Holiday Baking & More

When I did this post for Evernight’s Hot Holiday Hints, I was in the here and now. I also wanted to keep it short and sweet because I tend to ramble. For many years I’ve made little things. My sisters, in fact, love it when I used to make baskets with several items in it. It looked like I spent a lot but I was a good bargain shopper. So $50 worth of stuff could have potentially cost at least $75. All I can say is thank you Bath and Body Works and your Buy 3, Get 3 Free sales. πŸ™‚ One year I didn’t have that much money and I got thick board photos of The Wolves of Argonne‘s cover made and signed them. Big hit.

However, like I stated in my Evernight post, my cookies are what my family covets the most. All of them are homemade. I don’t believe in premade dough–ever. I don’t have any special recipes I’ve made myself, though I’ve been known to experiment. My chocolate chip cookies, for example, are the recipe on the back of the Hershey chocolate chip package expect, since I’ve made them so many times, I don’t have to look at it. My secret, and one I use for any recipe calling for the ingredient, is using unsalted butter and putting it out on the counter. Not just overnight. Optimal is a week. Don’t worry, it won’t go bad though I recommend keeping it away from the hot stove or any type of direct heat such as sunlight. It makes a difference. So does using real vanilla. I’ve been fortunate over the years that my mother had been booking vacations to Mexico. Best vanilla EVAR! If you can’t get it, make it. You need premium whole vanilla beans and either rum or vodka–your choice. Split the beans and submerge in the alcohol. Let it set for at least 8 weeks before using. The vanilla beans can stay in the liquid so long as you keep them submerged. So, if the vanilla is to the flavor you like, pour some into another jar and top off your bean-in jar. πŸ™‚

Okay, these aren't the Russian Tea Cakes. They're Candy Cane Cookies. The recipe calls for peppermint extract and crushed candy canes for on top. However, I always go with almond extract and forego the topping because my sensitive teeth can't handle hard textured stuff.

Okay, these aren’t the Russian Tea Cakes. They’re Candy Cane Cookies. The recipe calls for peppermint extract and crushed candy canes for on top. However, I always go with almond extract and forego the topping because my sensitive teeth can’t handle hard textured stuff.

Another favorite–and the start of many wars–are my Russian Tea Cakes. I have an old Better Homes & Gardens cookbook with the recipe. the only difference is I use walnuts and usually go over the 3/4 cups the recipe calls for. I don’t form the balls either. I have a small scoop that I use to measure the dough out and put on my baking stones. If you haven’t used baking stones, I highly recommend it. The cookies bake evenly thought you should add a few minutes to the baking time. Also, make sure your stones aren’t cold if you can help it. Cold to hot isn’t good for them and they could crack.

One of my gifts over the year to grandparents were Christmas balls with my son’s pictures on it. I started when he was in kindergarten and ended it when he graduated from college. The first ball had his baby picture on one side and his kindergarten on the other side. I didn’t use regular photo paper. I got the cotton paper you can get at any office supply store and printed them off. I used Modge Podge to adhere it to the balls. the balls themselves were the ones that you can get where ever they’re sold. Just make sure they’re plain. I often got them at the end of the season for next year to save money. With several colors to choose from, I had my pick. I got fabric paint (puffy, glitter or plain) to frame the picture. This also hid the bad edges. I used acrylic paint to date them or put a design on the other side. If you’re not artistically inclined, use stickers or make simple snowflake shapes. I always practiced my design on a piece of paper before applying it to the balls.

I didn't use the puffy paint on these but if you lay it thick enough, it will mostly cover the paper seam.

I didn’t use the puffy paint on these but if you lay it thick enough, it will mostly cover the paper seam.

So … lay it on me. What are your favorite things to make for Christmas?

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