Jane Lawson’s sons, Kellan and Carsten, have a visit with Santa. Kellan asked for Legos and Carsten asked for a kitty that says, “meow.”
Jane Lawson’s sons, Kellan and Carsten, have a visit with Santa. Kellan asked for Legos and Carsten asked for a kitty that says, “meow.”
December 9, 2013



I have to admit, my heart leapt a little when I spotted peppermint mocha on coffee shop menu. In the past year, peppermint mocha has become my favorite taste of the holiday season. I had the best peppermint mocha ever at Center Grove Orchard in Cambridge on Saturday. My family and I were there to have a pancake breakfast with Santa, decorate sugar cookies, and take a horse-drawn-sleigh ride. Our boys looked adorable in their matching reindeer pajamas, although I had to bribe Kellan, the kindergartener, to wear the pjs in public.

In the next few weeks, all of us will indulge in plenty of goodies that are reserved for Christmas only.

The following are a few ideas to get you started on holiday cookie trays to give to friends, treats to have on hand for family, or sweets to share at a Christmas cookie exchange.



Heavenly Truffles

I haven't tasted these truffles for ages, but I still remember they taste like a little bit of heaven.

When I was in high school, the Kowilich family brought us the most scrumptious truffles I've ever tasted.

At the time, Joe Kowilich was a manager at Sernett's. Joe and Cindy Kowilich lived in Carroll with their two children, Kari and PJ. The family then moved to Burlington, Iowa, and then to Ohio.

Kari and I were good friends in junior high and high school, and we were roommates at the University of Iowa.

Cindy and Joe are now living in Oviedo, Fla., right outside Orlando. Joe is newly retired, and Cindy is a sales associate at Dillard's. Kari and her husband live in Chicago. She works in facilities management. Kari and I keep in touch via Facebook, and I asked her for the recipe for the truffles I remember so well.

3 cups (18 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 (14 oz) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract or liquor of your choice (I like Bailey's)

Coatings:

finely chopped toasted nuts

flaked coconut

chocolate sprinkles

colored sprinkles

unsweetened cocoa

powdered sugar

colored sugars

dipping chocolate

Melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk in large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla or liquor. Pour into medium bowl. Cover and chill 2 to 3 hours or until firm. Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in desired coating and/or decorate with frosting and candies. Chill 1 hour or until firm.

Note: The truffles we were given were made with Bailey's Irish Cream and were rolled in unsweetened cocoa powder, but any combination is delicious.



Buckeyes

My husband, Danny, loves most anything with chocolate and peanut butter, and he especially loves buckeyes. At our most recent visit to Cracker Barrel restaurant he bought some of his favorite candy to bring home.

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

3-4 cups powdered sugar

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons all-vegetable shortening

Combine peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low until well blended. Add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating until blended. Beat in additional powdered sugar until mixture, when shaped into a ball, will stay on a toothpick. Shape into 1-inch balls. Refrigerate. Place chocolate chips and shortening in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium heat for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat until mixture is smooth. Reheat as needed while coating peanut butter balls. Insert toothpick in peanut butter ball. Dip 3/4 of ball into chocolate, leaving top uncovered to resemble a buckeye. Remove excess. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Remove toothpick. Smooth over holes. Refrigerate until firm.



Snowball Cookies

Powdery white snowball cookies look pretty on holiday cookie trays among the gingerbread men and red and green frosted cookies. Land O'Lakes has a recipe for tender, buttery cookies.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups finely chopped pecans

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except powdered sugar in a large bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until well mixed.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place ball 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 18-25 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes; roll in powdered sugar while still warm and again when cool.



Quick and Easy

Peppermint Fudge

I don't have the patience to make traditional candies using a candy thermometer, but I can handle this peppermint fudge recipe by Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. I love the taste of chocolate and peppermint especially at Christmastime.

cooking spray, for spraying foil

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 can sweetened condensed milk

red peppermint candies, crushed, for topping

Line an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk and stir until it is melted and smooth. Pour chocolate mixture into the prepared pan and spread to even out the surface. Sprinkle on the crushed candies. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Lift the foil out of the pan and peel off the fudge. Cut into small squares.