Jingle…jingle…jingle. I hear those sleigh bells jing-a-ling, ring-ting ting-a-ling, too! Christmas is almost here and you know what that means, right? You’ll be needing some cookies for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve this Thursday. Here are some ideas for last minute Christmas cookies that are sure to please even the pickiest elf or reindeer.
It’s less than two weeks until Christmas and less than 3 weeks before a new year arrives! Where has the time gone?
In this busy and festive holiday season, it’s so nice to have a few tricks up your sleeve for last minute holiday entertaining. Along those lines, here’s a versatile savory spread and dip that comes together in a flash, is loaded with delicious flavor and looks very pretty, too. In fact, this vibrant green Spinach and Feta Spread has “party” written all over it.
As a make-ahead spread or even a last minute decision, it can’t be beat in terms of speed and ease of prep. There is no cooking involved at all. Just toss all of the ingredients into a food processor, blitz it until smooth and eat it right away or cover with plastic and keep in the fridge until your guests arrive. You can serve it in a pretty ceramic or crystal bowl alongside some sliced baguette and crackers, or make toasted crostini topped with some spread, a little sprinkle of crumbled feta and a few slivers of spinach leaves. It can also be served at room temperature as a dip with crudités. Even if you don’t want to make this for a party, it’s a delectable sandwich spread. Lovely.
Fully loaded freezer! Save even more time by writing the baking instructions on your packages.
So what else do I have up my sleeve this holiday season? These tried-and-true party appetizers and ice box cookies are just the ticket for busy working folks and would-be party hosts. Retro Cheese Olive Bites, Bacon Wrapped Dates and Old Fashioned Ice Box Cookies can be made ahead and are already in my freezer just waiting to be quickly baked and plated, then served at a gathering of friends and family. I made all of these in the span of a late afternoon one weekend…about 3 hours total. And now I’ve got a party in the freezer. Even Santa’s elves can’t beat that for productivity!
Old fashioned ice box cookies are wonderful to have on hand. You can take out what you need, slice and bake in a snap. Click herefor the recipe and this year I’ve added the zest of one orange to my dough…making them even better!
In addition, Mom’s drop sugar cookies cannot be beat! If you have some extra time on your hands, these are THE BEST and fun for kids of all ages to decorate, too. You can find that recipe by clicking here.
Happy Holidays, indeed!
The color of this quick and savory Spinach and Feta Spread is delightful.
Festive Spinach and Feta Spread Makes 2 cups
2.5 ounces (1/2-5 oz. bag) raw baby spinach
6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon no salt pasta seasoning or Italian seasoning blend (I use Trader Joe’s)
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to break up the spinach. Process until smooth and creamy as above. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 15 minutes or more to allow the flavors to blend. Serve with crackers, baguette and/or crudités.
This is a magnificent shot of my thumb, don’t you think?
You may or may not have heard on the American news that we had 2 – 2 1/2 inches of snow here this week, resulting in ice, resulting in 4 million folks all heading home in the middle of a minor snow storm, compacting more ice and ending in a massive traffic gridlock…and stranded motorists. This event is now not-so-affectionately known as “Snowpocalypse 2014.” I still feel so badly for anyone who went through the stress and frightening strain of being stuck in traffic or stranded for hours—and in some cases days—on our roads and interstates here in Atlanta as well as in Birmingham, Alabama. Hopefully everyone is home, safe and sound by now.
This is what our Southern felines thought of the snow.
In addition to a stiff single-malt scotch, there’s nothing that can take away the sting of enduring such an event quite so well as these easy, chewy and toffee-covered Heath Bar Blondies. And hey, they’d be a good choice for the Superbowl festivities, too.
Not a fan of toffee? Use the same amount of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips instead, and lightly press them into the top of the batter before baking.
Stop me before I eat the whole pan!
Ready to eat.
Ready to bake.
Heath Bar (or Chocolate Chip) Blondies Makes 3 dozen rich bars, plenty to soothe your raw nerves and some to share, too!
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter, unsalted, plus extra to grease the pan
2 teaspoons good quality pure vanilla extract (I use Madagascar bourbon vanilla)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup English toffee bits in milk chocolate such as Heath, or you can sub an equal amount of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Grease an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with butter and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the sugar, butter, egg and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl with a whisk. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, then pour it into the butter mixture. Stir with a spoon to combine, until the mixture is moist and just blended. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing evenly. Scatter the toffee bits or the chips evenly over the top of the batter and press lightly to adhere. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes, until the blondies start to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 36 small squares. Relax.
Hard to believe such a beautiful little snow could wreak so much havoc.
I really am a cookie monster. From a food point of view, I consider myself to be much more of a savory person than a sweet one, but where cookies are concerned I become a little scary. This is why I only make them this time of year for the most part, because I plan to share them…you know, (ahem!) give them away as presents.
Brilliant! If only I could sing that well.
And since I only do this once a year, and as if all those cookies and goodies I mentioned in my last post Holiday Roundup weren’t enough, I just had to make a few more goodies this week.
First off were these Chocolate Espresso Crinkle Cookies. I knew I had to try them the moment I saw Eva’s original recipe, and then Sawsan’s adaptation of Eva’s recipe that added some warm spices. I ended up making Sawsan’s version this time because I already had my biscotti, which have chocolate chips in them, and also because I was so curious about the addition of cardamom to the chocolate.
Result: Amazing! The texture of these cookies isn’t to be missed…very much like a brownie. And the taste, well, let’s just say they didn’t last long enough to be given to very many folks! I’ll make these again. In fact, I’ll be adding them to my cookie line-up, so do check out the recipes on both these blogs for a truly chocolatey wonder of a good cookie.
Now on to a recipe from my family that I’d like to share with you today. This is an old fashioned recipe for Drop Sugar Cookies that my mom and her mother (Mamaw) made for years, and they almost always make an appearance around Christmas time.
Dropped onto the cookie sheet by the spoonful and then flattened with a glass, these cookies are thin with just the right amount of crisp. They have a lovely, buttery and light texture, and are just perfect for a snack with tea, cocoa, or alongside eggnog. You absolutely must let them brown around the edges a bit to caramelize the sugars, or they just won’t taste as good. And while I normally do not use shortening in baking if I can help it, these really must have the shortening in order to obtain the correct light texture. I know this for a fact, because I’ve tried substituting all butter and ended up with a flattened mess, ruining a lot of good ingredients and ending my efforts with an epic fail. Do not try that at home!
I seem to remember decorating these with my mom as a child, though I don’t recall if my grandmother ever decorated her sugar cookies. If you’re not in a decorating mood or it’s the wrong time of year, these do have a lovely coating of granulated sugar on them after all, so they can certainly stand alone. I like to use a few sprinkles for fun and sparkle—just to make them pop up and say “Happy Holidays!”
Drop Sugar Cookies Makes about 5 1/2 dozen
Have all ingredients at room temperature:
2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk
Additional granulated sugar for dipping
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Sift the flour, soda and salt together into a small bowl. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, egg, sugar and vanilla until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the dry ingredients until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the milk. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet (I use a slipat). Flatten each teaspoon of dough with the bottom of a glass that has been dipped into the granulated sugar. (Can be decorated with sprinkles at this point if desired.) Bake for about 6-10 minutes, watching closely, until the edges are browned. These will keep for about 1 week stored in an airtight container.
Note: I use cane sugar, which is unbleached, so my cookies are a bit darker than the original. If you desire a more snowy-like appearance, use white granulated sugar in the cookie and for dipping the glass and pressing the cookies flat.
These cookies have Easter written all over them. Festive and rather stunning, if I do say so myself!
The Ma’amool mold with the tag.
A dear friend of mine is a treasure hunter. By this I mean she finds the most amazing treasures in any number of places…yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores, etc. She’s so good at it, that some of my most creative and interesting objects in the house are things that she’s found…everything from a hand painted swashbuckling hat holder to a very cool and Don Quixote-styled metal horse sculpture. Last fall on my birthday, one of her gifts was an odd (to me), but really beautiful hand carved mold. Continue reading →
With dough on standby in the ice box, you can make this many in about 10 minutes...gotta love it!
Starting to feel that teensy bit of panic set in? Trying NOT to look at the calendar and realize that the holidays start NEXT WEEK? Thinking over all that was on your “To Do” list and is rapidly moving to the “No Way” list? I’m with you.
Just slice these up ever so quickly....
While I have been diligently making things for gifts and yes, buying a few little items as well, I’m beginning to realize that I haven’t really wrapped anything, and that some of those goodies I wanted to make are just too time consuming to contemplate at this juncture. Exit the supposedly “easy” and enter the “effortless”…at least by comparison! This post and my next will feature recipes for some things I made over the last two nights that make terrific quick gifts, good fun and great eating. Continue reading →
I have to apologize to my fellow bloggers. I’m still trying to catch up with all of your lovely posts from when I was on vacation, but am enjoying reading them and replying as I get to them. Lots of great posts out there!
Halloween is fast upon us and this weekend I was feeling a bit zombie-like, since the moment I returned from vacation I put in about a 50-hour work week between Monday and Thursday to catch up. Whew.
Oh wait, maybe I meant those other kind of zombies…but I like these better! Ah, the life of the self-employed…but I’m truly fortunate to be busy! Continue reading →