Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas Tree Ornaments

006My mother collects Christmas tree ornaments. She puts about five ornaments on each single twig of the tree (I kid you not), and the overall effect is slightly overwhelming but very beautiful and festive. Over the years, I have been given a few ornaments for Christmas, so that my own tree looks quite nice, too. I don’t receive the very best ornaments, but sometimes she finds more than one of a sort at some flea market or Christmas fair, and then she passes it to me. Or I have liked one so very much that she found it in her heart to part with it. (She is a true collector, and doesn’t part with her treasures easily.) Here are some of my ornaments that I really like: Continue reading

Lynn’s Christmas Sugar Cookies

IMG_0935 (1280x853) Christmas just isn’t the same for me without sugar cookies cut into all kinds of festive shapes. My mother has a huge old cookbook she got as a graduation gift, and she just keeps stuffing recipes written on cards and random slips of paper into it. This cookie recipe is one copied by my great-grandmother onto a faded sheet of stationery and as children we always lit up when we saw the familiar sheet of paper emerge from the big yellow cookbook. Over the years, the recipe has been updated by various family members (no more lard!!), but we still love to make and decorate these cookies. Something about them just says Christmas! Continue reading

Cindy’s Maid Marians (aka Maid of Honors, aka Whatever You Want to Call Them)

barThese are, by far, one of my favorite treats. In all the years I’ve known about these squares, no one has really revealed a name they would be known as and forget about getting the recipe from those who make it – they just smile and give me a small tin. I was introduced to these wonderful creations when I was 11 and my mother made a batch. I had never had anything like them and I remember begging my mother to make them again but alas, she told me the ingredients were too expensive to make them again.

It was 10 long years before I found them again, and color me shocked that it was my Mom’s best friend who was making them. I all but cried! She told me they are called Maid of Honors and every few years a small tin shows up at Christmas and I am delighted all over again. Sadly, every few years is a long time for my memory so I would ask her if she was going to bake any Maid Marians and there would be much laughter. My mother decided a few years ago that she was jealous of this tin that would show up every once in a while and insisted she get a taste of these special bars. To this day, she says she never made them but she was also overly delighted by these scrumptious squares, and now I’m pretty sure that any tin that has been making its way to me has been waylaid by my mother. Continue reading

Lea’s Cashew Nut Cookies

Cashew-CookiesYears ago when my son was a toddler, I was fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom. My visits with other moms as our children enjoyed a play date were special occasions for the children as well as a time of building friendships of my own. It was also early marriage for most of us and we constantly shared recipes with one another making our little recipe boxes grow to bursting. These were the recipes our children would remember as a part of their every day life growing up. Cashew Nut Cookies is one of those recipes I traded for during those years and it became a Christmas tradition at our home. It’s a slightly sweet cookie with an icing that adds just a little more sweetness. Its lack of intense sweetness is probably the primary reason we have enjoyed it for years during the holidays. Continue reading

Cookies (and more) for those who hate to cook

Years ago, in holidays past, I enjoyed cooking.  Now, four kids and a two decades later, it’s not my thing. In fact, I go to great lengths to avoid actually making food. My family survives on grocery pre-made goodies, a host of frozen main dishes from Trader Joe’s, and their wits. So, when the AAR staff decided to share their favorite holiday cookie recipes, I was sure I’d have nothing to contribute. But, as Blythe pointed out, I’m probably not the only non-cooker in our readership. And, upon occasion, even those of us who avoid the kitchen do have to produce “home made” baked goods.

So, for those whom home-made treats are something other people do, here are few easy short cuts.

1) Buy slice and bake gingerbread cookies, roll them into little balls and dunk them into colored sugar. Cook them for 2/3 the time on the label. They’ll be soft, sweet, and mildly festive.

2) Make boxed brownies but add a bag of chocolate fudge pudding, a cup of chocolate chips, and a teaspoon of vanilla to the mixture. Bake according to what it says on the box. Let cool completely before cutting. You’ll have deeply fudgy brownies the chocoholics in your life will love.

3) Dump a bag of frozen berries into a rectangular baking pan. Add in a package of vanilla pudding and a teaspoon of vanilla. Mix thoroughly. In another bowl, melt a stick of butter. Add a cup of granola, a cup of quick oats, and a cup of brown sugar. Mix together and put on top of berry mixture. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice-cream and tell your kids it’s a “healthy” dessert because it has fruit and fiber.

4) Get to know the best frozen desserts at your grocery store. I–and my family–will vouch for almost anything in the Trader Joe’s cake and pie section. In fact, it’s hard to beat TJ’s frozen New York Cheesecake (the one in the blue box) or their Chocolate Ganache Torte. Both vanish the minute I put them on our kitchen counter.

5) Instead of bringing baked goods to the party, show up with a good but inexpensive bottle of bubbly. Your hosts won’t mind a bit!

Happy holidays!

Dabney AAR

A Sweet Holiday: Blythe’s Angelettis

photoI love to make cookies, and am a big fan of Christmas traditions, so December is a month-long cookie spree for me. There are cookies that I make without fail every year (Russian teacakes, sugar cookies, LinnieGayl’s peanut blossoms, and thumbprint cookies), and some we make every few years. I also like to try a new Christmas recipe every year (usually from the December Good Housekeeping). This year’s new cookie, Christmas macaroons, was a huge, fat failure that we will not be trying again..ever! Angeletti is one of our successes. They look festive (and almost deceptively fancy – they really are easy to make). They are also delicious - they almost taste like tiny donuts. Continue reading

Bessie’s Trish’s Aunt Millie’s Nut Bars

See? The best recipes are third-hand. – Jean AAR

Here is a recipe that someone brought to work last year – she brought the finished product and was generous enough to share the recipe when everyone asked for it.  Enjoy!

- Bessie Makris

Ingredients

1 and 1/2 cups of flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon margarine
2 cups mixed salted nuts (you can use lightly salted if you want)
6 ounces butterscotch chips
1/2 cup of light corn syrup

Mix flour, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup margarine for the crust. Press
into a greased 9 X 13 pan.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool

After crust is cool, layer mixed nuts over it.  Melt butterscotch
chips, syrup, and remaining margarine and pour over top of the nuts.
Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cool completely before cutting.  These freeze well.

More Cookies – Dark Chocolate and Dried Cranberry

I hope you have been enjoying some of our holiday traditions and memories. Unless you are Marilu Henner, “one of only 12 people in the world diagnosed with hyperthymesia, also known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory,” you probably don’t remember all the gifts you received as a child during the Christmas holiday.

Oh, I am sure you remember the big ones, like your first bike, or maybe a special electronic device, or a piece of jewelry passed down from a relative, but not every gift. But I bet you remember your family traditions with no problem at all – like opening gifts on Christmas Eve, or midnight services, or the special ornament that you made your mother, that always had a special spot on the tree. Traditions, no matter what the holiday, are the threads that bind families together and one part of family traditions is the food that we eat. I have already shared my family’s Stack Cake which my mother frequently made, along with Orange Slice Cake. But the holidays weren’t complete without cookies. Continue reading

Sweet Memories: LinnieGayl’s Peanut Butter and Hershey’s Kisses

hersheys kisses I should start off by saying this isn’t a recipe I created. The basic recipe is straight from the Hershey’s site.Yes, my favorite Christmas cookie is a chewy peanut butter cookie topped by a Hershey’s milk chocolate kiss, labelled the Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies by Hershey’s. While I enjoy the taste (reminiscent of a warm, gooey peanut butter cup), it’s the memories these cookies evoke that has me craving them at Christmas time.

When I was in graduate school the fall semester always seemed worse than the spring or summer sessions. As fall semester rolled along the weather turned colder, snow  appeared, and I inevitably picked up a cold. To make matters worse, the semester ended just over a week before Christmas, leaving almost no time to get ready for the holidays.

One of my fellow graduate students got the idea to host a Christmas cookie baking party the Friday after finals ended, and honestly, this kept me going through the studying and paper-writing. About four of us went to her apartment that first year. We each picked out a cookie recipe before-hand, and she — wonderful woman that she is — bought all the supplies for our recipes. My cookie recipe was actually Paul Prudhomme’s coffee cookies. One of my friends made peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s kisses and I honestly couldn’t get enough of them. Of course we ate lots of the cookies fresh out of the oven when they were warm and gooey. And being graduate students, we downed the cookies with liberal doses of alcohol.

Continue reading

A Sweet, Sweet Holiday: Heather’s Lumberjacks

MolassesEditor’s note: So on the one hand, I was glad to finally put a name to a cookie that I adore instead of calling it “that thick soft gingery one that’s like a snickerdoodle but not.” Good news there. But on the other hand, I swear to God this is one of the worst cookie names on the planet. Look at the title of the blog: Heather’s Lumberjacks. Brings to mind all manner of sin. And you want to know the story behind the name? I haven’t the foggiest, even after a google, but considering the cookie is a soft, spicy, yummy confection, you could pretty much insert any manner of dirty joke you want. (Which I did. Of course.) Luckily, the cookie will still be delicious, and like Heather, I think making these will have to go on the agenda this weekend. Thanks Heather! Continue reading