24 December, 2008

Christmas Cookies: Check!

It's Christmas Eve and the Christmas baking is finally completed. Therefore I must regale you with recipes and tales of baking hilarity. Or not so much. Below is a picture of a plate full of all the goodies. I only put them on that plate for the picture and then all but one tiny bite went back in the freezer. It would seem that in the spirit of Christmas and all, Mr. J. unknowingly transported some tiny bug home from work and I have thusly been afflicted by the Christmas Scourge of '08, meaning that at present, my Christmas Eve Service attendance is in grave peril. This would be the first time since the inception of the Christmas Eve Service at my church growing up that I would miss a C. E. Service. Boo! But I digress. In the picture, you will see (clockwise from top left): Caramel Toffee Squares, Macaroon Cake Balls, Black Forest Cake Balls, Date-filled Cookies (or "Jam Jams"), Russian Tea Cakes, Chocolate Truffles, and finally, No-Time Chocolate Fingers (and yes that dish is rather precariously perched on a window sill).

In retrospect, we're a little heavy on the chocolate so perhaps next year we'll attempt to diversify, but I do like chocolate and I married a man who also has a deep appreciation for almost any incarnation of the cacao bean, so why not go with what we like best?

Should you find yourself, as we do, with a lot of time on your hands today or tomorrow or maybe on Boxing Day, or perhaps even Valentine's Day, here are some recipes and links for your baking pleasure.

Caramel Toffee Squares: these have been a favourite in my family for years but I'll warn you they are tricky - worth it, but tricky. I always have trouble with the filling. My Mom is a genius at making it in the microwave but when I tried that the other night, I cooked it way too long (at least to the soft crack stage), resulting in what Mr. J. calls the "best tasting flop ever." It's now some lovely hard toffee candy reminiscint of what my mom used to make when we were little, only with a slightly burnt flavour. Oops. The second batch I made turned out perfect, until Mr. J. opened the fridge door and dumped them out and filling was EVERYWHERE. (Don't worry, I left the kitchen to avoid ruining our Christmas spirit.) The third batch seems to have turned out just fine. Phew! [They also don't mail well (that's really too bad for such a tasty treat...mmm....yes.....too bad....).]
Note: 1/2 cup of s.c. milk is approx. half a can. Use the other half for a half-batch of Number 6.

2. Cake Balls: Bake a cake mix in a 9x13 pan. When it's cool, use two forks to tear it apart into crumbs. Combine with almost one tub of storebought icing. Chill in the fridge for about an hour. Roll into small balls and coat with melted chocolate chips or almond bark. For the macaroon ones we used coconut cake mix and also added in half a bag of shredded coconut. For the black forest ones, we used a dark chocolate cake mix and added in almost a whole can of blended cherry pie filling (no icing in those ones). Easy and great for potlucks.

Date-filled Cookies: These are really an old-timery cookie I think. I grew up eating these. They're some of my Moms favourites and they were a favourite of my Grampa too. A molasses cookie on either side of some delicious (and full of fibre and nutrients, I might add) date filling. For the date filling: Use kitchen scissors to cut up one package (8 oz.) of pitted dates. Microwave them in a bowl with 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of orange juice for about 4-5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 tsp. of baking soda. Let it cool, stirring occasionally, and it will thicken. Then spread on a cookie and top with another cookie. Like a sandwich.

4. Russian Tea Cakes, as previously blogged.

Chocolate Truffles: Not as decadent as these, which might actually be an act of divine inspiration (quick! buy some! they're on sale!), but definitely a little tasty treat. We always use non-fat sweetened condensed milk so I consider them a slightly lower-fat treat. Plus, nobody will guess you didn't slave for hours.

6. Finally, No-Time Chocolate Fingers. These are a delectable combination of chocolate, graham wafers/crackers and marshmallows and they almost never turn out well enough to serve to actual guests, but we like them just fine. That said, I'm not going to post the recipe unless my Mom can tell me what I'm doing wrong. If you really want it, you can email me and maybe YOU can fix it.

Have a delicious Christmas!

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