I’m not one of those cooks who produces decorated sugar cookies that are tiny works of art. I am a regular Mom and Grammy who makes cookies that taste good and become a fun experience to share with my children and grandchildren.

My favorite holiday sugar cookie recipe is from King Arthur Baking Company and it’s called King Arthur’s Special Sugar Cookies. This particular recipe is no longer on their website, so lucky for me I always keep a print copy!

The dough needs to be chilled before working with it. I generally make the dough the day before I plan to bake the cookies so that it saves me a little time.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract + 1 teaspoon almond extract, or the flavoring of your choice
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Sparkling white sugar, optional, for decorating

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the extract or flavorings. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Divide the dough in half, wrapping each half in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours.

To bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Working with one portion at a time, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into your favorite shapes with a cookie cutter. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until they’re a very light brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

Frost the cookies as you like, or dip them in chocolate. These also make great cookies sandwiched with jam.

There are hundreds of professional bakers out there who make amazingly beautiful sugar cookie creations which I admire. My own sugar cookies are intended to make memories, not magazine covers. They’re imperfect, but are baked and decorated with love.

Grammy

Pssssst…want to know a secret? I have a holiday treat recipe that is so easy a child can do it. As a matter of fact, it’s a great activity for you and your kids to do together. These cinnamon spiced pecans are a wonderful snack, an easy and thoughtful gift, and everyone loves them. They only take a handful of ingredients and the whole thing is ready from start to finish in about 30 minutes.

I found this recipe a few years ago on the Taste of Home website.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
1 pound large pecan halves

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, lightly best the egg white. Add the pecans, stirring until coated. Sprinkle with the sugar mixture and mix well, taking care not to break the pecans.

Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove nuts from baking sheet and cool on waxed paper.

Store these in an airtight container. Make in large batches and have a ready-made item to share at family gatherings or office parties. Put in smaller food-safe bags to give as gifts. They’re addictive!

Grammy

Need something pretty, impressive and super simple to add to your holiday gift basket? This simple “recipe” is limited only by your own creativity. You can make it so that it is cute or you can make it truly elegant. Using a base of melted almond bark, the toppings can be anything that suits your taste or allows you to use what you have on hand.

INGREDIENTS:

Chocolate or White Chocolate Almond Bark

Sweet toppings: Holiday M&M’s, Sprinkles, crushed peppermint candies, mini marshmallows, crushed Oreo cookies, caramel corn, dried fruits such as cranberries, cherries, fig, etc.

Salty toppings: Pretzel pieces, cashews, pistachios, pecans

INSTRUCTIONS:

Break the Almond Bark into chunks and place in a large microwave safe bowl. Place bowl in the microwave and heat for 1 minute on high. Remove and stir. Continue heating in the microwave for another :15 seconds. Stir. Continue until the Almond Bark is melted and smooth.

Pour onto a parchment lined 15 x 10 pan, spreading until it is smooth. This doesn’t need to reach all edges and corners of the pan – it just needs to be evenly distributed.

Add toppings to make the combinations you enjoy. Sweet and salty are great together. Combinations of dried fruit and nuts, or pretzels and candies…use your imagination.

Let cool completely (overnight in the refrigerator or in a very cool place). Break into pieces. Store in a sealable container.

My family, friends and coworkers have received this as a gift from me for years. It’s another great excuse to use my Granny’s cast iron skillet and a wonderful, easy, and impressive bit of holiday extravagance. By extravagance, I mean this is NOT a low-fat or low-calorie item. That’s why we break it into little pieces and just have a bite or two at a time. Gift it, and encourage people to savor it one bite at a time.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup blanched almonds, toasted and chopped into small pieces

INSTRUCTIONS:

Things you will need: a large cast iron skillet, a 10 x 15 inch baking sheet, parchment paper, wooden spoon, candy thermometer

It’s important that you have all of your ingredients and your equipment ready when you begin. This process moves pretty quickly and you won’t have enough hands to stop unwrap, measure, etc., as you work on the toffee.

Start by lining the baking sheet with the parchment paper and set aside.

Melt the butter in the cast iron skillet over medium heat. When it’s mostly melted, add the sugar and salt and stir to combine. Using your wooden spoon, continue to stir to keep the mixture moving. The toffee will begin to bubble and will start to change color as you stir it. Keep going! You’ll want the mixture to darken to a deep golden brown. It should reach about 300 degrees on your candy thermometer. Remove from heat and mix in the vanilla.

Immediately pour the candy mixture into the pan lined with parchment paper. Spread it until it is fairly evenly distributed. It doesn’t have to reach all edges of the pan. It will begin to set-up quickly so your window of time to spread it is very brief.

Allow it to cool for about 3-5 minutes and then sprinkle with the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Let the chocolates sit for a minute until they begin to melt a bit. Using an offset spatula, spread the melting chocolate evenly over the top of the warm toffee base. Immediately sprinkle with the chopped almonds. (I like to do this with my hands, crushing the almonds slightly as I sprinkle them.) It helps if you carefully press the nuts into the melted chocolate so they adhere well.

This needs to cool completely, at least 6 hours or overnight. I put it in the refrigerator once the pan cools. Break the toffee into small pieces and store in an airtight container.

This is a great multi-use holiday recipe. It’s easy to ship, stores well and is naturally gluten-free. It makes a pretty addition to any holiday dessert spread and your co-workers will be especially nice to you leading up to the holidays in hope that they will receive a small supply of their own!

Grammy

By popular demand, I am posting what is probably one of my most requested dishes. This is something my children want me to make every Christmas Day. It’s a dish my niece asks for as a gift for her birthday. It is the standard by which all other comfort food in our family is measured.

For something so good and so popular, you’d expect it to be hard to make. But I’ll tell you a secret – it’s not. Simple ingredients you probably always have on hand. Comes together in the time it takes to cook the chicken and roll out the dumplings. No special spices needed. Just good, satisfying, home cooking at its finest.

INGREDIENTS:

1 3-4 pound chicken or 3-4 pounds of chicken tenders (I’ll share more about this choice in the cook’s notes below)
2 quarts water (use a little more to ensure the chicken is completely covered)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 cup carrot, julienned or shredded
1 cup celery, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little more to dust the counter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk or soured milk (1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place the whole chicken or the tenders in a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with the water. Add the 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Add the carrots, celery and onion. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until completely done and tender. COOK’S NOTE: Using a whole chicken adds a depth of flavor to the dish. However, chicken tenders are also an option if you want something that is quicker and easier to put together. Saves you from having to break down and debone the whole chicken.)

Combine together the flour, baking soda and shortening. Cut the shortening in with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk and incorporate with a fork until just combined. Don’t overmix or you’ll create a tougher dumpling.

Lightly dust your surface and knead the dough a few times, 3-4 is probably sufficient. Roll the dough out until it’s fairly thin. Cut into squares of about 1/2 inch with a pizza cutter. Separate the dumplings and drop them into the simmering broth. Add the pepper and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through and are floating to the top. Double check the seasonings and add any additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve and wait for the applause!

I roll the dumplings out on a plastic rolling mat. After they’re cut and separated, I just pick up the mat and transfer the dumplings and any extra flour from the mat into the broth. The extra flour helps thicken the broth.

Grammy

Let’s face it, ground turkey can be pretty bland and tasteless unless it has a little help. When you’re trying to cut down the amount of red meat in your diet and also trying to serve family meals that please others, you have to be a bit creative.

I developed this recipe a few years ago and it’s been well received by my husband who has discriminating taste when it comes to his meatloaf. You can bake this in your oven, or kick it up one more notch and prep it on the smoker for an added layer of taste. The key ingredients in the flavor profile of this dish are ground red chipotle powder (I get mine from Penzey’s) and Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce.

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds ground turkey
1 medium onion, finely diced, about a cup
1 small green pepper, finely diced, about a cup
1 small red pepper, finely diced, about a cup
2 stalks celery, finely diced, about 1/2 cup
3 TSP minced garlic
2 TBSP canola oil
2 TSP ground red chipotle powder
2 TSP kosher salt
1/2 TSP ground pepper
1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce (plus more for glazing the top)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup Panko bread crumbs

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place a skillet over medium heat and add canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, peppers and celery. Sweat the vegetables over medium heat until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the chipotle powder and stir until it coats the vegetables. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, add the turkey, beaten eggs, panko bread crumbs and 1/2 cup BBQ sauce. Mix well. Add the cooled vegetables to the mixture along with the salt and pepper. Mix with hands until vegetables and seasoning are evenly incorporated.

Spray non-stick cooking spray on a baking sheet with sides. With your hands, form the meat mixture into a loaf shape on the pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 60-75 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees in the center of the meatloaf. During the last 10 minutes of baking, spread about 1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce over the top.

Let stand for at least 5-10 minutes before removing to a serving plate and slicing.

Some helpful tips: If you want to make this fast, have vegetables chopped and portioned in the refrigerator or freezer for future use. This meatloaf freezes well. Put in aluminum foil loaf pans and wrap with foil before sliding in a freezer bag. Let meatloaf thaw for at least one day in the refrigerator before baking.

Grammy


I found this great recipe on Allrecipes.com and had to give it a try. It was a successful venture and one I would recommend if you like to infuse your pork chops with a more exciting flavor. It’s important to note that the beer you choose to use for your braising can alter the taste of the final product. For the purposes of this recipe, I used a Boulevard Wheat Pale Ale. You may want to experiment with other taste profiles until you find one that suits you.

INGREDIENTS:

4 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/2 TSP kosher salt
1 TSP black pepper
4 boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick (NOTE: I used two, bone-in 1 inch thick chops for my version. Times altered accordingly)
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup beer
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 TBSP stone ground mustard
2 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh rosemary

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix together the flour, salt and pepper in a dish. Dredge the pork chops until well coated.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the pork chops in a single layer. Saute until browned and then flip. When both sides have been browned (about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes each side) remove from skillet to a plate and let rest.

To the skillet add the beer, vinegar, mustard, brown sugar and rosemary. Mix well. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Return pork chops to the skillet, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pork chops are no longer pink in the center and an instant read thermometer reads 145 degrees.

Transfer the chops to a plate. Increase heat to medium and reduce the pan juices in the skillet until thickened, about 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Top pork chops with the sauce.

It’s important to use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of your pork chops. Boneless vs. bone-in chops, varying thicknesses, temperature of meat when you add it to the skillet are factors that can alter the outcome and make times given in recipes a “guide” rather than a “rule.”

Grammy


While holidays usually come fully equipped with all of the standard, traditional fare, special dietary requirements sometimes send us in search of new options. This year, I came across this awesome sweet potato option that is really easy, healthy and looks absolutely festive on the table. This comes from another site called OneHotOven.com

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
1 apple (I used a Gala)
1 cup cranberries
2 TBSP olive oil
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1 TSP cinnamon
1 TSP dried sage leaves
1/2 TSP kosher salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the peeled sweet potatoes in half and slice into 1/4 inch half moon shapes. Add to a large bowl.

Cut the apple into quarters, removing the core and seeds. No need to peel. Add to the bowl with the sweet potatoes.

Mix in the remaining ingredients. Place the mixture into an 8 x 8 baking dish, trying not to overcrowd so that the potatoes roast evenly.

Roast the sweet potatoes for about 45 minutes, stirring several times during the bake process, or until the potatoes and apples are tender.

Thanksgiving is over and, no matter how much you tried not to, you cooked too much and have leftovers packing your refrigerator. How can you approach your own personal version of “Chopped” and transform those leftovers into something that looks new and appealing?

My experiment this year was to marry my Thanksgiving leftovers with my regular approach to a Shepherd’s Pie. I used my leftover dressing, some chopped turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. I added a package of frozen green peas and carrots to the party and VOILA! This is a very inexact recipe and is really more a sharing of an idea rather than a “follow every ingredient and step” version.

INGREDIENTS:

Leftover dressing/stuffing, enough to crumble and cover the bottom of a deep dish pie plate
2 cups chopped turkey
2 cups gravy
1 package frozen peas and carrots, thawed
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
additional salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes

INSTRUCTIONS:

Break the leftover dressing into pieces and press into the bottom and on the sides of a deep dish pie plate.

Mix together the turkey, peas and carrots, gravy, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Pour on top of the dressing “crust.”

Reheat the mashed potatoes so they are spreadable. Spread on top of the turkey mixture.

Place the pie plate on a sheet pan and place in a 350 degree oven. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until hot and bubbling.

Vary the amount of the ingredients as needed to create this dish. I ended up having a bit too much filling, so I advise you to put your pie plate on a sheet pan to catch any overflow.

GRAMMY

This is a beautiful addition to many of our holiday meals. My Mom always makes it and serves it in a gorgeous cut glass bowl she bought many years ago at the Reform, MO, General Store. She said she originally got the recipe from my Aunt Pat, and as it is with great recipes, enjoyed it so much she started making it for her own family. I recall it was one of my Dad’s favorites.

It’s easy, tasty and makes a pretty presentation. What more do you need from a perfect holiday dish?

INGREDIENTS:

2, 3 ounce boxes strawberry Jello (Mom always uses sugar-free), dissolved in 1 1/2 cups hot water
1 can jellied cranberry sauce, mashed up in the Jello
1, 20 ounce can crushed pineapple, including the juice (Mom uses pineapple in its own juice)
1 cup seedless red grapes cut in half
Chopped nuts, optional (Mom never uses nuts)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix together and place in a decorative bowl. Chill several hours before serving.

Recipe note: My Mom ALWAYS “squishes up the cranberry sauce with her hands.” She says it makes a big difference in the texture.



This is a great side dish. My grandchildren have discovered this is even more incredible when they spread it on a Grandma Croy Butterhorn Roll. It’s the best from both great-grandmas in one bite!

GRAMMY