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Save Some for Santa

By Jennifer Kornegay | photos by Michael Cornelison

When I was growing up, it didn’t take much faith to believe in Santa. Up until the second I discovered he wasn’t real, I absolutely knew he was. One year, I saw physical proof; there were huge sooty boot prints on our den floor marking a path from the chimney to the Christmas tree and then back again on Christmas morning.

The next Christmas Eve, I’d heard him stomping around on the roof, his reindeers’ bells jingling as he belted out his signature chortle. I’d even seen Rudolph’s glowing ruby red nose whiz past my window.

I know now (and actually figured out not long after the Rudolph sighting), that it was all the work of my father. He convinced my mom to let him dirty her floors with fireplace ashes. He climbed up on our roof. He put a red bulb in a small flashlight and scooted around the backyard.

My dad’s dedication to keeping the magic of Santa alive for as long as possible was matched only by the amount of fun he had doing it. He went above and beyond his dad duties in these instances, but you don’t have to go nearly as far to keep the wonder in the “most wonderful time of the year.” Start by making some holiday cookies.

A plateful of warm, sweet treats shared with family and friends is seasonally appropriate comfort food at its finest. And even if you don’t have kids in your house, go ahead and save a few to put out with a tall glass of milk for the big guy in red. Who knows? Better safe than sorry, right?


Cook of the Month

Julia Barnard
Julia Barnard

Julia Barnard, Arab EC

Julia Barnard has been making her Holiday Fruit Cookies for six decades, basically as long as she’s been married. “I started making them for my husband, and we wed 61 years ago,” she says. “They are a real favorite.” She especially loves the flavor of the sweet coconut and even sweeter cherries together. And while she cooks and bakes often, she usually gives away a good bit of whatever she whips up. “I have wonderful children and a grandchild, but most of them don’t live close, so it is just me and my husband, and we can’t eat a whole batch of cookies or a whole cake by ourselves, so I like to share,” she says. Those on the receiving end of Julia’s efforts are definitely some fortunate folks. “I love to bake, and even though I’ve never won anything like being named Cook of the Month before, I think I’m pretty good at it,” she says. We agree, Julia.

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Holiday Fruit Cookies

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1¾ cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup green and red candied cherries
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs and vanilla. Add flour, milk and spices. Stir in fruit and nuts. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Makes 5-6 dozen cookies.


Sugar Cookies

  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup oleo or butter
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 2½ cups plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift dry ingredients and set aside. Cream oleo and sugar; add egg and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture gradually and mix well. Add pecans if you like. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Drop batter by a teaspoon and bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned in a 300-325 degree oven. Do not over bake.

Carolyn Melton, Southern Pine EC


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Cheryl’s Cherry Winks

  • 1 jar of maraschino cherries
  • 1½ cups coconut, plus extra for rolling
  • 1½ cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon cream or milk

Mix butter with electric mixer and add the sugar, coconut, almond extract and milk or cream. Set mixture in refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Drain the cherries and place them on paper towels. Take a roughly tablespoon-size portion of the coconut mixture and place a cherry in the center and form into a ball. Roll the ball in loose coconut. Place the ball on a cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture and cherries. Once finished, place in refrigerator until time to eat. For serving, individual balls may be placed in miniature cups.

Cheryl Lobb, Dixie EC


Holiday Minute Cookies

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 boxes 10X sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup finely crushed Oreo cookies
  • 1 large carton whole candied cherries, cut in half

Melt butter and cream cheese in microwave until soft and blended when stirred. Pour sugar into a medium-large bowl, and stir in melted butter mixture until blended. Prepare 2 large pieces wax paper; on one piece, sprinkle Oreo crumbs. Dip out a teaspoon of cookie mixture and roll in crumbs, and place on the other piece of wax paper. Repeat until all mixture is used. Press each with a fork and top with half a cherry. Store covered at room temperature.

Barbara Frasier, Sand Mountain EC


Gingerbread Bars

  • 2¾ cups almond flour
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon powdered ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper in a 9 by 13-inch pan. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Separately, mix the wet ingredients and combine well with the dry. Press onto the 9 by 13-inch pan. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes then cut into bars. When completely cooled, remove from pan with parchment paper. Store leftovers in fridge or freezer.

Aly Davis, Tombigbee EC


Oreo Cookie Balls

  • 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 package oreo-style cookies (I find the store brands work best, otherwise cookies will be too sweet)
  • White chocolate bark, melted

Put cookies into a gallon-size plastic bag and crush until the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Mix the cookies and the cream cheese together by hand until thoroughly mixed. Gently shape the mixture into balls the size of large marbles. Do not mash the dough hard, or the cookies will be too hard to eat. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Dip the balls into bark and put on wax paper to harden. Be sure to put wax paper between layers in your containers. Serve at room temperature, but refrigerate if it will be more than 4 hours before serving the cookies. Makes around 50.

Jane Kendrick, Coosa Valley EC



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Christmas Wreaths

  • ½ cup butter
  • 5 heaping cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon green food coloring
  • 5½ cups corn flakes cereal
  • Handful of red cinnamon candies

Measure corn flakes into a large bowl. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Once melted, add the marshmallows and stir continuously until completely melted. Stir in food coloring. Pour melted marshmallows into the large bowl with the corn flakes. Stir until well coated. Lay out a piece of parchment paper on your kitchen counter. Dollop spoonfuls of the corn flake mixture onto the parchment paper. Grease your clean hands with butter or cooking spray, or dip them in a little bit of water. Use your fingers to shape each spoonful into an individual wreath. Top each wreath with cinnamon candies.

Jennifer Robinson-Tijsma, Sand Mountain EC


Italian Meatball Cookies (Christmas Spice Cookies)

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¼ cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 1 cup 2 percent milk
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ tablespoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • For the buttercream frosting:
  • ¾ cup softened butter
  • 6-8 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 to ½ cup milk
  • Red and green food coloring (optional)
  • Candy and chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the Crisco and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, then add the oil, milk, black pepper, and remaining ingredients except for the flour, chocolate chips, and nuts and mix well. Add the flour one cup at a time until smooth and then add the chips and nuts. Spoon the batter with a teaspoon onto the parchment paper, leaving 1/2 inch between cookies. (The Crisco allows the cookies to bake into little mounds resembling meatballs, hence the name Italian Meatballs.) Bake for 9-10 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. They will continue to bake after removed from the oven. Let them cool completely.

For the frosting:

Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very smooth. Add the vanilla and enough milk to make a good spreading consistency. I separate the frosting into two other bowls and add a couple of drops of red and green food coloring to them, making 3 colors of frosting. I then top the cookies with candy and chocolate sprinkles. After the frosting and sprinkles are completely dry, store the cookies in airtight containers and keep in a cool location.

Jacqueline Bonn, Covington EC


Christmas Swirl Cookies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Red and green food coloring
  • 1 cup holiday sprinkles
  • In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl and add to butter mixture, mix well. Separate the dough in half and color one part red and one part green. Put one of the freshly made dough balls between two sheets of parchment paper and roll to 11 by 9 inches and ¼-inch thick. Repeat with the other color dough.

Put the rolled dough, including the parchment paper, on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 10 minutes or longer. Take the top layer off both doughs and lightly wet the tops. Sandwich the two colors together. Using a paring knife, trim the edges to make straight edges.

Remove the top layer of paper and start rolling up and use the bottom layer of paper to pull it tight. If the dough tears you can just pinch it together. Pour the sprinkles onto a large platter and roll the log onto the sprinkles and press them in. Place the dough into the fridge for 15 minutes or longer. Slice the dough into ¼-inch slices and bake on parchment lined sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

Jennifer Robinson-Tijsma, Sand Mountain EC


cherries

Cherry, Cherry

A couple of this month’s reader-submitted recipes call for cherries, both candied and the “maraschino” variety. So what’s the difference? Both begin with fresh cherries, which are brined for preservation purposes, rinsed and then pitted. Maraschino cherries are soaked in a sweetened syrup and food dye (red or green), and additional flavorings are added like almond extract (for red) and peppermint (for green).

Candied cherries (also called glace cherries) are more saccharine than maraschino and achieve their almost-overwhelming sweetness by being slowly cooked down in a sugary solution, allowing them to actually absorb it. And instead of being stored in liquid like maraschino cherries, soft, sticky candied cherries are packed dry. Maraschino cherries can be subbed for candied cherries in a dish, but you’ll need to drain them first, and you may need to increase the sugar called for in the recipe to achieve the desired flavor.


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Online: alabamaliving.coop
Email: recipes@alabamaliving.coop
Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014
Montgomery, AL 36124

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Feb. Cooking for Two Dec. 8
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Apr. Easter Meals Feb. 8