For those of you who love to bake, eat—or both, listen up. The holidays are a time for celebration, appreciation, generosity, togetherness and of course: food. With the holiday season rapidly approaching, now is the time to dust off your cookie cutters, stock up on sugar and get to work! Homemade desserts and appetizers make great (and cheap) holiday gifts. There are endless amounts of tasty, homemade holiday recipes perfect for the upcoming season, ranging from easy to difficult:
Easy: For those of you who would rather eat the dessert than bake it, these simple, quick and yummy recipes are for you!
Mr. McGuirk’s “Super Creative” Christmas Cookie Plate:
*Serves 8-12 people
For a real holiday treat, buy an assortment of cookies from your local grocery store. Then, arrange the cookies on a single plate or several plates if one is too small. (Tip: for a really festive presentation, choose a decorative plate that highlights the season!) Serve at room temperature with store-bought apple cider or eggnog.
Chocolate Chip Dip
*Yields 2 cups
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (6 oz.) miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Store bought graham cracker sticks
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and vanilla, beat until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Serve with graham cracker sticks
Christmas Wreath Cookies
*Yields 18 cookies
1 (12 oz.) package vanilla candy coating, broken up
Green paste food coloring
2 1/2 cups coarsely crushed mini cereal (your choice)
Mini candy-coated chocolate pieces, red cinnamon candies, or swirled holiday white morsels
Microwave vanilla candy coating in a medium bowl for 3 minutes, stirring after every minute. Stir in desired amount of food coloring. Add cereal, stirring gently to coat. Drop cereal mixture by heaping tablespoonful’s onto wax paper; shape each spoonful into a wreath. Decorate with assorted candies. Let cookies stand about 30 minutes until firm.
Medium: Unlike the Easy recipes, the Medium recipes require a little more time and effort, but the final results are irresistible.
Mrs. Dipasquale’s Oreo Cookie Balls
*Serves 25 walnut-sized pieces
1 lb. Oreo cookies
1 8 oz. package cream cheese – softened
1 lb. white or semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp. of corn or vegetable oil
Using food processor or blender, grind cookies to a ground coffee texture
Knead cream cheese and cookies until thoroughly mixed
Refrigerate for 45 minutes
Roll into walnut-sized balls, place on waxed paper and put in freezer
Meanwhile in double boiler, melt chocolate with the oil (or microwave 1.5 min. on ½ power, stir, and then additional 30 seconds on ½ power, stir again. If not melted, do an additional 30 seconds at ½ power until melted)
Using a toothpick, spear a ball and dip in chocolate
Place on wax paper and let cool
Store in airtight container in refrigerator
1 cup margarine
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbs. water
2 tbs. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix margarine, sugar and vanilla in one bowl and beat until fluffy. Incorporate flour, vanilla, water and chopped pecans. The mix should be thick and feel like dough; roll into 1 inch balls and place on greased cookie pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Once the cookies are cool, roll them in confectioners’ sugar.
*Yields 3 dozen
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 tsps. vanilla extract
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
3 dozen individually wrapped caramel candies
Preheat oven to 350.
In a medium sized bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine thoroughly.
Add the flour mixture to the sweetened butter. Mix only enough to incorporate flour. Do not overmix. Add in the chocolate chips.
Roll into 1 inch balls and dunk one half of the ball into the chopped pecans.
Place on parchment lined baking sheet 3 inches apart with the side dunked in pecans facing upward. Press down slightly. Gently push one caramel candy half way into the center of each cookie ball.
Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees F. Do not over bake or cookies will be brittle.
Let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool thoroughly. You can drizzle the tops of the cookies with melted chocolate, but that’s completely optional.
Difficult: For those of you up for the challenge, these recipes are for you. They may take some time and create quite a mess, but the delicious outcome is worth it.
Mrs. Richter’s Chocolate Filled Logs
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 ounces)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts also work well)
3 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk
Melt chocolate chips in sweetened condensed milk. Stir frequently. When chips are melted, stir in nuts and remove from heat. Cool filling while you are preparing the crust.
Mix remaining ingredients like a pie crust: Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then cut in shortening. Add egg and milk and stir up to form dough (after the initial stir to get the milk and egg distributed, I usually mix with my hands to form dough).
Divide dough into 5 balls. Roll out on parchment paper or wax paper one ball at a time. Spread 1/5 of the filling across middle of dough; fold over the top and bottom, and then fold over the ends. Gently crimp ends.
Bake in 325° oven on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, seam side down. Bake 15-20 min. until slightly brown (don’t over bake). Let cookies cool on rack.
When ready to serve, sprinkle powdered sugar on top of log and slice with sharp knife.
If you are baking on a double bottom cookie sheet, you may need a few extra minutes baking time.
Leave at least 2 inches growing room between the logs on the cookie sheet.
Former Westwood Student Jenna Guma’s Famous Nutella Madness Cupcakes (if you’re brave enough!)
Nutella Madness Cupcake Batter
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dutch style processed cocoa
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees, line standard sized muffin pan.
Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Microwave until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool to lukewarm
Stir in flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine
Beat eggs in bowl. Add sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat until fluffy. Add cooled chocolate mixture and beat until well combined. Add flour and sour cream. beat until everything is well combined
Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Cut centers out, fill with filling. Top with ganache frosting
Nutella Madness Cupcake Ganache Topping
2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
Heat cream in microwave until boiling, remove and add chips. Keep stirring until chips are all melted. If you want this to be more like frosting, cool for 20 minutes before spreading, otherwise put this on while hot and let it drip down the sides.
Nutella Madness Cupcake Filling
4 tbsp. softened butter
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts and 1/2 cup whole ones for top of cupcakes
1/2 cup Nutella
1 1/2 cup Rice Krispies
2-3 tbsp. heavy cream
1 cup confectionary sugar
Mix butter and Nutella together until well blended.
Add confectionary sugar rice krispies, mix together and add the heavy cream until smooth, not running but thick and spoonable.
Fill hollowed out cupcakes with the filling
9 cupcakes baked in white paper liners
9 mini cupcakes baked in white paper liners
1/2 cup dark coco candy melting wafers (Wilton)
2 tbsp. white nonpareils
16 oz. frosting
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup brown decorating sugar
1 roll strawberry fruit leather (Fruit by the Foot)
1 tube chocolate decorating icing
8 brown M&M’s Minis
1 red Mini M&M
18 brown chocolate covered sunflower seeds
54 Yellow flat Round decorating Sprinkles
6 Strands Twizzlers Pull-n-Peel
Place the dark cocoa candy melting wafers in a Ziploc bag; do not seal. Microwave for 10 seconds, massage the bag, and repeat the process until smooth, about 45 seconds total. Press out the excess air and seal. Snip a very small (1/16-inch) corner from the bag and pipe out the outline of antlers. Sprinkle the melted candy with the white nonpareils while the candy is still wet. Repeat to make 11 sets of antlers (the extra are in case of breakage) Refrigerate until set, about 5 minutes
Place the brown decorating sugar in a small shallow bowl. Spread the tops of all the cupcakes with brown frosting and smooth. Roll the tops of the frosted cupcakes in the sugar to cover completely
Cut the red fruit leather into 4-inch pieces. Cut each piece lengthwise to 1/2-inch-wide stripes to make 9 pieces. Lay a strip of red fruit leather across the center of each of the standard cupcakes, adding a dot of chocolate decorating icing to secure.
Pipe dots of chocolate decorating icing for the eyes and a dot for the nose on top of the mini cupcakes. Add the brown mini M&M’s and the red mini M&M as the noses. Turn each decorated head on its side and place on a body, pressing into the frosting to secure. Gently peel the chocolate antlers from the wax paper and arrange them on top of the mini cupcakes, pushing into the frosting to secure. Pipe a dot of chocolate decorating icing on the outside of each antler base and add chocolate covered sunflower seeds as the ears.
For the harness bells, pipe 3 dots of chocolate decorating icing down the center of the fruit leather on each side of the cupcakes and attach the yellow sprinkles. Arrange the cupcakes so that red-nosed reindeer is in the lead. Cut the red licorice laces and string them from harness to harness, securing with a dot of chocolate decorating icing.
Mrs. Bagley’s Grecian Party Squares
*Yields 28 appetizer squares
½ package (1.8 oz.) vegetable soup mix (1 envelope)
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
2 packages (8 oz. each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to drain
1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts, drained and chopped
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped
¼ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine soup mix, mayonnaise, and sour cream then set aside. Unroll 1 package of crescent dough across one end of Stoneware Bar Pan (or regular baking sheet) with the longest sides of dough across the width of the pan. Repeat with remaining package of dough, filling the pan. Using your fingers or small pizza roller, press to seal perforations and press up sides to form a crust. Bake 10-12 minutes until light golden brown.
Meanwhile, drain spinach in a colander squeezing out as much moisture as possible; add to batter bowl. Drain artichokes and water chestnuts in colander then chop. Add artichokes, water chestnuts, feta cheese and garlic (pressed or chopped finely) to batter bowl and mix well. Spread spinach mixture evenly over partially baked crust with a spatula. Grate Parmesan cheese over the filling. Bake 10-12 minutes or until heated through. Cut into squares and serve.
*Note: You can make this recipe lower in fat by using low fat crescent rolls, light mayo, and light sour cream. It tastes almost exactly the same.