Monday, December 22, 2014

asleep in the hay

Thanks to our local Goodwill Store
our Christmas decor now feels complete . . . 

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

Monday, December 15, 2014

belleair beach

Last week we visited Belleair Keys where my father-in-law lived for 20+ years.
We had a flood of memories from days gone by. 
Happy times spent with "Grandpa Jim" at the beach. 
While there, we were so fortunate to have a long conversation 
with 92-year-old Sylvia Holstein who remembered Jim Sr.
as a good friend and shared great stories with us.


by the way . . .  Sylvia Holstein
is an amazing woman 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

cookie decorating

This is the first time in 33 years we won't be with any of our children for Christmas. 
So . . . we needed to recruit friends for the traditional cookie decorating. 

Thanks Cindy and Tom.

Last year , , ,

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chocolate Cherry Cordials {#10}

photo credit: The Law Student's Wife

Chocolate Cherry Cordials
makes 30

For cookies:
½   cup butter, softened
1   cup sugar
1   egg
1   tsp rum extract
 1 ½   cups flour
¹∕³cup cocoa powder
¼   tsp salt
¼   tsp baking soda
¼   tsp baking powder
30   maraschino cherries, drained and patted dry with paper towels
2   Tbsp sugar, for coating

For glaze:
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. rum extract
¾  cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, egg, and rum extract until light and fluffy. Add flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat well.

Flatten about 1 Tbsp dough. Place a cherry on top; mold dough around it. Roll in sugar. Repeat with remaining dough.

Place cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake 8 minutes. Cool on a rack.

For frosting:
Combine all ingredients, mixing until smooth. Use a small amount of frosting on each cookie.

I have more cookies recipes that we enjoy but none of them "say Christmas" so . . . 
I would love to know what your favorite Christmas cookie is.  
Perhaps you could leave a a link to your cookie in a comment.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Saltine Cracker Toffee Brittle {#9}

photo credit: savory sweet life

Saltine Cracker Toffee Brittle

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
11 oz pkg dark chocolate chips
40 saltine crackers
1 cup chopped nuts {optional}

Line a 12x17 cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
Lay crackers in a single layer on foil.
Stir and bring to boil; boil for 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and add vanilla
Pour hot syrup over crackers spreading as necessary
Bake 5-10 minutes in 350ºF oven until syrup bubbles
Remove from oven.
While hot, sprinkle with chocolate chips, let soften and melt, then spread.
Sprinkle with nuts.
Let cool.
Refrigerate until hardened.
Break into pieces like peanut brittle.

Recipe from Tracy Hack

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fern's Butter Tarts {#8}

Fern's Butter Tarts

Sure thing about Butter Tarts is that one needs to be in no hurry because dripping any drops of filling make getting the tarts removed from the  pans an ordeal.

Crust for 28 tarts and 1 single pie crust for the freezer or double batch tarts

5 cups all purpose flour
2 1/3 cups cold shortening
1 tsp salt
1 egg plus 2 tsp vinegar and enough water to make 1/2 cups liquid


2 eggs
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp vinegar 1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup walnuts

Roll out crust as for pie.  Use a biscuit cutter or canning jar lid to cut circles that fit your tart tin.  Place pastry circles in the tins and carefully spoon filling to go half way up the crust. If they are overfilled, the filling will boil up over the edge of the pastry and make it almost impossible to remove the tarts.
Bake at 400* F until crust is golden brown.

Recipe from Fern Winger via Debby Alianelo

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chocolate Pretzel Treats {#7}

photo credit: the creative kitchen

Chocolate Pretzel Treats 
Salty pretzels combine with sweet chocolate for these fun treats

Bite-size, waffle-shaped pretzels
Hershey's Kiss or Hershey's Hug
M&M's candy

1. Heat the oven to 350º. Set a number of bite-size, waffle-shaped pretzels (one for each treat) in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, then top each pretzel with an unwrapped Hershey's Kiss or Hershey's Hug.

2. Bake for 2-4 minutes (the white chocolate will melt more quickly), until the chocolates looks shiny or feel soft when touched with a wooden spoon. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and quickly press an M&M's candy into the center of each Kiss.

Use a straw to press the M&M into the Kiss. It keeps your fingers out of the chocolate and helps to give them all a neat and uniform look.

Allow the treats to cool. You could place them in the refrigerator to set for about 10 minutes. Place handfuls of the candies in clear plastic bags and tie on colorful ribbons.

From the Recipe Box of my sister-in-law Tracy

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Coconut Rum Balls {#6}

photo credit: joy of baking

Coconut Rum Balls 
Makes: 40 cookie balls

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 2/3 to 3 cups sweetened flake coconut

Heat oven to 350
Coat 2 large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. In medium-size bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, egg yolks, rum extract and salt on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. On low speed, gradually beat in flour just until blended and soft dough forms.

Spread coconut onto a plate. Drop 1 level tablespoon dough at a time onto plate; roll to evenly coat with coconut, forming balls. Place 1 inch apart onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake in 350 oven 18 minutes or until coconut is golden.
Transfer cookies to wire rack; let cool completely.

From the Recipe Box of my friend Vicki Spurr

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cherry Bow Ties {#5}

Cherry Bow Ties 
Makes: 4 dozen bow ties  
Refrigerate: 1 hour Bake: at 350 for 14 to 16 minutes

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 cup confectioners 10X sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
24 each green and red candied cherries, each halved
1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds

In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, egg, almond extract and salt on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. On low speed, gradually beat in flour just until combined.

Refrigerate 1 hour to firm. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls on ungreased baking sheet. Flatten slightly with a flat bottom glass dippped in flour. Pinch together top and bottom of each circle to make bow-tie shape.

Decorate by pressing cherry half into center of each bow tie, and almonds on sides.

Bake in 350 oven 14 to 16 minutes or until golden and set around edges.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Salted Caramel Pretzel Cookies {#4}

Salted Caramel Pretzel Cookies
Yield: about 36 cookies
{recipe adapted from Food Network Kitchen}

3 cups broken thin pretzel sticks
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup thick caramel sauce  *
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat to 325 degrees F.

Put 2 cups pretzels in a zip-loc plastic bag and crush into coarse crumbs.

Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

Whisk the egg yolks, honey, and vanilla, then add to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated.

Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the flour and ¼ cup pretzel crumbs.  Beat until just combined.

Put the remaining crushed pretzels in a shallow bowl. Drop a small cookie scoop of dough on top of the pretzels and roll into ball, pressing so the pretzels adhere.

Place cookies on a cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the cookies to parchment lined baking sheets {about 1 1/2 inches apart}.  Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Switch the position of the pans halfway through.  Remove from oven and make an indentation in each cookie with the back of a ¼ teaspoon.  Let cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Fill each indentation with caramel sauce sprinkle with sea salt.

Easy Caramel Sauce *
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter (4 Tablespoons)
1/2 cup cream
1 Tablespoon vanilla
 Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker. Turn off heat. Serve warm or refrigerate until cold.

If sauce is thin, just continue cooking for a few more minutes.

 {original recipe from food network kitchen}

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Perfect Soft Sugar Cookies {#3}

Perfect Soft Sugar Cookies
3 dozen 2” circles or 2 dozen cutouts

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 pkg (3 oz.) cream cheese softened
1 c. sugar (7 oz / 198 g)
1/2 c. powdered sugar (2 oz / 113 g)
1 egg
1 tsp. almond extract
2 3/4 c. flour (11.7 oz / 330 g)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Cream butter, cream cheese and sugars in large bowl until fluffy.
3. Add egg and almond extract beat until smooth.
4. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
5. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Stir until soft dough forms. Chill
6. Roll out and cut with cookie cutter. Thin dough will make crunchy cookies.
For soft dough, it needs to be about 1/4 in.
7. Bake 8-10 minutes on parchment-lined cookie sheet.

2 Tbsp butter (softened)
2 1/4 c powdered sugar (9 oz / 255 g)
1/4 c milk (a little at a time until right consistency)
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
food coloring (optional)

Add milk a little at a time, beating until smooth and thin enough to spread.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dipped Gingerbread Cookies {#2}

Dipped Gingerbread Cookies
This a new addition to our Christmas Cookie collection.

For an easy start, make Gingerbread Cookies from a Betty Crocker Mix.
Add ingredients according to package directions.

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® gingerbread cookie mix
1/2 cup butter softened
1 tablespoon water
1 egg
3-4 squares almond bark (about 12 ounces)

Heat oven to 375°F.
In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, water and egg until soft dough forms.

On lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a log 2 inches thick
Cover "cookie roll" with waxed paper and refrigerate for two hours.

Slice cookies 1/4 inch thick from the chilled "cookie roll"
Place cookie slices 2 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are set

Cool 1 minute and remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks
Cool completely, about 15 minutes.

Melt almond bark squares (about 3 at a time)
Melt in the microwave for 60 seconds then . . .
Heat in 15 second intervals and stir with wooden spoon until melted.
It may appear a little "lumpy" but will continue melting when stirred.
(Be careful not heat too much or it will seize up.)

Dip cookies in halfway and shake off excess almond bark

Place dipped cookies on waxed paper
Allow almond bark to set

You can store them tightly covered in the freezer for up to two months

Monday, December 1, 2014

Frosted Mint Chocolate Cookies {#1}

photo credit : taste of home

Andes Candy Frosted Mint Chocolate Cookies 
My Favorite Christmas Cookie 
(makes about 4 dozen cookies)

3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cocoa
30 Andes Creme De Menthe Wafer Candies

Cream butter. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add milk and vanilla an beat well. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Add dry mixture to the creamed mixture. Beat until a dough forms

Use a cookie scoop or drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake @ 350 for 10-11 minutes (until tops begin to crack)

While cookies are baking unwrap and break in half each mint candy
Immediately after removing cookies from oven put candy piece on each hot cookie.
Remove cookies from cookie sheet to cool. After 2-3 minutes chocolate will be melted.
Lightly spread melted candy with the back of a spoon so a little green shows swirled with the chocolate. Let cool until "frosting" hardens.

From the Recipe Box of Christine Messmer (my college roommate)


Alternate Recipe (from a cake mix) not quite as good as the original but easier
(makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies)
1 box chocolate cake mix (devil's food is a good choice)
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
Andes Creme De Menthe Thins (28 in a box)

Combine cake mix, oil, egg and flour with electric mixer.
Use a cookie scoop or drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake @ 350 for 10-11 minutes (until tops begin to crack)

While cookies are baking unwrap and break in half each mint candy
Immediately after removing cookies from oven put candy piece on each hot cookie.
Remove cookies from cookie sheet to cool. After 2-3 minutes chocolate will be melted.
Lightly spread melted candy with the back of a spoon so a little green shows swirled with the chocolate.