Happy Holidays to you and yours!

It’s that wonderful time of the year when holiday cookies are the best thing on our menu of dishes. Whether the recipe comes from a cookbook, magazine, a friend or especially Mom or Grandma these special cookies make us feel connected to wonderful traditional memories. When we put out a delicious tray of tasty, irresistible butter cookies it brings an intangible joy to us of warm and tasty delicious moments for the holidays with family and friends.

This is no time to worry about calories, weight or anything else. Enjoy your favorite cookie without guilt; this time of year and this cookie only come once a year. You don’t have to over indulge, just enjoy one or two of your favorite cookies.

Cookie Tips:

For the best tasting cookies use the finest ingredients you can afford, use unbleached flour and real butter. For most cookie recipes if you put the dough in the refrigerator for at least overnight you’ll have a more flavorful cookie. To chill the cookie dough more quickly put it in the freezer for half the time. Clean unblemished cookie baking sheets are very important to making cookies just perfect. I like to use the new air cookie baking sheets, they help to prevent burning and sticking. Always make sure the cookie sheet is cold when placing cookie dough on it. Parchment paper is another good choice to consider.

For the most intense chocolate flavor, use bittersweet chocolate with a minimum of 60 percent cocoa solids. If you have a cookie recipe that has at least 2 ¼ cups flour, switch out ¼ cup flour and substitute ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder and add 1-ounce melted semisweet chocolate to the dough.

When using a cookie cutter, to keep the edges clean, make sure dough is chilled and the cutter is free of dough then dip it in flour after every few cookies. If there is any extra cookie dough left over form it into a log, wrap with plastic wrap, freeze and use again when you’re ready to bake again.

If the cookie dough is too thin or soupy try adding little bits of flour and stir in until the consistency is correct. The cookie dough should be at room temperature when shaping the cookies and cold dough if it’s being sliced. If the dough is frozen a bit it will make the dough easier to slice. Make sure to preheat the oven and bake cookies on a middle shelf in the oven. Use one cookie pan at a time.

Cool cookies completely before storing them in airtight containers. Separating iced cookie layers with waxed paper will prevent the cookies from sticking to each other.

 

Chewy Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Sweet and delicious with white chocolate chunks.

1 1/2 cups I bleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or Chinese Five - spice powder

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cups dried cranberries

1 cup white chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; stir in oats. Set aside. In another bowl with electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add honey and vanilla; beat until blended.

Add flour mixture in two additions, beating until well combined. Stir in cranberries and chocolate chunks. Drop dough onto prepared pans by heaping tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart. Bake 9-11 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes; transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

 

Oatmeal Cookies and Molasses

Makes 5 dozen.

½ cup butter, softened

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup molasses

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups quick cooking oats

¾ cup pecans, walnuts, or hazel nuts

1 cup raisins

½ cup apple juice

In a small bowl soak raisins in apple juice for at least 2 hours. Squeeze dry and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl cream together sugar, butter, eggs, and molasses.

In another bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and oats. Add nuts and squeezed raisins.

Drop by round teaspoon 2- inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for 15 minutes then transfer to cooling racks.

 

 

Pecan White Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

The same recipe may be made with both white and/or chocolate chips.

2 ¼ Cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (two sticks) butter

1 cup (lightly packed) brown sugar

7 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 teaspoons water

2 large eggs

12 ounces (2 cups) white candy chips

1 ½ cups chopped pecans

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them lightly with vegetable oil.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, cream the butter, both sugars and vanilla together in a medium size bowl until light and fluffy, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Stop the mixer twice during the process to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula. Then add the corn syrup and the water and mix for several seconds.

Add the eggs and beat on medium speed until they’re blended, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed for 15 seconds. Scrape the bowl.

Add the chips and nuts and fold and blend until they’re mixed in, 5 to 8 seconds.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets.

Bake the cookies until the edges are dark golden and the centers are light and slightly puffed up, 11 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the sheets.

 

 

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 24 cookies

1 cup unbleached flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup shortening

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup rolled oats

1 cup flaked coconut

In a bowl whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and soda together.

In another bowl cream shortening and sugars, add egg and vanilla and beat together. Add flour mixture, oats, and coconut and mix thoroughly. Shape dough into small balls and place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake in 400 degree oven 12 to 15 minutes.

 

Mexican Wedding Cakes

Makes about 54 cookies

2 cups flour

2 cups pecans, chopped fine

½ cup powdered sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup butter, softened and cut up

Additional powdered sugar, for finishing

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, pecans, powdered sugar, and salt. Stir in vanilla. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Gently knead dough until it begins to hold together. Roll dough into ¾ inch balls and place 1 ½ inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on wire rack, then roll in powdered sugar and cool completely. Roll in additional sugar before serving.

 

Merry Meringues

2 large egg whites

¼ teaspoon. cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

2/3 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon almond flavoring

¾ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

6 ounces mini chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add sugar 1-tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form. Fold in nuts and chips. Drop cookies by tablespoons onto lightly greased baking sheets or on parchment paper and place in oven. Turn off oven and leave overnight. (Or bake at 300 degrees for twenty minutes.)

 

Ginger Snaps

Cream: ¾ cup shortening

1 cup sugar

Add: 1 Large egg

1/4 cup molasses

1 tablespoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Stir in: 2 cups unbleached flour

Roll tablespoons of dough between palms until small balls are formed. Roll balls in granulated sugar until coated.

Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until tops are slightly rounded and crackly. Cool on wire racks.

 

Green wreath cookies

1/3 cup butter or margarine

32 large or 3 cups small marshmallows

1 teaspoon green food coloring

½. teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups corn flakes

Red cinnamon candies or M and Ms (Optional)

In a large saucepan melt butter and marshmallows. Remove from heat; add green food coloring and extracts. Add corn flakes; stir until well coated. Using 1 tablespoon each, shape into wreaths. Let dry uncovered on waxed paper at room temperature for 8 hours. Garnish cookie wreaths with red cinnamon candies, if desired before letting them dry.

 

 

Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival — winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012; placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing and winning second place for her Sweet Blueberry Pepper Jelly in 2015; and winning first in 2016 for her spoon blueberry muffins with apricot sauce and second for her blueberry crisp squares — and has won various other contest awards — including three blue ribbons at the 2016 Cape Fear County Fair — for her blueberry cheesecake, muffins, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.