Sugared Cranberries

Sugared Cranberries

Hello everyone! It’s officially the holiday season once again. It’s also my favorite time of the year for baking and cooking. I thought I’d start off with something really easy to make. Sugared cranberries are great for garnishing your desserts or dessert trays or even as a sweet and sour treat all on it’s own.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups granulated sugar divided (2 cups & 1 cup)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine 2 cups of sugar with the 2 cups water in a small sauce pan. Heat over low heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Do not bring to a boil!
  2. Remove from heat as soon as sugar is dissolved.
  3. In a large bowl, add cranberries. Top with the sugar syrup you just made and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight is best.
  4. After your cranberries have soaked, drain off syrup completely and allow to sit in strainer for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Pour remaining  1 cup of sugar in a gallon Ziploc bag.  Add cranberries and shake until all cranberries have been well coated.
  6. Empty contents of bag onto a wire rack (with pan or foil underneath to catch excess sugar.)
  7. Let cranberries dry for at least an hour.
  8. Store in refrigerator until ready to use as garnish.

Sugared Cranberries Close Up

Advertisements

Mini Cheesecakes

mini-cheesecake-1Since my father passed away earlier in December, this Christmas was bittersweet. I think my cooking and baking has reflected my sadness. So these mini blueberry cheesecakes I made weren’t given the usual attention and detail that I normally like to give my recipes that I post. So I apologize if the pictures aren’t as appealing as the mini cheesecakes really are.

 CRUST INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 graham cracker sheets
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick of melted butter

FILLING INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

TOPPING INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

To make the crust:

  1. Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until they are crumbs.
  2. Add sugar and melted butter and pulse until well combined.
  3. Press 1-2 tablespoons into the bottom of your cupcake liners.mini-cheesecake-2

 

To make the filling:

  1. Using an electric hand mixer, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth
  2. Add heavy whipping cream, vanilla and almond extract, and lemon juice. Mix on high for 2-3 minutes until thickened. Pour filling over crusts to the rim of each cupcake liner.
  3. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours. I made mine the night before, so it was refrigerated for 12 hours.mini-cheesecake-3

To make the topping:

  1. Combine the blueberries, sugar, butter, cornstarch, vanilla extract and lemon juice into a small saucepan.
  2. Cook over medium high heat for about five minutes.  Stir frequently until the blueberries breakdown and the sauce thickens.
  3. Let cool down and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

Are you ready to serve? Let’s go:

  1. Carefully remove the mini cheesecakes from the cupcake liners.
  2. Arrange on a platter and spoon the blueberry sauce over the top of each mini cheesecake.mini-cheesecake-4

 

This recipe yields 12 mini cheesecakes. Double the recipe if you have a larger crowd to feed. You can substitute any berry for the topping. I just like blueberries the most.

Lemon Snowball Cookies

lemon-snowball-2These cookies you can make all year round. But come on. They call them snowball cookies. SNOWBALLS! When I think of snowballs, I think winter. And when I think winter, I think the holidays. These are similar to Russian tea cookies without the walnuts or pecans. I just don’t really like nuts in my cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1-2 cups powdered sugar for coating

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. Beat butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice, lemon extract, kosher salt and lemon zest.
  3. Add the flour and mix until dough forms into consistency of small pebbles.
  4. Roll dough into tablespoon sized balls. Leave 1-2 inches between cookies as the dough does no spread.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies no longer look wet.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes before rolling in additional powdered sugar.
  7. Roll cookies in powdered sugar added to a bowl or go add powdered sugar to a ziploc bag and shake to cover cookies.

Cookies will store for 3 days in air tight container or freeze up to one month. This recipe yielded 30 cookies.

Peppermint Fudge

peppermint-fudge-1I’m making my holiday treats for my family and friends this week. I’m also using the opportunity to blog some of the recipes to share with you. I don’t know why I haven’t shared this recipe sooner. It’s the perfect way to use up all those extra candy canes you bought. Or am I the only one that does that? Shhh. Don’t tell me. I don’t want you to confirm my all things Christmas hoarding habits.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounce can) evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  •  1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup crushed peppermint candies (I used candy canes)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with foil.
  2. Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium , heavy duty saucepan. Over medium heat, bring ingredients to full rolling boil. Stirring constantly, boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in marshmallows, chocolate chips, vanilla extract and peppermint extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted.
  4. Pour into prepared baking pan. Let cool for 1 minute before topping with crushed peppermint.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until firm. (Overnight is best.) Lift from pan, remove foil. Cut into 48 pieces.

peppermint-fudge-2

Holiday Explosion Cookies

xmas-explosion-cookiesOkay, technically these are my Holiday Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies. But they are amped up to be even more festive and more chocolatey. How can you resist three types of chocolate chips, sweet cranberries, holiday M&M’s and holiday sprinkles?! I know I can’t. Make a batch of these for your favorite little elves and don’t forget about Santa.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup red and green holiday M&M’s
  • 1/2 cup red and green holiday sprinkles

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare 2 large baking sheets with non stick baking mats or use parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Using a mixer, combine the butter, sugar and brown sugar and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 batches, stirring until just combined.
  7. Add the dried cranberries/cherries, the 3 types of chocolate chips, M&M’s and holiday sprinkles to the mixture.
  8. Mix manually with a wooden spoon until all are combined.xmas-explosion-cookies-2
  9. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.
  10. Bake until light golden brown and just set, 8-10 minutes.
  11. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: These cookies can be baked ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. This recipe yields about 24 -30 cookies. 

  1. xmas-explosion-cookies-1

Holiday Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Holiday Cherry Chocolate Chip CookiesOkay, so these cookies may not be the prettiest holiday cookies. But they may be some of the tastiest. I found some holiday red and green colored semisweet chocolate chips to up the festive factor. But you can use regular semisweet chocolate chips. Who can resist a chocolate chip cookie? Better yet, one with three types of chocolate chips plus dried cranberries? Leave some out for Santa. You might get an extra special gift.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup semisweet holiday red and green chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare 2 large baking sheets with non stick baking mats or use parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Using a mixer, combine the butter, sugar and brown sugar and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 batches, stirring until just combined.
  7. Add the dried cherries, and the 3 types of chocolate chips to the mixture.
  8. Mix manually with a wooden spoon until chips and cherries are combined.
  9. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.
  10. Bake until light golden brown and just set, 8-10 minutes.
  11. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: These cookies can be baked ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Holiday Fudge

Holiday FudgeOnce upon a time, when I was new to holiday baking, I used to do a day and night long marathon of making all my holiday sweets in one day. And I mean ALL of them. (Three types of cookies, fudge and one or two desserts for the holiday dinner. Yikes! ) Now that I am older and maybe, a tad bit wiser, I have learned to spread my holiday sweets creating to the 3-5 days before the holiday festivities. Here is another fudge recipe that requires no baking and easy enough for beginning cooks to follow.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashews
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (Ocean Spray Craisins)
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Grease a 9 X 9 square baking pan with butter or line with foil and cover with baking spray.
  2. In a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat, add chocolate chips, marshmallows and sweetened condensed milk. Keep stirring until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth.
  3. Stir in vanilla extract, heavy cream, cashews and dried cranberries. Immediately pour into prepared baking pan.
  4. Meanwhile combine white chocolate chips and vegetable oil into a microwavable bowl and melt in 30 second intervals. Stir after every 30 seconds until melted and smooth.
  5. Use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate mixture over the top of your fudge.
  6. Refrigerate 3 hours or until fudge is firm. Cut and serve as desired.

Store in an airtight container. Refrigerated, fudge will keep 2-3 weeks.

Holiday Fudge Tray

I didn’t have any patience when drizzling the white chocolate.  Yours will be much prettier I’m sure.