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December 12, 2012

Cookie Swap 2012!

When I was growing up, we had a tin container, about 8 or ten layers high and a full 12-14 inches across that stacked one layer atop another, and had a metal handle that locked it all.  It was dented, and a bit less shiny than it used to be, but this was where all the best cookies lived each holiday season--the ones my mom wanted to take to her mom or mother-in-law.  There were other cookie tins we kids were allowed to "steal" from, but this one was traveling with us when we drove south to family to celebrate, so it was strictly forbidden until the trip. 

My folks recently retired, and I was dismayed to find that the cookie tower tin was donated to Goodwill in the move.  Of all my mom's kitchen appliances and tools, that was one that I would have treasured, the way she does her mom's "noodle cutter," with its chipped paint and rough handle that saw my grandmother through nine children during the depression and beyond.  

In any case, that tangible item is gone, but the memory is fresh.  Just before my first cookie exchange of the season, I came across this small bento lunch box.  Meant for a single person, it's only six or eight inches across, and tri-leveled.  It's so reminiscent of my childhood I had to have it!  And it's economical too--it's preventing me from bringing home from my exchange more cookies than I can eat, since I live alone.



My friend Jen organizes a monthly craft day in a community room near her home.  The space is great to spread out, even if working on a quilt, and her group gets around thirty people each month given her freewheeling bring-whatever-you're-working-on nature.  Once a year we turn the end of the room into a bakers' paradise.  It's so great to come away with a mix of gift-quality goodies!  The variety adds

I have so little counter space at home that any kind of rolled or dropped cookie is out of the question.  So this year I did some internet searching for more innovative bar cookies, and came up with this Macadamia Bar cookie from Better Homes & Gardens.  The cookie dough is so densely solid it's like a cement mixer, so be sure the pan is prepared before mixing the dough!  There's a light hint of nutmeg that made these cookies a great substitute for the traditional nutmeg logs that my mom and brother make yearly, without the mess of rolling and cutting into logs.  It came with a wonderful eggnog icing recipe but I found I didn't need the extra sweetness, and was able to go without buying eggnog.  I made this recipe again a week later for another exchange, and dropped the dough into a molded pan.  The holly shapes held and made for a really festive touch.  Those pictures will be in my next post.

Which new recipes are you trying this year, and what are your traditional favorites?  Please leave a comment on my blog!

Macadamia Bars with Eggnog Drizzle
reprinted from

Makes: 36 servings
Yield: about 36 bars
Prep 25 mins
Bake 350°F 25 mins

2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 recipe Eggnog Drizzle (see recipe below)
Freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, grease foil, set pan aside. In a medium saucepan, cook and stir sugar and butter over medium heat until butter melts. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.

2. Stir eggs and vanilla into sugar mixture. Stir in flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Stir in nuts.

3. Spread mixture evenly into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until edges just begin to pull way from the sides of the pan. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Use foil to remove uncut bars from pan; place on cutting board. Cut into diamonds. Drizzle with Eggnog Drizzle. If desired, sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg. Makes about 36 bars.

From the Test Kitchen
Layer bars between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze unfrosted bars for up to 3 months. Thaw and frost.

Eggnog Drizzle

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon eggnog

1. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and the 1 tablespoon eggnog. Stir in additional eggnog, 1 teaspoon at a time, until icing reaches drizzling consistency. Drizzle icing over bars.

Nutrition Facts (Macadamia Bars with Eggnog Drizzle)
Servings Per Recipe 36,
cal. (kcal) 144,
Fat, total (g) 7,
chol. (mg) 21,
sat. fat (g) 3,
Monosaturated fat (g) 3,
carb. (g) 21,
fiber (g) 1,
sugar (g) 15,
pro. (g) 1,
vit. A (IU) 97,
Thiamin (mg) 0,
Riboflavin (mg) 0,
Niacin (mg) 1,
Pyridoxine (Vit. B6) (mg) 0,
Folate (µg) 16,
Cobalamin (Vit. B12) (µg) 0,
sodium (mg) 39,
Potassium (mg) 28,
calcium (mg) 20,
iron (mg) 1,
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

December 8, 2012

Handprint Wreath

Here's a fun and easy holiday craft for young kids. I love this image of a wreath! This one was made by my friends' five-year-old and she's treasured it for several seasons.

How do you celebrate the holidays in a handmade fashion? Please leave a comment on this post!

December 7, 2012

Food Bloggers Los Angeles' Cookie Exchange

the beautiful bloggers' spread
my contributions
The FBLA December meeting is the one meeting per year without a specific discussion topic or program.  It's simply a social party, with a glorious theme:  the cookie exchange!  No surprise, this is the one meeting where we have the most attendance, so we were sure to get a group shot.  Our hostess this year was one of our founders, Erika Kerekes. 

For 2012, I made the same Macadamia bar cookies I blogged about here, but baked them in a holly pan that lended a pretty shape.  I also used fresh lime juice from my friend's backyard tree to make Erika Kereke's lemon squares on a sheet pan so large I almost didn't think it would fit in my oven.  It did, but because of my slanted floor, one end of the bars was extra-limey and the other was a fine dry crust; the lime curd had slid to one side.  And of course, I had to try one new recipe....I've been on a bar cookie kick this holiday season due to the limits of my kitchen (no counters, only a bar sink, etc.).  I'm all for quick and easy one pan anything, whether it's main dish or dessert.  So I searched the web and hit upon Macaroon Bars with Oreo Crust.  A revelation--my favorite flavors, coconut and dark chocolate!  This is the closest I've gotten to a cookie with the flavor of Mounds candybars. 

We were doomed to be overloaded by sugar, so the call went out to bring a brunch potluck item along with your dessert.  I think four of us responded.  I'd just been to a fun day of hat decorating with another ladies' social group where I'd requested a recipe for a potato bake that had been brought to the event, and I decided to try it myself.  I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish, but I'm not too sorry.  I bought the potatos frozen, and dutifully thawed them overnight in the fridge.  Though I've used it to bake often, my KitchenAid Stand Mixer is still fairly new to me when main dish cooking; I learned a valuable lesson when I mixed up the potato as my Bake quickly turned into a Mash.  Next time I will use diced potatoes rather than shoestring hash, and will leave them fairly frozen when I go to mix it all up.  Still, it tasted good, and was completely gone.

Macaroon Bars with Oreo Crust
Macaroon Bars with Oreo Crust

reprinted from Better Homes & Gardens
Yield: 48 bars
Prep: 40 mins  
Bake: 350°F 33 mins
Chill: 30 mins

  • 2 cups crushed chocolate sandwich cookies with white filling (about 20 cookies)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups flaked coconut
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1 teaspoon shortening
  • Toasted whole almonds (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over the pan edges. Lightly grease foil. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, stir together crushed cookies, 1/2 cup sugar, and cocoa powder. Stir melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla into the crushed cookie mixture until combined. Firmly press cookie mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in a preheated oven for 8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt. Stir in flaked coconut. Stir egg whites and vanilla into coconut mixture until combined. Spoon coconut mixture over crust. Using wet hands, carefully press the coconut mixture to edges of pan.
4. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until macaroon layer is set and lightly browned. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
5. In a small saucepan, combine chocolate pieces and shortening. Heat over low heat until melted, stirring constantly. Drizzle chocolate mixture over bars. Chill about 30 minutes or until chocolate sets. Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut bars out of the pan. Cut into 24 bars. Cut each bar diagonally to make 48 triangles. If desired, place a whole almond atop each bar. Makes 48 bars.

From the Test Kitchen:
  • Place bars between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to three days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Lime Diamonds

Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole was a bit mashed but looks like a hit!

Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole 

Mix one bag of frozen hash browns, 2 c. cheddar cheese, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, salt and pepper to taste. Pour in casserole dish and bake at 325 till warmed through and golden on top.
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