Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sweet Time with Sweet Friends - The Great Cookie Exchange '08!

I had an especially sweet time on Sunday afternoon with some young, old friends. = ) My friend, Celeste (third from left) hosts an annual Christmas cookie exchange and it’s always a special treat to attend (particularly since I had to miss last year!) This year, for sake of simplicity, we opted to bake our goods and then meet at a restaurant (Olive Garden) rather than in someone’s home. It had been a good long while since I had a chance to sit a spell with these precious ladies. Four are school teachers (and I believe all but one taught Brennan at some point or another). The other is a missionary, making her final preparations to join our team of friends ministering in Dublin, Ireland. L to R - Leann, Julie, Celeste, Sue & Susan

This is a talented group of bakers! Their treats (as always) were exceptional! (I thought it was my personal responsibility to sample at least one of everything!) With their blessing, I’m sharing their recipes (and photos) in no particular order. Enjoy!

Celeste’s Baklava

This is delicate, sweet and scrumptious! I’ve made this recipe repeatedly over the last several years and though a bit time-consuming, the end result is well worth it! It’s wonderful if you’re looking for an extra special treat to take to a dinner or party.

Nut Mixture
** 4 cups ground walnuts
**1 cup sugar
**1 tsp. (ground) cinnamon
Mix together and set aside.

**1 ½ cups sugar
**1 cup water
**1/4 cup honey
**1 stick cinnamon
Mix together and boil for 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

1 package of Fillo (phyllo) dough
1 pound of butter

Melt all butter. Brush a large cookie sheet. Lay Fillo dough sheets one at a time, brushing each with butter. After 10 sheets, add ½ of the nut mixture. (Put a generous amount of butter on before the nuts.) Do 5 more sheets and add the rest of the nut mixture (again, generous amount of butter before the nuts). Add 5 more sheets of dough. End with butter (you won’t use all the butter). Cut into squares (important to do this before baking). Bake for ½ hour at 350 degrees. Pour glaze after its finished baking and out of the oven (you won’t use all the glaze). Let cool completely.

Note: Follow directions on the Fillo dough box to keep it moist as you work.

Susan’s Mocha Toffee Truffles

Not being a lover of coffee, I wasn’t sure I’d like these…boy was I wrong! They have a wonderful mocha flavor, and they’re so pretty, too! Definitely one I plan to make! (It would be perfect on its own or paired with a Starbucks gift card.)

1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 4-1/2-ounce package English toffee pieces
4-ounces milk chocolate, melted (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degree F. Melt the butter and chocolate pieces in a large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in coffee crystals; cool 5 minutes. Stir in the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Stir into coffee mixture. Stir in the toffee pieces. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely. If desired, drizzle with melted milk chocolate; let stand until chocolate is set. Makes 30 truffles.
To store, place layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze undrizzled truffles up to 3 months. Thaw, then, if desired, drizzle with melted milk chocolate

Sue’s Toasted Coconut Cookies

These are buttery, melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

¼ butter or margarine, softened
¼ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 ½ cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
½ cup crispy rice cereal
½ cup uncooked regular oats

BEAT softened butter and shortening at medium speed with electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating until blended. Add egg and coconut extract, beating well.
COMBINE flour, baking powder, soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in coconut, cereal and oats.
DROP dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.
BAKE at 325 for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden. Let cool slightly on baking sheet and remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Leann’s White Chocolate Chex Mix

One of those perfectly addictive snack mixtures! I literally had to take a little handful and close up the bag! It would be entirely too easy to keep helping myself to a little bit more, and a little bit more until …well you get the idea. Leann has an awesome recipe blog of her own…check it out!

5 cups cheerios
5 cups corn chex
2 cups salted peanuts
10 ounces mini pretzels
12 ounces m&m’s
2 bags white chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. oil

Microwave chocolate and oil for 2 – 2 ½ minutes. Stir often. Pour over mix.

Julie’s Chocolate-Peanut Butter Truffles

These are absolutely darling and delicious! When I looked at the recipe, I couldn’t believe there were so few ingredients. These are another that would make an elegant little hostess gift! I haven’t tried making these yet, but I think this year I’ll give them a try!

1 pkg (8 squares) Baker’s Semi-Sweet Baking
½ cup peanut butter
1 (8 ounce) tub Cool Whip or Cool Whip Extra Creamy Whipped Topping, thawed
Suggested coatings: powdered sugar, unsweetened cocoa, finely chopped pecans, sprinkles, toasted coconut, finely crushed cookies, grated baking chocolate

Microwave chocolate in microwavable bowl on high for 2 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Add peanut butter; stir until well blended. Cool to room temperature. Gently stir in whipped topping. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Scoop truffle mixture with melon baller or teaspoon, then shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in suggested coatings. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

Tracy’s Almond Sugar Cookies

I found this recipe in an old Taste of Home magazine. It was a grand prize winner and once you taste them, you'll see why. Even better...they're quite easy to make and so pretty!

1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
Additional sugar

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 1 ½ tsp. almond extract
2-3 tsp. water
sliced almonds, toasted

In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in almond extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Roll into 1 inch balls (I just scoop out little mounds with my cookie scoop.) Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Coat bottom of a glass with nonstick cooking spray; dip in sugar. Flatten cookies with prepared glass, dipping glass in sugar again as needed. Bake at 400 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing to wire racks. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, almond extract and enough water to achieve glaze consistency. Drizzle over cookies. Sprinkle with almonds. Makes 3-4 dozen.

I'd love to hear if you try any of these recipes. Happy Baking!


Judy said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to print out all of those recipes, for all of us. Each one looks to be so delicious! And the picture of your friends with their warm smiles blessed my heart. Friendships are a precious gift from God. The music on your blog is beautiful!!

alihsee said...

oo'h yummy! I've been looking for cookies to make to give as pressies - I may just have to try one out! Blessings to you this week!

Susan said...

Oh wow, how special. Getting together with friends, and those yummy cookies!

I try out some of those recipes!

Thanks for sharing Tracy♥

Laurie Ann said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed your time spent with friends. Thanks for sharing these recipes! I'll try yours for sure and probably the white chocolate chex mix. Yum-O!

Paula (SweetPea) said...

They all look yummy. I love Fillo and the feel of it when eatin...sounds strange I know.

You have blessed with not one but five wonderful friends!!!

Shabby Olde Potting Shed said...

I've never made Baklava before, but ADORE the word! It looks like yall had so much fun! GOOD FRIENDS, GOOD FOOD. WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE ABOUT THAT?!
My hand would have SO been into that candy coated chex mix. :)
I'm copying n pasting recipes.. and tell everyone thanks abunch for sharing!
yAY! FOR OLIVE GARDEN...! Wish you coulda been in the picture with them!

Tiffany Stuart said...

Wow, you typed out a lot. I'm impressed.

Sounds like a fun time! Happy baking to all. I've made chocolate dipped treats with my family this year. Fun!

Truth4thejourney said...

What a fun thing to do as a Christmas tradition! The recipe's sound yummy and the way they displayed them was just lovely!!

Thanks for sharing,

Becky said...

I loved this post! I loved all the festive platters and yum cookie recipes...and fellowship with good friends...wonderful Christmas traditions.

Thanks for sharing!

Amydeanne said...

those look yummy!

Tricia said...

I think I will have to try a few of those recipes... but after Christmas! Things are starting to get a little busy around here!

And cookies are good anytime of the year, why do we always wait for the holidays to make our favorites? I think I may make a favorite each month next year so I can really enjoy the baking and the tasting!


Kristen said...

OK... I am offically hungry for cookies and goodies. I especially love baklava!

What a wonderful time you must have had!

Sarah@Life in the Parsonage said...

Those all look amazing! I think I gained weight just from looking :)