered you can vary the type of fruit you use, and actually use what YOU like, rather than what’s sold pre-packaged in the grocery stores, so I can still add a bit of my own creativity. You can, too.

So if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try your hand at these cookies. Enjoy putting together your own combination of fruit, and see how they turn out. Add the nuts if you want, but since I don’t like nuts in my cookies, they’re all for you!

1 c. softened butter
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
Cream these ingredients together. (I use a bit of extra brown sugar and dash of extra vanilla. And I MAY try a splash of brandy extract this year!)

Sift together and add to creamed mixture:
1 2/3 c. all purpose flour
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Mix together and add to cookie batter:
16 oz. candied fruit (cherries, pineapple, apricot, etc. Add some lemon and/or orange peel if you wish)
1 1/2 c. finely chopped dates (I mix them half and half with golden raisins)
1/2 – 3/4 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (I don’t use them…remember. Well, maybe I’ll try cashews…I like them!)
It’s a bit easier to dust the fruit with flour and then add it.

Mix together well and drop by teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool and store in tightly covered container. They’re good fresh baked, and even better after a day or two!fruitcake 1

Puffy Meringue Cookies

It’s traditionally now the start of the Christmas season, which in my household, always includes baking cookies. And usually a lot of them, not matter how many times I say each year I’m not going to make so many.

But they’re so good…….

Now I don’t remember who started the tradition of making these particular cookies, but I’m almost certain it was my mother. She was always finding the best – and delicious – cookie recipes that we all enjoyed. I always think about her when I’m making these. She always wanted to put walnuts in them, and since I don’t like nuts in my food, I never let her. But you can add a 1/2 cup of them if you want. Just make sure they’re chopped well.
DSCN7821

I’ve made these cookies for many years, and every time, they are the first to disappear from all of the filled cookie containers that line up across my kitchen counter. In fact, when I start my Christmas cookie baking, they’re one of the first kind that’s requested. They’re fairly easy, but also a little bit tricky, so be sure to follow the instructions closely

And be prepared to make more than one batch of them, but DON’T double the recipe as you make it, because it doesn’t work out too well…

2 egg whites, room temperature (save the yolks for other baking treats!)
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla

Beat ingredients until stiff peaks form, using an electric mixer. I now have a Kitchenaid and it works great! Be sure beaters and mixing bowl are grease-free and room temperature if it’s a metal bowl!

Gradually add 3/4 c granulated sugar and continue to beat for about a minute.

Fold in 6 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Regular size works best; not the mini’s. And as much as you’re tempted, don’t add extra!

Line two rectangular cookie sheets with white paper or parchment paper. Drop cookies onto paper, about a tablespoon each. Space about 2” apart. Cookies do not spread. Try to get a point at the top. (And yes, that’s a rare picture of me cooking…or baking, which isn’t the same thing!)
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Bake for 25-30 minutes in preheated 300 degree oven, until just slightly browned. Let rest on sheet about a minute or so until the cookies will lift off easily, and transfer to wire rack to cool.

Store in lightly sealed container, but they probably won’t be around long!