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It's Not Too Late To Make the Holidays Merry For Friends and Family

‘Twas the week of Christmas, Monday rolled around, and I found myself behind on my baking and homemade gift-making. Usually by now, I’ve made a few batches of cookies and candy for co-workers and friends. My excuse is a trip to New York City (more on that food and travel adventure next week) that consumed the latter part of last week and the weekend, days normally spent preparing for Christmas. Upon my return, I quickly got to work and put together a few gift baskets containing hot chocolate mix, my aunt’s Chex mix (or “scrambles,” as she called them) and rolls of Christmas cookie dough that were defrosted, sliced and baked, just in time for Christmas.

Here are the recipes I used and yes, before you say it - I know that Christmas is already here. However, these recipes translate well to day-after Christmas beverages and snacks, New Year’s treats, and, really, anytime during the next few weeks when the weather will be less than desirable and curling up with a cup of hot chocolate and a warm cookie makes January blues a thing of the past.

Hot Chocolate Mix

1-1/2 cups dry milk powder

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Stir all the ingredients together into a bowl

To make a mug of hot chocolate:

Add 3 tablespoons of the mix to 8 ounces milk or water into a saucepan and stir. Simmer on medium/low heat for 2 minutes. Pour into a mug and serve with marshmallows.

Hilda’s Chex Mix

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1-1/4 teaspoons seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

3 cups Wheat Chex square cereal

2 cups Rice Chex square cereal

1-1/2 cups whole pecans

1 cup salted peanuts

1-1/2 cups small pretzel rods

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Melt butter in a shallow pan. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, and garlic salt. Add Wheat Chex, Rice Chex, pecans, peanuts, and pretzel rods. Mix until all pieces are coated with the butter mixture. Place on a shallow baking pan with sides. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Roll and Slice Christmas (Or Anytime) Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, for rolling

In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until combined and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract on high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, and continue to beat until fully combined. On low speed, beat in the flour and salt until combined. The cookie dough will be thick and slightly sticky. Switch to low speed and beat in the cherries until combined.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and, with floured hands, divide or cut into two. Shape each half into an 8-inch log, about 2-3 inches in diameter. Roll each log in the shredded coconut. Tightly wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours; up to 5 days. Chilling is mandatory for this cookie dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Slice each log into 12 equally thick cookies and place cookies on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies for 13-14 minutes or until brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make Ahead Instructions: You can make and assemble the cookie dough logs and chill in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Cookie dough logs freeze well too, up to 3 months. Allow the logs to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bake.

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