Friday, December 21, 2007

Warning: you'll gain weight just reading this

In case you have some extra time this weekend for making holiday treats...[pausing here for you to laugh hysterically] here are a couple of excellent, EASY recipes. Or maybe you might not want to. I just ate three not-too-big pieces of the chocolate candy and I SWEAR my pants are already tighter. However, that has not stopped me from making plans to make more tomorrow.

Pine Bark
(aka Christmas Crack, because it's FREAKING ADDICTIVE)

Line a cookie sheet with foil and cover with a single layer of saltine crackers (1 sleeve will fit a 13 x 9 pan. Relax, anal people who must have everything JUST SO--there can be small gaps between crackers; it will be fine.)

In a small saucepan, melt together 2 sticks of butter (don't even THINK about using margarine!) and 1 c. brown sugar. Bring mixture to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over crackers and spread with a spatula to edges of pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with 2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips. After 1-2 minutes, they will be soft enough to spread with a spatula. Can be sprinkled with chopped pecans. Cool and place pan in fridge. When hardened, peel foil off the back and break apart. Keeps best in the fridge and tastes like crunchy toffee!

Almond Bark Candy
1 24-oz pkg. white-chocolate-flavored almond bark coating
1 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 c. roasted salted peanuts
3 c. Rice Krispies
3 c. miniature marshmallows

Melt almond bark in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the peanut butter. While it's melting, line cookie sheets with waxed paper. Add peanuts and Rice Krispies. Add marshmallows and remove from heat. Stir until mixed but marshmallows are NOT melted. Spoon by tablespoon onto waxed paper. Cool completely.

Tomorrow I'm going to bake these cookies that Beck posted on her recipe blog because I love M&M cookies and I've never made them. Every Christmas I try to make something new.

Brown Sugar Christmas Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup shortening (I know - nasty. But cookies hold their shape much better when part of the fat is shortening. Use Crisco vegetable shortening.)
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup red, green and white Christmas M&Ms
(1 c. chopped pecans, optional. I don't like pecans in cookies, so I'm omitting them.)

Preheat your oven to 375.
In a large mixing bowl beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, the pecans if desired and the chocolate bits with a wooden spoon.

Drop dough by teaspoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookies sheet. If desired, you can flatten them slightly with fingers. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. This recipe makes 60 cookies. I've never tried doubling it, but it shouldn't be a problem. Store them in an airtight container, with the layers separated by waxed paper.

P.S. Our party was fun even if it had to end early since it was on a weeknight. The top-secret pastries turned out fine (and yes, L, we will make the cherry bons again and you are invited). I learned that while I am not nearly precise enough to be a pastry chef, my husband could have a second career if he ever decides to stop building cabinets. At one point he had to roll a finicky dough out to a 12-inch circle and he measured it for fun--a 12 inch diameter exactly.

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