Cookie exchanges a fun way to celebrate

Friday, December 18, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 51

Christmas is almost here, and I hope you are more prepared than I.

I have not been able to wrap my head around the quickly coming time yet, but if I don’t manage to soon, it will be too late.

I still have boxes and bins of decorations that were carted down from the attic sitting right where they were placed. I guess if I leave them alone, then I won’t have to do anything but cart them back up to the attic. That would be easy “un-decorating” come the first of the new year.

Even though I have not been decorating much, I have been cooking. It is much more fun anyway. But it would be nice if, while I am preparing my meal, I could scan the den and gaze upon some of the sparkling and glittering decorations.

For those of you (myself included) who love cookie exchanges, I have a few delicious recipes. My favorite one is cranberry ginger cookies. They are so good. I have made these before, and they received rave reviews. You really can’t go wrong with them. Along with those, I have a recipe for some yummy Peppermint Cookies that seem to just melt in your mouth.

Lastly, I am including a recipe for a corn salad that we had for Thanksgiving. It was a real winner. What was left of it was eaten early the next morning. I found the empty bowl in the sink when I got up.

This is an easy salad that is attractive and fun to make. In fact, our son David made it. (I also think David is the one who finished it off!) It will go great with pork chops, so I will be making it again soon. Have a great week.

Kay Bona is an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.

Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad

For the dressing:

1 1/2 cups packed fresh cilantro, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the salad:

2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 1/2 pounds grape tomatoes, halved (about three cups)

1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced

2 medium avocados, diced

Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender, using salt and pepper to taste; process until smooth. Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving, or cover and refrigerate.

Cranberry Ginger Gems

This recipe is part of The Food Channel’s Virtual Cookie Exchange.

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses (regular works, too, but the bitterness helps balance the sweet)

1 egg

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/3 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1/2 White sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp ground ginger

With electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar, until the mixture is light in color and fluffy. Add the molasses and egg; blend well. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl – flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the wet a little at a time. The dough will get very stiff. Fold in cranberries and crystallized ginger bits. Cover, and refrigerate until very firm, at least a few hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and prep a shallow dish with ginger-sugar mixture. If you want normal size cookies, simply shape into one-inch balls and roll in the sugar. To make small cookies, take a scoop of dough and roll it in your hands into a snake. Roll the snake in sugar, then take a sharp knife and cut into pieces about a half inch thick. Press slightly to reshape into a circle if necessary. Place the mini-cookies about an inch apart on baking sheet. Bake for no more than 10 minutes at 350 degrees. A cookie should feel set but not stiff or sturdy. Cool on a rack.

Peppermint Melt-aways

1 cup powdered sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened

1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely crushed peppermint candies or candy canes

24 chocolate teardrop candies (I like using Hershey’s Kisses)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, combine half of the powdered sugar and the butter, and mix until light and fluffy. Add the peppermint extract and mix to combine. Next, slowly add the flour and salt, mixing until just combined.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine remaining powdered sugar and the peppermint candies.

Roll the dough into 24 one-and-a-half-inch balls. Insert one chocolate morsel into each ball and then re-roll to ensure that the cookie dough encases the chocolate. Next, transfer to the bowl with the powdered sugar and crushed candies, rolling each to coat.

Place the balls on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about one inch apart. Bake until they start to turn golden brown on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Remove and transfer to wire cooling rack. Cool until they are just cool enough to handle, about five minutes. Return the cookies to the bowl with the powdered sugar and crushed candies, and toss gently until each cookie is coated.

Store in an airtight container. Yield: two dozen

© Recipe courtesy Kelsey Nixon, www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/kelsey-nixon/peppermint-meltaways.print.html