Christmas Spiral Cookies

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These are such cute Christmas cookies. They are adaptable too. You can add flavorings (like peppermint) or not. Add-ins like finely crushed candy canes or nuts would also make these cookies extra special.  I choose not to add a flavoring or add-in to my cookies. I think they turned out wonderfully. To get the vibrant red color, use a food coloring gel found at big craft stores or specialty baking shops.

Christmas Spiral Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
red food coloring (the gel type is recommended)
peppermint extract (optional)
colorful non-pareils

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and powdered sugar in a food processor and process briefly to mix. Add the cold butter pieces and process with on/off bursts until the mixture is the butter is well distributed and the consistency is like coarse cornmeal. Add the vanilla and continue to process until a ball forms.

Divide the dough in half. Set one one of the halves aside and return the other half to the food processor. Add 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract (or other flavor), if using. Add the red food coloring (about 1/2 teaspoon) and process until incorporated. At this point you may want to add a bit more food coloring to get a more intense red color.

Roll out each half of the dough between two sheets of waxed paper. You want rectangles that measure about 11 X 8 inches. Once both pieces of dough are rolled out, removed the top sheet of waxed paper from both. Invert one of the pieces of dough and stack on top of the other. Press down gently to seal the two pieces together. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and trim the edges of the dough with a knife so that they are even.

Roll the dough up like a jellyroll, using the waxed paper to help lift and shape the dough into a log.

Place nonpareils in a flat bottom dish large enough to fit the log of dough. Gently place the log on top of the nonpareils and roll to completely cover. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

At this point, the log of dough may be place in the freezer for up to 2 months. Defrost dough in the refrigerator overnight before slicing and baking.

When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Slice the log of dough into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 17 minutes. The bottoms of the vanilla portions will be golden, but you don’t want the tops to get that dark. Let cookies cool completely.

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Died and Went to Heaven Chocolate Cake

My son and I made this cake from Eating Well magazine and it turned out wonderful!   It was so easy and really didn’t take much more time than putting together a cake mix from a box.  It’s also nice not to have all the preservatives and unpronounceable chemical ingredients found in the typical box cake mixes.  The grocery store was out of buttermilk, so I used soured milk instead (1 very full tablespoon of lemon juice and then enough milk to make the 1 1/4 cup required in the recipe).

Died and Went to Heaven Chocolate Cake
Makes 16 Servings

1 3/4 cups all-purpose white flour
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup hot strong black coffee

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons buttermilk or low-fat milk

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 12-cup Bundt pan or coat it with nonstick cooking spray. Dust the pan with flour, invert and shake out the excess.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, white sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk, brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Whisk in hot coffee until completely incorporated. (The batter will be quite thin.)

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes; remove from the pan and let cool completely.

4. To make icing: In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough of the buttermilk or milk to make a thick but pourable icing. Set the cake on a serving plate and drizzle the icing over the top.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 222 calories; 4 g fat (1 g saturated); 27 mg cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber; 274 mg sodium; 124 mg potassium.

3 Carbohydrate Servings

Recipe from EatingWell Magazine March/April 1995.

Double-Chocolate Bundt Cake with Ganache Glaze

This cake is amazing! I’ve made it several times and it always turns out light and moist. It is deeply chocolate, but not too sweet. This cake is easy and fairly quick to put together. The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, but I have used semi-sweet chocolate with delicious results. I like to use Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips, which are inexpensive and easily found at most grocery stores.

Double-Chocolate Bundt Cake with Ganache Glaze

Vegetable oil spray
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cu Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup strong-brewed coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray. In a small saucepan, melt 2 ounces of the chopped chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. Scrape the chocolate into a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in the oil and sugar until smooth, then whisk in the egg.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture along with 1/2 cup of the coffee and 1/2 cup of the buttermilk; whisk until smooth. Add the remaining dry ingredients, coffee and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the lower third of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cake cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn it out and let cool completely.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. In a heatproof bowl, combine the remaining 3 ounces of chopped chocolate with the corn syrup and butter. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand until melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Let the ganache glaze cool until thick but still pourable, about 5 minutes.

Pour the ganache over the cooled cake. Let the cake stand until the glaze is set, at least 30 minutes, before serving.

Recipe by Kate Neumann.

Cherry Crumble

This is a super easy dessert that is a perfect ending to any meal. There is no need to defrost the frozen cherries, but I do like to cut them in half before tossing them with the sugar, cornstarch, and almond extract.  Adjust the amount of sugar in this recipe to your tastes.  Some cherries are naturally sweeter than others and keep in mind that the crumble topping has sugar in it too. Nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts) are a great addition to the crumble.  Any frozen fruit could be used for this dish. Serve warm or at room temperature with whip cream or vanilla ice cream.

Cherry Crumble

•6 c. frozen cherries
•1/2 c. sugar
•2 Tbs corn starch
•1/2 tsp almond extract
•1/4 c. butter (1/2 stick), cold, cut into chunks
•1/2 c. flour
•1/2 c. brown sugar
•3/4 c. rolled oats
•1/4 tsp salt

Make your cherry filling: mix the cherries, sugar, almond extract and corn starch together.  Place in  baking dish.

Assemble your crumble:  combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, and salt in a bowl.  Work the cold butter into the mixture with a fork, pastry cutter, or with your hands until evenly distributed. Top the cherry filling with the crumble mixture.

Bake your crumble: bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Sea Glass Candy

This makes a beautiful candy that really does look like sea glass.

You will need a candy thermometer for this recipe, but if you familiar with the sugar stages (you are looking for the “hard crack” stage for this candy), you could use the method in which you drop a bit of the hot mixture into a bowl of cold water and then check for desired result.

Candy flavoring oils can be found in craft stores. You can also use regular extracts but you will need to add slightly more because they are not as concentrated as the candy oils.  I made two batches of this candy.  For the first batch I used apple flavored candy oil and green food coloring.  I over-did it on the flavoring and coloring and the candy did not taste that great.  For the second batch, I used a 1/2 teaspoon of regular coconut extract and 5 drops of blue food coloring and was very happy with the results.

Sea Glass Candy

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
6 tablespoons water
food coloring
1/2-1 teaspoon flavoring oil (or extract)
non-stick cooking spray
powdered sugar for dusting

Lightly spray a small metal pan with non-stick spray. Don’t use ceramic or glass pans or else you may end up with real glass mixed in your sea glass candy.

In a small non-stick sauce pan, add sugar, water and corn syrup and place over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. When the mixture begins to simmer, brush the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush.  Attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pan and watch.  There is no need to stir the mixture.

When the mixture gets to the 250°F range, go ahead and add the food coloring. Start with 5 drops and let the food coloring spread throughout the mixture.  If needed, you may add more food coloring, a drop or two at a time, until you get the color you want. Do not stir the mixture.

When the thermometer reads 300°F pull the pan off the heat and then add the your flavoring and stir.  Be careful because it will bubble and steam. Immediately pour the hot mixture into the prepared pan and allow to sit until cool.

Once the candy has fully cooled, cover with a piece of parchment paper, plastic wrap, clean tea towel, or paper towel and hit it with a hammer or mallet.

Lightly brush the pieces with powdered sugar, shaking off the excess. Store the candy in an air tight container and keep at room temperature. Do not leave the candy uncovered as it will absorb moisture from the air and get sticky.

Cranberry Praline Bread

cranberry praline bread

This bread is so good.  I baked a batch of the festive mini loaves to give as gifts.  The sweet praline glaze really adds to this quick bread.

Cranberry Praline Bread

Bread Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Glaze Ingredients:
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine 2 tablespoons flour and cranberries in small bowl; toss to coat. Set aside.

Combine sugar, sour cream, butter, eggs and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat just until moistened. Stir in cranberry mixture and 1/2 cup pecans by hand.

Spoon batter evenly into 4 greased and floured mini (5 1/2×3-inch) loaf pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans.

Meanwhile, combine brown sugar and 1/3 cup butter in 1-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil (3 to 4 minutes). Spoon glaze mixture over warm loaves. Immediately sprinkle with 1/4 cup pecans.

TIP: One greased (9×5-inch) loaf pan can be used instead of the 4 mini loaf pans. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes.

Yield: 32 servings (4 mini loaves)

Recipe source:

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

lemon-poppy-seed-bread-smThis is a nice quick bread.  It’s not too sweet and not too lemony.  It freezes well too.  The lemon syrup makes the bread moist.  I baked the bread in 3 mini loaf pans instead of a standard size loaf pan.  Makes great gifts.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 large egg
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest from one lemon

For the syrup:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg with a fork. Stir in the cooking oil, water, and lemon juice.

Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture. With a spatula, mix the two together until moistened. Do not over mix—over mixing will develop the gluten in the flour and make for a tougher bread.

Scrape the batter into a well-greased 8-inch by 4-inch loaf pan. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until done. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into a crack in the center of the loaf. The toothpick will come out clean when done.

While the bread is baking, mix the granulated sugar and the three tablespoons of lemon juice in a cup. Heat the syrup in the microwave until warm. Stir the syrup until the sugar is dissolved.

Use a skewer to poke holes in the top of the loaf to the bottom of the loaf. Place the holes about one inch apart. Pour the syrup over the top of the loaf while it is still hot and in the pan. Let the loaf rest for 20 minutes and then remove it from the pan to cool on a wire rack.