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Two For One Special Holiday Treats Recipe Round-up!

Tis the Season for Sweets researched and written by Kim LeCompte of Assaporando la Vita. Fill Your Stocking with Vegan Cookies recipes and written by Kris Holechek of nom! nom! nom! blog.

Growing up, my mother would bake every year. I have fond memories of helping her out in the kitchen. Mixing and rolling dough, baking and freezing the cookies that were to be given as gifts. Now that I’m grown and have moved thousands of miles away, I hardly get to spend time with family around the Holidays. So my Christmas season is spent keeping my family traditions close and keeping my rolling pin out, my oven on, and my cookies neatly stored in the freezer until it’s gift giving time. Well, let’s just say that I keep baking every year because I’m terrible at buying presents for people. And who doesn’t like a good cookie around Christmas time?

Tis the Season for Sweets

Now, I do honor the favorites my mom always used to make like the classic sugar cookie and good ole gingerbread men. But since I’ve become a much better and much more daring baker than she is (sorry mom!), I always turn to new recipes that would be good as gifts. I look to traditional and non-traditional cookies and treats that other families share around the Holidays. In this article, I hope to share with you recipes from my childhood as well as new recipes that I hope to make this year.

There are two family recipes in particular that help relieve stress during the Holidays…and let’s face it…we all need that stress release during this time! I usually save these cookies for last. My all time favorite Kolacky (and not the hard cookie kind but the tender cream cheese based kind) and Cream Cheese Date Roll-Ups. Yes…both recipes include cream cheese, and lot’s of butter…so what’s not to love?

My mom’s Kolacky (pictured at top) are tender pastries best when filled with a tart filling such as apricot or raspberry preserves. My mom would always make both but usually there’d be a surplus of apricot. Then there was me, who could never eat the whole cookie together. I’d push back the little flaps holding in the filling, lick out the filling, then eat the pastry. The pastry is my absolute favorite part: again, tender and buttery with just the right sweetness.

The Cream Cheese Date Roll-Ups I actually didn’t like as a kid mainly because yucky looking dates were involved. Now that I’ve grown up and actually like dried fruit, I was surprised to learn that I absolutely adore these treats. The pastry that wraps around the dried date is flaky, buttery and rich. Similar to the Kolacky, but also completely different in context. So why are these recipes good stress relievers? The dough is almost impossible to roll out after chilling it. I’ve found that beating the dough with the rolling pin a few times helps tremendously both physically and emotionally!

Another favorite recipe, unfortunately slightly time consuming but easy none-the-less is for Peanut Butter Balls. These babies are chocolate coated and filled with a sweet graham cracker peanut butter filling. The filling is easy to work with and isn’t as creamy as a traditional truffle, but I always have a hard time waiting to dip these treats in chocolate before shoveling them in my mouth. You could also make massive peanut butter cups instead with a regular cupcake pan and cupcake liners. Or make bars by pressing the peanut butter mixture into a pan and then pouring the chocolate on top.

I’ve also rediscovered Cinnamon Snowballs. My mom’s nutty, shortbread-like cookie rolled in powdered sugar to resemble snowballs.

These look exactly like Mary’s Pfeffernusse from One Perfect Bite; different delicious recipe but same idea…one that I’ll have to try as these cookies sound amazing. And if you’re looking for a dirty snowball, try Mary’s Bittersweet Chocolate Snowballs to get your chocolate fix.

Along with these family staples I always look up new and better recipes to include in my Holiday samplers. And boy, did I find some good recipes…both new and old classics with a twist. Among the classic category is the Perfect Gingersnap by Elissa of 17 and Baking. The sugar coated crisps look amazingly delicious and well…perfect “as is” or as a gift in a cellophane treat bag.

These cookies are given a slight Holiday twist with the addition of mint in Chocolate Mint Cookies by Julia of Fat Girl in a Skinny Body. Her Cinnamon Cream Cheese Pound Cake and Chocolate Cherry Cake also make great gifts when made in mini-loaf form. See how cute they look with a bow tied around them?

Now I’ve never made peanut brittle, let alone eaten any. I mean, come on, who has never tried peanut brittle before, right? Well, it’s just not something I’ve ever experienced before and I’m not sure why. I love anything involving peanuts. So this year I figured I’d try it. While searching for recipes for Peanut Brittle I came across the classic candy with a twist: Chipotle Maple Peanut Brittle from Joe of Culinary in the Desert Country. Since reading the post, this is one recipe I definitely have to try.

And for those toffee lovers out there, like me, try this Butter Toffee Crunch recipe from Kaitlin of Kait’s Plate.

Another great candy to try for something a little softer and creamier is from Annie of Annie’s Eats: Maple Cream Candy. Now doesn’t that sound delicious?

Yet another great twist, one that came by accident to Christina of 13akery during a session of Tuesdays with Dorie, is her version of Holiday Bundt cake. In an act of desperation she produced Holiday Bundt Balls: spicy holiday Bundt cake rolled into little cake balls and coated with chocolate. If it were me, I probably wouldn’t have come up with this idea, but rather taken pictures of the broken cake, used icing to try to piece it back together, or thrown it away and started over. But instead, she made amazing lemonade out of her lemons! Didn’t they turn out fabulous folks?

This recipe is for a different kind of delicious chocolate chip cookie that I’ve never tried but will be featured in a new cookbook by Denay of Cooking with Denay: Christmas Butter Cookies.

And finally, “eggnog” and “holiday’s” go hand in hand. But “eggnog” + “cupcake” is pure genius when it comes to a holiday treat. These Eggnog Cupcakes from Kathy at A Good Appetite look wonderful and inviting.

So seriously, I could go on and on about more recipes that I’ve come across and want to make this year. This is usually about the time of year I think I should be paid full-time to play in the kitchen. But I hope this helps those of you looking for great gift ideas for the Holiday Season. May your homes be warm and filled with joy, and may your bellies be full with Holiday treats! Cheers!

Photo Credits:
1.) Kolacky by Kim of Assaporando la Vita
2.) Cream Cheese Date Roll-Ups by Kim of Assaporando la Vita
3.) Peanut Butter Balls by Kim of Assaporando la Vita
4.) Cinnamon Snowballs by Kim of Assaporando la Vita
5.) Pfeffernusse by Mary of One Perfect Bite
6.) Bittersweet Chocolate Snowballs by Mary of One Perfect Bite
7.) Perfect Gingersnaps by Elisa of 17 and Baking
8.) Chocolate Mint Cookies by Julia of Fat Girl in a Skinny Body
9.) Cinnamon Cream Cheese Pound Cake by Julia of Fat Girl in a Skinny Body
10.) Chocolate Cherry Cake by Julia of Fat Girl in a Skinny Body
11.) Chipotle Maple Peanut Brittle by Joe of Culinary in the Desert Country
12.) Butter Toffee Crunch by Kaitlin of Kait’s Plate
13.) Maple Cream Candy by Annie of Annie’s Eats
14.) Holiday Bundt Balls by Christina of 13akery
15.) Christmas Butter Cookies by Denay of Cooking with Denay
16.) Eggnog Cupcakes by Kathy of A Good Appetite

Fill Your Stocking With Vegan Cookies

The smell of a baked treat can bring out the warm fuzzies in any Scrooge this time of year. All of the delicious holiday scents- vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest- are what really make a house a home on a cold, dark evening.

But wait- you have a vegan coming over? One of those people who eat sprout-filled whole wheat cookies rolled in wheat germ? Ew.

As a vegan baker, I am here to tell you that we are still actively working against the bad PR of the 1960's and vegan baking is nothing to be feared. Vegan treats are just as "buttery", sugary, chocolatey and carb-coma inducing as any traditional baked good you've chowed down in the past. If you want a primer on vegan baking to convert your favorite recipes, look no further than here. In the meantime, here are some festive holiday cookie recipes to get you started.

Lemon Drop Cookies
(from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes)

Prep time: 15 minutes

1/2 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
juice from 1 lemon
2 teas. lemon zest
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and shortening until smooth. Mix sugar to combine, then incorporate lemon juice and zest. Add flour in small batches until well incorporated.

Spoon teaspoon sized balls of dough onto cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 8- 10 minutes until edges are set and are slightly browned. If baking both sheets at the same time, switch shelves halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool completely before coating each cookie in powdered sugar. To coat, us a fork to support each cookie and roll cookie on each side to coat in sugar. Store cooled cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

*For best results, zest the lemon before juicing. You can use the small holes on a grater for a fine zest.

Spice- Spiked Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes)

Prep time: 20 minutes

2 cups flour
1 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. baking soda
1 teas. ground ginger
1 teas. cinnamon
1/4 teas. nutmeg
1/4 teas. salt
3/4 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. molasses
1 tbsp. soy or rice milk
1/2 teas. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
3 tbsp. sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, ½ cup sugar and brown sugars. Add molasses, milk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in batches until well incorporated. Add chopped chocolate.

Scoop out cookie dough into large tablespoon- sized balls and roll in remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar to coat. Place about 1 inch apart on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart and flatten slightly. Bake cookies for 8 to-10 minutes, until cookies have spread and the sugar coating has slightly cracked. If baking more than one sheet at the same time, switch their shelves halfway through. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer before removing cookies to a cooling rack. Store cooled cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Yields: 2 dozen cookies