Holiday Goodies: Sweet Christmas Gifts

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When orchestrating a yummy Yuletide gift of festive Christmas cookies, presentation is just as important as taste! Don’t just make an abundance of holiday goodies, only to plunk your peppermint meringues, peanut butter kisses, and pfeffernusse on a plain white paper plate for gifting to the hunky UPS man or the foxy FedEx delivery guy. Not to be superficial, but an attractive tin, pretty paper plate, bows, stickers, and a tag written in a fancy font are just as essential to the success of your sweet Christmas gifts as sparkling sugars, colorful shots, and decorative drizzles of icing. In fact, even half-baked, blobby, crumby cookies can be elevated to the status of Bake-Off prizewinners if they are cleverly cached in colorful cookie bags. Then if you are scrumptiously attired in a silky little next-to-nothing as you deliver these melt-in-your-mouth delights, you are sure to find many happy returns from your lanky yet muscular lawn care professionals.

While humble and homely Charlie Brown-style Christmas trees may have their own nostalgic charm, unless your kiddies are budding Martha Stewarts who can pipe frosting with panache and suavely sprinkle shots and sugars, set them up in the family room with a DVD of Rudolf and the Island of Misfit Toys on the tube and instructions to make a football-field long paper chain while you engage in a frenzied baking orgy in relative peace. Also, you won’t want them to burn their little fingers on the Calphalon Cookware Set or All-Clad Cookware Set double boiler pot. This crucial piece of cookware is compulsory for the well-dressed cookie. After all, any simple shortbread cookie will look like it came from a bakery if the end is dipped in chocolate. If you then sprinkle red and green shots on your buttery masterpiece, it attains the epicurean apex of photogenic delicacies ready for a close-up shot in a cookbook. After recently watching the warm and wonderful Paula Deen on TV and then checking out her website, I am looking forward to next Christmas, when I will try out her recipe for luscious cookies dipped in white chocolate and then sprinkled with coconut. How different, and how delicious!

For this year’s Episcopal Churchwomen’s holiday bazaar, held the weekend before Thanksgiving, I had a blast rocking to the oldies on Connecticut’s DRC FM while baking six different types of cookies as well as the same number of squares. My mother, who believes firmly that things should be done right or not at all, had purchased some adorable tins on a huge 90% discount at a Big Lots store a few weeks after last Christmas. Holiday cookie assortments made by the ladies in the church were arranged in the tins and rapidly sold out for a recession-busting bargain price of $3.50. As for the squares, I had baked pans of ones with apricots and cranberries, mixed nuts and caramel, and various chewy chocolate bars. Varieties were packaged on hexagonal Debbie Mumm paper plates I had discovered at a dollar store in Manhattan. Dolled up with some frills of ribbon and cute holiday teddy bear stickers affixing the tags, the desserts looked absolutely delectable. I must say they would have made quite the gift for some suburban housewife’s macho mailman!

When you make a tin or platter of cookies to give as a gift, always include a few chocolate cookies, as that’s what people always love the best! This year, I made Bon-Bons with chocolate dough wrapped around Hershey’s kisses or peanut butter cups. Dipped in a rich chocolate glaze and then sprinkled with red and green sugars and shots, these were ready to serve to Santa Claus and would be sure to cheer him up, even if he was cranky after schlepping hefty Barbie Dream Houses and Lego Mindstorms robots from coast to coast.

Most of all, relax and enjoy yourself. Get into the groove, and once you perfect your technique for drizzling white chocolate glaze on a cookie, that’s half the battle. Sing along with Kristin Chenoweth’s dazzling new CD, A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas, and if you don’t hit all the high notesalong with her silvery voice, nobody needs to know, just as it’s no one’s business your scrumptious chocolate cookies are made from Duncan Hines cake mix and are not a secret, treasured family recipe handed down from your grandmother! A soothing and sensual take on the season, the CD A Smooth Christmas by the Winston G Ensemble, was a real find at Jack’s 99 Cent Store, as smooth jazz renditions of Christmas songs can set the mood for baking some dark chocolate delights.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a gourmet cook, you can always whip up some delicious brownies, which are easy but can be made quite elegant. Just a few weeks ago, breezing through Stop  amp; Shop, I spotted brownie mixes on sale at 10 for $10, a cheap and tempting price to banish the holiday blues. Toss in some mint M M;’s, chocolate chips, chocolate cherry cordials chopped up fine, Andes mint chips, marshmallows, or whatever’s on sale, and your handsome handyman would have a lot of nerve asking you if it’s made from a mix. Well, you just won’t let him lick the bowl after you frost them with chocolate icing mixed with crushed candy canes.

While you’re here, be sure to check out our kitchen product reviews!

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