by Heather Berry

Holiday sweets perfect for sharing

The holidays are here and the air is crisp as lacy snowflakes contemplate where to land. Festooned boughs on Christmas trees, favorite holiday carols, glowing hearths and warm hearts fill homes as the holiday nears, making the season bright for everyone involved.

This season also is a time when nearly every kitchen becomes more fragrant as many of us prepare special treats for family and friends. Each of us probably thinks of a different homemade holiday treat we enjoy at this time of year.

Whatever your favorite, try some of these delicious recipes for your family and friends. They also make great gifts for those in service jobs, such as your mail carrier, dry cleaner, day care provider, pastor or anyone else you just want to say “Merry Christmas” to this season. Long after the holidays are over, you’ll still enjoy preparing these treats as you remember the gifts of cheer and time shared with friends and loved ones during the season.



Christmas Cookie Dip



10 tablespoons of butter, softened
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 cup holiday sprinkles, if desired
Shortbread cookies, fruit, etc. for dipping

Place the butter, cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl. Using a mixer, beat the mixture until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and vanilla and beat for another minute. Add the yogurt, 1/4 cup at a time and mix on low to combine.

Add sprinkles now, if desired. Place the remaining sprinkles on top of the dip for decoration. Serve with shortbread cookies or apple slices. Note: Some sprinkles may cause dip to change color.

Toffee Graham Crackers


1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup unsalted almonds, slivered
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon large flake sea salt

Lightly coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Combine butter, granulated and brown sugars, kos-her salt and water in a large heavy saucepan fitted with candy thermometer. Cook over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally, until thermometer registers 300 degrees (toffee should be a deep golden brown), about 7 to 9 minutes.

Remove toffee from heat and carefully stir in vanilla. Sprinkle baking soda evenly over surface and stir just until incorporated (be careful not to overmix). Quickly scrape mixture onto prepared baking sheet and tilt from side to side to spread mixture slightly; let cool for 10 minutes.

Drizzle chocolate over toffee and spread evenly with a rubber spatula or large metal spoon. Scatter nuts and seeds over top, then sprinkle with sea salt. Let sit until chocolate is firm, at least 2 hours. Break into large pieces when cool.

Golden Rubies Fruitcake


2 cups flour plus 1 tablespoon flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups English walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins,
1 cup dried cranberries, soaked in warm water for 15
minutes, then well drained
1 cup dried apricots, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes, then well drained
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
5 large eggs
1/2 cup brandy or apple juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup English walnut halves
1/2 cup apple jelly or apricot jam for topping, if desired
Extra powdered sugar for garnish

Heat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9-inch Bundt pan.

In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a larger covered container, shake together walnuts, raisins, cranberries, apricots and 1 tablespoon flour to coat; set aside. In another large mixing bowl, beat sugar and butter on low speed until blended, then beat on high speed 2 minutes.
On low speed, beat in eggs, brandy (or apple juice) and vanilla to the flour, baking powder and salt mixture, until well blended.

Stir in fruit and nut mixture, then spoon batter into prepared pan. Top with walnut halves and bake about 60 to 70 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not overbake.

Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto wire rack. Cool completely, then melt apple jelly or apricot jam and brush over top of cake, if desired, or simply dust with powdered sugar.

Ginger Kringle Cookies

(not pictured)

3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 stick butter, room temperature (no substitute)
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream brown sugar and butter in large bowl with electric mixer. Add the egg and molasses; mix well.

Place dry ingredients in large bowl. Stir to combine. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Mix by hand. Roll out on well-floured surface to less than 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.

Bake on sprayed cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10 to 14 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool. Decorate as desired.

Ambrosia Bars


2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups cold butter, cut into pieces 3 large egg yolks

1 1/2 cups pineapple chunks
1 cup peach jam
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces 1 cup coconut, toasted

For crust: Heat oven to 400. Pulse first four ingredients in a food processor two to three times or until combined. Add cold butter, 2 or 3 pieces at a time, pulsing after each addition. Add egg yolks, one at a time, pulsing after each addition. Process until mixture is crumbly. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper, extending over sides. Butter and flour parchment. Press flour mixture into pan and bake for 12 minutes.

For filling: Pulse pineapple in food processor until coarsely chopped. Bring pineapple, jam, and next 4 ingredients to a boil in a saucepan over medi-um-high heat. Boil, stirring often, 1 minute. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in cherries and spread over prepared crust.

For topping: Stir together sugar, flour and kosher salt; cut butter into sugar mixture with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in toasted coconut; sprinkle over pineapple mixture. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees until golden. Cool completely, then cut into squares.

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