I do not believe in trying to outgun any of my friends, family or readers when it comes to holiday baking.
Quite simply, I do not have the inclination, nor the patience or talent to make 30 kinds of Christmas cookies.
But, I do marvel at the time and effort that these bakers put into the cookies they create.
Last Saturday was the fourth annual Girls Cookie Night. Basically, it's a great excuse for friends to make cutout sugar cookies and sit around a table and catch up on our lives while we decorate them.
I have come to realize that I was never destined to be a cookie decorator. Icing wanted to slop on my Christmas tree. Tiny pearly sugar beads decided not to make a straight line down my gingerbread man, and forget about my trying to squeeze icing evenly out of a tube!
Janet Moreiko-Gagen was our hostess and smartly had covered her dining room table with plastic.
My friends are so talented. Gigi Dowling Urban brought sugar cookies shaped like mennorahs and dreidls. Melanie Vick turned a mennorah sideways and created a whale, complete with water spout -- from an altered upside down Christmas tree cookie -- and Jonah -- who once was a tiny angel cookie.
Robbin Netemeyer turned a broken gingerbread man into a zombie (he carried his head) and Liz Murphy managed to do what none of us could: Not eat one cookie! What willpower.
Many of us have limited time and experience in the kitchen. This cookie mix formula turns any brand of basic (including pudding) box cake mix into great cookies. I've used it for years, usually doubling and tripling the recipe to make sandwich cookies using devil's food cake mix. But try other mixes and frosting flavors to make your own unique cookies: Carrot or spice cake mix with cream cheese frosting on top. Or, add some peppermint or almond extract to a yellow cake mix, roll into little balls, roll in powdered sugar, then bake. If you want more suggestions, go to the Duncan Hine's website.
CAKE MIX COOKIES
1 box any flavor cake mix
1/2 cup oil
1. Add 1/2 cup oil and two eggs to one box of cake mix. Add chips, nuts, and flavorings if desired.
2. Drop by teaspoonfuls on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
It's an oldier but a goodie: The evergreen Corn Flake Wreaths. I've never cared for them (a bit too sticky for my taste), but I see them on many cookie plates over the holidays. This recipe has better directions and suggestions for making them, which I believe will make their creation less of a mess and therefore easier.
Of course, you can avoid trying to turn them into wreaths altogether and make a green blob and call it mistletoe! The recipe and tips are from supermommoments.com.
Corn Flake Wreaths
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 (10-ounce) package marshmallows
4 cups corn flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla
Green food coloring (about 1/2 teaspoon or 40 drops)
Red Hots (approximately 48 pieces)
Melt the butter in a large pan over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir occasionally until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and food coloring. Once well blended, gently fold in the corn flakes.
Grease a muffin tin as well as your fingers and a couple spoons. (Nonstick cooking spray works well.)
Transfer balls of the mixture to fill each cup about two-thirds of the way. Coat the end of a wooden spoon with butter and press down into the muffin cup using a circular motion to create the wreath's center hole. Have the kids practice counting out three red hots and place them on each wreath.
Freeze the wreaths for 30 minutes then pop out of the pan. If you're packaging for gifting, be sure to line between each layer with wax paper because these babies have a tendency to stick together. To help with the sticking-together thing, store them in an airtight container in the freezer and just let sit out for about 20-30 minutes before eating.
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