Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Baking

Can you ever have too many Christmas cookies?  Some new favorites I've discovered in recent years include this yummy chocolate-coconut potato candy; orange snowball cookies; mocha truffle cookies; and frosted lemon ricotta cookies.  Yum.  Cookies.  Bring 'em on.

But if you find it a challenge to squeeze in all the holiday baking you'd like to in the weeks before Christmas, see if author and guest blogger Gina Conroy's tips, below, don't help.

Gina, by the way, has a brand new novella coming out in a month.  Called Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers collection, you can read all about it here.  Then bake yourself some nice warm cookies and cozy up to a delicious fire.  It's the recipe for a perfect chilly evening, if you ask me.

by Gina Conroy

I remember the time I took a plate of Christmas cookies to my daughter's preschool teacher and was surprised by her comment.

"Thank you.  Not many people give homemade Christmas cookies any more.  It seems to be a lost art."

That made me sad to hear that so many people forego this holiday tradition.  As I was growing up, my mom always filled shoeboxes of cookies for neighbors, relatives, and friends.  It was her gift to them.  And they'd come to expect it every year and cherish their favorite cookies.

I have to admit I don't bake nearly as much as she still does.  One of the reasons is that it's too stressful cooking with four kids' schedules and trying to do everything else for Christmas.  But if you still want to bake and give those holiday cookies without the stress, here are some great ideas that have helped me.

Pies, cookies, sweet breads all freeze great.  So don't be afraid to freeze them.  I usually freeze holiday cookies (and cookies throughout the year) for those unexpected guests.  Then I just pull them out and let them defrost.  Instant homemade treat.

This is the BEST way to do the least amount of work and get the most variety of cookies.  Invite your friends over to a cookie exchange party.  Then have everyone bring a couple dozen of one or two varieties of their favorite cookies.  On the day of the party, break out the Christmas eggnog and coffee, scented candles and music, and arrange all the cookies on the dining room table.  You can even have everyone bring their favorite snack to share at the party.

Make sure everyone brings an empty container to take home cookies.  Then after you visit for a while, start revolving around the table, grabbing three or four cookies of each variety.  If you brought three dozen cookies, you take home three dozen.  If you brought two dozen, then you leave with two dozen.

Then take them home and enjoy.  I usually share my goodies with teachers and friends.  They don't have to know you didn't bake them all.

This has been my standard teacher's gift for the last couple of years.  It's so easy to do, and everyone loves to make their own cookies without all the measuring and the mess.  You can assemble these ahead of time, so start saving those applesauce, mayo, and tomato sauce jars now.

Check to see if you have to cut the recipes in half for smaller jars, and don't forget to attach instructions.  Also, don't be afraid to change up the ingredients and get creative.

(Lynn's note:  Here's a recipe for chocolatey peanut butter cookie mix, and another for homemade brownie mix.)

Christmas cookie baking doesn't have to be stressful, especially if you plan ahead.  So resurrect this lost Christmas tradition and bless someone this holiday season.

Gina Conroy is founder of Writer . . . Interrupted, where she mentors busy writers.  Her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers collection, releases from Barbour Publishing in January, 2012.  Gina loves to connect with readers on Facebook and Twitter.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Excess Halloween Candy Ideas

Got a little too much of this lying around?  Me, too.  If you need some ideas on how to use it, check out this excellent post by Janet Rudolph of the wonderfully choco-licious blog Dying for Chocolate.  Janet provides more than a dozen creative ways to use it up.

Like using M & M's to make your own trail mix.  Doh!  Why didn't I think of that?!

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