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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sweets for Santa

We've been making all kinds of sweet treats this week to share with friends and family, to consume by us, and of course, to leave near the tree for Santa tomorrow night.  Our youngest also came home from school with a bag of reindeer food that she'll sprinkle on the ground in front of our house for Rudolph.  Below are the recipes for some of our favorite Christmas cookies and candies our family makes each year.  Some of these only take about 15 minutes to prepare.

Peanut Butter Bark

Pour 1 bag of white chocolate chips, 1 bag of peanut butter chips, and 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat.  Stir often to prevent sticking and scorching.  Once melted, add 1 cup broken pretzel pieces and 1 cup of peanuts.  Stir well and pour on a foiled cookie sheet.  Chill in refrigerator.  Once hardened, break into pieces.  I keep it stored in the fridge.

The most time-consuming treat we made were gingerbread men and women.  There was also a gingerbread reindeer and a few candy canes thrown in there too.  I usually just make sugar cookies, but our daughter begged me to make these this year.  It turns out that we like them even better than sugar cutouts, so this will become our new tradition.

Once one child began decorating, they all wanted to get in on the fun.  Even my husband participated.  By the time I was finished getting the last cookies out of the oven, there was no more gel icing left and most of the sprinkles were gone too, so my cookies were rather plain.

I was really surprised that my children loved the taste of these.  They're not nearly as sweet as some of the other Christmas treats we make.  I think we made 34 gingerbread cookies, and most of them were gone in two days.

Gingerbread Cookies

Stir together 5 cups of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons of ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Put aside.  Beat 1 heaping cup of shortening for 30 seconds.  Add 1 cup sugar, beat till fluffy.  Add 2 eggs, 1 cup + 1 Tablespoon of molasses, and 2 Tablespoons of vinegar.  Beat well.  Add the dry ingredients to beaten mixture, beating well.  Cover and chill overnight (or at least 3 hours.)  
Divide dough into thirds.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each 1/3 lump of dough to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into desired shapes.  Place about 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes.  Cool before decorating.  
*You can make these thinner and only bake for 5 minutes.  We like thick, soft, chewy cookies, so we made ours thicker.  Plus, I'm impatient and don't want to stand around rolling out twice as many.

This is the one Christmas cookie that I do bake at other times of the year as well.  These are our absolute favorites for some reason.  They're fairly quick to make too.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Cream 1/2 cup shortening and 3/4 cup peanut butter; add 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup packed brown sugar.  Add 1 egg, 2 Tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla; beat well.  Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and blend thoroughly.
Shape dough into bouncy ball sized balls; roll in some granulated sugar.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 375 for 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately place unwrapped Hershey's Kisses on top of each cookie, pressing down slightly so they crack just a little.  Cool.

Peppermint Cookie Bars

Combine 1 roll of sugar cookie dough with 3 Tablespoons flour, and 1 Tablespoon mint extract.  Press out onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
Immediately sprinkle a bag of white chocolate chips over the top.  Once melted, spread to cover the bars.  Sprinkle crushed peppermint candies on top.  Cool.

These are a lighter, cool minty cookie but are also quite filling.  A little goes a long way, and they look so festive.  Great with a hot cup of cocoa!

Other than a pumpkin cake roll that I still need to make for our Christmas dessert, I am finished with all baking for the week.  Time to relax a little before company arrives and the big meal preparations get under way.

May You All Have a Very Merry Christmas!

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