8 Steps to Perfect Holiday Cookies

The time-honored popularity of holiday cookie baking remains strong even in today’s grab-and-go society.

“Most of us are looking for ways to simplify the holiday hubbub, and focus on activities that truly have meaning for our families,” says Ginny Bean, publisher of Ginny’s catalog and Ginnys.com. Bean, who fondly recalls baking holiday cookies with her mother and her three sons, offers the following easy tips for your own holiday cookie baking tradition.

* Get organized. Read the recipe thoroughly. Gather your ingredients before even turning on the stove to make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything that would require an unanticipated trip to the store.

* Keep it simple. Bean recommends starting with this good, basic dough recipe and adding different ingredients to customize the taste and texture to personal preferences:

Cream 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar until fluffy.

Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until well mixed.

In separate bowl, whisk 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking soda together, then add slowly to creamed mixture, beating until combined.

“There’s almost no end to what you can do to this dough,” says Bean. “Get creative and experiment with different mix-ins like lemon peel, pumpkin pie spice, even instant coffee, or substitute toffee or peppermint chips for traditional chocolate and butterscotch.”

* Use the right fat. Some cookie recipes only achieve their best flavor and texture with butter. Hopefully, those recipes will specify “butter only; no substitutes.” Recipes calling for butter or margarine will produce good results with either, as long as you use a margarine that contains at least 80 percent vegetable oil.

Check the nutrition label. The margarine should have 100 calories per tablespoon. Margarines with less than 80 percent vegetable oil have high water content and can result in tough cookies that spread excessively, stick to the pan, or don’t brown well.

* Measure accurately. Metal or plastic measuring cups are intended for dry ingredients such as flour and sugar. When measuring flour, stir it in the canister to lighten it and then gently spoon into a dry measuring cup and level the top with the straight edge of a knife. Glass or plastic cups with spouts are meant only for liquids. If you use a liquid measuring cup for flour, you’re likely to get an extra tablespoon or more of flour per cup, enough to make cookies dry.

* Chill dough properly. The chilling time given in a recipe is the optimum time for easy rolling and shaping. If you need to speed up chilling, wrap the dough and place it in the freezer. Twenty minutes of chilling in the freezer is equal to about one hour in the refrigerator.

* Use a powerful mixer. An electric stand mixer is the best way to mix heavy cookie dough. With a handheld mixer, you’ll probably end up needing to stir in flour by hand, which can be a nightmare.

* Choose the right cookie sheets. Look for shiny, heavy-gauge cookie sheets with very low or no sides. Dark cookie sheets can cause cookie bottoms to overbrown, and cookies won’t bake evenly in a pan with an edge. Insulated cookie sheets tend to yield pale cookies with soft centers. If you use them, don’t bake cookies long enough to brown on the bottom because the rest of the cookie may get too dry. Nonstick cookie sheets let you skip the greasing step. But the dough may not spread as much, resulting in thicker, less crisp cookies. Unless specified otherwise, a light greasing with shortening or quick spray with nonstick spray coating is adequate for most recipes.

* Know your oven. Experiment with the temperature of your oven. If your oven typically cooks items faster than the recipe calls for, adjust accordingly. Don’t bake cookies for too long. They should be light brown around the edges and look a little underdone when they come out. Keep in mind that cookies will continue to cook from the heat of the cookie sheet after you remove them from the oven. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet initially and then transfer them to a wire rack once they can be lifted with a spatula without breaking them. Once they are cooled completely, you can decorate them or store directly in an airtight container.

Fun Holiday Appetizers

Get crafty with edible holiday appetizers

Don’t worry, Mom. In this case, it’s OK to play with your food. The latest online social media craze features awe-inspiring galleries of edible art, showcasing everyday ingredients transformed into munchable holiday masterpieces.

This season, whether you’re looking to revamp the relish tray or simply keep the kids occupied with a fun project, a few holiday-friendly staples are all you need to let your creativity take flight.

Take, for instance, California black ripe olives. Known for their versatility and mild flavor, black olives are a party favorite for a reason. And with 95 percent of the nation’s ripe olives grown on family farms in California, they’re a truly all-American ingredient, too. They’re also the perfect building block for edible holiday treats.

Get in on the fun with an easy and adorable-to-look-at recipe that uses black olives, cream cheese, pretzels and a few other common ingredients to create an unforgettable herd of holiday cheer. In fact, this is one reindeer game anyone can play.

For more holiday recipe ideas featuring California ripe olives, visit www.calolive.org.

California Olive Reindeer

Makes 8 reindeer

Supplies:

2- 4 Won ton wrappers

Cooking spray

2 Sandwich-sized reclosable plastic bags

4 ounces cream cheese

Scissors

8 colossal California Black Ripe Olives

8 large California Black Ripe Olives

1 bamboo skewer

16 pretzel sticks

Paring knife

Tiny pieces of carrot and raisins

Powdered sugar (optional)

Kale (optional)

Mushrooms (optional)

Directions:

With a small, sharp knife, cut wonton wrappers into “antlers.” Place on a baking sheet and coat with cooking spray. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes at 350 F, or until lightly browned. Place cream cheese into two sandwich-sized reclosable bags. Snip 1/8-inch off the corner of one and 1/16-inch off the second. With the bag and the 1/8-inch hole, squeeze cream cheese into colossal olives. Using a bamboo skewer, make a hole in the large olives. Break a pretzel stick in half and press into hole and into colossal olive. Press together to form the head. Make four holes in the colossal olive with a bamboo skewer and push four broken pretzel sticks in to form legs. Squeeze cream cheese with the small-hole to form eyes. Make tiny slits with a paring knife in the top of the head and insert wonton antlers. Make a hole in the large olive (head) and insert a small sliver of carrot for the nose. Use a small piece of raisin to create pupils.

To create a winter setting, dust kale leaves with powdered sugar and snip the tops off mushrooms to simulate large boulders.

Quick, simple holiday entertaining tricks

The holidays are that special time of year when we open our homes and welcome guests from far and wide. It is a chance for us to connect with old friends and family we may not have seen since the previous holiday season.

If you’ll be hosting holiday guests this year, you know there are plenty of preparations to be made. While the main course and the sleeping arrangements may require some additional thought, you don’t need to get bogged down in the decorations. Follow these tips to create a beautiful holiday motif in just a matter of moments.

* Dress up the curtains. Wrapping paper and Christmas print ribbon only appear once a year, so when they do make the most of them. Use some of that print ribbon and wrap it around your curtains to make festive, holiday bows. This will bring your furnishings into the holiday spirit and give the room a more complete look.

* Serve a festive snack. The main course may be extravagant, but there’s no reason the snacks have to be laborious. This year, offer your guests Wheat Thins Holiday snacks. These better-for-you hexagon-shaped snacks feature festive imprints, including snowflakes, a gingerbread man, a bell and a candy cane. Plate them on a holiday platter and serve them with a garlic dip, a spinach artichoke dip or another of your own creation for a fun, unique snack. Share your entertaining ideas for Wheat Thins Holiday snacks on Twitter @WheatThins.

* Dress up your house plants. Why should the tree get all the attention? If you have plants in your home, decorate them with festive ornaments of their own.

* Create a sparkling centerpiece. A centerpiece doesn’t have to be a large, dramatic thing. For a simple, yet elegant centerpiece, place vintage ornaments on a cake stand and surround them with holly leaves or evergreen twigs.

* Place your wishes in a wreath. Create a touching piece that will engage and entertain your guests. Hang an unadorned twig wreath from a wall. Then supply your guests with small, blank cards and markers to write on and ask them to write a message about the season or the upcoming year on the card before adding it to the wreath. Your guests will enjoy creating their own messages as well as reading the messages of their fellow event attendees.

* Create decorations from candy. If you’re looking for simple decorations to adorn your house with, fill tall, slim drinking glasses with candy canes for a festive, yet elegant appearance. Tie a red ribbon around each glass to complete the look.

Preparing your home for that holiday get-together doesn’t have to mean hours of decorating. With these simple tips you’ll be able to showcase your Christmas spirit and spend your newly-found free time enjoying the season.

Dish Up the Love

Dish up the love this holiday season with time-honored recipes

The heart of the holiday season centers around the bonds created during celebrations and traditions – Thanksgiving dinner, cookie exchanges, Christmas and Hanukkah parties and more. These special moments are often created in and around the kitchen. Whether it’s an afternoon spent making holiday cookies or sitting around the table enjoying Grandma’s famous meatballs, there’s something special about quality time spent together preparing for or enjoying seasonal fare.

A big part of what makes these holiday moments so special are traditional recipes and the memories they evoke – those favorite dishes that have passed from generation-to-generation or friend-to-friend and are always requested at this time of year.

Holiday cooks and entertainers are encouraged to submit their time-honored holiday recipes at WorldKitchen.com/DishUptheLove. For every recipe submitted, Baker’s Secret, CorningWare, and Pyrex will donate $1 up to $50,000 to Feeding America. One dollar helps provide nine meals secured by Feeding America on behalf of local member food banks. Additionally, one grand prize winner will receive a Valentine’s Day trip for two to New York City. Be sure to check out other shared recipes for new menu ideas to try in your own kitchen.

When making your family favorites, or trying out a new recipe, consider the following tips from Antonia Lofaso, Top Chef All-Star and executive chef/partner at-Black Market Liquor Bar &-Scopa:

* Spend more time cooking and less time on cleanup – Reliable and durable baking dishes like Baker’s Secret simplify the baking process, turning the baking marathon into a fun afternoon of family bonding time. And they’re dishwasher-safe, meaning less time spent cleaning up the mess and more time enjoying the delicious baked goods.

* Serve meals family style – Having the entire family around the dinner table during the holidays is special. Serving the food family style makes it easy for the host to participate in the fun with everyone else, and allows all members to take as much food as they want while passing the dishes around the table.

* Reduce prep time – Creating all those wonderful dishes doesn’t have to take all day. Help reduce time by serving those favorite menu items in table-worthy bake ware such as CorningWare. These dishes can transfer seamlessly from oven to table to the refrigerator for storage, and complement your holiday table decorations beautifully.

* Favorite dish will travel- Sometimes the person with the most-requested recipe isn’t the one hosting the meal, and when that happens, Pyrex Bakeware comes to the rescue. Not only can you prep and bake in Pyrex but it’s great for storing and taking on the go.

Lofaso has two favorite recipes she shares with her family each holiday season. They are Italian Rice Balls and Bacon, Brussels Sprout and Goat Cheese Pie, which she’s sharing so you can try it at your next family holiday gathering.

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Italian Rice Balls

Servings: 15 to 18 rice balls

Ingredients:

1 cup Arborio rice (risotto rice)
2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 egg yolks
2 cups grated or shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3 cups vegetable oil
2 cups dried plain bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups cubed firm whole-milk mozzarella cheese

In medium pot, combine the rice, water and salt and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and let the rice cook for 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. When done, spread rice out on a baking sheet. Use a rubber spatula to move the rice around, allowing the steam to escape and the rice to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix the egg yolks and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Add the egg and cheese mixture, parsley, basil and sun-dried tomatoes to the cooled rice. Use a rubber spatula to incorporate these ingredients. It will be very sticky. Put the bread crumbs in a medium bowl.

In a 4-quart pot, heat the vegetable oil to 350 F, verifying the temperature with a candy thermometer. Set up the sheet of rice next to the mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs. Use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measuring cup to portion out the rice. Roll 1 scoop in wet hands to shape it into a ball. Push two cubes of mozzarella cheese into the center of the ball. Reshape the rice to close the ball around the cheese. Coat each ball with bread crumbs and set on a plate until ready to fry.

Fry 4 or 5 rice balls at a time for 2 to 3 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from oil using a slotted spoon and set to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce.

Tip: Purchase firm mozzarella cheese in a block and cut it into cubes.

 

18822245

Bacon, Brussels Sprout and Goat Cheese Pie

Servings: 10 to 12

Pie crust ingredients:

2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup ice water

Pie ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound smoked bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 pound Brussels sprouts, stems removed and quartered
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

Piecrust directions:

Combine the butter, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse for 1 minute. Once the butter has been chopped, set the processor to spin and drizzle in the ice water. Blend for no more than 45 seconds. The dough should form a ball in the food processor. Remove the dough, flatten it like a disk and wrap it in plastic. Let it rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or up to a day.

Pie directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 10 to 12 inch saute pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until slightly crispy. Remove from pan. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan and season them with salt. Cook in the bacon fat and oil for 4 to 6 minutes, until golden brown and soft. Strain to remove the excess oil. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to plate of bacon and cool in the fridge while preparing the dough.

Remove the dough from the fridge and give it a few minutes to warm up. On a dry, lightly floured surface, press your rolling pin down in the dough, rolling upward and downward. Turn the dough a quart turn and repeat the process all the way around to make a circular shape. You want to have about 2 inches of crust overhanging your pie pan. Roll the crust onto the pin and gently roll the pin across the pie pan, draping the crust into the pan. Once the crust is arranged in the pie pan, roll the pin across the ridge of the pan. This will cut off the excess crust and leave a clean edge.

In a medium bowl, combine the fontina and mozzarella cheeses. Layer half of the cheese on the crust. Top it with the bacon and Brussels sprouts. Layer on the rest of the mixed cheeses so the Brussels sprouts are completed covered. Sprinkle on the goat cheese.

Bake the pie for 45 minutes, rotating it halfway through the baking time. The pie crust will turn a golden brown color. Serve warm or at room temperature.

‘Hot’ chocolate ideas for the holidays

Peppermint may grab the glamour as a flavor of choice during the holiday seasons, but when it comes to sheer staying power in the hearts of the American public, it’s hard to beat chocolate. While many of us consider chocolate welcome and appropriate at any time of year, this most delightful sweet can take center stage during the holidays. Whether you give it as a gift, serve it on a holiday buffet or make it the centerpiece of your seasonal decor, chocolate is always on trend.

Here are some hot ideas for making your holiday entertaining a celebration of all things chocolate:

The (practically) one-size-fits-all gift

As gifts go, chocolate has timeless appeal for any occasion. Many people who might forgo the sweet during the rest of the year, treat themselves to an exception at holiday time. From basic bars in milk or dark chocolate to complex flavors like Platinum, a dark chocolate shell wrapped around pecan praline and caramel, it’s possible to find a chocolate treat that appeals to virtually all tastes.

Sending gourmet chocolates as a holiday gift has many advantages. The chocolatiers at Kohler Original Recipe Chocolates create truly unique, memorable offerings, and online ordering makes it easy to send a one-of-a-kind chocolate gift without the hassle and fuss of wrapping, packing and shipping on your own.

Fabulous feasting

What holiday celebration would be complete without some form of chocolate? As an ingredient or a dessert, chocolate is versatile. Whether you’re using it as a sauce ingredient for a main course or making it the centerpiece of a meal’s finale, you can find a place for chocolate in holiday cooking.

Sweeter decorating

Holiday decorating doesn’t have to start with tinsel and end with twinkling lights. Chocolate also makes a great decorating element. Decorating with chocolate shouts “festive,” and when done right, chocolate decorations can do double-duty as treats or dessert.

Start with creating chocolate tree ornaments. One of the easiest ways to make an ornament using chocolate is to purchase clear plastic ornaments at your local craft store and fill them with colorful chocolate candies.

Another easy option is to tuck colorful chocolates into your favorite holiday centerpieces. To create an illuminating centerpiece, choose a large pillar candle in a festive color. Place the candle atop a round mirror (also available at craft stores), and create a ring around the candle with colorful chocolates, such as Kohler Original Recipe Chocolate Rare Facets. Pleasing-to-the-eye and yummy-to-the-tastebuds these little pieces of artwork look like precious gems in rich hues. When dinner is done, invite guests to partake in the chocolates.

However you choose to incorporate chocolate into your holiday revelry, it’s hard to go wrong with this time-honored, beloved treat.

Try this great chocolate recipe from the chefs at Kohler’s American Club Resort:

17178748

Chocolate Gingersnap Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or mini chips)
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/3 cup coarse sugar (or additional granulated sugar), for rolling

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and all spices. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg, followed by molasses, balsamic vinegar and vanilla. Either by hand or with the mixer on low speed, gradually stir in all the flour mixture, mixing only until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in crystallized ginger and chocolate chunks.

Form dough into 1-inch balls, roll in coarse sugar and place on baking sheet. Press cookies gently to flatten slightly and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until browned around the edges.

Makes about three dozen.

Quick & easy holiday meals

The hectic holidays can mean hurried cooks, frantic trips to the grocery store and chaotic menu planning. But it doesn’t have to – with some tried and true solutions for easy entertaining, you can reduce your stress and set up a holiday party guaranteed to impress guests from near or far.

Don’t let cooking and entertaining dim your holiday spirit. Follow these simple tips for making your next holiday meal as easy to plan as it is delicious:

Appetizers – Modern cheese plates are far from boring and are a simple way to add a gourmet touch to your event. Remember to balance tastes, textures and visual appeal to create a memorable cheese plate. A good rule of thumb: include three cheeses with different flavor profiles, such as a soft brie, a sharp cheddar and a crumbly blue like Stella blue cheese.

Fondue – Add an interactive twist to your favorite holiday fare with fondue. Fondue is a fun way to kick off a meal with a variety of appetizer options. Or make it a full meal experience, with multiple courses incorporating fondue as the common element. Buy or rent fondue pots and set up tables or stations with different themes. Cheese fondue is perfect for veggies, fruit and breads. Rich broth-based fondues are great for main courses like meats and seafood. Chocolate, of course, is ideal for dessert when paired with berries, brownies and marshmallows.

Potluck – The holidays are all about bringing people together, and what better way than to host a potluck-style meal where everyone brings a favorite dish to share? The host typically handles the main entree, and then the guests can bring dishes to complement the meal. Ask attendees if they have something in mind, or if they are unsure, assign particular items to ensure your meal is covered. It’s a great way to introduce everyone to new recipes.

Reinvent classic dishes – Think your guests are bored with the same foods year after year? Unlikely, but if you want to add pizzazz to your cooking, you can do so while staying true to the classic recipes you love. Traditional holiday dishes – like mashed potatoes and salads – can be updated in seconds with cheese. Few things can’t benefit from a quick sprinkle of Stella Parmesan, which you can pick up at your local grocery store. Another option is to add a dash of herbs to help bring out the natural flavors of your foods; fresh herbs like rosemary and mint or pantry staples like cinnamon and nutmeg bring bold new flavor to your dishes.

Pairings party – Let your inner foodie shine and impress your friends with a holiday pairings party. Select items that are easy to prepare and pair with complementing drinks. For example, Champagne pairs great with delicate cheeses like brie, ale beers pair nicely with richly flavored cheeses like gorgonzola, and medium-bodied red wines pair well with hard Italian-style cheeses like Asiago. Label pairings appropriately so guest can congregate around the buffet table and sample at will. Their taste buds will dance and the food discussions will be plentiful.

Try these two tasty and simple recipes at your next holiday party:

17981787

European Stella Cheese Fondue
Serves four

Ingredients:
1 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio-
15 ounce (3 containers) Stella 3 cheese European Blends-
1 tablespoon cornstarch–
1 tablespoon kirsch or brandy (optional)-
1/4 teaspoon salt-
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

Bring wine to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan.- Toss together cheese and cornstarch in a medium bowl.- Add 1/4 of cheese mixture to simmering wine, stirring constantly until melted.- Continue adding cheese and stirring constantly until all cheese is melted and simmers gently.- Stir in kirsch, if desired, and salt and nutmeg.- Transfer mixture to a fondue pot set over a fondue burner or heating element. Serve assorted dippers with long forks for dipping. Stir warm fondue often to prevent scorching.

17981925

Stella Romano Cheese Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
Serves four

Ingredients:
4 medium red potatoes, with or without skins-
4 ounce Stella Romano cheese-
1/3 cup skim milk-
4 tablespoon butter, softened-
2 teaspoon fresh Italian parsley-
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Put potatoes in large pot and cover. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes are easily pierced by a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain water. With potatoes over medium-low heat, add remaining ingredients and mash with a potato masher until smooth.

 

Think outside the chocolate box

The holidays provide a good excuse to bake and eat cookies. Not the traditional chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies that most of us eat during the rest of the year, but those special recipes that have everyone going back for a second taste.

Hosting a cookie exchange is a great way to expose your friends to a wider variety of cookie recipes this holiday season. But before sending out invitations and asking your friends to make their favorite cookie recipe, consider thinking outside the chocolate box for your party this year.

There are tons of ways to make your cookie exchange party unique. Start planning your party right away using a couple of these ideas.

* Make it a themed cookie exchange. Theme parties are fun at any time of year, but take it one step further with your cookie exchange. Invite your guests to follow the theme with the recipes they choose to make. For example, consider hosting a black and white cookie party, explaining to attendees that the cookies must have a black or white element. Coconut, white or dark chocolate candies, nuts and sugar for icing are just several ingredients that fit the bill, and you can find dozens of recipes featuring these items. Or make it a chocolate party, where all of the recipes have a chocolate ingredient in them. Many cookie recipes include nuts, so a nut theme would also be a great idea. In addition to the recipes featuring the theme, also decorate the party room to match. In need of a recipe? The following white chocolate crunch recipe is great for all three themed parties:

 

Hawaiian Host Whole Macadamia White Chocolate Crunch

Ingredients:

1 box, 7 ounces, 18 pieces Hawaiian Host Whole Macadamia White Chocolates
1 cup Rice Krispies
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Directions:

Melt chocolate in a microwave oven in 4 quart casserole at 70 percent power for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring periodically, until melted. Stir in peanut butter. Add corn cereal and marshmallows; stir. Pour into buttered 8-by-8 inch square pan or dish. When firm, cut into squares.

* Up the game on the party favors. The purpose of a cookie exchange is to leave the party with a variety of holiday cookies, but you and your guests can have a lot more fun. Ways to think outside the chocolate box include holding a wine pairing with the cookies. Red wine and chocolate go well together, and your guests can determine which pairing works best for their holiday tables. Or indulge by serving some chocolate martinis alongside the cookies. If your group is into games, make up fun names for the cookie recipes everyone brought, or make a unique recipe just for the party, and have guests guess the ingredients in the mystery cookie.

* Introduce unexpected ingredients into the cookie recipes. One of the holiday season’s most popular confections is Hawaiian Host chocolate-covered macadamia nuts that tempt frequent snacking all season long. But chopping up these chocolate-covered nuts and putting them into a cookie recipe will introduce a new surprise to all your guests. Try them in the following butter cookie recipe:

18875310

Hawaiian Host Milk Chocolate AlohaMac Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

14 pieces Hawaiian Host Milk Chocolate AlohaMacs, chop into pieces
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, granulated
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix butter and sugars in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat, then add vanilla extract. Mix flour, salt and soda, and add gradually to butter mixture. Fold in chocolate pieces. Drop rounded spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake 8 – 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until light brown. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Hosting a cookie exchange is a lot of fun, and when you think outside the chocolate box, you can take the fun to a whole new level. So start planning your party, find some unique cookie recipes and get started with your holiday baking. For more recipes or to order chocolate-covered macadamia nuts online visit www.hawaiianhost.com.

 

 

Holiday entertainment survival guide

The countdown to this year’s holiday season has begun. Department stores have decked the halls. Families are scheduling trips to visit far-away loved ones. And hosts everywhere are stressing about entertaining family and friends during this frantic season of peace and good will.

To ease stress, the Kansas City Steak Company has put together a holiday entertainment guide to help you weather the storm and come out with host-of-the-year honors. Here are a few tips.

Stock the freezer and pantry with can’t miss meals that delight every time

Every host has some go-to recipes that are crowd pleasers. Be sure to stock your freezer with some family favorites leading into the holiday season. Whether you’re planning a glorious Christmas Eve feast or an impromptu holiday party, you’ll have everything you need to delight your guests.

A succulent prime rib roast is always a great go-to meal. It’s easy to prepare, doesn’t require a lot of fuss and never fails to impress even the pickiest eater. A flavorful beef tenderloin roast is another easy fan favorite. You can also check out a few other special holiday meals from companies like the Kansas City Steak Company to stock your pantry with foods your family and friends will love.

Don’t forget to add in a few appetizers, side dishes and a dessert or two to your freezer stash. When time is limited, stocking the freezer with time-saving, delicious go-to items is the way to go.

Add a few special items to make your holiday table sparkle

From colorful holiday runners and napkins, to large platters and serving bowls, it’s a great idea to pull out your holiday items and place them in an easy-to-reach location during the holiday season. Candles add a special ambiance to holiday parties, so keep a few of your favorite scented votives and pillars on hand and you’ll have a special glow.

And don’t forget to buy a few non-perishable foods that add elegance to any holiday spread: olives, crackers, holiday cookies, spiced nuts – whatever your family and friends enjoy, stock up and they’ll be ready whenever you need them.

Consider a potluck meal this year

Potluck dinners can take a lot of stress off your plate and are a great way to create memorable meals anytime – especially during the holidays. Usually the host takes care of the meal’s entree. Guests could bring their favorite salads, breads, desserts or whatever you need to round out the meal. It’s a great way to spread out costs, reduce stress and entertain in style.

Prepping the holiday bar

Impromptu and planned holiday gatherings often mean you’ll want to offer a variety of beverages. Stocking your bar with a few bottles of your favorite wine, beer, vodka, whiskey and some mixers means you don’t have to make a last-minute trip to the store when you’d rather be visiting with friends.

Welcome guests with festive holiday music

Few things say, “Happy Holidays,” like the tunes that define the season. Tune into one of the stations in your area that plays holiday music 24/7 from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Or download some favorites onto your iPod and let the music waft throughout your home.

Stow away a few extra gifts for unexpected guests

It happens every year. Someone stops by to deliver an unexpected holiday gift and you haven’t included that person on your gift list. Whether it’s a box of special chocolates, scented candles or even a box of succulent steaks, you’ll be prepared for any occasion by having extra gifts on-hand.

Making your home “guest-ready”

A clean home is a happy home – and a reflection on you. Take a few moments to walk through your home before guests arrive. Check the bathrooms to make sure they’re well-stocked. Add a few extra hangers to your closet. Remove excess clutter. Taking a few minutes before guests arrive to tidy up will mean that much less you’ll have to clean after the party.

Take time to savor the special moments and memories

There is no perfect holiday gathering, so remember to laugh and love and move on. Advanced planning will help you survive some of the usual holiday entertaining stresses, but learning to let the little things go can go a long way to helping you see that this time together is precious.

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