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

********************************************************************

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. 

Cinnamon Wedding Cookies

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There’s just something about being a twin that makes people always, always ALWAYS want to throw the two of you together at every available opportunity.

To this day, I don’t get the fascination people have with it, but the phenomenon is real- especially when the twins are young. They’ll be expected to dress alike. In pictures, they have to stand next to each other in pukey-cute poses that immediately make it ‘clear’ that they’re twins. Their two names are almost always called together as one long name- as if they’re one single entity.

Jas and I certainly experienced all of this when we were young. I kinda think a large part of it was because we grew up in the 90’s, i.e, the era where Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and Tia and Tamera Mowery were at the height of pop culture. Thanks to them there was already a kind of fascination/curiosity for the ‘twin thing’ anyway, so we’ve literally heard, seen and done it all when it comes to Twin Etiquette.

And just in case you were wondering…

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No, I can’t read her mind. No, I can’t feel it when she’s sick or in pain. Yes, we’ve switched places, but it was only once in the 1st grade and it was so boring that we never did it again. No, we don’t like dressing alike. Yes, she’s one of my best and only friends. Yes, sometimes we do finish each other’s sentences- but that’s only because we’re besties and have spent just about every day of our lives in each other’s company.

Not that it bothers me too much- you get used to it. In fact, there are even fond memories we have of getting slapped with the Twin Thing trope. Case in point, a Christmas play we both were in some years ago. It was in the 7th grade (so we were around 11 or 12 age-wise) and out school was putting on a production of The Christmas Carol. Both Jas and I like acting, so we both decided to audition for a part.

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To be honest, I wasn’t feeling very optimistic. Not because I didn’t think I was any good-I actually think I’m a pretty decent actress. Really it was because in my experience, most people are so hooked on that Twin Thing that sometimes they feel as though Jas and I are a ‘package deal’ so to speak-basically if you get one, you get the other. Some people are cool with that, but some aren’t. I was concerned about 3 different scenarios here: first that neither one of us would get cast; second, that one of us would get cast and the other wouldn’t; or third, one of us would get a good art while the other just had a non-speaking crap part. It’s not that Jas and I were petty or jealous of each other like that. We’re just so used to the Twin Thing that when one of us gets a good thing that the other doesn’t get, we tend to feel guilty or sorry for each other. I just wouldn’t have enjoyed being in the play as much if Jas couldn’t be there with me.

See? Sometimes being a twin really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Anyway, when the cast list was actually posted, I was pleasantly surprised. Both Jas and I had gotten pretty good speaking parts. Actually, we’d gotten the same good speaking part.

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Much to our surprise, the director had decided that in our school’s rendition of The Christmas Carol, there would be 2 Ghosts of Christmas Present. We would literally be dressed in identical costumes- even our hair was styled the same. Some of our lines would be spoken in unison, while some we got to speak on our own. So basically, we swapped out the ‘I’ pronoun for ‘we’. I think it was an improvement on Dickens’ original idea (but then again I’m probably biased about that).

Did it feel cheesy at times? Yeah, but that time I didn’t care about having to do the Twin Thing. It was a lot of fun. And thanks to that experience, there’s an entire section of the Christmas Carol that I can still literally quote from memory. How many people can actually say that?

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Do you realize that there’s only 3 days left until Christmas? That means we’re also nearing the home stretch of our 12 Days of Christmas Series. Today’s recipe is another classic: the wedding cookie.Or as we know them in my house, Snowball Bon Bons. Like Linzer Cookies, these are also one of the earliest memories I have of Christmas as a little girl. Buttery, cookie batter mixed with nuts is rolled into balls, baked and then coated in powdered sugar. They’re not only ridiculously easy to put together- they’re also super easy to ‘decorate’. This recipe is a slight twist on the classic version with the addition of cinnamon to the sugar coating. I’ve found that people who don’t even like cookies (poor, unfortunate souls that they are) LOVE these. You really can’t eat just one. Seriously. I dare you.

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

Cinnamon Wedding Cookies


Recipe Courtesy of Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions 

1. Place toasted almonds in bowl of food processor and pulse until coarsely ground, about 10 pulses. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until blended. Beat in vanilla. Add flour and salt and beat until just combined, then beat in ground almonds. Cover dough in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

3. Adjust oven rack to upper and lower middle positions and preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 1 cup confectioners sugar and cinnamon. Take dough from fridge and roll into walnut-sized balls, then place on baking sheet.

4. Bake cookies until golden on top, 15-18 minutes. When cool enough to touch, roll balls in confectioners sugar mix, then place on cooling racks. When cooled completely, roll again in sugar to coat.

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

*******************************************************

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.

Brown Sugar Cookies

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Warning: if you’re not a Christmas movie buff, then this post probably won’t make much sense to you. Sorry.

Me and my sister have a thing for running inside jokes related to movie one-liners we think are funny.When we come across one that we all find hilarious, we’ll always find ways to frequently and randomly stick it into conversations to make each other laugh.

Remember that part in the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding where Dermot Mulroney is arguing with Cameron Diaz in the restaurant while Julia Roberts looks on and he screams at her, “My job’s not good enough- I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”? Yeah, we use that one all the time. Then there’s the scene with Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz at the end where she’s talking to her in food metaphors. I don’t know how many times I’ve screamed at my sisters, “You’re NEVER gonna be jello!”

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The same goes for Christmas movies. In fact, the classic Christmas movies have so many memorable one-liners to choose from, it’s almost not even funny. Except, it really is.

Take the movie “Love Actually”. Jas and I cannot go a single Christmas season without throwing out a few “I HATE Uncle Jamie!”s at each other. (In British accents, of course.)

Remember in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Snoopy is mimicking Lucy as she lectures the gang about the Christmas play until she finally stops and screams out, “No, no! LISTEN all of you!” We throw that one out at each other all the time when we’re trying to get each other’s attention.

We have the entire scene from “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie goes to visit Santa in the department store memorized, but our favorite part is definitely at the end where Ralphie climbs back up the slide to tell Santa he wants the BB gun for Christmas and Santa says: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid. Merry Christmas. Ho, ho, hoooo!” Yeah we mimic the foot shove too. Cause we’re weird like that.

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The newest favorite is from the movie “Jingle All the Way” starring Arnold Schwarznegger where Phil Hartman is in the car at the end with Rita Wilson, “You asked me how to marinate ahi tuna. And I said, all you need is Italian salad dressing.” I don’t know why we find out so funny, but we do. I guess Phil Hartman could literally make anything hilarious.

And of course, what would Christmas be without throwing out a great big, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” or calling each other a “cotton headed ninny muggins” at least once? (I don’t think I have to say which movie those come from, right? I better not.)

All of those inside jokes and quotes with my sisters have over the years come to make for a lot of fun, hilarious memories for us-and hilarious memories are one of the very best parts about Christmas, am I right? Of course right.

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This past weekend, I was the in-house Cookie Elf…or at least that’s what it felt like. I was in the kitchen from Saturday morning to late Saturday night baking up batch after batch of cookies both for the blog as well as for a community outreach effort to spread some Christmas cheer to some kids. Because if Christmas cheer tastes like anything at all, I’m pretty sure it tastes like cookies. These cookies take on the classic sugar cookie and give it a creative spin, using all brown sugar rather than white. I was really impressed with the results. The cookies bake up thick and brown and almost take on a dark, robustly praline flavor from the brown sugar caramelizing while baking. The original recipe calls for them to decorated using sanding sugar but because I’m super complicated and can’t follow simple instructions, I whipped up a quick confectioner’s sugar glaze and spread them on the cookies instead. I then sprinkled on some Christmas nonpareils. I think they look much better this way than with just plain old sanding sugar, don’t they?

Holy Crap, we’re over  halfway through the 12 Days of Christmas already! 7 days down, just 5 more to go. Thanks to all those who’ve been faithfully following along, but for those that missed a day or two (or more), I’m again including a list of the past days below with links to the previous posts. 🙂

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

Brown Sugar Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Christmas with Southern Living (1997)

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 Directions

1. Beat butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add brown sugar, beating well. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

2. Combine flour, baking sofa and salt; add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour, or preferably overnight.

3. Roll dough to 1/4” thickness between two sheets of wax paper. Cut with 4: cookie cutters. Place 1” apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

4. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool 1 minute on cookie sheets and carefully transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

St. Lucia Buns

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I don’t mean to brag or anything, but my Christmas list as a little kid was never really long or exhorbitant. My mom would even tell you now that we were easy kids to shop for.We never ha a problem sharing, and we grew up with a certain awareness that money didn’t grow on trees and that she didn’t have a whole lot of it. We never asked for anything that we knew would break the bank, so to speak.

In fact I can still look back now and remember there were several particular toys, dolls and games that all  3 of us ‘knew better’ than to ask for. When we did the math on certain toys, we knew that it was just way too expensive to spend money on- not necessarily because we knew we’d get shot down, but because our mom was really the type of parent that would have felt guilty that she could’t afford to buy us the toys that we wanted. I didn’t want to make her feel guilty, so I never raised the subject. But I was still a  kid that could dream.

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Some of those dream toys for me were the line of American Girl dolls and products. Any girl that grew up during the 90’s should understand where I’m coming from with this. The original American girl dolls were based on 5 preteen fictional girl characters that grew up in various stages of American history. Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha and Molly. They each had five short chapter books dedicated to ‘milestone’ events in their lives that were sold alongside the dolls. You could buy the doll, the books and the 5 sets of dresses, accessories and furniture that came with each corresponding book.

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I’ll go right head and say it: in my eyes, an American Girl doll was a status symbol. If you had one, your parents had shelled out some serious cash. The dolls and merchandise were friggin expensive and frankly, overpriced. (Heck, they still are.) But it didn’t stop me from wanting one. Really bad.

Even though we couldn’t afford to buy the American Girl dolls and accessories, we still subscribed to the catalog. It came in the mail around 2 times a year: Christmas and Easter. We all used to have a nickname for it as a joke, our “Dream Wish List,” since we knew we’d never get the stuff inside. Still, we could dream, wish and window shop anyway. I used to pour over that thing like it was a novel sometimes, wishing we could afford to get just one 1 American Girl doll set.

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One of the characters/dolls was named Kirsten, a Swedish girl who immigrated to America with her family as pioneers on the Minnesota plains during the mid 1800’s. Admittedly, she wasn’t my favorite character of the 5, but there is still something about her that’s stuck with me all these years and is of actual relevance to this post. In the Holiday-themed Kirsten chapter book, she prepares what are called St. Lucia Buns for her family in celebration of Christmas. They’re Swedish golden rolls flavored with saffron, rolled into scroll shapes and topped with raisins. The American Girl catalog offered a particular set with the Kirsten doll dressed in a beautiful white dress and sash, a candle wreath crown, and several plastic make-believe St. Lucia Buns on a tray.

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Guys, I must have been a foodie even back then as a little girl because for some reason, I fixated on those St. Lucia Buns almost more than I did on the doll and clothes. I really, really, REALLY wanted to know what they tasted like. I remember figuring that since everything else about American Girl was amazing, the St. Lucia Buns would probably taste amazing as well. But just as I knew I would never get to have an American Girl anything, I also figured I would never get to ever try real, authentic St. Lucia Buns either.

Well, I was only 50% wrong about that. I never did get an American Girl doll or set. But this year, I’ve finally been able to try the buns. And yeah…they ARE amazing. Although they aren’t overly sweet, the one word I would use to describe their overall taste is “rich”. The saffron causes the buns to bake up in such a rich, golden color and they’re just so immensely chewy and soft. I almost immediately wanted to make more after that first  bite.

So thanks American Girl- I guess that catalog WAS good for something after all.

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!

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

 

 

St. Lucia Buns


Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron threads, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tbsp.  instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white (reserved from dough) mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • golden raisins

 

Directions

In a small saucepan set over medium heat milk and saffron to a simmer; remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Set the mixture aside to allow the butter to melt, and for it to cool to lukewarm, 30 to 35 minutes.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, flours, salt and sugar.

Separate one of the eggs, and set the white aside; you’ll use it later.

Pour the lukewarm milk and butter mixture over the dry ingredients. Add the 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, and the vanilla. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes by mixer, about 10 minutes by hand, till the dough is smooth and supple.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (8-cup) measuring cup, cover it, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it’s quite puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Shape the pieces of dough into rough logs, and let them rest, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Roll each log into a 15″ to 18″ rope. They’ll shrink once you stop rolling; that’s OK. Shape each rope into an “S” shape. Tuck a golden raisin into the center of each of the two side-by-side coils, if desired.

Place buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving an inch or so between them. Cover them, and let them rise for about 30 minutes, till they’re noticeably puffy, but definitely not doubled. While they’re rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Brush each bun with some of the egg white/water glaze. Bake the buns until they’re golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. If you’ve used raisins, tent them with foil for the final 3 minutes, to prevent the raisins from burning. Remove the buns from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

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.