Tag Archives: holiday goodies

A Few Of My Favorite Things – Holiday Goodies!

A couple of months ago, I teamed up with two of my cousins and we had ourselves a bake-a-thon.  The thought was to finish all of our holiday baking in one fell swoop!  We each came armed with recipes and ingredients for 4-5 things, and we made double batches of everything, which we divided into freezer bags, took home and piled in the freezer to be brought out as needed for holiday parties and such.

Well, as you can imagine, most of it didn’t make it to Christmas.  But it sure was nice to have on hand for company, last minute things to take to a potluck, and family dinners.  And of course, some just called to us in the evenings and had to be eaten.  I was very happy to discover that EVERY SINGLE THING froze beautifully and tasted fresh when thawed out.

Although I have a few things left up in freezer town, I am going to do a little more baking this weekend for Christmas.  So I thought I would put together a few of the recipes I will be pulling from for the holidays, in hopes of helping those of you in need of ideas.  Merry Christmas to each and every one of you out there!

Simply click on each recipe to go to the post.  Any of these will make a wonderful gift or a welcome addition to any holiday party.  Happy baking!

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Rich and indulgent, I love these!

Inside Out Peppermint Patties

Incredibly easy and only a few ingredients!

Classic Chocolate Brownies

My go-to foolproof brownies.  I make these all year long.

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

Always a holiday favorite.

Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies

Decadent, chewy, and gluten and dairy free (and you won’t miss either one)!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

I know it sounds weird, but these were delicious!  They also come down on the healthier side of holiday treats at a fraction of the calories of regular brownies.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

My bumped-up version of banana bread.  So good!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies with a Twist

My favorite cookies, soft, rich, with a twist of orange and cinnamon.

Lemon Zucchini Bread

A delicious twist on an old favorite!

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Cranberry Bliss Creme

Cranberries always make me think of Christmas, because that’s usually when I cook with them.  I have a lovely cranberry chocolate chip bread that is one of my seasonal favorites.  But that post is for another day.  Fresh cranberries are actually available all winter and you can get frozen ones year round (which could easily be substituted in this recipe). I love those tangy little things so I’m trying to take advantage of them a little more often.

This recipe was actually called Cranberry Curd, but whenever I hear the word “curd” my gag reflex immediately reacts.  Not a big fan of curds of any kind.  They make me think of things that are sour and gross.  Which admittedly, is not always the case.  But seriously, I never even knew what a curd was in this context.  I’ve heard of lemon curd but I always avoided it, picturing some cottage cheese-infested lemony concoction.  I was wrong.  A curd is simply a creamy fruit spread made with eggs.  It can be used in place of jam, on toast, on yogurt, for filling in cake…you get the idea.  It was sweet, tangy and wonderful!

Just use instead of jam. I especially liked it on sourdough.  Yum!

Just use instead of jam. I especially liked it on sourdough. Yum!

I made up a bunch of this during the holidays.  It was the perfect item to finish off a gift basket, present to a hostess, or offer as a token gift or thank you.  And we managed to keep and eat quite a bit of it ourselves.  I loved it on toast, but my favorite way to eat it was swirled into greek yogurt.

This is how most of mine ended up.  Swirled into thick plain or honey greek yogurt. Delicious and healthy too!

This is how most of mine ended up. Swirled into thick plain or honey greek yogurt. Delicious and healthy too!

I packaged it in small jam jars, which were great to put in the freezer and take out as needed.  The only drawback to this particular item is that it doesn’t last long!  With an expiration date of 2 weeks or so, you can’t stash it in the fridge and forget about it.  So cook some, and eat up!

Jars of Bliss to give out.  And a few to keep for myself.

Jars of Bliss to give out. And a few to keep for myself.

Cranberry Bliss Creme
(from Cooking Light.  Recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups, but can be easily doubled.  Allow a little extra time for the curd to thicken)

1/2 cup water
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 (12 oz) package of fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yoks
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. Grand Marnier (optional)

Combine water, lemon juice and cranberries in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until cranberries pop.  Place cranberry mixture in a blender or food processor.  Process until smooth.  Strain through a fine sieve over a bowl and discard solids.

Combine sugars and butter in a bowl.  Beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined.  Add egg yolks and egg, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt.  Place mixture in the top of a double boiler.  Cook over simmering water until a thermometer registers 160˚ and mixture thickens (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently.  Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in liqueur.  Cover and refrigerate.  Use within 2 weeks.

Perfect paired with something savory like Individual Mushroom Quiche.

Perfect paired with something savory like Individual Mushroom & Feta Quiche.

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April’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I don’t have any cookies in my house at the moment.  If I had them, I would eat them.  I have no self-control when it comes to cookies.  So I don’t make them often.  When I do, they do a very quick disappearing act, because they are (if I do say so myself) spectacular.

These are one of my favorite cookies to make.  My little spin on your basic chocolate chip cookie.  I used to use half butter and half margarine or butter flavored crisco to make them a little fluffier.  But these days, I’m using less and less “fake” food, which margarine is in my book (did you know it’s chemically very similar to plastic?) so now I use all butter.  I think they taste better, but they do tend to come out a bit more flat.  I don’t really have a problem with that, although they are not quite as pretty.  But they still taste wonderful and I would happily sit down and eat a whole plate of them, were they here.  It might be time to bake another batch.

Right now, I’m craving a cookie.

A stack of cookie love.

A stack of cookie love.

April’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup butter (2 sticks, slightly softened)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange rind
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
6 squares Bakers bittersweet chocolate, chopped up
1/2 – 1 cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt & cinnamon) in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a large bowl beat or stir butter, sugar and brown sugar until creamy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and orange rind.  Beat until combined.  Gradually beat or stir in flour mixture about 1/3 at a time.  Fold in chocolate and nuts.

Chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate.  You could use chocolate chips if you want, but I love how you get varying sizes of chocolate bits with this method.  Some big chunks, some tiny slivers, and a little chocolate dust to flavor the dough.

Chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate. You could use chocolate chips if you want, but I love how you get varying sizes of chocolate bits with this method. Big chunks, tiny slivers, and a little chocolate dust to permeate the dough.

Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.  If you prefer you can line your baking sheets with parchment for easier cleanup.  Bake 8-10 minutes until just barely brown around the edges.  Remove from oven.  Using a spatula, transfer cookies to wax paper or cooling racks to cool.  Try not to eat them all at once.

The perfect addition to any tray of treats.

The perfect addition to any tray of treats.

 

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Cranberry Bliss Bars

The holidays are over, my waistline is a tiny bit bigger and now that I’m watching what I eat again I thought I would wistfully post about the wonderful goodies I made for Christmas.  Luckily, there are always occasions where you need a little treat, so I’m sure these will appear sometime again before next Christmas.

I love the Cranberry Bliss Bars at Starbucks.  They are only found around this time of year so I was thrilled to spot a recipe for them on Pinterest so I can make them whenever the mood strikes.  While these are not exactly the same, I thought they were quite similar and every bit as wonderful.  Maybe a little fluffier, less dense in the bar part, but I liked it.  Crystallized ginger was an odd ingredient that I hadn’t used before.  You may find it with the dried fruits (at my store it was in the natural foods section).  I took these to two parties and they were a huge hit.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Cranberry Bliss Bars
( from Your Home Based Mom – http://www.yourhomebasedmom.com/)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground powdered ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup minced dried cranberries
1/4 cup quality white chocolate (I used Baker’s, 1-2 squares chopped up)
1/4 cup minced candied (or crystallized) ginger

Frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup minced dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.  Beat together butter and brown sugar, then add eggs and vanilla.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add flour, powdered ginger and salt.  Beat well.  Fold in the cranberries, white chocolate, and candied ginger.  Spread batter in pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown.

Cranberry Bliss Bars - bottom layer

Cranberry Bliss Bars – bottom layer

After cake cools, mix all frosting ingredients (except cranberries) and spread over the top of cake.  Sprinkle with cranberries.  Cut into squares or triangles.

cranberryblissbars2

Cranberry Bliss Bars, all ready to slice up into fancy triangles.

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Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus

Appetizers are something I love, but hardly ever make.  Unless I make them as dinner, instead of a starter for dinner.  But given the opportunity, like a recent family dinner, it’s fun to make (and eat!) something pretty and delicious.  These definitely fit the bill.

I love these little asparagus wrap ups.  They are quick to make, and I like the combination of the crunch of the phyllo dough and the tender bite of the asparagus.  They are a bit of fancy but not hard to make…one of my favorite combinations.  Doesn’t hurt that they also are pretty healthy compared to most appetizer options.

If you aren’t familiar with phyllo dough, it’s very, very thin sheets of dough, which are layered and baked.  I love the light and crispy texture.  You find it in the frozen section of the grocery store.  In most recipes you brush oil or melted butter between the layers, but the cooking spray works great and is a lot better for you.  For a vegetarian version, just leave out the ham, or substitute thinly sliced cheese.

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 bunch of fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
1 package of phyllo dough
Cooking spray
Thinly sliced ham or prosciutto

Unroll the phyllo dough.  Working quickly, separate one layer and lay it on a cutting board or towel.  Spray lightly with cooking spray, top with another layer, spray with cooking spray, and top with a third layer.  If you like some extra crunch you can also add a fourth layer.  (Cover remaining phyllo sheets with a slightly damp paper towel so they don’t dry out).

With a sharp knife slice the phyllo rectangle in thirds across the long length, and then down in fourths, making 12 squares.  Put a piece of ham on each square.  Place a stalk of asparagus on one end and roll up.  If your asparagus is really skinny, you can put two in each one.

Keep going until all asparagus and/or phyllo is used up.  Pile these on a plate as you finish.  If you don’t cook them all at once, just cover with a towel while the rest are cooking.

All rolled up and ready to cook!

Heat oven to 375˚. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Fill the tray with asparagus rolls, leaving a little space in between them.  Spray with cooking spray (it will help it brown a little better).  You will probably have enough for two or three trays, depending on how big your asparagus is.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, until phyllo turns golden brown.  Remove, arrange on a platter, and serve immediately.

Hot out of the oven.

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