Cookies are a favorite Christmas highlight

December 12, 2012 

Traditions make Christmas magical.

At our house, the holidays would not be the same in our house without "cookie baking day."

I like to take one, maybe two days during December to bake some of our favorites. It's a tradition that I have been doing since I was about 5 years old and have passed down to my daughter. Elyssa and I do the baking; Allen tests the results.

This year, due to my mother's health, our cookies had to be the quick kind: the recipes we know work every time and that everyone loves, not the elaborate ones that I had planned to do. Sometimes simple is best.

My favorite are candy canes, which taste like old-fashioned tea cakes. These are the best with a hot cup of coffee or spiced tea.  My husband prefers Texas Lizzies, a fruitcake-cookie that doesn't contain citron. Red velvet anything is Elyssa's pick, and, like her mother, Lilly likes the icing. I will share a couple of recipes today.

Biloxian Nedra Baldwin also enjoys making quick candies and cookies. She offers some of her favorite recipes that are perfect for time-starved cooks. If you have some cookie recipes that are traditions in your family, please share them with your fellow readers. We still have time before Christmas.

RED VELVET COOKIES

1 box Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix

2 eggs

1/3 cup oil

Mix all ingredients together. This will make a cookie dough. Roll into balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Flatten down slightly (depending on the

thickness you desire). Bake at 375 degrees until the tops crackle (about 8-10 minutes) or until desired doneness.

Cool and then frost with cream cheese frosting.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup stick margarine or butter, softened

2 teaspoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, margarine, milk and vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer on low speed until smooth.

Gradually beat in powdered sugar on low speed, 1 cup at a time, until smooth and spreadable. Refrigerate any remaining frosting.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting: Add 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled, with the margarine.

TEXAS LIZZIES

2 1/2 cups golden raisins

11/4 cups raisins

1/2 cup whiskey (can use 1-2 teaspoons brandy extract and 1/2 cup of apple juice)

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 pound light brown sugar

3 eggs

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups chopped walnuts

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 pound red and green candied cherries, halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, toss together the golden raisins and dark raisins with the whiskey or apple juice; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs one at a time; mix until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg; stir into the creamed mixture. Stir in the walnuts, pecans, cherries, and finally, the raisin and whiskey mixture.

Drop cookies by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute before removing to cool on wire racks. Makes 10 dozen.

TUMBLEWEEDS

1 (12-ounce) can salted peanuts

1 (7-ounce) can potato sticks

3 cups butterscotch chips

3 tablespoons peanut butter

Combine peanuts and potato sticks in a bowl; set aside. In a microwave, heat butterscotch chips and peanut butter at 70 percent power for 1-2 minutes or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Add to peanut mixture; stir to coat evenly. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto waxed-paper lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until set, about 5 minutes. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen.

-- Submitted by Nedra Baldwin

CRISP PEANUT CANDIES

2 2/3 cups vanilla or white baking chips

1/4 cup peanut butter

3 cups crisp rice cereal

1 cup peanuts

In a heavy saucepan, heat chips and peanut butter over low heat until melted; stir until smooth. Add cereal and peanuts; stir to coat. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto wax paper; let stand until set. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen.

-- Submitted by Nedra Baldwin

WHITE CHOCOLATE CEREAL BARS

4 cups miniature marshmallows

8 ounces white candy coating, broken into pieces

1/4 cup butter, cubed

6 cups crisp rice cereal

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the marshmallows, candy coating and butter. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 2 minutes or until melted, stirring every minute. Add cereal; stir to coat. Transfer to a greased 13-by-9-inch pan and gently press mixture evenly into pan. Cut into squares.

-- Submitted by Nedra Baldwin

CARAMEL CEREAL TREATS

8 cups Sugar Smacks cereal

1 3/4 cups dry roasted peanuts

1 (14-ounce) package caramels, unwrapped

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Combine cereal and peanuts; set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the caramels, milk and butter. Microwave uncovered on high for 1-2 minutes or until caramels are melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Pour over cereal mixture; stir to coat. With greased hands, pat mixture into a greased 15-by-10-by-1-inch pan. Drizzle with chocolate. Let stand until set. Cut into bars.

-- Submitted by Nedra Baldwin

MORE TRADITIONS

Another sweet tradition on the Coast is the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Auxiliary's Christmas pastry sale, which is coming up from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at the church, 255 Beauvoir Road, in Biloxi. For the past 35 years, these women work for months and weeks making Greek pastries, bread and spanakopita or spinach pies.

Back for the first time in several years are loaves of Russian bread, which is a sweet bread that is great for Christmas morning.

"Due to the increase in Russian members at Holy Trinity, we are offering the bread ($6), poppy seed, nut and raisin rolls ($10) and kolachy pastries with nut, plum or apricot filling ($15 per dozen)," Photine Hagicostas said. "We also will sell copies of our church cookbook, 'Family Traditions,' which contains many of these Greek and Russian recipes. The cookbook ($15) is a journey of culinary treasures from Greece, Russian, Romania, the Ukraine, Poland, Denmark and the United States."

Greek market items also are being sold this year, including Greek black olives ($14), Elaia Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($25), dolmades ($2.75), orzo in 11-pound ($10) and 1-pound ($1) bags and Castella Feta Cheese, 30-pound pail ($200) or 1 pound ($7).

Of course, plentiful will be the traditional Greek pastries of baklava; kourambiethes, wedding cookies coated with confectioners' sugar; koulouraki, a buttery twist or coffee cookie; finekia, almond cookies with nuts and cinnamon; diples, shredded filo rolled in nuts and honey; tyropita, cheese pies; and tsoureki, Greek bread.

For those who can't decide, the Auxiliary offers assorted boxes, large and small.

Christmas wouldn't be complete for the Yeagers without koulouraki and finekia, our favorite Greek cookies.

Orders can be taken in advance by calling George Yurchak at 228-831-5820 or emailing him at georgeyurchakyahoo.com or at Holy Trinity's web page, holytrinitybiloxi.org/ to order online. All orders must be picked up at the church.

STILL LOOKING

Peggy Crawford is still looking for a senior citizens' cake that a friend of hers had at a church fellowship in North Mississippi. Crawford had never heard of the cake and has not been able to locate a recipe.

Readers, she could use your help. Do you have this recipe? If so, send it my way.

Andrea Yeager, can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net. Send contributions or requests to Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567. If requesting a recipe, include the name or describe it.

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