Cook's Corner: Holidays call for sweets
Published 10:12 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2006
The party season has begun for the holidays and the race is on. If you're like me, you probably have a few parties on your calendar. Even though some hostesses like to plan the entire array of party foods, some like it when guests bring along a dish (or two).
If that's the case this season, you may be looking for something different. For some reason, I've found the old saying “everything old is new again” is very true.
Over the years people tend to come upon a few favorite recipes and prepare them over and over again. Recipe ideas usually change about every 10 years or so and the cycle begins again. You may want to look back into your mother's cookbooks and get some old recipes out and give them another try.
That's sort of what I've done this year. There are a few items like fudge and divinity that never go out of style no matter what. There are some new variations to those recipes that may give you a little lift in your holiday preparations.
When the ladies at The Brewton Standard started discussing Christmas goodies, Marilyn told us about an easy divinity recipe. I was shocked and amazed at how easy this recipe was. I've only tried to make divinity once in my life and it was a big disaster. This recipe is pretty much fool-proof, which makes it perfect for me. You can find the frosting mix in the frosting aisle at the grocery store. For this recipe, Betty Crocker brand is used.
1 pkg. fluffy white frosting mix
1/3 c. Karo syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. boiling water
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 c. chopped pecans
In small bowl, combine frosting mix, Karo, vanilla, and boiling water; beat on high until stiff peaks form (about 5 minutes). Transfer to a large bowl – on medium speed, blend in powdered sugar gradually. Stir in nuts. Drop mixture by teaspoon on wax paper. When outside of candy feels firm, turn over. Allow to dry approximately 10 to 12 hours or overnight. Store in air-tight container.
One of my favorite things to have around the holidays is a recipe I found a couple of years ago. I love coconut and of course, chocolate is a given. These are super easy to make and are very, very good. I think that I even added an roasted almond on top of a few a couple of years ago and it tasted almost like the famous candy bar. You can decide for yourself, but I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
One-half cup butter, melted
3 cups flaked, sweet coconut
2 cups sifted, confectioners sugar
Chocolate for dipping
Stir sugar and coconut into melted butter. Form into balls about three-quarters of an inch in diameter. Either dip coconut into melted chocolate to coat or drizzle with a small amount to garnish each ball. Chill. Keep chilled until ready to serve.
Here's a little variation on a traditional fudge recipe that mint lovers in your family will thank you for. It does take a little time, but is well worth the effort.
Layered Mint Fudge
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
2 tsps. Vanilla extract
1 cup white candy coating
1 tbsp. peppermint extract
1 drop red or green food coloring, optional
In a heavy sauce pan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips and one cup sweetened condensed milk; add vanilla. Sprad half of the mixture into a wax paper-lined 8 or 9 inch square pan. Chill for 10 minutes or until firm. Hold remaining cholate mixture at room temperature. In a heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt white candy coating pieces with remaining sweetened condensed milk (mixture will be very thick). Add peppermint extract and food coloring. Spread onto chilled chocolate layer. Chill 10 minutes or until this layer is firm. Spread remaining chocolate mixture on top of mint layer. Chill for two hours or until firm.
Here's a recipe for a cookie that's more like a candy than the name implies. We used to have them in the lunchroom for dessert when I was in school. That's been a few years ago, so this may be one of those “new again” recipes you can use.
2 cups sugar
4 tbsp. cocoa
One-half cup milk
One-half cup butter
2 tsp. vanilla
One-half cup peanut butter
3 and one-half cups quick cooking oats
pinch of salt
Mix sugar, cocoa, milk and butter in a large boiler. Cook over medium-high heat until butter is melted. Bring up heat and cook to a rolling boil. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in salt, vanilla, peanut butter and oats until oats are well coated. Working quickly, drop mixture by teaspoons onto waxed paper.
You'll know you've gotten it right if the cookies start to dry or harden within a few minutes after being dropped onto the waxed paper.
The last recipe I'll share with you is for a cookie that's so good it's hard to believe how easy they are to make. With just a few ingredients and very little prep time, you may want to make two batches. That way you can eat one batch as soon as it comes out of the oven and have a second batch to serve everyone else. This treat goes by a lot of different names, one of which is Mexican Wedding Cookies. No matter which name you use for the recipe, you can certainly call them good.
Russian Tea Cakes
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup softened butter
One-half cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp. vanilla (almond is also good)
Dash of salt
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Gradually add flour, salt and flavoring. Stir in pecans. Refrigerate one hour or until firm. Roll into one-inch balls. Bake at 350 degrees on an ungreased cookie-sheet for 12-15 minutes or until very light brown (give them a little tan). Remove from oven and roll in powdered sugar immediately.
I usually throw in a little red or green sugar in my dish of powdered sugar to roll the hot cookies in to give them a little holiday color. That step, of course, is optional.
Check back here next week for more great holiday dish ideas. I plan to give you some ideas for dips and spreads that are sure to liven up a party table.
If you have any ideas for a good party food, please pass it along to me. I'd love to hear about some new recipes or ideas. I'll give you credit for anything you share with us. Give me a call at the office or drop them by. You can even email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next week, Happy Cooking!