Tag Archives: Christmas cookies

Christmas Cookies While We Wait

 

I have been negligent again. I have been very tied up and while we are waiting for a special guest blogger, I thought I’d post pictures of the few Christmas cookies I made this year. I usually add half a dozen more types, but like I said, I’ve been busy!Xmas cookies

Clockwise, starting with the front are my Cocoa-Gingerbread Men,(with Angels, and new this year, Teddy Bears.) Next are Peanut Butter Stamped Cookies,(Santas), above them are the not-so-pretty-but-delicious Pineapple Date Nut Cookies, (sprinkles help a little!).Next to them are Cherry-Nut Cookies,(with a few Basic Cookies).I see that some candy sneaked into the picture,(Nut Clusters, in the round bowl in the back).The white, sprinkled cookies to the right are Date-Nut Meringues; in the jar are Basic Cookies, dressed up for Christmas and in the middle are Spice Cookies.(The recipes for the last two  are in the October archives).

 

So, if you are doing last-minute baking, or looking for new recipes for your New Year’s celebrations, I have these here for you. Round cookies made with clock faces, or star-shaped are particularly fitting for New Year’s Eve, as would be any cookie with plenty of sprinkles… Ring in the New Year!

Of course, you don’t have to just make these for the holidays, but it is always nice to have a few that people look forward to, to make holidays special. Since the Date-Nut Meringues have no flour, they would be appropriate for Passover and for people who need a gluten-free diet.

 

The Date-Nut Meringue recipe came from an old magazine insert that my mother had. I adapted it just a bit.

 

Whites of 2 large eggs

Dash of salt

1/3 cup of sugar

1 tsp.vanilla, (or a dash of vanilla powder) OPTIONAL

1 8oz. package of dried dates, chopped

1 cup  of walnuts, chopped

 

Decors or sprinkles, if desired,(or sprinkle with ground nuts)

 

Preheat oven to 210F. Spray with cooking/baking pan spray or grease/ oil cookie sheets.(Even if using parchment paper; these babies want to STICK!)

 

Make meringue, not too dry. To do so, beat egg whites until foamy, add salt and vanilla, (if using). Beat on high speed and add sugar slowly. Beat until stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted.(If you had any accident, a little egg yolk was in the whites, the bowl or beaters were not completely grease-free, your meringue will NOT  peak. Don’t despair; your cookies should still work, as long as your ‘meringue’ is not runny).

Fold in the walnuts and dates,(mix gently).Drop by spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for approximately 1 ½ hours. Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to sit until the oven is cool,(or overnight).You want the cookies dry, but not hard. Trust me, even if they get brittle, they are still good! Remove from the cookie sheets gently.

 

My mother always made me use a long, thin decorating spatula to remove cookies from the sheets, never  a ‘pancake turner’. Now that Mom is gone, feel free to use one, but don’t pick up more than one soft one at a time; they’ll become misshapen.

 

Another thing I will do is pass along Mom’s carefully-guarded Cherry-Nut Cookie recipe. I was sworn to secrecy on this one, but I had promised one woman who begged and begged that I would give it to her after my mother left us. When Mom died, I had to track the woman down over several states, but I followed through. My mother was an incredible cook, no one, not even I, to whom she taught everything, can duplicate her touch. (If yours come out as good as hers did, more power to you!) My mother taught me everything  because I could keep a secret. Mom would have me continue to be the keeper of the keys to the locked food cabinet. I realized some time ago that I have no  intention of keeping that family tradition. My grandmother took very many recipes to her grave; it makes no sense.(More on this when we discuss Spaghetti sauce in the future).

 

So, please eat these with love.

 

Cherry-Nut Cookies

1 cup minus 1 Tablespoon sifted all purpose flour(I don’t know why, but it does make a difference)

½ tsp. salt

½ cup butter or margarine

¼ cup sugar

1 egg , divided (separate white and yolk)

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1Tbsp. grated orange rind (fresh)

 

¾ cup minced walnuts

Candied or Maraschino cherries * see note

 

Cream the butter or margarine and sugar,(beat until fluffy)

Add salt and egg yolk; mix well

Add vanilla, lemon juice and orange rind, mix well

Add flour and mix well; dough will be soft

Refrigerate until cold and firm

(Do you realize I grew up doing all this creaming and mixing by hand? They were worth it, but a mixer is easier!)

Beat the egg white slightly, with about a teaspoonful of water. When the dough is firm, shape it into small balls and dip them into the egg white, then roll them in the nuts. Place 2″ apart on cookie sheets. Press half of a cherry into the middle of each cookie. Bake at 325F for about 20 minutes or until the bottoms as slightly browned.

 

  • *Note:My mother insisted on using candied cherries, despite the fact that none of us could stand them; we ate all around them and threw them away. My sister came up with the idea of using Maraschino cherries and told me to suggest it to Mom. If looks could kill, you wouldn’t be reading this now. She thought it was an abomination; but I always only use Maraschinos.
  • By the way, she would also do some in red cherries and some in green; I don’t always bother. My nieces used to call them “Stop and Go Cookies”; it seems the Christmas color idea was lost on them and they saw traffic lights!

 

 

Cocoa-Gingerbread Men/Angels

(Adapted from Hershey’s Old-Fashioned Christmas)

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

½ cup light molasses,(do not use dark or Blackstrap)

½ cup light brown sugar, packed** (see note)

1 egg

½ tsp. baking soda

3 cups flour

¾ cup cocoa powder

1 ½ tsp. brandy,(or vanilla )

 

Cream the butter or margarine with the sugar and add molasses. Beat in the egg and baking soda. Slowly beat in the cocoa; then slowly add the flour. Chill. Roll out on lightly floured board to about ¼ inch and cut into desired shapes. Place on greased or parchment-covered cookie sheets 1 ½-2 inches apart and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes until firm to the touch,(do not over-cook).Remove to cookie sheet and cool. Decorate with Royal icing,(October archives).

 

 

Pineapple Date Nut Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

1  tsp. baking powder

dash of salt

1/3 cup butter or margarine

2/3 cups well-packed light brown sugar**(see note)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2 large cans crushed pineapple or finely chopped other canned pineapple,(approx.2 cups), drained.(I used the one packed in juice, then simply drink the juice)

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup minced,(finely chopped) dates

¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Sprinkles, jimmies, decors, etc. (if using)

 

Mix the drained pineapple with baking soda in a non-aluminum bowl; set aside.(it will fizzle or bubble.)

Cream butter with egg and sugars until light and fluffy; add baking powder, mix well.

Add pineapple mixture; add the flour, mix well.

Add the dates and nuts, mix well.

Drop onto greased or parchment –lined cookie sheets by spoonfuls 1″apart. Apply sprinkles,(if using). Bake at 325F for about 30 minutes,(start checking after 20). These cookies need to dry, as they are very wet. Allow them to become browned on the bottom. If they are still wet in the middle, allow them to stand in the warm oven for longer. They may seem to become a bit chewy, but they are good. Cool completely before storing loosely covered,(or they will stick together). Store in one layer or with parchment or wax paper in between layers in a closed container.

These are often many people’s favorite cookie.

 

**Note:Brown sugar is measured ‘packed’, that is, pressed into a measuring cup , compressed as much as possible with the palm of your hand or knuckles.

 

I hope all are having fun preparing for the holidays and that they are stress-free. I stressed-out over all of it for too long. I did plenty this year, even though I cut back, and yet, all are eating well, (too well!), and enjoying the decorations, while the CD’s or Christmas movies play away!

 

 

 

 

I have not yet taken the time to investigate the possibilities of these recipes using vegan egg substitutes. I have, however, found a site that is a wealth of  information:

The Best Vegan Egg Substitutes for Vegan Cooking and Vegan Baking

 

I have every intention of making a sincere effort to find the time to check these out and do some experimenting in the coming year.

Otherwise, all of the recipes are ovo-vegetarian friendly.

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Halloween Entertaining/Spice and Basic Cut-Out Cookies

Halloween is just around the corner! However you celebrate it, with adults, children or both, spookily or more “Fall Festival-ly”, have a good, safe time.

I make two types of cookie dough, refrigerated cut-outs, but I only use half of the recipe and freeze the other half to use for Thanksgiving, or, if there are too many goodies, I even wait and use them at Christmas.
I also used to make a cake, usually chocolate. I would decorate it with a twisted tree and fallen leaves, and mix or match any of the following: a jack-o-lantern, moon, cat, ghost, spider, spider web, depending on the size of the cake or my mood. However, I have not made one in years and made the half-recipe cookies because I found that with all the candy, it was real food that people would go looking for after a while. Even at church parties, and lots of kids, a large cake would not be completely gone at the end, but all of whatever meat they served would be wiped out.

Candy is the sweet of choice for Halloween.

When we moved into the house we have now, there was a ‘chicken house’ in the back yard, behind the garage and a storage barn. It was about 7X11 feet, with three or four doors on one side, (that looked like screened prison cells), and a loft. After a few years, my sons decided to make it into a ‘haunted house’ for any trick-or-treater who wanted to give it a try. It was clever, (if at times a bit cheesy), but a good time was had by all: the boys, whatever friends they had that came to help them and the brave-enough neighborhood kids who went through. And before, after and in between sets of doorbell ringers, the teenagers ate.

I would have a soup and chili, sausages, hot dogs or sliced meats, snack crackers, chips and pretzels. I’d have hot cocoa and tea and sodas, but mostly food they could eat quickly and still get warm, as most Halloweens here get cool if not cold, at least, by the time they stopped. Usually the soup would be Baby Meatball Stew or Fiesta Day Soup (September Archives).
And, of course, some cookies.

Here are two very reliable cut-out cookie recipes. The Spice Cookies are perfect for Autumn. The Basic Cookie is just that, so basic you can do anything with it. It is very popular with all ages and was the biggest seller in my bakery for any holiday and as a Sugar Cookie in-between. Both are very good with coffee, tea or cocoa.

Pumpkin-shaped cookies are perfect for Halloween with or without Jack-o-lantern features.
I often make bats and ghosts; there are many types of shapes .For Thanksgiving, I use the pumpkin –shapes without faces, turkeys and I always make Autumn leaf-shaped and colored cookies. You can make scarecrows out of gingerbread men shapes, (or as I have seen recently, mummies for Halloween.)

Basic Cookie

One cup (=2 sticks) of softened butter (preferable to margarine)
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
4 tsp half and half or whole milk
3 cups of sifted flour

Chose the flavoring:
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. pure almond extract
or my favorite
1 Tbsp Brandy, plain or Apricot (Apricot is good for Easter and Spring)

In a mixer or with hand mixer, cream butter, add sugar and mix well. Add the baking powder and flavoring of choice. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl often. Add the eggs and beat until very fluffy. Add the mild or cream, blend thoroughly. Add the flour, one-half cup at a time and beat until smooth before adding the next half-cup. Beat an additional two minutes, Place in a smaller bowl and chill for at least 4 hours, (it can remain in the refrigerator for several days). Dough will be soft; do not be tempted to add more flour. If you are going to make a half-batch, divide at this point; wrap in plastic and put into a freezer bag .It will keep nicely for many months, ready to be thawed in the refrigerator and used as you need it.
When chilled, take a small amount out at a time and place on a well-floured board or clean table. Roll gently with a well-floured rolling pin, adding flour as needed, (but not too much, as it will make the cookies hard.) Roll to ¼ inch thick. Cut with floured cookie cutters and transfer to greased, cooking-spray covered or parchment paper covered baking sheets. Do not put them too close as they will rise, grow and run into each other. (If you are making sugar cookies, sprinkle with granulated sugar at this point.)
Bake in a pre-heated 325F oven for about 15 minutes or until slightly browned on the bottom and edges.
Remove, place on baking racks and cook completely. These may now be wrapped well, placed in a freezer bag with the air removed and frozen for several months, plain or iced with Royal Icing, (directions below)

Spice Cookies

1 ½ cups of butter or margarine (3 sticks), softened
1 1/4 cup of white sugar (or 1 cup white, ¼ cup brown)
½ cup mild-flavored molasses (NOT black-strap)
1 large egg
2 ½ tsp baking powder

Ground spices {1 tsp. cloves
1 ½ tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. allspice
1 Tbs. cinnamon
2 Tbs. ginger
or 6 Tbs. allspice

Cream the butter and sugars plus molasses and baking powder. Add spices. Scrape bowl. Add flour ½ cup at a time, beating well between additions and scraping sides of the bowl often. Dough will be soft and firm after it is chilled (If dividing, do so now. Wrap half of the dough in plastic wrap, place in freezer bag with all the air removed. Freeze up to 4- 6 months. Thaw in refrigerator when ready to use.) Chill dough for at least 4 hours before rolling, cutting and baking as in directions above for Basic Cookies. Bake at 350F for approx 12 minutes or until firm, (finger will not leave a dent when touched). Cool and freeze or ice with Royal Icing.

Decorate with Royal Icing made with 6 Tbsp. meringue powder, or dehydrated egg whites, ¼ cup water and 3 cups sifted powdered sugar, flavorings and colorings. (Royal Icing mix is available in some areas where cake decorating supplies are sold. Original Royal Icing is made with raw egg whites and should not be used as it is unsafe with possible contaminants and also will spoil.) You may have to adjust the firmness, (more sugar or water). Too thin and the icing may run or the designs may blend; too thick and you may not be able to work with it. If your designs are not perfect, go ahead and blur them with two or more colors swirled together. This is especially effective with leaf shapes for Autumn, Christmas bells, Easter eggs…you get the picture. Use a pastry bag or a zipper-close sandwich bag with a corner snipped-off to simply outline the cookie with icing, (good for bats and pumpkins).
Or spread icing and top with nuts, sprinkles, colored sugars or jimmies.

The Chicken House was torn down a few years ago, ravaged by time and termites. Although my sons only did the Haunted House in it for three or four years over 10 years ago, the neighbors still talk about it.We’ve had fun.I hope you do, too.