Cookies for Santa and a Merry Christmas to All!

Did someone say "Catfoodie"???

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.

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Chocolate, Ginger and Hazelnut Biscotti

These are a classic!

Mom’s Drop Sugar Cookies

Mmmm. These Glazed Apple, Walnut and Oatmeal cookies are to die for! Mmmmuuuuaaaah ha ha ha ha!

Fresh Apple and Walnut Oatmeal Cookies with Sweet Cider Glaze

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Ma’amool Cookies

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Chocolate Espresso Crinkle Cookies

Yes, may I have another?

Toffee Bars

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Spiced Oat and Chocolate Chip Blondies

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Waiting for Santa…

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Need more holiday entertaining or food and beverage gift inspiration? Check out this previous post: Gifts, Goodies and Greatest Hits

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To all of those who celebrate, I wish you a joyful and Merry Christmas!
See you in 2016!

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Treats and Tricks: Spiced Oat and Chocolate Chip Blondies

plated3Halloween is all about sweet treats and for me, that means blondies.

I don’t prepare homemade goodies for the ghosts and goblins coming to our door because we live in the city and it’s just not done for safety reasons. But these bars, individually wrapped and hand delivered to neighbors, would make an excellent Halloween treat! They would also be a welcome addition to any Halloween party and great to have on hand as sustenance for those who service trick or treaters, too!

plated 1What makes these blondies so special is the addition of warm cinnamon spice, vanilla and oats. For a while now, I’ve wanted to translate an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie into a bar and these bars are the tasty result.

This is an easy recipe which comes together in a jiffy. And while I’m not going to say that these are healthy…they do have butter, sugar and chocolate after all…they are healthier than most blondies. In the vicinity of 100 calories per bar, they’re a reasonable indulgence for those of us that need to watch such things! (Me.) Most of all, they are absolutely delicious!

To make these bars my own, I omitted some of the sugar from the traditional blondie recipes I’ve seen (holy cow, is there a lot of sugar in those recipes!), as well as some of the butter, and I used only light brown sugar. Then I added rolled organic oats and chocolate chips to the batter, along with a touch of cinnamon for warmth and a really good dose of bourbon vanilla extract to enhance the overall sweetness. The resulting deliciousness was exactly what I wanted. A tiny bit chewy from the oats, toasty caramel flavor from the sugar and butter, decadent chocolate with a hint of spice and a vanilla hit to amp up the whole bar. Perfect.

plated4These blondies certainly aren’t just for Halloween. In combination with some hot tea or a glass of milk on a cool Fall afternoon, these are delightful. Need something sweet for a summer picnic? These treats will do the trick. They freeze incredibly well, too. In fact, I plan to make more and freeze them to use for the upcoming holidays. Just take what you need out of the freezer, thaw to room temperature and plate, and you’ve got instant holiday or hostess gift, party food…or cookies for Santa.

Below are a few simple “tricks” to ensure making perfectly browned and moist blondies:

Trick number 1: Properly prepare your pan. Click on any image above for instructions.

Trick number 2: Melt your butter only until it is ALMOST melted, then take it off the heat or out of the microwave and stir it until it finishes melting. This will keep it from “cooking” the sugar when you combine it to make batter. Do NOT add hot melted butter to your batter. If you do, you may end up with hard as brick edges to your bars and an uncooked middle!

Trick number 3: Removal from the pan. Click on any image above for instructions.

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On another note, I always make a batch of my Spooktacular chili for Halloween and this year will be no exception. You can see that recipe by clicking here and it’s a great idea for Halloween parties, too. Make a chili bar and let your ghosts and goblins decorate their own chili with the fixings. Boo!

Happy Halloween!

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Spiced Oat and Chocolate Chip Blondies
Makes 36 small bars

Ingredients:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted* (see “trick” number 2 above)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten to combine
2 teaspoons Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/4 teaspoon good quality ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

waxed paper and scissors
2 – Wire cooling racks that will fit 13″ long

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with butter. Measure and tear off a piece of waxed paper slightly larger than the 13″ length of the pan. Turn the pan over and cut the waxed paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Turn the pan right side up and fit the cut waxed paper into the bottom of the pan and butter it. (See trick number 1.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla until just blended. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt until well mixed. Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and stir just until well mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Turn out the batter into the prepared baking pan. The batter will be thick. Spread it so that it evenly covers the bottom of the pan. It will be a thin layer, but will rise during baking. Bake in the oven for 18 minutes and check for doneness. The bars will be done when the edges are golden brown, the blonde top is just starting to brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Run a table knife gently around the outside of the bars. Place one of the wire cooling racks on top of the pan, then using oven mitts, invert the pan so that the blondies will fall onto the wire rack. You may need to give the bottom of the pan a rap. When the blondies have released, remove the pan. Gently peel the waxed paper off the bottom of the blondies. Place the second wire rack over the bottom of the blondies and invert again so that the top side of the blondies is up. Allow the blondies to cool to room temperature. Slide the blondies off onto a cutting board and cut into 36 even bars. EAT! These blondies may be frozen in small freezer bags for up to two months. Thaw before serving.

Gifts, Goodies and Greatest Hits

I have some new recipes, really I do! And some travels and adventures to share as well. And I have pictures, too. But as I am still in high gear work mode right now with some deadlines looming before the Christmas holiday, I think I’ll first take this opportunity to share these “greatest hits” of the season with you. May these favorites of mine inspire some holiday food and gift ideas for you to try until I can get back to the regularly scheduled programming.

I hope you all have enjoyed the holiday season so far, and may your days be merry and bright…and filled with good food, friends and family.

Cookies! For the cookie monster in us all.

Who doesn’t love cookies any time of year, but during the holidays they are a mandatory make and give. Starting from the top with these biscotti…this is the one thing I will try to get made before Christmas!

biscottiA-1Chocolate Hazelnut and Ginger Biscotti are perhaps the most addictive cookies ever known to man or woman. These truly decadent biscotti have the perfect dry texture combined with savory hazelnuts, spicy candied ginger and melty semi-sweet chocolate surprises in every bite. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…if I don’t make these for my husband every Christmas, I might as well find another place to live. I kid you not!

cookies smOld Fashioned Drop Sugar Cookies are a recipe that my mom used to make every year. They are the best I’ve ever had and fun to make by yourself, or with some little elves helping you to decorate! They have the added advantage of keeping well for a week or more in an airtight container.

crinkles2Chocolate 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. They did not disappoint! Continue reading

Final Approach Weekend

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been so busy that perhaps you may have missed a few of those clever posts around with wonderful tips and ideas on making your own gifts or tasty foods for the holidays. It’s really hard to keep up, and especially the closer we get to the big festivities.

As I spend this weekend finishing off my gifts for friends and family, and attending a few parties in between, I’d like to just quickly recap some of the foods I’ve made this season for gifts and holiday entertaining. I’m hoping these might offers some inspiration when seen all together and be of help in choosing a recipe for those “what can I make?” moments ahead! Continue reading

Two More for Giving: Provencal Olives and Italian Glazed Almonds

Here are two more EVEN EASIER recipes than the ice box cookies, if you can believe that! Yep, these olives and almonds are super special and unbelievably easy to make. Both of these make great cocktail nibbles to have with any festive libation and are a wonderful hostess gift, too!

Stir all ingredients together, bake and you're done!

Recipe 1 Glazed Red Pepper and Fennel Almonds: I’ve made these almonds for many a year now…all year long, in fact, but they are always welcomed during the holidays and definitely have a festive quality about them. They are so simple and you can whip them up for the weekend for guests, take them to parties, or gift them in pretty jars or bags… and they keep in an airtight container for a week…bonus! They are spicy, I won’t lie to you…and they have a distinctive anise flavor from the fennel, but these are all good things in my book. The combination of ingredients makes a truly harmonious whole, and I’ve yet to encounter anyone who didn’t love these tidbits. Here’s the recipe as I make it. Continue reading

Old Fashioned Ice Box Cookies…They’re a Cinch!

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

Holiday Cordials and Cocktails

The first of my Cranberry Liqueur was ready on Sunday and I was very excited to see how my spice experiment worked out, plus try some new and old cocktail recipes featuring the liqueur that you can make or share with your gift. Here’s how it all went: Continue reading

An Owl, a Song, and a Gift to Make

Busy, busy, busy. That pretty much sums up this time of year for everyone, and on the weekends in particular. We started our weekend off with a visit from this busy owl, who loves to come and hunt in our backyard just around sunset. On Friday, he came so close to our deck that we had to run out and take some snaps of him, and here’s the best one of this guy (or gal?) that my husband took with his 35mm. Beautiful. Continue reading