Chocolate Chip Candied Cheese Ball

Experience the Holidays: Chocolate Chip Candied Cheese Ball! The most amazing surprise appears at first bite. Dark chocolate blended with sweetened cream cheese presents itself as a first class cheeseball that leaves everyone smacking their lips in satisfaction. The fun of swiping a cinnamon graham cracker cookie transforms this dessert in a mouth-watering finger food. Make this holiday surprise the happiest one yet.

CHOCOLATE CHIP CANDIED CHEESE BALL

Ingredients:

1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup mini chocolate chips

1 cup sugared pecans, crushed

Graham cracker sticks

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Slowly add powdered sugar. Mix until smooth and completely incorporated. Fold in mini chocolate chips. Chill two hours. On a sheet of waxed paper, sprinkle crushed sugared pecans. Form chilled mixture into a ball. Roll in pecan coating. Chill overnight. Serve with honey graham cracker sticks or cinnamon graham cracker sticks.

Jell-O Shots with Sugared Cranberries

Experience the Holidays: Jell-O Shots With Sugared Cranberries! The holidays ring in the cheer with festive activities, enticing food, and snappy beverages. Make things awesome with dressed up Jell-O shots that cap off any occasion. Not only do they have an elegant look, but they satisfy the sweet tooth as a miniature dessert. By creating a garnish of fresh fruit with the sugared cranberries, it’s a classy finish with a gourmet twist!

JELL-O SHOTS WITH SUGARED CRANBERRIES

For Make-Ahead Sugared Cranberries:

2 cups sugar, divided

1/2 cup filtered water

12-ounce bag fresh cranberries

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions:

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup filtered water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved, about 3-5 minutes. Add cranberries. To prevent cranberries from bursting, do not boil. Stir until well coated. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to a wire rack. Let dry for one hour. Working in batches, roll cranberries in remaining sugar until well coated. Refrigerate for one hour or overnight. Store in airtight container.

Ingredients for Jell-o Shots:

3-ounce package raspberry gelatin

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup amaretto liqueur

1/2 cup ice water

Sugared cranberries Rosemary sprigs

Instructions:

Empty contents of raspberry gelatin packet into a mixing bowl. Add boiling water. Stir until completely dissolved, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add iced water and amaretto liqueur and iced water. Stir well. Pour into shot glasses. Refrigerate until set, 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with sugared cranberries and rosemary sprigs just before serving.

Nonpareil Thumbprint Cookies

Experience the Holidays: Nonpareil Thumbprint Cookies! Ask my husband what his favorite candy is and without hesitation, he’ll respond “Nonpareils”. Think about it… dark chocolate buttons sprinkled with tiny beads of white candy. And they’re French! With today’s recipe, the nonpareil takes center stage crowned over a dark chocolate thumbprint cookie as rich as a brownie. Dusted in powdered sugar, it’s just the right size for nibbling.

NONPAREIL THUMBPRINT COOKIES

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 cup powdered sugar for rolling

40 nonpareils

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a small bowl. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Reduce speed to medium, add yolks, cream, and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture just until combined. Roll balls using 1/2 tablespoon sized scoops of dough. Roll each ball in powdered sugar. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Press gently in the center to form an indentation. Bake 10 minutes or until set. Remove from oven. While cookies are warm, place one nonpareil in the middle of each cookie. Let cool before transferring to wire rack.

Velvet-Filled Pumpkin Roll

Experience the Holidays: Velvet-Filled Pumpkin Roll! Announcing a festive cake that looks as though you stopped by the bakery. Anyone can feel like a professional pastry chef with this holiday specialty. In a few simple steps, the rich pumpkin flavor is enhanced by the velvety cream filling. Afterwards all you have to do is sit back and bask in the accolades.

VELVET-FILLED PUMPKIN ROLL

Ingredients for Pumpkin Roll:

3 eggs

2/3 cup pumpkin purée

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup flour

1/3 cup chopped pecans

Ingredients for Velvet Filling:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and line a 10″x15″ jelly roll pan with waxed paper. For pumpkin roll combine eggs, pumpkin purée, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and flour. Mix until well blended. Pour into jelly roll pan and spread evenly to edges. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Bake 12-15 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven. Sprinkle powdered sugar on a tea towel, turn cake onto towel, and remove the waxed paper. Starting at one end, roll the cake up, and refrigerate for one hour. Meanwhile, combine Neufchâtel cheese, vanilla, butter, and powdered sugar. Mix together until smooth and velvety. After one hour, unroll cake and spread the filling all the way to the edges. Reroll cake and refrigerate two hours longer. Dust with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.

Xmas Pizzelle Cookies

Experience the Holidays: Xmas Pizzelle Cookies! I’m obsessed with food that has eye appeal. That’s one reason I was drawn to pizzelles, a traditional Italian waffle cookie. I could make you crazy by telling you we’re going to make them from scratch, but hey, my time is in high demand just like yours. Besides, since I don’t own a pizzelle iron, sometimes it’s better to leave things to an expert. I’m here today to save you time when someone suggests a Holiday Cookie Exchange. Pick up a package of Classic Italian Pizzelles on your way home from work, dip the cookies in melted chocolate, and sprinkle with nuts. You can thank me later when you’re sitting back relaxing with a glass of wine.

XMAS PIZZELLE COOKIES

Ingredients:

7-ounce package Vanilla Flavored Pizzelle Cookies

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 ounces pistachios, chopped

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine semisweet chocolate chips and vegetable oil. Heat in microwave on 50% setting for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat in 30-second intervals until melted. Stir until smooth. Dip half of each pizzelle cookie into melted chocolate. Sprinkle both sides with chopped pistachios. Place on baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.

Mincemeat Cookies

Experience the Holidays: Mincemeat Cookies! When my friend, Ray, “gifted” me with a batch of his time-honored traditional homemade mincemeat, I felt as though I had received a portion of the Holy Grail. Could this secret from the past hold special powers? Would one bite provide happiness, eternal youth, and food in infinite abundance? You tell me. Ray carefully coached me on how to “season” the mixture by adding flavored brandy (I chose apricot) over a three-week period, stirring it occasionally in a covered clay crock. I was an awestruck student following his instructions to the letter. The results were phenomenal and elegant. Don’t let anyone tell you mincemeat is awful. When prepared correctly, some things are worth the wait.

MINCEMEAT COOKIES

Ingredients for Cookies:

2/3 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

1 cup mincemeat*

2 cups flour

1 cup pecans, chopped

Pecan halves for garnish

Ingredients for Icing:

3 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon apricot brandy

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoons warm milk, as needed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add eggs and mincemeat. Gradually stir in the flour. Fold in chopped pecans. Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until tops of cookies are dry and set. Bottoms will be slightly golden. Remove from oven. Transfer to a wired rack. Frost while slightly warm. Top each cookie with a pecan half before frosting sets.

Instructions for Icing:

In a medium bowl gently mix powdered sugar and butter until smooth. Add brandy and vanilla. Stir well. As needed, add warm milk to create a thick consistency. Place a dollop of icing on each cookie. Garnish with pecan half.

*The “Elegant Homemade Mincemeat” recipe can be found in the 1972 Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, page 371.

Traditional English Toffee

Experience the Holidays: Traditional English Toffee! So often we have those cherished childhood memories of homemade candy and cookies that accompanied holiday celebrations. They stick with us for life. I can remember being in eighth grade and determined to replicate a batch of my mother’s English Toffee. I waited for her to go into town and then pulled out her secret recipe. You know, the ones scratched on a 3.5”x5” card. More often than not, they showed a list of ingredients with instructions that simply said, “Bake at 350° for 30 minutes”. Let’s face it, that’s pretty vague compared to what we explain nowadays. As you can imagine, I melted the butter along with the brown sugar and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. So how come it wasn’t turning into this crisp crunchy texture of rich golden butter that fueled my addiction? What could I possibly be doing wrong? There was nothing written on the card to correct this runny, gooey mess. Alas, I scraped it all into the trash, washed the pan, and plopped myself at the kitchen table with my Algebra book. She walked in, smiled, and never said a word.

TRADITIONAL ENGLISH TOFFEE

Ingredients:

1 cup pecans, chopped

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Butter a baking sheet. Spread pecans in a single layer in the center. Heat butter and brown sugar to boiling in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Boil over Medium heat, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes. Immediately spread mixture over pecans on baking sheet. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot mixture. Place a cookie sheet over pan until chocolate chips are melted. Spread melted chocolate over candy. Refrigerate until firm. Break toffee into pieces.

Experience the Holidays!

Experience the Holidays! This year things will be a little different. Unsettling times of chaos and confusion can still accompany satisfying food. Some people will gather virtually, others behind plastic shields, window panes, and face masks. Christmas cards, letters, texts, and phone calls are especially important right now. It is critical to stay connected. Every family has its favorites from the past. Some indulge in time-worn traditions while others enjoy modern classics. As you embrace the holidays with limited companionship, sentimental yearnings, enjoyable food, or jubilant festivities, celebrate the spirit of the season. In the next few weeks, join me as I share festive foods as well as healthy options. Experience the holidays with gifts that never go out of style: Faith, Hope, Joy, and Love. These are the things worth sharing.

Peanut Butter Fudge

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Peanut Butter Fudge! Once a year, my mother would send me a batch of her homemade peanut butter fudge. And, truthfully, I seldom shared it. Not because I was selfish, because it was THAT good! Now that she is no longer able to give me that glorious care package, I have assumed her role for others. The baton has been passed so the family tradition continues. Every peanut butter-lover should try some for yourself. One bite of this melt-in-your-mouth creamy fudge may lead you start a tradition to “Pay it Forward”.

PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

Ingredients:

3 cups sugar

3/4 cup butter

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1 cup natural peanut butter, creamy

1 teaspoon vanilla

7-ounce jar marshmallow creme

Instructions:

Combine butter, sugar, and milk in a 2-quart pan. Bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling over medium heat for four minutes. Stir constantly to prevent scorching. Be sure to scrape sides as well. Remove from heat. Work quickly stirring in peanut butter until completely melted. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into greased 9″x13″ pan. Cool at room temperature; cut into squares.