Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One for you and one for me

How many of you have been to a cookie exchange?

I went to my first one Saturday with my friends at Marsh Swamp Church.

We enjoyed music and door prizes and choosing from among several dozen varieties of cookies, fudge, candy and other sweets to eat and take home.

On Friday afternoon, I made three recipes with the help of daughter Anna and cousin Nancy Boykin. We chatted and stirred and cut and rolled and had a fun time.

Everyone who attended Saturday’s exchange was asked to take at least three dozen pieces of a holiday treat. In return, we all got to take home at least three dozen treats.

I was brave and made three new recipes! I’ll share two of them here today.

The first, tiger butter, was so easy that I had it made in less than 10 minutes. This delicious candy — made with white chocolate, dark chocolate and peanut butter — is similar to a fudge, but because I spread it thin, it reminds me more of a candy. This easy treat is delicious, and I heard several people say the same thing I noticed, that the candy melts in your mouth! This recipe made more than enough for the exchange, so I saved some for our family Christmas Eve gathering.

I made two recipes from Better Homes and Gardens’ special interest publication “100 Best Cookies.” It was so hard choosing what to make from this magazine because there are so many options! But I chose salted peanut bars and sandies.

The recipe for sandies is almost identical to my recipe for nutty fingers or lady fingers. When I make nutty fingers, I have to drag out the Mirro press that has been in my family for decades. It’s seen better days, and my husband has to turn the crank for me to press the batter through the hole to make logs. It’s not an easy task. I had already thought I’d forgo the Mirro press and make the nutty fingers as cookies this year, so when I saw the round sandies, I decided this was all the incentive I needed to try something new.

They were so easy to make and taste just like the nutty fingers my family requests each year. Before the week is out, I’ll be making two more batches of this recipe for my extended family to enjoy.

Anna and I tried many delicious treats at Saturday’s exchange, from cinnamon hard candy to chocolate dipped pretzel rods — and took home containers filled with the fruits of our friends’ labor! I asked my friends to share their recipes for my column, and several of them did just that.

These are easy recipes that you can prepare before the week is out.

We had such a nice time at the cookie exchange, and I urge others to organize or attend a similar event next year. Our exchange included young girls, moms and grandmoms and was such a nice way to spend part of a Saturday morning. Anna and I will most certain be back next year.

Melted Snowman Cookies
  • 30 ounces ready to bake sugar cookie dough
  • 16 ounces vanilla frosting
  • 2 packages (7 oz.) white decorating cookie icing
  • Bag of large marshmallows
  • Butter or margarine, for greasing your plate
  • 6-8 small Ziploc bags
Bake the sugar cookies according to directions and slice about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

While the cookies are cooling, take the container of vanilla frosting and use your favorite food coloring and split into several bowls and use the food coloring to make all different colors of frosting to decorate the cookies or if you’re in a hurry, buy individual tubes of icing. Put each color frosting in a different Ziploc bag, and snip one corner of your bag to make your piping bag.

Next use decorating cookie icing, and frost your cookies. Make sure to let a little bit of icing spill over the edge, for the melting effect. Use a spoon to help spread the icing.

Lightly grease a small plate with the butter or margarine. Place a couple of marshmallows at a time on the plate, and microwave for about 5 to 6 seconds. You want them to puff a little but not double in size, or melt. Grease your fingers and pick up your marshmallow and place it on the edge of your cookie. Press it down slightly. Then decorate the cookies. I used scarves, bows, earmuffs and arms to decorate.

Makes about 12 to 15 cookies.

Heather Scott

Peanut Clusters
  • 1 6-ounce package chocolate chips
  • 1 12-ounce package butterscotch chips
  • 1 12-ounce package salted Spanish peanuts
Combine chocolate and butterscotch chips in 2-quart bowl. Heat in microwave on 60% power for 4 minutes, stirring once during melting. Stir in peanuts.

Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper and let set.

Microwave time may vary, but it’s better to start low and add time because you can’t use it if it’s overcooked.

Beverly Boyette

Tiger Butter
  • 2 6-ounce packages white chocolate squares
  • 1/2 heaping cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
Coat a large baking pan with wax paper.

In a medium-size bowl, melt white chocolate according to box directions. I used the microwave. Stir the chocolate to blend. Mix in the peanut butter.

Pour mixture onto waxed paper. Spread with the back of a spoon to desired thickness.

Melt chocolate chips. Start at 30 seconds in microwave. Stir. Continue heating at 15 second intervals until melted, but be careful not to overcook.

Dot the surface of the white chocolate mixture with the dark chocolate. With a knife or toothpick, swirl the dark chocolate into the white chocolate to make pretty marble designs.

Let the candy stand to harden. Can briefly place in refrigerator if needed.

Cut into squares or break.

Lisa Batts

Babe Ruth Bars
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Karo Syrup (light)
  • 1 3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 5 1/2 cup Special K cereal
  • 12 oz. bag milk chocolate chips
Mix sugar and Karo syrup together in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over peanut butter stir until creamy. Add Special K cereal gradually, stirring to coat flakes. Put mixture in a 9x13 dish sprayed with cooking spray or greased lightly with butter. Pack down until even. Melt chocolate according to directions then pour over mixture; spread evenly. Let chocolate harden then cut into bars.

Wendy Skinner prepared this from a recipe given to her by Pennettie Bass.

Classic Christmas Sandies
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
In a mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in water and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour and the pecans. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 to 60 minutes or until firm enough to shape.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 15 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

Place the 1 cup powdered sugar in a large plastic bag. Add cooled cookies, in batches, to bag. Gently shake to coat.

*Notes: I didn’t toast my pecans, and I used a small scoop to form the balls. Also, instead of coating my sandies in a bag, I rolled them in powdered sugar that I poured onto a plate.

Lisa Batts, as prepared from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Festive salad

I seldom make this broccoli and apple salad more than once a year, but it’s always for the same occasion — a family event held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

The turkey barbecue dinner at the home of my cousin Martha Cayton and husband, John, sort of transitions the family from one season to the next.

My salad — with its festive green broccoli and celery and red crunchy apples — makes me think of the holiday season ahead. I always ask myself if it’s too early to put the salad in a pretty red bowl or if I need to go with a clear or crystal bowl. I usually choose a pretty red bowl because I’m always ready to get the Christmas season started.

This salad is a variation of one I’m sure many of you make. I’ve made it before with raisins, but my family prefers it with apples, and I never include onions. It’s not difficult to make— just a lot of washing and cutting of the vegetables and the apples. I wait to add the sunflower seeds right before the salad is served.

If you’re asked to take a dish to a holiday gathering or if you’re hosting one at your house, this salad will certainly add some holiday cheer to your table!

Broccoli Apple Salad
  • 1 red apple chopped into bite-size pieces*
  • 1 bunch broccoli, washed and cut in bite-size pieces
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped into bite-size chunks
  • 1/2 cup or more sunflower kernels
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (I use reduced fat)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
Toss chopped apple, broccoli and celery.

In small bowl, mix dressing ingredients. Toss together broccoli, apple and celery with dressing. Pour into serving bowl. Arrange several pieces of apple so red is showing on top to make for a pretty display. Refrigerate.

Sprinkle sunflower kernels on top just before serving.

*Use a firm apple such as gala. I look through the apples to find the reddest ones.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make yummy memories

I really admire people who make gorgeous Christmas cookies: buttery cutouts decorated with elaborate frosting, dainty wafers dusted with powdered sugar, layered cookies oozing with sticky goodness. But I also admire moms and dads who make Christmas cookies with their children and don’t mind getting sprinkles all over the table and floor.

My husband and I decorated cookies with our children from the time they were old enough to shake sparkly red sugar onto mounds of cookie dough. Every year we’d buy new bottles of pretty sprinkles and let them shake on as much as they wanted. When they were finished, the kids would stand by the oven and peek through the window, watching their cookies bake. Afterwards, we’d all sit around the table and munch on sweet sugar cookies and drink ice cold milk. The kids loved it, and so did my husband and I.

Over the weekend, we repeated the tradition, this time with our 3-year-old granddaughter, Sora, who loves to decorate cookies whether it’s for the Fourth of July or Sunday afternoon snack.

This time around, the cookies weren’t homemade. They weren’t even the slice and bake kind. I purchased already-baked butter cookies — the flower-shaped kind with the hole in the middle.

Sora watched me frost one of the cookies with vanilla frosting I had dyed green, then she picked up the plastic knife I had provided and frosted her own. She liberally added red sugar, cookie confetti and red hots to decorate her cookie “wreaths.” She had so much fun with this impromptu cookie-decorating session before church on Sunday. It was so easy and an inexpensive way to enjoy a holiday tradition.

Were her cookies the perfect example of a magazine-quality cookie? Of course not. But they were pretty to us and were delicious. She also got a good lesson in frosting cookies.

One of the main things you must get over when decorating cookies with children is the desire to make them perfect or even pretty. Let the cookie be their creation. Let them use their imagination and decorate as they see fit. As the child gets older, his abilities will certainly improve, and he can help out more.

He can add the pretzel antlers to reindeer cookies and carefully drop on eyes and a mouth when the cookies come out of the oven. The older child can also help roll out cookie dough and press down the cookie cutter to make snowmen, Santa Claus and Christmas tree shapes.

Look through Christmas cookbooks and at online cooking sites and find cookies you and your child will enjoy making together. When you’re out shopping, let her pick out one or two bottles of sprinkles she likes and let choose someone special to share the cookies with them when they are finished.

And one more very important thing. Take photos of your child while he’s decorating her cookies.

It’s fun for me to look back and remember those days.

Reindeer cookies
  • 1 package ready-to-bake cookies (I used chocolate chip)
  • Mini twist pretzels (two per cookie)
  • M&Ms for eyes and mouth (I used red and green M&M baking bits)
Preheat oven as directed on package.

Break cookie squares into individual pieces. Gently shape squares into slightly vertical rectangles. Place pretzels at top, where antlers would be on a reindeer. Put cookie onto cookie sheet and gently press down so pretzel goes into the cookie. Don’t press down too much; you don’t want the cookie dough to be much thinner than it is from the package.* Repeat with remaining cookies, leaving space for the cookies to spread out.

Bake according to package directions.

When cookies come out of oven, add eyes and mouth while cookies are still hot.

*You can add the M&M’s at this point, but they will “bleed” into the cookie while baking. But it is safe at this point for a younger child to add the eyes and mouth. Have him put the eyes close together because they will spread out when the cookie bakes.

Cookie Wreaths
  • 1 package butter cookies with a hole in the middle
  • A tub of vanilla frosting
  • Green food coloring
  • Assorted sprinkles
Mix drops of food dye into the desired amount of frosting. Stir and continue adding dye until frosting is a pretty shade of green.

Frost the cookies. Decorate with sprinkles.

Eat a few cookies and enjoy the time spent with your child!