romantic suppers and sweets

Shrimp pasta

I failed to post this column on time as I became ill shortly before the holiday! Sorry to all my followers! Here it is, new and improved!

Valentine’s Day means expressing your love for your spouse, partner, family, and friends. What better way than to say it with food you lovingly prepare? Here are two suppers and two desserts to consider.

pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and feta cheese
Who said you can’t serve seafood with cheese? Ever have a tuna melt? Crab and swiss? Here’s delicious exception perfect for a Valentine Day supper.

ingredients

  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb raw large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
  • 1 Tbs each white wine and balsamic vinegar
  • ½ to 1 lb pasta (I usually make only half a pound since I like a higher shrimp-to-pasta ratio using linguine or bowties.)
  • 15 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 (6-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese

directions

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook shrimp, garlic and white wine for 4-5 minutes or until shrimp is pink. Do NOT overcook!
  2. Remove shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until al dente; drain and keep warm.
  3. While pasta is cooking, place diced tomatoes and halved grape tomatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, and basil over medium heat into wine mixture in skillet until tender—10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, toss hot pasta with shrimp, tomato mixture, and feta. Feta will melt slightly. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and a crusty bread.

 

Chicken feta beans toms

greek chicken tenders with veggies
Prefer chicken? This dish is packed with flavors sure to spark up any evening!

for the chicken

  • 2 Tbs plus 1 tsp olive or avocado oil, divided
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb fresh green beans
  • 1.5 lb chicken tenders
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 3­/4 Tbs balsamic vinegar (do not substitute)
  • 1 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, halved

for the greek dressing

  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 fresh squeezed lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt 1/2 tsp black pepper

directions

  1. Sauté mushrooms in large frying pan with 1 tsp of the oil, until just browning. Remove from pan, set aside.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium­-high, add green beans. Sauté until green beans are cooked, but still a bit crunchy. Remove from the pan, set aside.
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbs oil over medium-­high, add chicken, salt, and pepper.
  4. Cook chicken 3­-4 minutes on both sides and remove once browned & cooked though. Remove from pan, set aside. Whisk all dressing ingredients together.
  5. In the same skillet, lower heat to medium, add dressing, honey, and balsamic vinegar. Stir and heat until bubbling.
  6. Toss in mushrooms, and green beans then the cooked chicken and tomatoes. Stir to heat through. Serve over rice or pasta.

 

easy chocolate bar fondue
This takes on a romantic hue when served with champagne. If made ahead, keep the chocolate warm in a double boiler till ready to serve.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound milk or dark chocolate bars, broken into pieces
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1 store-bought angel food cake, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces dried fruit, such as pineapple slices and figs

directions

  1. In a small saucepan, over low heat, warm the cream and chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts. Transfer the fondue to a warm serving bowl or fondue pot.
  2. Serve immediately with forks for dipping strawberries, angel food cake, or whatever you like.

 

chocolate-cinnamon pudding with raspberries
So easy to put this together ahead of time. Kids will especially love the flavors.

ingredients

  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 Tbs packed brown sugar
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups fresh raspberries, or frozen raspberries, thawed

directions

  1. Combine the cocoa, cinnamon, cornstarch, and 2/3 cup of brown sugar in a heavy saucepan. Whisk in milk and 1/2 cup of cream.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until pudding is thick and smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  4. Whip remaining cream in a separate bowl with the remaining sugar until soft peaks form.
  5. Pour pudding into individual ramekins or a large bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chill for at least two hours. Top with raspberries and whipped cream.

your turn
Hope you enjoy these romantic dishes! Here is a PDF you can print out for your recipe collectionRomantic Suppers and Sweets Blog 2-16

the great pumpkin (belated)

NOTE: This post was almost ready to go live when I fell on Turkey Day eve and broke a couple of ribs. I was in excruciating pain for a couple of months, and I needed another month after that to return fully to my pre-fall energy level. I am finally back in the groove and have a full plate since my husband retired from the VA the end of January, all the paperwork that accompanies said retirement (a federal job means many, many forms!), and now tax time is here again. Oh joy! So I cannot promise prompt updates, but I will try my best. I will add a printable PDF of this post in the next week or so. Thanks for your patience!

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My mother’s pumpkin pie recipe is the best!

I’m getting nervous with all this talk about pumpkin shortages, aren’t you? I don’t know if I can take the stress, but I will admit, I stashed about six cans of pumpkin in my cupboard last fall. How come I was so psychic? I guess I’ll muddle through and will still be able to make my mother’s wonderful pie for the holidays. In the meantime, I’m making these great desserts. Step aside, Charlie Brown! I’m stalking the Great Pumpkin!

pumpkin pie cookies        
These are a pumpkin version of thumbprint (jam-filled) cookies we all know and love, but with a giant twist. I don’t normally buy white chocolate chips as they are so overprocessed, but they are essential to keeping the pumpkin filling from becoming too gooey or runny. Raw sugar is a coarse granule with a molasses-y flavor. All this comes together to become a totally unexpected fall treat.

ingredients
3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 or 2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or softened cream cheese
2 Tbsp pumpkin (Steal from the can used for the filling)
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Domino Demerara raw sugar for rolling, available in the sugar aisle

filling
3/4 cup plain pumpkin puree (Libby’s or One Pie), NOT pie filing
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp half-and- half
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted in a double boiler

directions
Preheat oven to 375°. Cream together butter and sugars. Once combined, mix in egg and vanilla. Beat for about 2 minutes, until completely smooth. Add in yogurt or cream cheese and pumpkin, mix for one minute. Sift together flour, spices, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Slowly add into the wet mixture. Beat until combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight if you need to.

Make the filling: whip together pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, half-and-half, and the melted white chocolate chips. Taste and adjust if you like it sweeter. Roll cookies into a golf-ball-size, roll through raw sugar, than place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. With your finger, press a small dent into the center of the dough. Fill with pumpkin pie filling mixture. Bake for 10 minutes, then let cool before serving. Makes about 2 ½ dozen cookies.

dark chocolate pumpkin spice muffins
These muffins have no oil or butter in them. The moisture comes from the applesauce. Amazing! Go stock up on canned pumpkin NOW! LOL
P.S. You will gain back all the calories the oil might rack up if you ice them with the cream cheese frosting. Oh, well!

ingredients
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cup plain pumpkin puree (Libby’s or One Pie are best)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top

directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and spices. Once blended, add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Spoon batter into muffin tin liners about three-quarters- full. Let filled pan stand for about a half hour. Bake for about 22 minutes. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon sugar and serve! Makes 12 muffins. Top with cream cheese frosting.

cream cheese frosting

ingredients (can be halved)
2 pounds cream cheese, softened (1)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened  (1)
3 cups confectioners’ sugar (1 ½)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (1)

directions
Sift all confectioner’s sugar into a large bowl to eliminate lumps. Beat cream cheese, butter, and 1 cup sifted sugar with a mixer on medium-slow speed until combined. With machine running, add remaining 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, and beat until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes more.

Cook’s Note:  Cream cheese frosting can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature and beat before using.

I was excited to gain ten more followers last week with my veggie blog post! Log on and follow my blog so you never miss a new post. You can also print out all my recipes and add them to your personal journal. Food is one of life’s best pleasures. Happy eating!

Here’s a PDF you can print out for your recipe file: CJ-great pumpkin

puddin’ and pie

bread_pudding2

I grew up eating a lot of desserts, and Mom loved to make puddings and pies—chocolate pudding, butterscotch pudding, tapioca, rice, and bread pudding, apple pies, peach pies, and cream pies. What a lucky kid! I have many of her recipes and a few from friends as well. I published the first four in the newspaper, and I’ve added some bonus recipes here to round it all out.

pumpkin bread pudding

The idea behind bread pudding is using up leftover or stale bread, but I never seem to have much of that lying around. So I usually buy good bread like challah (when available), Arnold, or Pepperidge Farms because it is more dense and doesn’t turn to mush when blended with wet ingredients. It is also important to dry the crumbled or cubed bread on a cookie sheet in a 250-degree oven for about 45 minutes. It tastes a lot better than stale bread.

I recently read a tip to make the pumpkin less “canned” and that is to cook the pumpkin with the spices in a saucepan for a bit to blend those flavors before you add it to the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 16-oz can plain pumpkin (do not use fresh)
  • 6 cups dry bread cubes
  • ½ cup Xante currants or raisins (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

Directions

  1. Grease a 9×9-inch baking pan or dish. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients, ending with the raisins and nuts.
  3. Let stand 10 minutes. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Let cool 10 minutes before serving, Delicious with vanilla ice cream!

radio pudding

Mom never made this one. I got the recipe from a friend many years ago. She was Canadian and said it originated there, named so because someone heard the recipe on the radio.  It is probably a wartime or postwar dish. If anyone knows the real story, write to me at the paper.

Ingredients for the pudding

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for the sauce

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 cups boiling water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9×9-inch glass baking dish.
  2. Mix pudding’s dry ingredients and slowly stir in milk and vanilla.
  3. Pour batter into baking dish and sprinkle evenly with raisins.
  4. Prepare sauce with ingredients listed, mixing well. Carefully ladle over top of batter.
  5. Put a cookie sheet in the oven before placing dish in case it boils over. Bake 30-40 minutes. Serve warm.

pineapple pudding

Never served as a dessert in our house, this is a side dish for Christmas or Easter and easily doubled if you’re feeding a crowd. It’s very rich and yummy and goes well with ham or pork especially. My oldest son always asks for it when we get together for holiday meals.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 20-oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 slices cubed, oven-dried good bread like Arnold or Pepperidge Farms
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 eggs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a glass bread loaf pan or casserole dish.
  2. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well.
  3. Mix in pineapple, bread cubes, and vanilla.
  4. Pour mixture into dish and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  5. Bake 1 hour or till a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Kids will love this!

 helen’s streusel cream peach pie

I grew up in Philadelphia, and we had peach trees in our back yard. What a heavenly gift every year when bushels of juicy peaches landed in our kitchen. Mom would work for weeks putting up preserves and stacking peach pies in our freezer. In the dead of winter, we would enjoy the fruits of that harvest recalling warm days of summer baked into those wonderful pies. Well, with all this below-zero weather lately, I don’t think we’ll be seeing too many peach trees popping up through the sod anytime, so we’ll have to make our own memories and bake a peach pie that doesn’t require fresh fruit, but you can certainly use fresh if you have it. You can use frozen peaches, too.

Ingredients

  • 2 15-oz canned peaches packed in juice very well drained or 4 cups sliced fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbs butter, softened
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbs half & half, cream, or evaporated milk
  • 1 unbaked pie shell

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Arrange peaches in pie shell. Sprinkle with white sugar, nutmeg, and salt.
  3. Beat egg and cream. Pour over peaches.
  4. In a medium bowl mix flour, brown sugar, and butter with your fingers till crumbly. Sprinkle over pie.
  5. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake till crumbs are brown and filling is set.

penny’s rice pudding

This is a classic rice pudding from a friend of my mother. A variation, if I’m feeling ambitious that is, is to separate the eggs, put the yolks into the pudding, and then beat the egg whites till stiff peaks form and fold them into the cooled pudding. It really lightens up the dish and make it seem more elegant somehow.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rice (long-grain white is best)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 qt whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1  12-oz can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Nutmeg and/or cinnamon

Directions

  1. Place rice in water in a large saucepan with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stir once, reduce heat to very low, cover and cook till almost tender—about 20 minutes.
  2. While rice is cooking, mix eggs, canned milk, sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl. When rice is done, mix in whole milk, stir well, then add egg mixture. Return to heat.
  3. Over medium high heat, cook just under a boil for 25 minutes. Add spices and raisins if desired.
  4. Cool, then refrigerate. Pudding tastes best the next day.

chocolate bread pudding

Simply delicious with a minimum of ingredients, this is so easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Half & Half
  • 5-6 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 9 cups 1-inch cubed firm texture white bread
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of salt

Directions 

  1. Prepare an 8×8 inch square baking pan by coating bottom and sides with soft butter. Heat oven to 325°.
  2. Bring Half & Half to a simmer in a heavy saucepan, then turn off heat.
  3. Place chocolate, shaved or broken into small pieces, in a large, heatproof bowl. Add 1 cup of the Half & Half and stir to melt chocolate.
  4. In a separate large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Slowly whisk in chocolate mixture.
  5. Strain through a fine strainer and skim off froth. Reserve 1/2 cup of mixture.
  6. Place bread cubes in the large bowl and pour larger amount of egg and chocolate mixture over, folding gently so cubes are not broken up.
  7. Transfer to baking dish, spreading out evenly. Pour reserved 1/2 cup of chocolate mixture over top.
  8. Bake 50 minutes or until firm to the touch. Serve warm with whipped cream or caramel sauce.

sweets for the sweet

Red Velvet CupcakesValentine’s Day is coming up fast, so you might want to bake a nice sweet treat for your honey, your friends, or your kids. I’ve got two here—one is a bit labor intensive, and the other is quick and easy, plus your bonus recipe, Lemon Sponge Pie, not available in the newspaper. At the end of this column is a link to a PDF, so you can print out these terrific recipes and share them with others.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Cake is not just a yellow cake with red food coloring added. It is actually a lovely chocolate cake dressed up for the big day. A Valentine’s Day classic, this makes 15 cupcakes but can easily be doubled for parties. Sifting the flour three times helps create the velvety texture of this cake.

Ingredients for the Cupcakes:

  • 1¼ cups flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Special Dark)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ bottle (half an ounce) red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Muffin tin cup liners

Ingredients for the Frosting:

  • ½ package (4 ounces) regular block cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbs butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ box (8 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted to remove lumps
  • Chocolate chips (optional)

Directions for the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift flour twice before mixing with cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Sift flour mixture one more time. Set aside.
  2. Beat butter and granulated sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food coloring, and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. Spoon batter into 15 paper or foil-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.
  3. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely.

Directions for the Frosting:

  1. Beat cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
  2. Spread on top of cooled cupcakes. Decorate with chocolate chips or fresh raspberries if desired.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Bars

Perfect for your Valentine and so pretty, this takes only 15 minutes to put together and about 25 minutes to cook. I rarely use boxed mixes, but if you’re a busy partner, wife, or husband, you get a pass. Besides, it is so good, you can indulge now and then. This makes 12-15 servings, so share with loved ones!

First, make the brownies:

  1. Mix and bake brownie mix according to package directions (most box mixes use water and an egg, and sometimes oil) I like to add a tsp of vanilla extract and a tsp of cinnamon to a box brownie mix for this dish, but it is totally optional.
  2. Bake in a prepared 13×9 pan, taking care not to over-bake. Cool completely.
  3. Chill a mixing bowl in the ‘fridge to whip the cream later.

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1 3-oz. box instant white chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 21-oz.can raspberry pie filling

Fresh raspberries, hot fudge ice cream topping, and additional whipped cream to garnish are optional.

Directions for finishing:

  1. In small bowl, combine 1 cup of the cream and pudding mix. Stir for 2 minutes until very thick.
  2. In chilled bowl, beat remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into pudding. Carefully spread over completely cooled brownies.
  3. Top with pie filling. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting. If desired, garnish with additional whipped cream, fresh raspberries, and/or drizzle with hot fudge ice cream topping before serving.
  4. A drizzle of chocolate fudge sauce on the plate before plating looks really nice. Enjoy!

lemonspongeLemon Sponge Pie

If you love citrus, Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to make a sweet, lemony pie for your sweetie or yourself. This is an original Amish delicacy, very popular at flea markets and Amish roadside stands. It’s so easy to put together, and it’s delicious. I love this with a homemade pastry crust but to make it easier, you can use packaged rolled pie crust or prepared graham cracker crust if you want.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 Tbs butter, softened
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 lemons, zested then juiced
  • 2¾ cups milk, divided
  • 6 Tbs flour
  • 1 unbaked pie shell

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Cream butter, sugar, and egg yolks together. Add lemon zest and juice.
  3. Place flour in a separate bowl and slowly mix in 1 cup of the milk, mashing any lumps, till smooth. Add to butter and egg yolk mixture, then remaining 1¾ cups of milk. Mix till very well blended.
  4. Place egg whites in a large mixing bowl and beat with a stand mixer till stiff peaks form. Fold into butter and egg yolk mixture and pour into pie shell. Bake till firm and top is nicely brown.

PRINT THIS BLOG! CJ VALENTINE BLOG

holiday fare 1 cookies

[My sincere apology for the delay in posting this blog. It was just one of those weeks where urgent jobs kept surfacing, stealing time from my writing. Hope these additional recipes arrive in your inbox on time and will provide some inspiration for you to create some new and unusual holiday treats. –CMT]

Kitchen assistants taking a break.

kitchen assistants taking a break. I usually start my serious holiday baking this week, especially since my feline kitchen assistants are eager to pick up some odd jobs like diving after anything that falls on the floor and licking the bowls, of course. Just kidding, but really, I need a solid two weeks to get all my sweets and savories planned and prepared.You can print these recipes using the PDF link at the end of this post.

I won’t bore you with the typical chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie recipes. My treats are special, and will add a festive and delicious touch to your table. This week it’s cookies.

golden cups  So delicious, these tiny little pies will melt in your mouth. If you prefer, you can substitute chopped slivered almonds or pecans for the walnuts.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • Salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. On the day before (or within a week of baking, make dough), soften the cream cheese. Sift flour with ¼ tsp regular salt.
  2. Blend butter with cream cheese till streaks are gone; add flour. Shape dough into a ball, wrap in foil, and refrigerate.
  3. Early on the day, preheat oven to 375°
  4. Beat eggs in medium bowl on medium speed, add sugar, melted butter, and pinch of salt. Stir in nuts and vanilla.
  5. Divide dough in 4 parts (each fourth will make 12 cups). Refrigerate all but one. Pinch off and form into 12 balls.
  6. Press each ball into ungreased 1 ¾-inch muffin tins, forming slightly rolled edges at top. Fill half full with nut mixture (about 1 heaping teaspoon).
  7. Bake 20 minutes till light golden and filling is set. Cool a minute or two before removing to wire rack.

Cool pan between batches. Makes 48 cups. Recipe can be doubled or halved according to your needs.

 

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aunt olga’s christmas cookies  In Philadelphia, our neighbor across the street would send a platter of cookies over to our house every Christmas. She was descended from the Pennsylvania Dutch. “Deutsch” (pronounced doitch) means “German,” and they are famous for their amazing food. Anyway, these cookies don’t look like much, the ingredients are rather common, but they have that certain “umami,” an indescribable flavor that keeps you reaching for more. Follow directions to a tee for best results.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cups softened butter
  • 3 eggs (divided)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3¼ cups flour

Directions

  1. Cream butter and sugar, add 2 of the eggs. Mix well.
  2. Stir soda and cream of tartar into the flour. Add to butter mixture. Dough will be stiff. Cover with wax paper and chill for at least an hour. Or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°. Pinch off dough and roll into small balls the size of a walnut. Arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet 3-4 inches apart.
  4. Once arranged, cover a flat-bottom tumbler or jar with a flat lid with wax paper, Secure with a rubber band. Use to flatten each cookie as flat as possible.
  5. Brush tops with beaten whole egg and decorate with colored sugar, confetti nonpareils, or cinnamon and sugar. Bake 10 minutes till lightly golden and egg is set.
  6. Cool on wire racks. Store in tight-lidded cans or plastic bags. Crisp and amazing!

 

marina’s wonder cookies  I worked with a young woman who brought these into the office one Christmas. I had to have the recipe—they taste like expensive chocolate-covered toffee, but you won’t believe the simple ingredients and ease of making them. If you’re careful, you can break these up pretty evenly, but they will often break randomly. It’s okay. They taste so good, no one will complain!

Ingredients

  • ¼ box of saltines (1 sleeve)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ large package chocolate chips (dark or milk—your preference)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a large cookie sheet (with sides!) with cooking spray. Arrange saltines in a single layer to cover the bottom of the cookie sheet.
  2. Place butter and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat.
  3. Carefully pour boiling mixture over crackers to cover evenly. Place in oven for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven to wire rack. When bubbling stops, sprinkle chips over top and spread with an offset spatula as they melt. Cool and refrigerate.

 

old-fashioned no-bake cookies  This the closest thing to fudge without all the work. I have a friend who folds in mini marshmallows at the end. That sounds good!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 Tbs cocoa
  • ¼ lb butter or margarine
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 3 cups oats (the old-fashioned kind are most nutritious—just sayin’)

Directions

  1. Line a couple of cookie sheets with wax paper. Measure out oats in a bowl.
  2. In a large saucepan, place sugar, butter, milk, and cocoa. and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla, peanut butter, then the oats. Keep stirring and work quickly or mixture will begin to dry out.
  4. Drop by teaspoon onto wax paper or use a small cookie scoop. Keep them small so they dry evenly.
  5. Stack in containers in the ‘fridge between sheets of wax paper.

 

no-bake apricot coconut candy cookies  Make anytime up to one week ahead. Nice to tuck in among the regular cookies on your cookie plate or gift boxes.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs butter, softened
  • 1 Tbs water
  • ½ cup Light Karo Syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup dry (powdered) milk
  • 2 cups finely snipped dried apricots
  • 2 cups flaked sweetened coconut

Directions

  1. In a large bowl mix butter with syrup. Stir in water, vanilla, and dry milk and mix well.
  2. Add apricots and coconut and knead until thoroughly blended.
  3. Roll into 1-inch balls or use a small cookie scoop.
  4. Store in a loosely covered container at room temperature.

 

TIP: If you can’t find bulk apricots, the Dollar Tree has very good, reasonably priced bags of dried apricots.

 

ALSO, cookie scoops will make your life SO much easier. I don’t know how I ever lived without them before a couple of years ago! My first two, a 1-teaspoon and a 1-tablespoon size, were from Pampered Chef, a gift from my son, but they were pretty expensive. Here in Maine, we have a discount store, Marden’s, where I was SO fortunate to find meatball size scoop, same quality, for $4.00! Don’t you just love bargains???

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAconnie’s currant cookies  Currants are small, round, seedless dried berries related to gooseberries. I call these Connie’s because I had to come up with this recipe myself after losing the one given to me by a coworker many years ago. Her name was Michelle, but everyone call her “Mitch.” She was a big woman, built like a football player, but she was a kind and gentle soul who baked me a batch of her currant cookies the Christmas before my first son was born. These are great with a hot cup of tea and a good book!

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 4 cups flour
  • ½ – ¾ cup milk
  • 1 cup Zante currants (next to the raisins in the grocery store)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until very fluffy and light in color. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on high for two minutes.
  3. Sift together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Gradually add dry to wet, combining slowly, including ½ cup of the milk. If batter is too stiff, add remaining ¼ cup milk.
  4. Stir in currants and mix till distributed.
  5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 11 minutes.
  6. Remove to cooling rack. This makes 11 dozen.

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