Graham Cracker Toffee Bark

Graham Cracker Toffee Bark1

We made it you guys! The 12 Days of Christmas Series on Cooking is My Sport has reached its final day. Sick of seeing all my posts in your blog reader yet? Don’t worry, this is the last one…at least for a few days. I thought I’d keep things simple with this post and wrap up the series with an Ultimate Christmas Survey. Although I’ll be providing the questions and answers to the questions, I invite all of you guys to pick up a few and record your own answers in the comments section- cause I’m nosy like that and would love to read about your Christmases.

Favorite Christmas Move: A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is tough, but if I have to pick just ONE, then the Peanuts gang wins everytime. I always get a little misty-eyed at the end when Linus shares the true meaning of Christmas. Plus, this is one of the only movies I watch more than once every Christmas season.

Favorite Christmas Cookie: Thick, iced and soft sugar cookie. Nothing ever beats one for me- no siree bob, it doesn’t.

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White Light or Colored Lights: If it’s just me, then I’m gonna go with white lights and gold accents. If I’m gonna have kids around, we’ll go for the colors.

Gingerbread Men Cookies or Gingerbread: Gingerbread Men Cookies

Favorite Christmas Music Album: Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas. Every track is flawless.

Fake or Real Christmas Tree: Fake. I’m not about that shedding,possibly flammable tree life. Plus, I know it’ll always be the right shape and size.

Christmas Wreath: Yes. My mom decorates them for fun, so it’s really very pretty.

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Egg Nog or Apple Cider: I’ve never had egg nog before, so cider is my choice.

Christmas Brunch or Christmas Dinner: I’m a Christmas dinner girl; I’ll usually have a cup of coffee or something like that in the morning and let myself get REALLY hungry by dinner time so I can build up one heck of an appetite and throw down on dinner.

Favorite Christmas Tradition: Watching all of our Christmas movies with my sisters, then driving around on Christmas Eve in the city looking at people’s lights.

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Worst Christmas Gift You’ve Ever Received: Those chintzy, cheap art sets from bargain stores. You know what I’m talking about: the ones where the colored pencils don’t even really work, the markers dry out within days and the crayons shed all over the place. Yet, when I was young I would still get one from somebody EVERY year.

Star or Angel Tree Topper: We’ve had both an angel and a star, but I think I’m partial to the star.

Ham or Turkey: I love baked ham, but I love turkey more for the holidays, so it’s turkey for me.

Favorite Christmas Book: The short story A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

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When Do You Open Presents: Christmas morning. No exceptions. I want the full surprise on the actual day.

White or Non-White Christmas: I’m from Michigan. I either have to like white Christmases or curl up in a ball and weep in complete and total despair.

Name 1 Thing You Really, Really, REALLY Want For Christmas: A DSLR camera. I can’t afford one. But if there really was a Santa Claus, I’d be begging him to send me one from the North Pole.

This last recipe in our series is dangerous stuff, guys. Krytopnite dangerous. Beware: self-control is not likely when eating this. I’ve seen recipes elsewhere that used saltine crackers as the base for making chocolate candies and toffee. But I decided to go ahead and use cinnamon dusted graham crackers for mine. And it turned out ridiculously well. I’m sorry if it seems like I’m blowing my own horn, but it’s just the truth. The melted butter and sugar makes the graham crackers take on a texture that almost like nut brittle and melds so well with the creaminess of the chocolate. The toffee bits give it just the right amount of crunch. This toffee is PERFECT for gift-giving…if you don’t eat it all yourself first.

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Aaaaand, I guess that’s all she wrote. I’d really like to thank all of you that have been following along with the 12 Days of Christmas here on Cooking is My Sport. I’ve had a lot of fun making all these Christmas goodies and hope you’ve had a good time reading the posts, or even been inspired enough to make some of your own. I’m thankful to reach another Christmas with my little blog baby and all you lovely people. I can’t wait until next year to start all over again.

Okay, I take that back. Maybe I can wait a little while. 12 days of blogging, photographing, editing and posting takes its toll on a girl. I’m kinda tired….

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

Day 10: Cardamom Print Wafers

Day 11: Cinnamon Wedding Cookies

Day 12: Graham Cracker Toffee Bark

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Graham Cracker Toffee Bark


Recipe Loosely Adapted from Taste of Home

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Ingredients

  • 8-10 Cinnamon sugar Graham Crackers
  • 11.5 oz. of semi sweet chocolate chips (little less than 2 cups)
  • 1 cup of butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vanilla baking chips
  • 8 oz. English toffee bits (like Heath)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 °. Line a 15 x 10 x 1 half sheet pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray,

2. Lay graham crackers in the bottom of the sheet pan, breaking into pieces if need be to cover entire surface.

3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar then bring to a boil.. Cook and stir 1-2 minutes longer or until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the graham crackers, spreading with spatula to make sure they are evenly covered.

4. Bake 8-10 minutes, until sugar mixture is bubbling. Melt vanilla chips in a glass bowl or cup in microwave, in about 15 second increments.

5. Remove half sheet pan from oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over crackers. Allow them to soften for a few seconds, then use a spatula to spread out evenly.

6. Dip a fork into the melted vanilla chips and swirl it through the melted semi-sweet chocolate. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the chocolate.

7. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze until chocolate is set and firm, about an hour. Remove, and use a knife to break toffee into shards. 

Cardamom Print Wafers

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I’ve only done actual Christmas caroling a handful of times in my life- but I remember that I loved it. One of the times I can clearly remember is when I was still in elementary school and the children’s choir went caroling to the governor’s mansion. It was a quiet, slightly snowy night and after we sang a few songs, I can remember being invited inside to a big beautiful ‘house’ where we got served hot chocolate, cookies and candy in a ‘study’ type of room with bright golden lights. As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t mind if 1 or 2 of the people in your group are off-key and love to laugh, then caroling is a blast. Plus, people usually give you free food as a way to say ‘thank you’.

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Everyone ‘s got their own favorite Christmas carols, and I’m no exception. However, my favorites have shifted throughout the years. Now I’m willing to admit that I just can’t pick one as my favorite. I’ve got several. Okay, more than that.

The Holiday Playlist on my ipod’s got over 100 songs. Yeah. I really love Christmas songs.’

When I was very young, around 5 or 6, my favorite Christmas carol was The First Noel. I loved the melody and would always hum the last part to myself, “Born is the King of Israel,” over and over again.

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Then when I was around 8 or 9, it was Silver Bells- but that was because at the time (mid 90’s), there was a commercial that would constantly come on at Christmas time with the Silver Bells melody playing in the background that I really liked. After that, I think it was Angels We Have Heard on High- although to be honest, I went YEARS without even knowing what some of the lyrics were because I was too young to understand that some of the lyrics were in Latin (“in excelsis deo IS Latin, right? Right??).

Christmastime is Here was my favorite Christmas Carol in middle school; I heard it played once on the piano at a holiday party and just fell in love with it. That one’s still remained one of my favorites over the years, and I have a few versions of it on my playlist, including the Vince Guaraldi classic from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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Honorable mentions should also go out to Give Love on Christmas Day, The Christmas Song, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Christmas Tree, O What a Merry Christmas Day, All I Want for Christmas Is You, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells.

As many of them as I like, there are also other carols that I don’t really care for: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Away in a Manger. I guess I just don’t really like the ‘story’ Christmas carols all that much.

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Today’s recipe is super, super easy to put together, but still packs a great punch. These cookies are thin, slightly crisp but still somewhat chewy in the centeer. The cardamom gives it a very unique spicy bite that combined with the cinnamon really reminds me of a delicious Speculoos biscuit. Hands down, these are meant to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea. I decided to leave them plain and just let the design from the cookie stamps speak for themselves- these are honestly good enough to stand without icing or sprinkles.

If you still need to catch up on the 12 Days of Christmas Series we’re doing, I’m still including a list of the past recipes and posts below 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

Day 10: Cardamom Print Wafers

Cardamom Print Wafers

Recipe Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens Cookies for Christmas

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Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp, ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

 Directions

1. Stir together flour, cardamom, cinnamon and salt.

2. In a small mixer bowl, beat til fluffy, Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

3. Stir in flour mixture till well mixed. Cover and chill about 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

4. Shape into 3/4 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten firmly with a floured cookie stamp or the bottom of a glass with a design in it.

5. Bake in a 350° oven about 8 minutes. Remove and cool.

Biscochitos

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I’ve said it before, but I’m just gonna go ahead and say it again: I really, really REALLY would like to someday, somehow spend a Christmas season in New York City.

It’s one of the things that’s on my Bucket List of things to do before I die- actually living in New York City’s on that list too. But, Christmas in New York comes first. Even though I don’t live in one, I’m a huge fan of big cities. I love the energy and bustle of things always happening and going on- add to that the bustle of the Christmas season in general, and it’s my dream place.

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I want to go skating in Rockefeller Center and see the huge Christmas tree at night. I want to go to Macy’s and get completely and totally overwhelmed by the gigantic size of the store decked out in holiday gear. I want to walk the streets and see all of the skyscrapers and buildings lit up in decorations. I want to go see the American Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Then I want to be able to be in Times Square for New Years Eve to see the ball drop and bring in the New Year. I want it all. It doesn’t have to be every year. I’m actually one of those people who prefer to stay home for Christmas mostly. But the New York Christmas experience is something I’d just like to make happen for me at least once in my lifetime.

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So if any of your lovely people out there are residents of the Big Apple, then maybe you can be a Good Samaritan and invite yours truly over for a few weeks or so around Christmas time. Don’t worry, I’m no free loader; I’ll earn my keep through cooking you food and treats. That seems like a pretty fair trade off to me, right?

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My inspiration for my St. Lucia Buns post came from a memory I had of the American Girl doll character Kirsten, who made St. Lucia Buns for her family at Christmas. My inspiration for making Biscochitos also came from another of the American Girl characters- a young girl named Josefina living in New Mexico with her family shortly after her mother dies. As Kirsten’s ‘holiday treat’ in the American Girl catalog were the St. Lucia Buns, the holiday treat for Josefina’s story were Biscochito cookies. And yes: I’m still thinking about those Biscochito cookies I saw in the catalog over fifteen years later. Don’t judge me.

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Biscochitos are really just anise-flavored sugar cookies that are rolled in cinnamon sugar and typically served around Christmastime. But don’t let their simple ingredients fool you-this cookie is still a pretty big deal. It’s such a big deal that New Mexico has made the Biscochito it’s official ‘state cookie’. I didn’t even know that states had their own official cookies. A quick Google search revealed that the ‘Michigan Treasure’ is the Michigan state cookie. I’ve never heard of it. But whatever it is, it’s s still probably not as cool as the Biscochito- or yummy for that matter.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

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Biscochitos


Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Kitchen

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Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound lard (a must, no substitutes)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons anise seed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sweet table wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. Cream the lard with sugar and anise seed on medium speed. In a separate bowl, beat eggs until light and fluffy.

3. Add beaten eggs to creamed mixture. Mix together well, adding wine to form a stiff-like dough, add more wine, if necessary. Refrigerate dough overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand for a while, until dough is soft enough to roll.

5. Divide dough in quarters and roll to about 1/16 to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until bottom of cookie is golden brown.

6. Meanwhile, mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Drop the baked cookies into sugar and cinnamon mixture and set aside to cool.

Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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In my last post, I talked about some of my favorite Christmas movies, but today I realized that I totally left out one of the absolute best. I’m talking about Love Actually, of course. Duh, Jess! (smacks forehead).

When it comes to love, I’m probably the most cynical, unromantic person you could ever meet. Still, I just love this movie. It made me smile. It made me want to cry. It made me love love (if that makes any sense). For those that don’t know, Love Actually is a romantic comedy that takes place in Britain just before Christmas and revolves around  the love lives of several different couples. Some crass humor and potty mouthing makes it not a movie you’d probably want to show the kiddies, but if you’re at the proper age, the movie overall is really good. The stellar cast alone makes it worth seeing: Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Rowan Atkinson, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Martine McCutcheon, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chiwetel Ejiofor- c’mon, how many times are you gonna get THAT much talent together in one single movie?

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There’s a Buzzfeed quiz going on right now where you can see which Love Actually couple you match up with- that gave me an idea to do a short little blurb post about which of the couples/storylines of the movie are my favorite. If you haven’t seen the movie then this post may not make a lot of sense, but bear with me. There may be spoilers, but maybe they’ll just make you want to see it for yourself.

I think my favorite couple of the whole movie is David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). First, although there was an attraction between them from the moment that they first met, nothing about it felt rushed or unrealistic. It was gradual, natural and soso sweet. You can tell from their chemistry that they’re gonna be a couple who can always stay laughing- which is important. Between her exuberant smile (seriously, her face glows when she grins) and accidental slips of the tongue, and his wry sense of humor, they make for a perfectly adorable couple. Plus,  they had the best ‘first kiss’ of the movie- even if it was a TAD bit embarrassing lol

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Honestly, Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lucia Monez)’s relationship is a VERY close second to David and Natalie’s for me. Which is weird, considering my cynical view of romance and love. Two people who don’t even speak the same language fall in love over the course of a few weeks and after taking secretly taking Rosetta Stone courses in each other’s languages, decide to get married. Is this something I think is a good idea in real life? No, probably not. In real life, I’d probably give Jamie and Aurelia one year, tops before they call it quits.But this isn’t real life- it’s a movie. They have real, tangible chemistry. Maybe it IS possible to fall in love with someone you can’t even talk to in your own language-I doubt it, but it wouldn’t be the first time I would be wrong about something. And it’s Christmas. So, I’m just gonna say that it was a wonderful, romantic idea and that Jamie and Aurelia will be together forever.

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My third ranked Love Actually couple may be a bit of surprise; it’s Harry (Alan Rickman) and Karen (Emma Thompson). For those that have seen the movie, I know you may be scratching your heads, thinking, “Huh? But Jess, remember how their storyline ends?” I know. Just lemme explain. Harry and Karen were the only couple in the movie that had been together in a stable, long-lasting relationship at the start of the plot. Their ‘love actually’ isn’t a picture of what happens when love comes along, but more of a look at what happens when love is tested, when it begins to fade, or even when it’s completely betrayed. It’s not pretty. It hurts. Badly. I’m not sure if I’ll ever forgive Harry/Alan for that scene in the bedroom where Emma/Karen is crying by herself. It made my eyes water- and making me cry about anything is nigh to impossible. Their story is the most heart-wrenching part of the Love Actually…but it’s also the most realistic.

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Linzer sandwich cookies are a permanent piece of my childhood at Christmas. We made them every year-or rather, my mom did. I just stood next to her at the counter top, helped spread the jam on the bottom of the cookie and smushed them together. Then I ate them. Now, I get to do all of the above. The cookies themselves have a wonderful flavor from the toasted almonds.The texture is tender, but with a slight crumbly bite- almost like a teatime biscuit. The subtle nutty flavor of the cookie is complimented wonderfully by the sweetness of the jam sandwiched inside. It was a favorite for me back in the day, and it hasn’t lost any points since then, let me tell you.

It’s Day 8 of the 12 Days of Christmas series we’ve been doing on the blog, but more importantly it’s also Fiesta Friday #47, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted by Indu @Indu’s International Kitchen and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. So for those of you at the party, feel free to have some of these cookies, but also feel free to check out the list below of all the recipes from the Christmas series I’ve been putting up over the past week below 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Raspberry Linzer Cookies


Recipe Courtesy of Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez via RealSimple.com 

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Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. confectioners sugar
  • 1 12 -ounce jar raspberry jam

 Directions

1. Heat oven to 350° F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes; let cool.

2. In a food processor, process the almonds and ¼ cup of the brown sugar until the almonds are finely ground.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

4. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and the remaining ¼ cup brown sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the almond mixture, then the flour mixture, mixing until just combined (do not overmix).

5. Divide the dough in half, shape into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

6. Heat oven to 350° F. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to a ⅛-inch thickness. Using a 2- to 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Using a ¾- to 1-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary.

7. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

8. Sprinkle the confectioners’ sugar on the cookies with the holes. Spread 1 teaspoon jam on the remaining cookies and top with the sugared cookies. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Crustless Cranberry Pie

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It’s Day 5 of the 12 Days of Christmas series on the blog- and 9 days left until Christmas. I have no idea how this has happened. The only ‘negative’ aspect of Christmas for me is that it’s over way too soon. And then after that, there’s just January….and the long endless winter.

So let’s not think about that right now. Let’s focus on something else.

I’ve never had the opportunity to host a holiday party. For one thing, I live in an apartment which isn’t the ideal amount of space for something like that. For another, I’m an introvert- so my guest list for a party would be almost laughably small. But that’s only the reality of the situation. If I were speaking in ideal hypotheticals, the situation would be completely different.

In an ideal, hypothetical situation I would live in a beautiful, spacious house with a huge kitchen and adjoining dining room with a long table for lots of guests. And not just any guests either. For my ideal Christmas party, I’d have a specific list of VIPs that I would both love to hang out with and love to cook for:

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1. President Barack Obama & his wife, Michelle- this one’s a no brainer. Who wouldn’t love to cook for the leader of their country? Plus there’s just a lot of questions I’d love to pick his and her brains over.

2. Pastor Joseph Prince- Joseph Prince is a pastor from a mega-church in Singapore; I adore his ministry and message and try to buy everything of his that I can get my hands on. He has a fresh, empowering perspective of the Christian faith that is truly inspiring. He’d be a great guest to have at my Christmas party to talk with, as well as have the honor to feed.

3. Sunny Anderson- Sunny is a famous Food Network personality. I LOVE her style of cooking; it’s delicious but not too fancy at the same time, so I wouldn’t be intimidated to have her eat my food. And if something did happen to ‘go wrong’ in the kitchen, she could be there to step in and save the day if need be. Plus, her name really does seem to match her disposition so I think she’d bring a lot of life to a dinner party.

4. Robert Downey Jr.- Number one: he’s eye candy. But number two, he also has a really wry sense of humor that I just love. Everything that comes out of this guy’s mouth is really witty and I have a serious weakness for men that can make me laugh. Playing a game of Charades in a group with RDJ would pretty much be the highlight of a Christmas party, I’m pretty sure.

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5. Steve Carrell (as Michael Scott from “The Office”)- I’m really not sure how I would pull this one off. Maybe in an ideal situation I could offer Steve a specific amount of money to stay in character for the whole night, but I know for sure that hosting a party with Michael Scott would truly be an unforgettably awesome (however crazy) experience.

6. Tina Fey & Amy Poehler- Again, this for obvious humor purposes. And, they have to come together as a package deal. No compromise on that.

7. Dianne Reeves- Dianne is one of my all time favorite jazz vocalists. Her voice is like liquid gold in my ears; she would provide the perfect entertainment for the party.

8. Harry Connick Jr.-Eye candy. To the nth degree. Add to all that his flawless voice, and he’s a shoe in for the party. He and Dianne serenading the party with “The Christmas Song” would bring the house down.

9. General Colin Powell-  Although his political choices didn’t always agree with mine, I will still always have a great deal of respect for this man. His impressive, extensive military service record alone makes him a guest that would be an honor to serve a Christmas dinner to, but I also think he’d be a great guy to have a conversation with about life in general (no pun intended).

10. Angelina Jolie- There’s really no deep, meaningful reason for why I would invite her to a Christmas party. For some reason, I’ve just always really liked her. Apart from being a phenomenal actress, I think she’s someone I’d get along with and could hold a pretty long conversation with about things. And I suppose she could bring Brad and their kids too.

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I’d definitely have multiple desserts at what would now be a very crowded Christmas party, and this ‘pie’ would certainly be one of them. As you can probably tell, it isn’t a pie in the classic sense of what most of us identify with as pie. But it’s also not really a cake either. Here’s the thing: while it’s baking, the bottom and edges become browned and chewy to the point of forming a crunchy kind of ‘crust’ that contrasts perfectly with the soft and moist center. The cranberries give it a tartness that is well balanced with the sweetness of the sugar and almond extract. Add to that the fact that this dessert takes literally about 5 minutes to put together, and you’ve got a real winner on your hands here.

Just as a reminder, if you’ve missed the other recipes we’ve done so far in the series, I’m including a list of links to them below. Thanks for continuing to tune into the series, guys! Also, if you’ve left a comment on any of these recipes and I haven’t replied to it yet, PLEASE don’t think I’m ignoring it. I’m not. I do REALLY appreciate it. The truth is, trying to put up 12 quality consecutive blog posts is no easy work. Most  of my spare time right now is being spent, baking, taking pictures, doing minor touch ups to  the pictures, and writing out the recipes and blog posts. It’s hard (and sometimes stressful) work. I WILL get to all of the comments, I promise. Just be patient with me 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

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Crustless Cranberry Pie

Recipe Courtesy of Allrecipes.com

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. almond extract

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F . Grease one 9 inch pie pan.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the cranberries and the walnuts, and toss to coat. Stir in the butter, beaten eggs, and almond extract. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Giant Molasses Cookies

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Show of hands: how many of you guys ‘believed’ when you were little? Yes, I’m talking about Santa Claus. Let me see how many of you believed in him when they were kids.

Don’t be shy or embarrassed. My hand’s up.

I don’t regret my believing in him- in fact, I think that it made Christmas all the more exciting for us when me and my sisters. I’ll even admit that when I stopped believing in him, Christmas did kinda lose some of it’s magic for me. I was actually depressed for a while when my mom finally told me the truth.

Not that I’m not still in love with Christmas. I definitely am. This is gonna sound corny, but I’l say it anyway: it was hard to let go of the mystery and enchantment that’s behind the idea of Santa for a little kid. Believing it was just a lot of fun.

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Plus in my defense, if you guys knew what the lengths the adults in our house went to just to make the three of us ‘believe’, you’d understand why I did. They SERIOUSLY went out of their way.

First of all, our house didn’t have a fireplace or chimney. You’d think that would present an issue for the grown ups in trying to explain how Santa would get inside our house. I mean, we had an alarm system that got turned on at the end of every night. And Santa didn’t know the code, so we would’ve seen straight through that fib.

But nope; we got told that OUR house was very special, and that there was a ‘secret room/passageway’ that only Santa and the grownups knew about so that he could get in without setting off the alarm or using a chimney. I can still remember my mom smiling and giving me ‘hints’ about where the secret room was and how they accessed it. I also remember spending a ridiculous amount of time trying to find the secret lever, switch or button she told me was in the wall to find it for myself.

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One year we woke up on Christmas morning and got told to go outside and see ‘something’. Our roof was low enough so that if we took a few steps back from the house, we could see on top of it. When we went outside, we saw that there were 9 (yes 9, for every reindeer in the team) sets of ‘reindeer hood prints’ made in the snow on the roof, as well as boot foot prints that walked in a path.

C’mon, be honest. If you were a little kid wouldn’t that have convinced you a LITTLE bit?

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I wrote letters to Santa, but rather than ‘sending’ them to the North Pole ahead of time, my mom encouraged us to instead leave them for him to pick up on Christmas Eve night. Why? Well, because I didn’t write Santa telling him what I wanted for Christmas. That part wasn’t as interesting to me as was the ida of being to communicate with a ‘magical’ person. My letter for Santa was more like a game of 21 Questions: “What’s your favorite cookie?” “What’s Mrs. Claus’ first name?” “Why didn’t you two ever have your own kids?” “Are you and Jesus friends?” “Where’s the secret ‘switch’ in our house?”

Toys weren’t as important to me as finding out all that stuff. Because I was just weird like that.

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I have a very clear recollection of one year in particular where on Christmas morning, I woke up to the cookies being gone, and a detailed letter written to me in an unfamiliar handwriting answering every single one of my questions in a warm, appropriately jovial tone. There was even a little porcelain Christmas ornament next to the letter that Santa left for us as a ‘special gift’ from his ‘personal workshop’.

(Wasn’t my mom the greatest?)

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Day 4’s recipe of the 12 Days of Christmas Series on the blog is one of my personal favorites and another one that I’ve known I was gonna do for weeks. If I were to try and summarize Christmas in one bite (no small task), it would be in this cookie right here. Which is probably why the cookie isn’t small. It’s huge. Incidentally, so are the flavors; molasses and spice lovers will be doing Snoopy Dances with this recipe. And even if you’re not a molasses and spice lover, I still feel pretty confident that you’ll be dancing.

Just a reminder: if you’ve missed the other recipes we’ve done so far in the series, I’m including a list of links to them below. Until tomorrow!

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

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Giant Molasses Cookies


Recipe Courtesy of Taste of Home Magazine

Print

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup coarse sugar

Directions

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and molasses.

2. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Refrigerate dough overnight or at least for 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Scoop 1/4 cupfulls of dough and roll in coarse sugar. Place 2 1/2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until tops are cracked. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

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It’s Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas on the blog; I’m sitting listening to my Christmas playlist as I write this post and it’s making me think of a question I’ve wondered about for a while now:

Why is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” considered a Christmas song/carol?

It’s not that I don’t like it. The Sound of Music is a pretty good musical and I’m a fan of the song in general..but I really doubt the writers were thinking of the Holiday as inspiration when they were putting it together.

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My more sentimental, sappy side assumes that because Christmastime is the best time of year, My Favorite Things is generally associated with it because at the very best time of year you start thinking about all of the things that you love the most.

Although I can’t think why the thoughts of “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” would suddenly make anyone feel better. Personally geese, ducks and the like freak me out. That could be because the geese and ducks on my university campus always chase people because over the years they’ve become too accustomed to parents taking their kids to the riverside to feed them bread. Therefore, they now think that all humans have a loaf of bread hidden somewhere on their person; they’ll chase you until you ‘give it up’. So yeah, geese are not one of my favorite things.

I’m thinking that Rodgers and Hammerstein just needed a word that rhymed with “things”, and that line is the best they could come up with.

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But whether they meant the song for Christmas or not, it DOES make you think of your favorite things. Heck, I’m starting to do it now. Maria von Trapp had nine, so I guess I can give nine of mine too:

Pancakes with slightly crisp edges doused in maple syrup.

Quiet mornings when the sky is bluish gray, but it’s not raining.

The A & E Pride and Prejudice movie.

Michigan State University football.

Binge watching  Netflix.

Chris Hemsworth’s arms. And abs. And pecs. Basically his ‘everything’ (so that still should count as one, right?).

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Cuddling with my baby niece.

The smell of freshly made bread in my kitchen.

My cookbook collection (it’s extensive and still growing, trust me.)

That’s nine, right? I notice that none of it rhymed with the word ‘things’. Gosh, now I’m starting to understand the inclusion of the whole “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” line. Song writing’s not all that easy.

Oh well. Moving on.

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I made two popcorn balls for the series, the first of which was these Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls. The second was this recipe; I saw it in a Christmas issue of Food Network magazine a year or so ago and had it pegged for such an occasion as this. After I made my Champurrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate) a few weeks ago, I remembered that I had this clipping in my recipe box and immediately decided to try it out for the 12 Days of Christmas.

Guys… Chocolate. Marshmallows. Cinnamon sugar. The popcorn balls are doused and dipped in all of these, resulting in one of the yummiest, addictive treats I’ve ever made for Christmas. It’s sweet. It’s gooey. It’s chewy. It’s everything.

C’mon, just look at that sugary crust on the top: isn’t it just making you salivate?

Just a reminder: if you’ve missed the other recipes we’ve done so far in the series, I’m including a list of links to them below. Seeya guys tomorrow 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

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Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Print

Ingredients

  • 12 cups fresh popcorn (preferably made over the stove)
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp. butter, plus 2-3 tbsp. extra for buttering your hands
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

 Directions

1. Bring corn syrup, butter, confectioners’ sugar. mini marshmallows, unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat, stirring.

2. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt.

3. Remove from the heat; using a rubber spatula, stir in 12 cups popcorn and 1 more cup mini marshmallows.

4. Butter your hands, then shape into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar, working quickly before balls cool off. Place finished balls on parchment paper lined baking racks to set.