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Looking for last minute holiday cookie ideas? This year, I chose a mix of traditional Christmas cookies along with the always popular Chocolate Chip Cookie. As usual, I have made some changes to the recipes, listing my suggestions below.

LEBKUCHEN (The Spice Cookbook yr 1964)

This traditional German Christmas cookie will keep for at least three months if kept in an airtight container. The flavor will improve with age and is best served 3-4 days after baking.

LebkuchenIngredients:

  • ¾ c. honey
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 Tbps. milk
  • 2 ¾ c. sifted all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • ½ c. chopped citron
  • ½ c. chopped blanched almonds
  • Confectioners’ Sugar and Water Glaze*

Heat honey to boiling point (DO NOT BOIL) in a saucepan large enough for mixing dough. Stir in sugar. Beat in egg. Blend in lemon zest and milk.

Sift together flour, salt, cloves, cinnamon and allspice. Gradually stir into the honey-sugar mixture. Add citron and almonds. Chill dough overnight

Spread in 2 lightly greased and lightly floured 9”x9”x2” pans. Bake in a preheated oven (400F) 15 minutes or until done. While cookies are hot; quickly brush tops with Confectioners’ Sugar and Water Glaze. Cool in pans. Cut each square into 32 bars. Store airtight.

Yield: 64 bars

*Confectioners’ Sugar and Water Glaze

  • 4 tsp. water
  • 1 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar

Stir water into confectioners’ sugar. Mix well.

Yield: Glaze for a 9-inch square cake

Tip:

  • Try adding lemon zest to the glaze mixture for a little extra kick in flavor.
  • Also try rolling dough into 1-inch balls and bake for 7-10 minutes. While hot, lightly brush cookies with Confectioners’ Sugar and Water Glaze.

MEXICAN WEDDING CAKES (Betty Crocker’s Cookbook)

What cookie isn’t known by more names?

Mexican Wedding CakesIngredients:

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ c. finely chopped nuts
  • Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 400F. Mix butter, ½ c. powdered sugar, and vanilla. Mix in flour, salt and nuts until dough holds together.

Shape into 1-inch balls. Place about 1-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until set, but not brown, 10-12 minutes.

Roll in powdered sugar while warm. Cool. Roll in powdered sugar again.

Yield: approximately 4 dozen cookies

Tip:

  • This dough can become very soft, so chill in the fridge for a few hours before rolling.

ROSETTES (Swedish Food)

A well-loved traditional Swedish fried cookie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. flour
  • 2/3 c. heavy cream

To fry:

Deep fat or oil

Beat eggs, egg yolk, and cream together. Add flour and sugar. Stir until well blended. Let stand 2 hours.

Put rosette iron in cold fat to cover. Heat fat to 375F, remove iron, drain on absorbent paper and dip I nto well stirred batter. Hold coated iron over hot fat for a moment before dipping in. Cook until golden brown. Remove, slip rosette carefully from iron and drain on absorbent paper. Heat iron again and repeat. Sprinkle rosettes with sugar.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (Betty Crocker’s Cookbook)

A simple cookie that is sure to please everyone!

Chocolate Chip CookiesIngredients:

  • ½ c. sugar
  • ½ c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. shortening or oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 package (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • ½ c. chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 375F. Mix sugars, butter, shortening (or oil), egg and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2-inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until light brown, 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet.

Yield: approximately 3 ½ dozen cookies

Tips:

  • Add a little cinnamon for the perfect little something’ to kick up the flavor.
  • Short on time? Make a sheet cookie by doubling all ingredients and press dough into a foil-lined jelly roll pan. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Interested in learning how to make Old-fashioned Fudge to add to your arsenal of Christmas baked goods? Check out How to Make Old-fashioned Fudge and Fix Mistakes for simple, step-by-step instructions.

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Old-fashioned FudgeOld-fashioned fudge (without marshmallows!) has a reputation for being finicky and tough. It will quickly tire arms out—my mom even has stories of sharing the efforts of fudge making with her siblings. Making fudge has been a bane in my baking existence for several years. I couldn’t get it to set no matter how cautious I was with measurements and temperature. Through my search for a good recipe, I have found one that has yet to fail me with resolutions to prevent and fix common mistakes.

I have had no problems with the following recipe. The fudge has always turned out completely smooth. I use a hand mixer with no ill effects and it does not get grainy if I overbeat. I was even able to fix it when I didn’t cook it enough due to a candy thermometer that wasn’t calibrated correctly (Correct calibration is essential). Testing for soft ball* stage does work as I have successfully made it this way as well. The most important thing is making sure to watch the fudge and the temperatures throughout the entire cooking process.

Ingredients (Recipe from – Better Homes & Garden: The New Cook Book yr.1965):

  • 2 c. sugar
  • ¾ c. milk
  • 2 1-ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 tsp. corn syrup**
  • 2 Tbps. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ c. chopped nuts (optional)***

Getting Started

Butter the sides of a heavy saucepan—this will prevent the sugar from sticking and crystalizing.Old-fashioned Fudge

Combine sugar, milk, unsweetened chocolate, salt and corn syrup.Old-fashioned Fudge

Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture is boiling.

Lower temperature to a simmer and do not stir unless necessary. Cook until it reaches 234F or soft ball stage***.Old-fashioned Fudge

Immediately remove from heat and cool in cold water (no ice) until it reaches 110F. While cooling, add butter on top of mixture—do not stir.

Once cool, add vanilla.Old-fashioned Fudge

Beat fudge—this will get tiring, so either find a few extra, willing arms; however, I always cheat and use a hand mixer. Once the fudge thickens and loses its gloss, pour into a buttered pan.

***Optionally, stir in nuts at the end of the beating time.Old-fashioned Fudge

Fixing Mistakes

  • Too thick: If fudge became too thick during beating (Oops! The hand mixer can be overzealous), knead with hands until it softens then press into buttered pan or roll and slice. Optionally, cut cute shapes with cookie cutters!
  • Too soft: If it doesn’t set, it was either poured too soon (Tired arms! Give me a break!) or wasn’t cooked enough. Fix by mixing in ¼ c. milk and recooking to 234F or soft ball stage. Cool to 110F. Beat until it loses gloss.Testing for soft ball stage

*Testing for Soft Ball Stage

Test for soft ball stage (234F-238F) by dropping mixture into a bowl of cold water (no ice). If ready, mixture will hold shape and can be formed into a soft ball between your fingers.

**Substitute Corn Syrup

If you do not have corn syrup, you may make a substitute sugar syrup by combining:

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 pinch salt

Heat until boiling. Lower heat to a simmer and put lid on for 3 minutes to soften any sugar crystals. Cook until it arrives at 234F, or soft ball stage. Syrup will keep for approximately two months. I have tried this and it does work—I never have corn syrup around.

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Candied citrus peel can be a special treat enjoyed anytime of the year and often used in holiday baking. Have a recipe that calls for candied citron, but unable to locate any? Try making your own or substituting with homemade candied lemon peel. Luckily, candied peels are simple to make and the taste will be unrivaled when compared to something bought in a grocery store.

Remove citrus peels.

Remove citrus peels.

Start by peeling the chosen citrus, I chose lemons as a substitute for citron in a recipe. I found the easiest way to do this was to cut the outside into 5-6 sections, skin-deep and then simply peeling back the skin.

Clean off the peels, ensuring there is no fruit attached. You may also choose to remove the white pith. Since I was looking to substitute for the thick-skinned citron, I chose to leave the piths attached.

Slice citrus peels.

Slice citrus peels.

Thinly slice the peels into strips, lengthwise.

Cover citrus peels with cold water, boil.

Cover citrus peels with cold water, boil.

Place peels in a pot, cover with cold water. Slowly bring water to a boil, simmer 10-15 minutes. Replace the water 3-5 times and re-boil to help remove any bitter flavors.

Simmer peels in sugar syrup.

Simmer peels in sugar syrup.

Combine the citrus peels with a sugar syrup (listed below) and bring to a boil. Simmer peels until syrup is nearly gone.

Sugar Syrup (for every two cups of peels):

  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar

Let peels dry for only a couple minutes—I used a strainer to help drain off excess syrup.

The finished product! Yum!

The finished product! Yum!

Roll in sugar and dry on waxed paper. However, if using the peels for baking, rolling in sugar is optional.

Once dry, store in an airtight container.

Looking for a sweet treat? Try dipping in melted chocolate—they make excellent holiday gifts!

Lebkuchen made with homemade candied lemon peels as a substitute for the citron required.

Lebkuchen made with homemade candied lemon peels as a substitute for the citron required.

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The zucchini plant is a fairly tough customer. If the soil is of good quality, it can grow to massive sizes, its huge leaves much larger than your whole head. Little spiny hairs cover its leaves and stalks, irritating and itching the bare arms of those who are sensitive to them. At least in my plantings, it seems to shrug off all insects, animals, and disease, save for the powdery mildew that sometimes saps its strength (but never seems to fully kill it) in the cooler days of late summer. Its foliage is often nicked or lopped off by an accident with my harvesting knife, but more just grows back to replace it, the vines perpetually lengthening as you pick from them until they are feet long at the end of the season. The same things are true for summer squash – they are, after all, the same species.

These plants are also legendary for how prolific they are. It seems that everyone who grows them – and even those who live near those growers – know of their amazing ability to pop out fruit after fruit. Tales abound of zucchini stuffed in mailboxes, or of piles of giant lunkers left on steps or porches. I sell them 2/$1, but even with that and eating them besides, I’ve still brought boxes to work before in an effort to prevent them from going to waste.

This is especially true when your plants are cranking out two-headed mutants.

Because of this extreme overproduction, zucchini fans are often scrambling for things to do with it. You can only eat so much fried squash or zucchini-based stir-fry before it gets very tiresome. Thankfully, over the past few years I’ve gained knowledge of several things to do with them when I have 30 of them on my table and can’t move them fast enough. I’ve decided to share some of these with you, because I know that right now my plants are in full swing and will be cranking them out for weeks to come.

– Zucchini Chips –

These consist of thin crosswise slices/rounds of zucchini that are coated with (optional) seasonings and dried. A mandolin slicer makes it really easy to produce the slices, but you can do it by hand with a knife too as long as you are able to make a rather thin cut. You don’t want it extremely thin, though, because there’s a lot of water to them and drying will turn too-thin slices into little more than squash-flavored paper that tears apart when you touch it. Around 1/4″ or so seems to work well for me.

No skinning or seeding is needed as long as the zucchini is not gigantic – just rinse for debris and then cut the ends off and you’re good to go.

They are very easy to produce with a small dehydrator set at veggie setting/130-140F. It takes several hours, but they are hard to ruin this way. They can also apparently be done in a low-temperature oven as well, though I have little experience with this method. When seasoning, go light – the flavor concentrates as the slices dry. My favorite flavors are Hidden Valley ranch (it comes in a powder form you can just sprinkle on) or cinnamon sugar.

– Zucchini Bread (or Muffins) – 

This is a great way to use up ugly zucchini or giant ones of great size (though you still may want to skin and seed really, really big ones because those parts get tough and hard). The zucchini is grated finely before going into the recipe, making age and appearance less important. The recipe below is my aunt’s, and I’ve used it dozens of times to make delicious quickbread out of my surplus. You can easily pour it into muffin tins or cups to make individual portions out of it, too. No alterations are needed to do this.

You can throw in other things you like, or subtract those you don’t. For example, I often leave off nuts or exchange cranberries or blueberries for them, and I sometimes omit coconut if I don’t have any on hand. I also add more cinnamon than called for, and almost always toss in a dash of clove as well.  The recipe seems tolerant of changes as long as you keep the basic ingredients the same. This recipe also freezes extremely well if wrapped closely in aluminum foil and then placed in a gallon Ziploc (wrap the sealed end of the Ziploc around the loaf and press out excess air, taping in place if desired). I have kept it frozen for over 3 years with no significant loss in quality.

Aunt Smith’s Zucchini Bread

3 eggs

2 c. sugar

-> mix these ingredients together, then add…

3 c. grated zucchini or summer squash

1 c. oil (any mild tasting oil will work)

2 tsp. vanilla

-> mix these ingredients together, then add…

3 1/2 c. flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 c. chopped nuts, coconut, berries, or other mix-ins (optional)

Bake about an hour at around 350 degrees. Watch for doneness after 40-45 minutes – prick into center with a toothpick to test. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Makes 2 regular loaves.

Still taking over the table?

– Stuffed Zucchini –

This is one of my semi-lazy methods of dealing with extra zucchini. Cut the ends off and slice once lengthwise, as ‘down the middle’ as possible. Scoop or scrape out some of the seeds to make a crater. Stuff the crater with stuffing, cheese, other veggies, or anything tasty that your heart can dream up. If you don’t want to bother with that, simply stuff with Stove Top stuffing mix or some other equivalent. Bake in the oven until it looks delicious. I usually default to baking at 350 degrees F.

Sometimes it works better to precook or parboil the zucchini for a few minutes before stuffing, or to tent foil over the baking sheet and remove at the last few minutes if browning is desired, although this isn’t strictly necessary because I have had success without precooking as well.

– Pickled Zucchini –

Zucchini and summer squash can be pickled using most recipes that call for cucumbers. I only like sweet or bread and butter pickles, so that’s all I make, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use them in a dill recipe too. Feel free to try them in any recipe you already use. Just be aware that they’ll turn out a bit softer than cucumber pickles, at least in my experience. I find that they’re best if cut into spears and seeded before the pickling process.

The easiest bread and butter pickle recipe I use is as follows. Spices can be substituted or added to depending on what you like.

8 cups sliced cucumbers or zucchini (chunks, spears, or round slices work equally well)

2 c. sliced onions

2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. vinegar (I use cider vinegar)

1 1/2 tsp. pickling salt

2 tsp. mustard seed

1 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. celery seed

Place all ingredients together in a large pot. Heat on medium to high heat until liquid starts to boil, stirring the mixture to soak all ingredients in the brine. Pack in hot, sterilized jars and seal. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Makes about 2 quart jars.

Pickled peas, zukes, cukes, and summer squash help to stuff this old cupboard

Zucchini is right up there with my green beans as far as overabundance goes, and its texture and mild flavor lend it really well to all kinds of interesting applications. Stay tuned for Part II of this article, where I reveal one of my favorite (and most unexpected) ways to use summer squashes, as well as a great way that you can use up several of them and barely even notice their presence!

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