The best gifts come from the heart, and these recipes will make even Scrooge feel warm inside. And, they are super simple!
The holiday season provides us with unlimited opportunities to share hope, kindness and encouragement and thanks with others.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Attach a thermos filled with Peppermint Mocha to your mailbox with a note for your mail carrier.
• Leave a wrapped platter of assorted baked goodies for the garbage collector, yard maintenance persons, and anyone else who serves your street/home in some way.
• Have little bags of goodies ready to hand to the UPS, FedEx or other delivery people who may come to your door with a box from grandma.
• Reach out to neighbors, co-workers, classmates, grocery store clerks, waiters, etc. with a bag of goodies.
• Put together a care package for a soldier (include a phone card so he/she can call home), and include a note letting that person know how much they are appreciated.
• Put together treat platters for your local fire department, police department, teachers, church staff or healthcare workers. Anyone who serves in the community would be encouraged knowing that they are appreciated.
Spread the love–and the goodies!
Here are some of my favorite recipes for sharing love, kindness and gratitude during the holiday season or any time throughout the year. These are super easy to make so they are perfect for beginner bakers.
Short Cut Peppermint Fingers
I used to make the cookies from scratch until I discovered Walkers Shortbread Fingers. (You can also use Milano cookies.)
• 8 ounces dark chocolate chips, melted
• 12 candy canes, crushed
Line baking sheets with waxed paper, parchment paper or foil. Dip end of cookie (about a third) into melted chocolate, then dip into crushed candy canes. Place on paper-lined trays. Place baking sheets in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set. Remove and store in airtight container.
Christmas Snowball Cookies
• 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
• ¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted
• 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
• 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 12-ounce package mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
• ½ cup finely chopped pecans
• Powdered sugar for coating
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
In a separate bowl, sift flour and salt together. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating on medium speed. When combined, beat the chocolate chips and pecans into the dough on low speed.
Cover and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll tablespoons of dough into balls. Place two inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Remove from oven and let set for three minutes. While still warm, roll in powdered sugar and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
Once cookies have cooled, use a sifter or fine mesh strainer to dust the tops with more powdered sugar so they look like snowballs.
Dark Chocolate Bark
• 1 ½ bags (11.5 ounces each) dark chocolate chips
• 1 cup mixed toasted nuts
• 1 cup mixed dried fruit
Line a baking sheet with foil.
Melt chocolate chips. Pour over foil and spread to ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle chocolate with nuts and fruit. Refrigerate until set. Break into pieces. Store in refrigerator, but let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
Note: You can also add holiday candies to give it some color if you like.
• 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
• 3 tablespoons hot water
• 1 ½ tablespoons peppermint syrup
• ½ cup strong coffee or espresso
• 1 1/3 cups hot milk
• Whipped cream and candy cane for garnish (optional)
Mix cocoa powder and hot water in your mug until powder has completely dissolved. Add coffee and peppermint syrup. Stir to combine, then pour in the hot milk. Garnish with whipped cream and a candy cane and serve.
Clean-Out-the-Pantry Magic Layer Bars
This is an easy recipe for kids to help with!
• ½ cup butter
• 1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
• 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
• 10-ounce bag dark chocolate chips
• 1 cup butterscotch chips
• 1 cup Bits o’ Brickle Toffee Bits
• 7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
• 1 ½ cups chopped pecans
• ¾ cup caramel
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in a 9×13-inch baking dish and place in the oven to melt while the oven is preheating. As soon as the butter has melted, remove pan from the oven and sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. Mix crumbs into the butter and press into bottom of pan to form a crust.
Drizzle sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crust. Sprinkle with a layer of chocolate chips, then a layer of butterscotch, then the toffee, the coconut, and finally the pecans. Gently press down.
Drizzle caramel over all.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove to cooling rack and cool completely before cutting into squares.