Thank you for looking at my blog! We've been working on making things available via video as well, so I apologize if the written word is more your thing and you have missed me being here in black and white!

I wanted to share some of my Christmas recipes with you, and it's a little easier to go into the detail on the blog rather than the email, so thanks for sticking around!

The idea behind this assortment of recipes comes from a special place: I love to give something to the people who I have grown close to – from teachers, to Greg, the same nice man that brings our packages everyday, to Mary, the lady that does my hair. I want to give something to the neighbors and so many more. It adds up when you have a big family on top of that, but still, you want to give because it makes you feel so good, and it can't be something meaningless or random. There is no better gift than a homemade box of Christmas treats. It speaks so much more loudly than a store bought tin of cookies. Don't get me wrong; that is thoughtful and much appreciated, but if you have the time and the motivation, then I share my time tested recipes with you and invite you to go in this direction this year. Here's a great time saver: One cookie dough, at least 5 uses. Here's the basic roll out dough that I use: Roll Out Cookie Recipe 1 -1/4 cup Butter, softened 2 cups Granulated Sugar 2 eggs 1 -1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract 4 drops Almond Oil (find this at Sweet Wise in Nashville) 5 cups All Purpose Flour 2 tsp Baking Powder 1 tsp Salt 1/2 cup Milk

Additional flour for rolling surface Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl until fluffy. Add eggs and flavorings and mix well. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time, alternating with the milk until all have been incorporated. The dough will be stiff at the end of the mixing process; it might be necessary to add remaining flour by kneading. Flour your rolling surface, and roll to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes, and place on ungreased baking sheet or Silpat. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until just starting to brown on the edges. After cooling, decorate as desired.

Option 1. You can use your Christmas cookie cutter assortment to cut, bake, and decorate as you desire. I like to use Royal Icing (we have a great mix that you just add water to). One of the more fun cookies that I like to make is: just cut out round cookies, any size. Use color flow icing (thinned royal icing) in a variety of red, green or white on each cookie. Once the icing sets up, Go back and write in an opposing color "Naughty" or "Nice", then decorate with a small dot border in the third color. SO fun to watch which cookie the guests choose, and see them think so hard about it!!

Option 2. You will need a silpat (or any stick silicon baking mat) for these stained glass cookies. Cut shapes, then cut more shapes OUT of that shape. For instance, cut a square, and place it on the baking mat. THEN cut 4 squares out of that, as if cutting the panes out of a window (cutting after it's moved helps it keep from distorting its shape). Fill each pane with crushed hard candy (like jolly ranchers or life savers). Bake as normal, and the candy will melt into the cavity. LET COOL COMPLETELY BEFORE MOVING! After cool, you can life them off and enjoy! Think of these shapes of stained glass cookies: A large teddy bear with a heart in the middle, a star with another star cut out (or hearts on Valentine's Day), a Christmas ornament with mini shapes cut out, the possibilities are endless! You can even hang them from the tree if you'll make a little hole before you bake them for a ribbon to go through.

Option 3: To make colored candy cane cookies, color equal parts dough (like ½ cup each) red and green. Take a piece of each about the size of a large gumball. Roll out into a snake about 5 inches long. Lay them beside eachother, and then twist. Lay on cooie sheet and bake as above.

Option 4: Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies 1 cup Roll Out Cookie Dough (just take 1 cup of finished dough) 1/4 cup Raspberry Jam or Raspberry Filling (or green apple jelly) 1/4 cup sliced almonds, slightly crushed water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Portion dough into 24 balls. Dip in water, then roll in almonds. Place on ungreased cookie sheet or Silpat a few inches apart, then press into the center of each cookie with your thumb to make a cavity. Fill cavity with raspberry filling. Bake about 10 minutes until almonds start to brown slightly. Makes 24.

Option 5: Powdered Wedding Cookies 1 cup Roll Out Cookie Dough 1/8 tsp Cinnamon 1/4 cup finely chopped Pecans Powdered Sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix Cinnamon and Pecans into dough. Chill for 20 minutes to help cookies keep their shape. With a small cookie scoop, scoop cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet or Silpat. Bake 10-12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then roll cookies generously in powdered sugar. Makes 20.
There you have a nice assortment of cookies from one basic dough. Want to go a little farther? I can't explain to you the incredible, buttery difference between homemade peanut brittle and store bought. Try it; you'll love it! I substitute Dry Roasted peanuts where a lot of recipes use Raw Spanish. They seem to be easier to find, and I like the nuttier taste. Here's my recipe:

Peanut Brittle 1 ½ cups Dry Roasted peanuts 1 cup sugar ½ cup light corn syrup ¼ tsp salt 1 Tbsp butter 1 tsp Baking soda 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
Combine first 4 ingredients in heavy bottom saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring gently, until sugar dissolves. Cover and cook over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes to wash down sugar crystals from sides of pan. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, to 300 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in butter, soda, and vanilla. Pour out onto silicon baking mat or buttered cookie sheet. Let cool, break into pieces.
Two more things I have to put in my cookie box.
Christmas Bark If you haven't made Christmas Bark, your friends are missing out! Its crazy easy, beautiful, and everyone loves it. All you do is take 3 pounds of Merckens White Chocolate (or Super White; the white is a creamier look, the super white is a stark, bright white color, really no difference in taste). Melt it in the microwave, 45 seconds first, and then stir, then 30 seconds and then stir, continuing just until smooth. Once completely smooth, stir in one pound of red and green peppermint crunch. Lay aluminum foil on a large cookie sheet, then pour mixture out into a thin layer .Let set completely, then break into pieces. The color is SO vibrant and beautiful! Besides going into the cookie box, this looks really great on it's own as a small gift. Place it into a clear, disposable 12" piping bag and tie it with a ribbon, and you've got a nice gift on its own or a fantastic way to increase your counter sales. Look how great it looks with tangerine crunch!

The last item I usually include is my secret recipe, which I will gladly share. It also uses the Red and Green peppermint crunch, but this makes a creamy, delicious fudge.

White Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Fudge 2 tablespoons butter 2/3 cup Evaporated Milk 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 cups mini marshmallows 12 ounces Merckens White Chocolate 1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup red and green peppermint crunch

Directions LINE 13 x 9-inch baking pan with foil.

COMBINE butter, evaporated milk, sugar and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly, over medium heat. Boil, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. STIR in marshmallows and white chocolate. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Once smooth, stir in red and green crunch Pour into prepared baking pan. Place ¼ cup crunch on top of fudge and press in slightly. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares.

This is a great assortment of treats, and I can assure you that it will be loved by everyone you think of. I spend a day or two at my leisure making everything, and then a quick morning assembling the cookie boxes to distribute .I hope that you love giving these out as much as I do!!!