Christmas Recipe Roundup

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Here’s the roundup of my favorite Christmas cookies and treats.  Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!!!!

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7 Layer Bars

Almond Paste Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread

Cranberry & Pistachio White Chocolate Bark

Eggnog Cookies

Gingerbread Loaf w/Cream Cheese Frosting

Hazelnut Shortbread

Italian Sprinkle Cookies

Jelly-Filled Cookies

Mint Chocolate Chip Fudge

Panettone

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Chocolate Crinkles

Ricciarelli Cookies

Saltine Toffee Brittle

Thin Mint Cookie Fudge

Venetians

White Chocolate Chex Mix

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Big News & Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

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I’m back! I think my last post was on Halloween??? Sorry for the major vacation. I have a very good excuse though… we’re having a baby!!!! The hubby and I are very very excited and feel very blessed about our little bun-in-the-oven. I’m 18 weeks along and feel much better than I did during the first trimester. I was not baking at all and barely cooking throughout the majority of November. Since I’m in my 2nd trimester, I feel much better and have a little more pep-in-my-step (although I could always use more!).
I have been baking Christmas cookies throughout December, but I decided to hold off blogging about them because I’ve blogged about them before. However, I did try baking a new cookie this year called Hazelnut Shortbread. I’m always intimidated to bake shortbread because it calls for so much butter and sugar, but it’s Christmastime, so excessive calories are justified. I love anything hazelnut and if you’re like me, you’ll def love these cookies. Enjoy!
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Ingredients:
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup ground toasted hazelnuts
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (you could use white chocolate as well)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour and hazelnuts; gradually add to butter mixture and mix well (dough will be sticky). Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/4″ thickness. Use floured cookie cutter of choice and place on ungreased baking sheets, 1″ apart.
  3. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before moving cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips until smooth. Drizzle over cookies and allow to set. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 3.5 dozen cookies

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Halloween Cut-Out Cookies w/Royal Icing

I hope everyone on the east coast is safe after Sandy.  We had a few travails here but our power is back on and our roof leak (thanks to a tree branch) is fixed.  We are very fortunate because we still have family and friends that are without power.  Before the storm came, I baked these delicious Halloween Cut-Out Cookies w/Royal Icing.  I love this Royal Icing recipe because it calls for Meringue Powder instead of raw egg whites.  I added almond extract to the frosting and it really makes the cookies taste a million times better.  You can buy Meringue Powder at Michael’s or any other craft store.  This sour cream cut-out cookie recipe is my Mom’s that she’s been using for as long as I can remember.  These cookies are moist and fluffy… the cookie dough is pretty addicting too.  HappHalloween!!

Cut-Out Cookie Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Royal Icing (see recipe below)
  • Sprinkles for decorating

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, and sour cream until smooth.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients.  Beat until batter forms.  Place plastic wrap over bowl of stand mixer and refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  4. Remove dough from refrigerator and turn onto a dusted flour surface.  Sprinkle with flour lightly knead.  Divide dough in 2 balls.  Set 1 aside.  With a dusted rolling pin, roll 1 dough to 1/2″ thickness.  Using cookie cutters of choice, press into dough.  Place cookies onto baking sheet.  Re-roll remaining dough scrapes until  used up.  Repeat with second ball of dough.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are golden.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

*Yield:  About 4 dozen cookies (depending on size of cookie cutters)

Royal Icing Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp Meringue Powder
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar sifted
  • 6 tbsp warm water
  • 1 tsp almond extract
Directions:
  1. In a stand mixer, beat all ingredients until icing forms a peak (7-10 minutes at low speed).  If frosting is too thick, add more water, 1 tbsp at a time, until desired consistency.
  2. With an icing knife, spread frosting onto cookie.  Decorate with sprinkles while frosting is still wet.  Repeat until all cookies are frosted.  Allow to cool completely before eating or storing in tupperware.

*Yield:  About 3 cups

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Cinnamon Rolls w/Cream Cheese Frosting

I remember going to the mall when I was little and splitting one of those gigantic cinnamon buns with my sister.  They were huge, delicious, and always oozing with unhealthy amounts of frosting.  I haven’t had one of those cinnamon buns in a really long time (this is probably a good thing).  But I’ve seen a ton of recipes to bake your own, so I decided to give them a try.  They are a little time-consuming because they require active yeast, but nothing too crazy since the majority of the time is spent letting the dough rise.  And believe me, that extra TLC that you put into baking them will be well worth the effort.  These Cinnamon Rolls w/Cream Cheese Frosting were absolutely mouthwatering!  My hubby, who normally doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, loved them so much that when I suggested he bring them to work to share, he responded quite seriously with “I’m not sharing them.”  Okay then… enough said!

Dough:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 1 envelope yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Filling:

  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Glaze:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For dough:

  1. Combine milk and butter in a glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30-45 seconds.  Make sure to not overheat milk and butter.  If you do, allow to cool until 120-130 degrees.  Pour milk and butter into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.
  2. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt.  Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 21/2 cups flour.  Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl.
  3. Replace paddle attachment with kneading hook and knead until smooth, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes.  Form into ball.  Lightly oil a large bowl with nonstick spray.  Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel.  Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For filling:

  1. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.
  2. Punch down dough and transfer to floured work surface.  Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle.  Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter.  Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up.  With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).
  3. Spray two 9-inch glass baking dishes with nonstick spray.  Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls).  Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel.  Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40-45 minutes.
  4. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F.  Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack.  Cool 10 minutes and then turn rolls right side up.

For glaze:

  1. Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat until smooth.  Spread glaze on rolls and serve warm or at room temperature.

*Adapted from Epicurious

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Vegetable Strata

I made this Vegetable Strata several weeks ago for my mother-in-law’s birthday brunch, but I forgot to blog about it!  It always makes my life easier when I have several blog posts created and ready to go.  I usually try to make several dishes on the weekends so I can have my posts ready for the week.  Life gets busy and sometimes the last thing I want to do after I get home from work is mess around in the kitchen when I could be watching episodes of Breaking Bad (my hubby and I are currently obsessed with this show).
       This strata was delicious and filling; the veggies, eggs, bread, and potatoes made this course shine, even without meat.  You could definitely add bacon or sausage and make this dish even more scrumptious and filling.  This strata can be made a day ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to bake it.  It’s perfect for a fall brunch with family or friends.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Two 1/2-pound baguettes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound Gruyère cheese, cut into 1/3-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 6 eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the bread on 2 large baking sheets and bake in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through.
  2. In a large saute pan, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onion, sweet potatoes, celery and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 6 minutes. Stir in the thyme, salt, and pepper and transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  3. Add the Gruyère, Parmesan and bread to the vegetables. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, stock, and milk and add to the vegetablie and bread mixture; toss until evenly mixed and moistened. Cover the strata with plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 4-quart glass or ceramic baking dish. Transfer the strata to the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface. Butter a large sheet of foil and cover the baking dish with it. Bake the strata in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, or until barely set. Remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes longer, or until the strata is bubbling and the top is golden and crusty.
  5. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and, using a ladle, press 6 indentations into the bread mixture. Crack an egg into each indentation. Return the dish to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny.

*Adapted from Food & Wine

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Pumpkin Chocolate Bars w/Cream Cheese Frosting

Last week, the hubby and I were busy around the house (or busy watching someone do work around our house).  We had an electrician come and do some much-needed electrical work inside and oustide the house.  He wired and hung a ceiling fan in our screened-in-porch.  Now, when it’s 95 and disgusting outside, we can actually sit on our porch and enjoy it.  He hung a motion sensor light outside.  He hung a chandelier in our stairway.  He also wired and installed recessed LED lights in the kitchen (Thanks to the hubby for convincing me that LEDs are the better option!).  A professor in grad school once told me that political scientists think about issues that will affect society 4 years from now, but economists think about issues that will affect society 10-15 years from now.  LEDs are more expensive up front, but they will last for up to 28 years.  Seems like a good investment to me!
         In other news, I baked these Pumpkin Chocolate Bars w/Cream Cheese Frosting.  I’m not a huge chocolate fan but paired with pumpkin, these bars are fantastic and slightly addicting.  They’re easy to bake and will put you in a festive fall mood.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Icing:

  • 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, applesauce, and pumpkin until well blended.  Combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips and pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan.  Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until set.  Cool completely.
  2. For icing, beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Add enough milk to achieve spreading consistency.  Spread over cooled bars and top with chocolate sprinkles.  Store in the refrigerator.

*Adapted from Taste of Home

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Caramel Apple Cookies

What’s not to love about caramel apples?  They’re sweet and more sweet.  In fact, when I was little, I used to think they were fairly healthy treats (I was getting my apple-a-day, right?).  I now know that any food covered in caramel sauce is not the healthiest, but I’m still infatuated with this treat anyways.  That’s why I knew I had to bake these Caramel Apple Cookies when I saw the recipe.  These cookies are addicting and delicious.  Enjoy at your own risk! 

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup chunky-style applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup caramel bites

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Put butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low speed until combined.  Add egg and applesauce, mix until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes.  Mix in oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Mix in caramel bites.
  2. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until golden and just set, 13 to 15 minutes.  Let cool on sheets 5 minutes and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
 *Adapted from Martha Stewart

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