Happy Holidays

I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season with family and friends and delicious food! Sadly, I did not get to bake as many cookies as I usually do, but I hope you enjoyed the ones that I did post. You will be happy to know that I have big plans for 2014…Since I got a slow cooker for Christmas I will be experimenting with some new recipes!

As always, any suggestions are welcome. So if you have an idea of something I should try and conjure up in my crock pot please feel free to comment. Enjoy the rest of 2013, friends. The New Year is almost upon us.

Happy eating!

Chocolate Chip Tea Cakes (Christmas Style)

Chocolate Chip Tea Cakes (Christmas Style)

I usually make Russian tea cakes, but today I decided to try something new…chocolate chip tea cakes!

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup finely chopped nuts (I like walnuts)
2 cups (1 package) Nestle Holiday Morsels

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In large bowl, cream together butter and powdered sugar. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour and then nuts. Stir in 1 and 1/2 cups morsels.
Roll dough into balls 1 inch in diameter and place on tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are set and golden brown on the bottom. Cool on tray for 2 minutes before transferring to wire rack.
You can then melt some of the reserved chips to drizzle along top of the cookies. I chose not too since they are already sweet (and I didn’t think red+green+brown would look very pretty).

Variations:
Try using different morsels or different nuts!

Magic Cookie Bars

Magic Cookie Bars

To many people sweetened condensed milk is a very unusual food, but it is a DELICIOUS one. In this timeless recipe, the sweetened condensed milk ties everything together and makes for a fabulous dessert!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 and 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chip morsels
1 and 1/3 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (I like walnuts)

Instructions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 for a glass dish). Lightly grease bottom of 13×9 baking pan.
Combine melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. Pat mixture evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk on top, in an even layer. Continue this layering technique next with chocolate chips, followed by coconut, and then nuts.
Once all ingredients are layered, at the bars down. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until coconut is golden brown.
Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting. You can store covered, at room temperature or in the freezer (for longer periods of time).

Variations:
Replace walnuts with pecans or other nuts
Substitute different morsels for the semisweet…you can even mix & match!

Blackberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Yum! Thumbprint are quite possibly my favorite Christmas cookie. I should make them more often!

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks from large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
roughly 5 tablespoons fruit jam (I chose blackberry)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
In large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in yolks and vanilla. Gradually add flour and salt. Mix until well-blended.
Roll dough into small balls 1 inch in diameter. Place on prepared baking sheet. Indent each ball with your thumb or the back of a small spoon.
Bake 8-10 minutes or until cookies are set and bottoms are just barely golden brown. If needed, reinforce cookies’ indents. Carefully spoon about 1/2 teaspoonful of jam in the center of each cookie.
Bake for 3-4 more minutes until edges of the cookie are slightly golden and the jam melts in the middle. Transfer cookies to cooling rack.

Yield: about 40 small cookies

*If you plan on freezing these cookies for a later date, place them in a box (one of those gift boxes for clothes from a department store, a shoe box, or any other sturdy box) and place wax paper between the layers so the jam will not stick.

Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate Truffles

These truffles are the ultimate chocolate-lover treat, and with so many variations you can make a special batch for everyone!

Ingredients:
18 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 and 1/2 standard bags)
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Coatings:
colored sugar, colored sprinkles, nonpareils, cocoa, powdered sugar, chopped nuts, etc…

Stove-top Instructions:
In medium saucepan, heat chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk over low heat. Remove from heat. Add vanilla.

Microwave Instructions:
In 1-quart glass bowl, combine chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Microwave on high power for 3 minutes, stirring at 1 and 1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir until smooth.

Continued Instructions:
Chill mixture in bowl until firm, about 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator and let sit until you can work with mixture.
Roll dough into small balls (you can determine which size is best). You can place your colored sugar or other coatings in small bowls. Roll the truffle in coating of your choice and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
Once all truffles are done, place tray in freezer about 5 minutes until truffles are set. Transfer to freezer-safe container and store in freezer until ready to serve.

Variations:
I like to mix confectioner’s sugar with a little unsweetened cocoa as one of my truffle coatings. The possibilities for coatings are endless. Try some of these:
chopped toasted almonds
flaked coconut
finely grated orange rind

You can also replace vanilla extract with different extracts or even liqueurs. Try these instead:
3 tablespoons amaretto or other almond-flavored liquor + 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons orange-flavored liquor
1/4 cup dark rum
3 tablespoons bourbon

Cream Cheese Mints

Cream Cheese Mints

These are simple and festive for the holidays!

Ingredients:
4 ounces (1/2 standard package) Cream Cheese
1 tablespoon margarine
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
4 cups powdered sugar

Extras:
2-3 drops food coloring (whatever color you want)
powdered sugar (less than 1/4 cup)
icing for decorating

Instructions:
Beat cream cheese, margarine, corn syrup, and extract in large mixing bowl until well-blended. Gradually add sugar. Mix well.
If adding color, divide dough and add food coloring until desired shade. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper.
Coat your hands with powdered sugar. Roll dough into small balls and place on sheet, leaving about an inch between balls.
Dip fork in powdered sugar. Press down on each ball to make a lined print on the mints. Dip fork in sugar frequently to prevent sticking.
Place tray in freezer for a few minutes, until set. Store in freezer-tight container until ready to serve.

M&M Cookies

M&M Cookies

I must say, these are not my favorite cookies. But they are good enough to be shared!

Ingredients:
1 cup light brown sugar, packed firmly
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 bag (about 2 cups) M&M’s

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, cream together sugars, eggs, shortening, and vanilla.
In medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, soda, and salt. Gradually add this mixture to creamed mix. Stir in about half of the bag of M&M’s.
Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased baking sheet. Add a few M&M’s to each cookie before placing in the preheated oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Remove from oven. Let cookies stand on baking sheet for 1-2 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.