Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 25: Chex Mix

Merry Christmas everyone!!  I figured I would end the collection of Christmas recipes with Chex Mix.  My family makes a variation of the classic original.

4 1/2 cups Corn Chex cereal
4 1/2 cups Rice Chex cereal
1 cup mixed nuts, cashews, or peanuts
1 cup (or large handful) pretzel sticks
1 stick butter
1-2 pouches Chex Mix seasoning OR 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt, 3/4 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp onion powder

Line a large area with newspaper or brown paper bags topped with paper towels.  Melt butter in microwave; stir in seasonings.  Meanwhile, mix together cereal, nuts, and pretzels.  Stir sauce once more before pouring over cereal mixture.  Stir together and microwave for 2 minutes; mix well and microwave an additional 3 minutes.  Stir once more and microwave for a final 2 minutes.  Shake out onto prepared area lined with paper towels to dry.  Once Chex Mix has cooled, sprinkle with M&Ms and store in an airtight container.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 24: Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

This is another of my favorite cookie recipes.  What's not to love about the combination of peanut butter and chocolate?

1¾ cups flour
1 tsp soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 unbeaten egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup peanut butter
Hershey’s Kisses

Preheat oven to 375. Mix together all ingredients, except Kisses to assemble the dough.  Shape into balls and roll in extra sugar.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and press a Hershey’s Kiss in center of each cookie until it cracks around the edges.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 23: Candy!!!

I big fat puffy heart love making candy during Christmas. The components to my candy trays have varied throughout the years, but I've decided to include the recipes I made this year.

The picture above is last year's tray. This year they were very similar, but I added my English Toffee recipe to the mix.

Note: Several of my recipes call for almond bark. You do NOT need to use the double boiler method. Simply, place necessary amount of almond bark in a microwave-safe dish (preferably glass). Microwave for 90 seconds and stir. Microwave for another 90 seconds and stir. If it is not smooth, continue microwaving and stirring in 30 seconds increments until smooth and completely melted. It is much quicker than using the double boiler method. The package may also come with microwaving instructions, so feel free to take a peek at them. However, I do not recommend microwaving in the trays that some almond bark is packaged in. Hopefully this saves you a lot of time and hassle.


Peanut Butter Balls:
3 sticks oleo (margarine), softened
1 (18 oz.) jar creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 pounds powdered sugar
Chocolate almond bark OR 12 oz. milk chocolate chips, 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, and 1/2 or 3/4 stick paraffin wax

Cream together margarine and peanut butter with a hand mixer. Slowly add in powdered sugar mixing well between each addition. With the last bit of powdered sugar, stir in the vanilla too. Chill at least 2 hours then roll into small balls. Chill for another hour or two before dipping. Melt the almond bark or chocolate and wax mixture; dip peanut butter balls. Place dipped balls on wax paper and chill to set.

*I always use almond bark for dipping. It is less expensive and prevents the wax taste. Also, feel free to use white chocolate almond bark in place of chocolate. I make both for the candy trays.


Coconut Balls (mock Almond Joy):
1 (14 oz) package shredded coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Chocolate almond bark OR 12 oz. chocolate chips and 1/8 to 1/4 bar paraffin wax

Mix together coconut and milk, using a wooden spoon. Let chill for at least 2 hours and roll into small balls. Chill for another hour or two before dipping. Melt almond bark and dip coconut balls. Place on waxed paper and chill to set.


Peppermint Bark:
1 pound white chocolate almond bark
9 oz. candy canes, crushed (small ones work best)
1 tsp peppermint extract, optional

Line a sheet pan with foil. Melt almond bark in the microwave. Stir in extract until well incorporated. Add in candy canes and pour onto prepared pan. Chill until set; break into small pieces.


Turtle Pretzels:
Square (windowpane) pretzels
Rolo candies
Pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place square pretzels on foil-lined pan leaving some space between each pretzels. Next, top with a Rolo. Bake for 3-4 minutes or until chocolate is glossy and slightly melting. Remove from oven and immediately press a pecan half onto each pretzels.


Hugs or Kisses Pretzels:
Round (or bow tie) pretzels
Hershey's Hugs or Kisses candies

The instructions are very similar to the Turtle Pretzels. Line a pan with foil and spread out pretzels. Place a Kiss or Hug in the center of each pretzel. Bake at 350 for 3-4 minutes or until glossy and melting. Remove from oven and immediately press an M&M onto the center (tip of Kiss/Hug).

My favorite for these are the Candy Cane Kisses with red or green M&M's. It makes them look and taste more festive.


2 cups chocolate chips
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 small (7 oz.) jar marshmallow creme
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla

Line an 8x8" square pan with foil, extending foil over the edges. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine sugar, marshmallow, milk, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips and pour into foil-lined pan. Cool to room temperature; refrigerate until firm. Use foil to lift fudge from pan. Cut into pieces; store in an airtight container at room temperature.

*Can use any flavor of chips: mint, white chocolate, butterscotch, chocolate, or peanut butter. May also add 1 cup chopped walnuts to make nutty fudge.

*May make a double-decker fudge by placing 1 cup each of 2 different flavored chips in separate bowls. Once you stir in vanilla; pour half the mixture over one flavor of chips stirring until chips melt. Quickly spread into prepared pan. Pour remaining mixture over second flavor of chips and stir until melted. Quickly and carefully spread over first layer.


Peanut Clusters:
1 pound chocolate or white chocolate almond bark
2-3 small cans of peanuts (don't use honey roasted or Spanish)

Melt almond bark and stir in peanuts. Drop by spoonful onto waxed paper and allow to set until firm.

*I struggle with knowing how much I use because I usually buy a large can of peanuts and guess until it is the right consistency. There should be an almost equal amount of peanuts and chocolate, so they don't get too runny (too much chocolate) or dry (too many peanuts).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 22: Shrimp Spread

This is a ridiculously simple recipe. The combination works together well and it seems to be a favorite Christmas appetizer. If you plan on making it to take somewhere, simply place the shrimp mixture in a bowl and assemble when arriving at your destination.

1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1 small can mini shrimp
1 jar cocktail sauce

Mix together mini shrimp and cocktail sauce. On a small serving tray, either place softened block of cream OR spread an even layer in the middle of the tray. Pour shrimp mixture over cream cheese. Serve with crackers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 21: Special K Treats (Bars)

I think this is one of the unhealthiest way to eat a relatively healthy cereal. However, I definitely know it is the best way I have tried. These bar cookies are one of my favorite treats to have as a surprise.

1 cup sugar
1 cup Karo/corn syrup (light)
1 stick margarine
1 small jar chunky peanut butter
6 cups Special K cereal
6 oz package chocolate chips
6 oz package butterscotch chips

Bring sugar, corn syrup, and margarine to a boil. Add peanut butter and mix well until melted. Add in cereal and stir to evenly coat. Press into 9x13 pan. Melt together chocolate and butterscotch chips. Pour over cereal bars and spread to smooth out.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 20: White Hot Chocolate

This delicious drink is a variation on the traditional hot cocoa using white chocolate instead of milk chocolate.

12 oz. bar white chocolate, finely chopped
6 c. milk
2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
milk chocolate shavings for garnish

Place white chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine milk and cream in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around edges, about 4 minutes. Do NOT boil! Pour over reserved white chocolate. Gentle stir to combine, melting the white chocolate. Whisk in vanilla. Pour into mugs and sprinkle with chocolate shaving. Serve immediately.

Christmas Treats Day 19: Russian Tea Cakes

I love the combination of nuttiness and sweetness while eating Russian Tea Cakes. The cookies just melt in your mouth.

1 cup butter/margarine, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
2¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup pecans (dust/sand-like)
Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 400. In large mixing bowl, combine butter, ½ cup sugar, and extracts. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add flour and salt. Beat at low speed until soft dough forms. Stir in pecans. Shape into 1” balls. Place balls 2” apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Immediately roll cookies in powdered sugar before storing.

Yields: 3 1/2 dozen

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 18: Easy Oreo Truffles

These super rich truffles will melt in your mouth. They quickly become addicting, which may or may not be a bad thing.

16 oz package Oreo cookies, divided
8 oz block cream cheese, softened
2 8 oz packages semi-sweet baking chocolate (or almond bark), melted
*may use chocolate or white chocolate

Crush 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in the food processor and set aside for later. Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs and place in a medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 1-inch balls. Dip balls in melted chocolate and place on wax paper-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs. Refrigerate until firm for about 1 hour.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 17: Velveeta Cheese Dip

This cheese dip is fantastic from the standpoint of making it and eating it. It can easily be made in a Crock Pot before a party as an appetizer or for snacking throughout the day.

1 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
1 pound ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
1 medium to large jar salsa, medium spice*

Scramble and drain ground beef; add taco seasoning. Stir in cheese and salsa until Velveeta has melted. Add to Crock Pot to keep warm. Serve with tortilla chips.

*This tends to vary with what is on hand. You can use as much salsa as you'd like to get the consistency you prefer. Adjust the spice to your personal preference and keep in mind that others will be eating it also and may have a different palate.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 16: Coconut Cherry Drops

These cookies are another of my favorites. They taste great and are super easy to make.

1¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
1 cup flaked coconut
½ cup pecans
¼ cup chopped maraschino cherries, drained

In large bowl, combine all ingredients except coconut, pecans, and cherries. Blend well with mixer. Stir in remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Cool.

Yields: 2-3 dozen

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 15: Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes / Potatoes Delight

These are a great recipe for holiday meals.  I haven't met a person who doesn't like them.  They can be made the day of a party and reheat great, if needed.

2 lbs frozen hash browns, thawed *I typically use Ore Ida Potatoes O'Brien*
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 stick margarine, melted
1 pint sour cream
8 oz grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all and put into a greased 9"x13" pan.
Optional: Top with 1 cup crushed potato chips or corn flake crumbs

Bake at 375 for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender and cheese is golden and melted.

Note: If your potatoes are not completely thawed, they will take longer to cook, but still work fine. Usually if you get them out the day of the event, you'll be fine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 14: German Springerle Cookies

I have to start this post with a major confession.  I do not like these cookies at all.  You may be wondering I would possibly post a recipe I don't like.  The truth is, I just don't like anise (black licorice) flavored things.  My mom and brother love the taste and these cookies, so I've decided to share it.

4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon anise oil or 1 teaspoon anise extract
4 cups flour

Prepare baking sheets with greased parchment paper or silicone baking sheets. Avoid insulated sheets as they will cause the cookies to brown during baking.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs on high speed of your electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar, butter, and baking powder; beat at high speed for 15 minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in anise oil or extract. Gradually beat in flour until well mixed.

On a lightly floured board, knead the dough a few time (the dough will be sticky at first, so knead in just enough flour to make it manageable. Lightly flour your springerle rolling pin (like the one pictures below). 

 On a lightly-floured board, roll out dough, using a standard rolling pin, into a rectangle about 1/2 - inch thick. 

Using your springerle rolling pin, roll slowly and firmly over the dough to make a clear design. Using a sharp knife, cut cookies apart and trim off outside edges. Roll out scraps of dough and repeat. 

NOTE: Be sure to flour the rolling pin and board before each pressing. This will insure the dough will not stick. Place cookies on your prepared cookie sheets. Let cookies stand, uncovered, overnight to dry. Drying preserves the image during baking.

Preheat oven to 350. Bake about 10 minutes until slightly golden on bottoms, but white on top. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to wire racks to cool (let cookies stand overnight to completely dry before storing). 

Storage: Keep cookies in a tight container for 2 or 3 weeks before using to achieve the best flavor. 

The number of cookies this recipe yields depends on the size and thickness of the springerle cookies.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 13: English Toffee

I first tasted this recipe last Christmas.  Some close family friends were visiting and had an entire tray of sweets.  The husband doesn't like chocolate, which I find insane but that's beside the point.  Anyway, since the toffee has chocolate on top, there was a ton left.  I got hooked on it and can't wait to make it this year.

1 pound oleo
2 cups sugar
½ cup chopped nuts
6 large Hershey bars, unwrapped

Put oleo in heavy pan with sugar and nuts on high heat.  Stir constantly.  When candy turns dark brown, remove from heat.  Pour into jelly roll pan.  Immediately place Hershey bars on top so they can melt.  Spread chocolate over candy and sprinkle with nuts.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 12: Lime Jell-O / Mom's Smith Salad

This is my mom's absolutely favorite Jell-O salad and her mom (my grandma) makes it for every holiday gathering at her house.  I don't remember her bringing it to any other family gathering, so I've decided to include it in the Christmas recipes.

1 large package lime Jell-O
1½ cups boiling water
8 oz cream cheese, softened
¾ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup walnuts
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 jar diced maraschino cherries
8 oz Cool Whip

Mix Jell-O, water, and cream cheese well.  Add celery, walnuts, pineapple and juice, and cherries.  Let partially set; stir.  Add in Cool Whip and chill at least 30 minutes before serving.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 11: Old-fashioned Apple Punch

I love to try out new drink recipes for Christmas. I typically make Pink Anniversary Punch because I love the flavor and color. Instead of having egg nog or an adult beverage, this is a great spiced punch to try.

2 quarts apple juice or cider
1 cup orange juice
3 cinnamon sticks
28 oz. 7-Up
12 whole cloves
1 Cortland apple, thinly sliced

Simmer one quart apple juice with spices for 10 minutes.  Refrigerate several hours or overnight to develop full spiced flavor.  Discard cinnamon and cloves.  Combine mixture and remaining chilled apple and orange juice in large punch bowl.  Slowly pour in chilled 7-Up.  Garnish with apple slices.

Yields: 26 cups

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 10: Mint chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

I love the look of these cookies.  They offer a nice pop of color compared to the typically plain colors of cookie doughs.  I was watching an episode of Good Eats the other night and they had a similar recipe.  In their version, they had a chocolate sugar cookie dough (with vanilla extract) and a regular sugar cookie dough with peppermint extract and crushed candy canes.  The recipe below could easily be adapted to remind you even more of Christmas.

2/3 cup sugar
½ cup butter/margarine, softened
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mint chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled

In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, butter, egg, milk, and vanilla.  Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt.  Beat at low speed until soft dough forms.  Divide dough in half.  In large bowl, combine half the dough and melted chips.  Beat at low speed until well blended.  On lightly floured wax paper, roll chocolate dough into 1/8” thick rectangle.  Do the same with white dough onto another piece.  Turn white rectangle carefully onto chocolate rectangle, matching edges.  Discard top sheet of wax paper.  Roll dough, jelly roll style, starting with long end.  (Pull off paper as you go.)  Pinch edge to seal.  Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper.  Chill 2-3 hours or until firm.  Heat oven to 350.  Cut roll into ¼” slices.  Place slices 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set.  Cool completely before storing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Treats Day 9: Ranch Oyster Crackers

This snack makes my taste buds happy year around.  However, I only seem to make it in the winter time.  The crackers are super simple to make and work great as a snack or in soups.

1 large box/bag unsalted oyster crackers
1 cup oil
1 package dry Ranch dressing mix
1 tsp Mrs. Dash
1 tsp dill
Sprinkle garlic salt

Place crackers in a large bowl.  Mix together seasonings.  Add oil to crackers and stir to coat them evenly.  Pour seasonings over crackers and mix well.