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Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Beginning To Taste A Lot Like Christmas

Some people say they know the Christmas season has arrived when they see colored lights, decorated trees and yard decorations. Others mark the arrival by the sounds of their favorite Christmas Carols. While I enjoy both the lights and the carols (a lot), for me, it's the tastes and aromas emanating from my kitchen that signal my favorite time of the year - the trays of warm cookies covering every available surface in the house, the happy laughter of the children who share my cookie baking traditions and the two dogs sitting in front of the oven, swishing the floor with their tails as they excitedly await the trays of their very special treat: homemade dog biscuits!

I kicked off my baking this week with two perennial favorites from my holiday repertoire: M&M Cookies and Dipped Log Cookies. My family's love of my M&M Cookies goes way back to my college days when I would make them as a special treat for my (nine year old) younger brother who then sold them at school for a quarter each. (which I discovered many years later) Apparently, they were quite popular! Back then I made them with butter and regular M&M's but nowadays I use Butter Flavor Crisco, which makes them soft and chewy, and green and red M&M's which give them a festive flair. The Dipped Log Cookies are my all-time favorites and the first to disappear at any gathering. They're similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies but with a touch of brandy in the dough. After baking, the warm cookies are rolled in powdered sugar and dipped in rich, milk chocolate. I've never met anybody who could eat just one. I know I can't!

M&M COOKIES

1 cup (1 stick) Butter Flavor Crisco
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
2-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 bag (12-14 ounces) M&M's

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Cream Crisco, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in flour, salt and baking soda. Stir in M&M's.

Drop by tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes; until golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack.


CHOCOLATE DIPPED LOG COOKIES

1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons brandy
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped pecans
Powdered sugar
Melted milk chocolate

Cream butter. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.

Add brandy, vanilla and salt; mix well.

Add flour, stirring until blended; stir in pecans.

Shape dough into 1 ½ x ½ inch logs. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 325°F. for 15 to 20 minutes. Cookies should not brown.

While warm, roll cookies lightly (or dust with) powdered sugar. Place on wire racks to cool. When completely cool, dip one end in melted chocolate. Let stand on wax paper until set.

YIELD: 4 dozen



"GOOD DOG" DOG BISCUITS

2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup dry milk
1 egg
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon beef bouillon, dissolved in ½ cup hot water
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 300.

Combine all ingredients and stir well.

Knead dough 2 minutes on a floured surface. Roll dough to a ¼ inch thickness.

Cut into shapes with cookie cutters and place on an ungreased baking sheet. (My baking assistants (a/k/a the kids) love to make these in people shapes. They say, "We eat animal crackers, the dogs should get people biscuits!")

Bake 30 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a rack.

YIELD: 4 dozen


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I have favorites, like the cookies mentioned above, that I make every Christmas but I also enjoy adding a few new recipes to the mix each year so I asked my fellow Dishes; Buffie, Andrea and Gannon, to share a few of their favorite holiday treats with us.

Gannon says...

Most people wrinkle their noses when they hear the word fruitcake, and I admit I always felt that way. But these fruitcake cookies are nothing like any fruitcake you’ve ever tasted. My mom baked them every Christmas for many years, and now I (and my eldest niece, too) have continued the tradition. I could eat them for breakfast, they are so good. Enjoy!


FRUITCAKE COOKIES

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 – 4 oz. container candied cherries (I usually do 2 oz. of red and 2 oz. of green for the color)
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. baking soda
1 lb. pitted whole dates, chopped
½ cup candied pineapple, chopped
½ cup chopped walnuts


In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture, beating until combined. Stir in fruit and nuts. Chill batter overnight. Drop by slightly rounded tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake @ 350 degrees for 12 minutes.


Another recipe from Gannon is easy to make but oh-so-delicious. Gannon says these cookies can be made all year long, but she enjoys giving them away to friends and co-workers during the holidays. She always make a double batch, because her family is crazy about them!


REESE'S MINI TARTS

1 (20 oz.) roll of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough
1 bag Reese’s mini peanut butter cups


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dough evenly into 9 slices, then quarter each slice and place 1 in each greased mini muffin tin cup. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes. While dough is baking, unwrap peanut butter cups. Remove cookies from even and immediately press a candy into each cookie. Leave to cool completely in the pan. Makes 3 dozen.

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Buffie says...

While I make a variety of cookies during the holiday season, my most requested sugary item is my Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Bonbons. These round little balls of sweet decadence are always the first things to go.


COOKIES AND CREAM CHEESECAKE BONBONS

24 chocolate cream-filled cookies, divided
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup nonfat dry milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 package (1 pound) powdered sugar

Coarsely chop 12 cookies; set aside.

Place remaining 12 cookies in a food processor; process until fine crumbs form. Place crumbs on baking sheet lined with waxed paper; set aside.

Beat cream cheese, dry milk and vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, at low speed until mixture is smooth. Stir in reserved chopped cookies. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.

Shape rounded tablespoonfuls of cream cheese mixture into balls. Roll balls in reserved cookie crumbs. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3 dozen bonbons

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Andrea says she "loves Red Velvet anything." After reading her recipe and taking a look at the photo of the cookies she recently made I can hardly wait to make some in my kitchen! Here's the recipe for Andrea's Red Velvet Cookies.

RED VELVET COOKIES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Cookies:

• 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup butter, softened
• 1 ¼ cups sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 2 tablespoons red food coloring
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• ¾ cup buttermilk
• parchment paper

Cream Cheese Frosting:

• 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
• ½ cup butter, softened
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• salt, a dash
• 1 (1 pound) box powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl.
3. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes, until creamy.
4. Gradually add sugar, beating well.
5. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
6. Beat in food coloring and vanilla extract.
7. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
8. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition, stopping to scrape the bowl as needed.
9. Drop by ¼ cupfuls 3 inched apart onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
10. Spread dough to 3-inch rounds.
11. Bake for 15 minutes, until tops are set; cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes.
12. Remove to wire racks, and cool completely.
13. Crumble 1 cookie into fine crumbs to use as garnish. (optional)
14. Make frosting—beat cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and salt at medium speed with an electric mixer 1 minute, until creamy.
15. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed 2 minutes or until smooth.
16. Spread about 2 ½ tablespoons cream cheese frosting onto each cookie; sprinkle with crumbs (optional).
17. Store cookies in refrigerator up to 5 days.

Those are some of the holiday treats we Dishes enjoy making every Christmas. How about you? What homemade treats signal the arrival of holiday festivities in your home? Do you have a favorite recipe to share? We're always looking for new ones to add to our baking fun!

~PJ

36 comments:

  1. I tried baking the choco dipped cookies before. The end result wasn't that presentable. Love your bonbons. Will give it a try. Thanks for the recipe.

    Fire and Cross

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  2. Ladies

    I do love the reciepes I will be trying some of them if I get some more time I am sure my family would love them.

    I make Christmas Cakes this time of the year I know they are not popular in The States but here they really are I make some as gifts for friends and I also make a Christmas Pudding in a cloth another fruit one (in historicals they are called plum puddings) I still need to find time to make that.

    Thanks Ladies
    Have Fun
    Helen

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  3. Oh wow, love the recipies but kind of in a quandry on where to start! I am in the need of a different recipe for my contributions to the assorted gatherings at work and friends. For years I have gone with savory and would like to change that, maybe I will just try them all and see which one I can make the best...LOL

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  4. Wow! Now there's a post to put us in the Christmas baking mood! PJ--you have more cookie sheets than I can shake a stick at! :-) Those all look so delicious!

    Yesterday I baked 5 loaves of pumpkin bread, which is very sweet. My oldest happy danced around the kitchen! But deflated when he realized we could only keep one.

    Happy Holidays, Dishes!

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  5. Enid, here are a couple tips on the log cookies that I've learned from experience. Make sure the butter is at room temperature and make sure the cookies are completely cooled before dipping in the melted chocolate.

    Don't those bonbons looks yummy? I made some over the weekend. Now I have to hurry and give them away before I eat them all! l

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  6. Helen, do you have a recipe for the Christmas Pudding that you can share with us? That's one I've always wanted to try!

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  7. maybe I will just try them all and see which one I can make the best...LOL

    Great idea, Dianna! I picked up the ingredients for Andrea's Red Velvet Cookies and plan to make a batch tomorrow. My boss at work is over the moon with happiness. He *loves* Red Velvet!

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  8. PJ--you have more cookie sheets than I can shake a stick at! :-)

    What can I say, Deb? Some people can't resist new shoes. For me, it's cookie sheets and kitchen utensils. lol!

    One of my friends makes pumpkin bread at Christmas. I always look forward to getting a loaf - warm, moist and oh-so-good!

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  9. My mouth is watering just reading these recipes! I have made the red velvet cookies and they are delicious. I'll have to try out some of these other delicious recipes. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  10. Thanks for sharing your favorite holiday cookie recipes, Dishes! They all look/sound yummy.

    But damn, I gained five pounds just looking at em! lol The whole "It's the holidays, the heck with the calories" thing can only go so far, you know? ;) I must be good, I must resist. Yeah. Right.

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  11. PJ, your picture fills me with baking envy. I'm going to try the log rolls, but I doubt that mine will turn out as picture pretty as yours.

    I bake more cakes and pies than cookies, but the grands love decorating cookies, so we will bake basic sugar cookies and decorate the kitchen and the grands along with the cookies.

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  13. I'm right there with you, Trisha. My mouth was watering as I wrote the blog too! lol!

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  14. They all look/sound yummy.

    But damn, I gained five pounds just looking at em!


    LOL! That's why we share, Lisa. So we can spread those calories around!

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  15. I'm going to try the log rolls, but I doubt that mine will turn out as picture pretty as yours.

    Janga, you have to remember that I've been making the log rolls for more than twenty years. Believe me, the end product the first few years I made them didn't look anywhere near as pretty as they do now! ;-)

    we will bake basic sugar cookies and decorate the kitchen and the grands along with the cookies.

    I'll be doing that tomorrow afternoon with my four-year-old grandniece. Promises to be messy and fun! :)

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  16. If you like your Christmas treats with a little kick, try my Bourbon Ball recipe. The stylists at my hair salon practically tackled me when I walked through the door with a tin of these last week. lol!

    BOURBON BALLS

    Powdered Sugar
    2 ½ cups finely crushed vanilla wafers
    1 cup finely chopped walnuts
    2 tablespoons cocoa
    ½ to 1 cup bourbon
    3 tablespoons corn syrup

    In a large bowl, thoroughly mix one cup powdered sugar and remaining ingredients.

    Sprinkle some powdered sugar onto a piece of wax paper.

    With hands, shape mixture into one-inch balls. Roll each ball in powdered sugar.

    Store in tightly covered container at room temperature.

    YIELD: 3 ½ dozen

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  17. These are favorites with the kids. They're easy to make and really good!

    CHERRY SNOWBALLS

    1 cup butter, softened
    ½ cup powdered sugar
    2 cups flour
    1 jar (6 oz) maraschino cherries without stems, drained and halved
    Additional powdered sugar

    In a mixing bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar; gradually add flour.

    Shape a tablespoon of dough around each cherry, forming a ball.
    Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.

    Bake cookies at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until the bottoms are browned. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar. Cool on wire racks.

    YIELD: 2 ½ dozen

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  18. And one more favorite before I leave for work...

    ORANGE SPICED OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES


    ¾ cup raisins
    3 tablespoons Cointreau (or orange juice)
    ½ cup Butter Flavor Crisco
    ¾ cup sugar
    1 large egg
    2 teaspoons grated orange peel
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 ½ cups oatmeal (uncooked)
    White chocolate, melted

    Preheat oven to 350.

    Combine orange juice and raisins; let stand overnight.

    Beat Crisco and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and orange peel.

    Combine flour and baking soda; stir into mixture. Add raisins, any soaking liquid and oats. Mix well.

    Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly.

    Bake at 350 for 10 – 12 minutes. Cool completely.

    Melt chocolate in a small, deep bowl. Dip 1/3 of the cookie into the melted chocolate and place on wax paper until firm.

    YIELD: 3 dozen

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  19. I'm smiling at everyone's comments. PJ, your picture of your cookie masterpieces just makes me want to sample all of them!

    We are currently having (another!) snowstorm, so I'll probably do some baking this afternoon. Sweet potato muffins and banana bread maybe, but first up is one of those "big top" cupcakes. We got one of the molds recently and my daughter has been dying to make one. Of course, the danger is that since we are more or less snowed in, so who else will eat it, but us?? *g*

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  20. Since I'm not from the US I have different dishes for Christmas, but I'm open to trying other things, especially cookies and cakes. I'm sure my mom and I will have a lot of fun trying out some of these recipes when I get home.

    Thank you so much for posting them, ladies.

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  21. Candy Day! Oh how I wish I could partake in Candy Day every year!

    My favorite holiday treat are just plain old rolled and iced sugar cookies, which are also my dad's favorite so I make it a point to make them every year. I also have recently grown to love iced gingerbread cookies. Yum!

    I plan to make a big batch of both this year and get the husband and the new MIL in on the decorating :)

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  22. Lots of yummy goodness!!!!!! Sure makes me want some :-)

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  23. Oh, this blog has made me so hungry!!!

    PJ, Abby took one look at your M&M Cookies and asked if we can make some. So, I guess I know what we'll be baking this weekend!

    Gannon, I'm going to show my mom your Fruitcake Cookies. I think she'll really like those.

    Buffie, your recipe has two of my favorite things in it--cookies and cream, and cheesecake! Dennis will love those. ;-)

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  24. I love all of this Christmas baking!!! Thanks so much for the recipes!!! :-)

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  25. Loving these recipes! Going to have to try the red velvet cookies. I used to make the bourbon balls with the same recipe. They're pretty potent the first few days. :) PJ, I made one log roll cake (roulade?) a few years ago. I rolled up the sponge with the whipped cream inside, covered it with a towel and set it on the counter while I rearranged the stuff in the fridge to make room for it. Hubster came home and dropped a box on top of the towel. Squish! It still tasted good though. I usually make rugelach with nuts and raisins in a cream cheese dough. They're a bit labor intensive, but everyone loves them. Thanks for the recipes!

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  26. I've enjoyed reading about your baking and the recipes. I don't bake at all. I leave that to my daughter who does it sometimes.

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  27. Thanks for sharing ladies. I literally salivated reading this post and I think I gained like 10 lbs. LOL!

    They all looking yummy. Now I need to find someone who will make them for me. I can't bake for crap.

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  28. Gannon, the Sweet Potato Muffins sound delicious. Will you share the recipe with us?

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  29. I'm sure my mom and I will have a lot of fun trying out some of these recipes when I get home.

    I hope you enjoy them, Antonia!

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  30. Jenn said, Candy Day! Oh how I wish I could partake in Candy Day every year!

    Oh, how I wish you could too! See you in a few days!

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  31. Andrea, tell Abby they taste just as good as they look!

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  32. I love all of this Christmas baking!!! Thanks so much for the recipes!!! :-)

    You're welcome, Monica! Hope you enjoy making them. :)

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  33. Hi PinkPeony! Thanks for the funny log roll cake story. I can just imagine the various reactions to the "squish!" lol!

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  34. Thanks for stopping by, Andrea l. I hope your daughter bakes up some goodies for you this year!

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  35. Ing said, I literally salivated reading this post and I think I gained like 10 lbs. LOL!

    LOL! Yeah, the same was pretty much true for me while writing it.

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  36. Everything looks so good.

    I love that I can eat what I want without so much guilt because it is the holiday season.

    I too enjoy fruitcake especially the Claxton fruit cake it is like eating candy.

    I used to make divinity and peanud butter balls but we only have room for just so many sweet things.

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