Christmas Treats: Old Favorites For Old-Fashioned Fun

IN THE KITCHEN

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The holidays are a time for treats we don't see through the rest of the year. They are old favorites for family, friends who drop by or the occasional band of merry carolers who might find your door.

Tops among these old favorite treats is hot chocolate. My absolute favorite hot chocolate is made from a homemade mix that uses powdered milk and coffee creamer. A close second is that wonderful fudge made with chocolate chips and marshmallow creme. (Not that I'm a chocoholic or anything).

Favorite Hot Chocolate Mix

from cooks.com

2-pound box chocolate flavored drink mix

8-quart box instant non-fat dry milk

1/2 cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar

8-ounce jar powdered coffee creamer

Mix all ingredients well. Keep in airtight container.

Use 1/3 cup of mix for a single serving, filling cup or mug with hot water.

Makes 25 servings.

Fantasy Fudge

from christmas-cookies.com

This is the original Fantasy Fudge recipe from the back of the Kraft Marshmallow Creme jar.

Makes about 3 pounds

3 cups sugar

3/4 cup margarine

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1, 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips

1, 7-ounce jar Kraft Marshmallow creme

1 cup chopped nuts

1 tablespoon vanilla

Traditional method:

Combine sugar, margarine and milk in heavy 2-1/2 quart saucepan; bring to full rolling bail, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate till melted. Add marshmallow creme, nuts & vanilla, beat till blended. Pour into greased 13-inch-by-9-inch baking pan. Let cool and cut into 1-inch squares.

Microwave method:

Microwave margarine in 4-quart microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) 1 minute or until melted. Add sugar and milk; mix well. Microwave on HIGH 5 minutes or until mixture begins to boil, stirring after 3 minutes. Mix well; scrape bowl. Continue microwaving on HIGH 5-1/2 minutes; stir after 3 minutes. Stir in chips until melted. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour into greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Cool at room temperature; cut into squares. Makes 3 pounds.

Note: Can be made in a smaller pan for thicker squares (yield will be reduced).

Quite a few years ago when I decided to give this fudge as a gift to friends and family, I made a few batches with butterscotch chips or milk-chocolate chips substituted for the semi-sweet chocolate chips.

There are many more different variety of "chips" on the market now, so the varieties of fudge are delicious to contemplate.

Now, for some other old-fashioned favorite treats.

Hot Spiced Apple Cider 1

from cooks.com

1/2 gallon apple cider

12 cloves

3 cinnamon sticks

1 cup orange juice

1/2 cup lemon juice

Heat apple cider. Add all ingredients. Allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes or more. Serve this in mugs on a chilly night.

Makes 12 servings.

Hot Apple Cider 2

from cooks.com

1/2 gal. apple cider (or juice)

1/4 cup red hots

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

4 to 5 cinnamon sticks

1 orange (optional)

Combine 2 cups cider, red hots, brown sugar and microwave (medium heat) for 7 to 8 minutes. Add cloves and allspice. Mix with remainder of cider.

Heat in crock pot then add 4 or 5 cinnamon sticks. Cut oranges into quarters and float on top.

This Russian Tea Mix was something we made in home economics for a holiday open house. If I recall correctly, it tastes something like chai spice tea, so a mix of that to prepare for a crowd might be the easier route.

Russian Tea Mix

from cooks.com

1, 9-ounce jar (or 1-1/4 cups) orange-flavored breakfast drink powder

3/4 cups iced tea mix with lemon and sugar

1 teaspoon ground sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Combine all ingredients; mix well. Store in airtight containers. Yield: 2 cups mix.

For one serving, combine 2 tablespoons of the Russian Tea Mix with 1 cup boiling water in a cup or mug.

Panocha (Brown Sugar Fudge)

from christmas-cookies.com

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup light cream

1/3 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup broken pecans

Butter sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. In it combine sugars, cream, milk, and butter. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, till sugars dissolve and mixture boils. Then cook to soft-ball stage (238 F on your candy thermometer), stirring only if necessary. Immediately remove from heat and cool to lukewarm (110 F) without stirring.

Add vanilla. Beat vigorously until fudge becomes very thick and starts to lose its gloss. Quickly stir in nuts and spread in buttered shallow pan or small platter. Score in squares while warm; cut when firm.

Divinity Candy

from cooks.com

2 cups sugar

1/3 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup boiling water

1 cup nut meats

Pinch of salt

2 egg whites, beaten stiff

Boil sugar, corn syrup and water until it forms hard ball when dropped into cold water. Then pour slowly into beaten egg whites, beating while pouring. Beat until cool enough to pour into pans. Add nuts just before it gets stiff. Drop by teaspoons onto platter.

Cutout Cookies

from christmas-cookies.com

"Cutout cookie dough is stiff enough to be rolled out, then cut into assorted shapes. For easier handling, chill the dough before rolling and work with small amounts at a time, keeping remaining chilled till needed. Unchilled dough takes up too much flour, resulting in tough, dry cookies. Excessive re-rolling also causes tough cookies.

Use a knife, cookie cutters, or traceable cardboard patterns to produce unusual cookie designs. Bake till lightly browned." -- from the Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookies Cook Book

Sugar Cookies

A simple sugar cookie recipe with a tender, flaky texture and a buttery taste. In spite of the humble name, this is THE BEST sugar cookie recipe at christmas-cookies.com.

Makes about 24

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder

Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mix until just combined. Add flour and baking powder in intervals. Dough will seem as if doesn't have enough moisture, but continue to mix with mixer until combined (it will come together when chilled).

Divide the dough into four equal parts, shape into four disks, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate about an hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.

Roll out dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper, about 1/4-inch thick for crispier cookies and 1/3-inch thick for softer cookies. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until edges just start to turn a golden color.

For softer cookies, do not allow the cookies to take on color. Remove from oven, let cool for one minute and then transfer to wire rack. Allow cookie sheet to cool thoroughly before placing uncooked dough on it.

Decorate cookies with Royal Icing or Buttercream Frosting and sprinkles.

Can be stored in freezer undecorated for 2 months. Dough also freezes well.

Note: Yield varies greatly depending on how thin you roll out the dough and how large your cookie cutters are, but an overall guideline is 24 cookies.

Royal Icing

1 pound powdered sugar

5 tablespoons meringue powder or 1/4 cup pasteurized egg whites

2 tablespoons water

food coloring (optional)

Combine powdered sugar and meringue powder or egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat on low speed. Add water drop by drop. The amount depends on whether you used the powder or the egg whites, and on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen. Add the water slowly and do not let the mixture get runny -- you will probably not use all of it. Beat until the mixture holds a trail on the surface for five seconds when you raise the mixer from the bowl. If you like, you can tint the icing with a few drops of food coloring. Makes 6 cups.

Note: using raw egg whites in this recipe is not recommended because of the risk of Salmonella, especially if children, elderly, or pregnant women will be eating them.

Buttercream Frosting

Using shortening in this recipe instead of real butter makes the frosting much more stable and long-lasting for cookies that are going to sit out a while before consumption.

1 cup Butter-Flavored or Golden Crisco (solid vegetable shortening)

4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 fluid ounces heavy cream

gel or paste food coloring (optional)

Cream shortening until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and continue creaming until well blended. Add salt, vanilla, and cream. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add additional cream -- a teaspoon at a time -- if necessary to achieve the right consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is fluffy. If desired, divide frosting into several small bowls and stir in food coloring to create various colors of buttercream frosting.

Variations:

For a pure white frosting, use white shortening and clear vanilla.

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