I'll be changing direction in 2018, and that path will be leading directly to sweet romance. I've decided to step away from romantic suspense for a while, and concentrating on what makes me happy - namely, a lot of flirting, a lot of laughing, and a kiss to seal the deal when my characters fall in love.
That said, I'm also changing up my newsletter to include more than book sales. In five weeks, my Valentine's
newsletter will be going out. What would you like to see in it?
- Gardening news and tips?
- Updates on my crafting projects and links?
- Travel snippets and pictures?
- Quick reviews about movies I've seen and books I've read?
The newsletter is for you, so I want to ensure you get something out of it. Do any of these topics appeal? Do you have any other suggestions? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks!
I spent the weekend baking (SO MUCH BAKING!) and have decided to do my future self a favour and put all my recipes under one post to find for next year.
Most of these (with the exception of the Candy Cane Cookies) are kid-friendly when it comes to baking and cooking, so give them a try!
And if you are reading this before December 31, 2017, don’t forget to download your free copy of 12 DATES FOR CHRISTMAS for over a dozen family-favourite holiday recipes, and sneak peeks at twelve holiday romances – including DECKER AND JOY and HOLLIS AND IVY.
This is a very fast recipe to make, and you probably have the ingredients in your house already. If you need to kill an hour or two, you should get something tasty out of it.
(If you are on a holiday baking kick, try my Candy Cane Cookie recipe.)
1 cup salted butter, softened (or margarine)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
(if using unsalted butter, add 1/3 teaspoon of salt)
Sprinkles and coloured sugar (optional)
Cream butter and sugar. Add flour. Roll out to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters (or cut squares with a knife). Bake at 300F for 12-15 minutes. (If your cookies are more than 1/4″ thick, you may need to bake longer.) Let cool on tray for 3-5 minutes before moving carefully to cooling rack. Makes about 3 dozen.
Decorate with sprinkles or coloured sugar before baking, or frost cookies after they have cooled.
I haven’t had these since I was a kid. Then we saw them at a bake sale and decided they were something that needed to be brought back into fashion for Christmas this year.
So far we’ve made two batches. I don’t know how they disappear so quickly. Fortunately, they are very easy (and kid-friendly) to make.
Boiled Chocolate Drops AKA Chocolate Haystacks
1/2 cup butter or margarine (125mL)>
1/2 cup milk (125mL)
2 cups granulated sugar (500mL)
1/2 cup cocoa (125mL)
2 1/2 cups rolled/quick oats (625mL)
Put first 4 ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 5 full minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in rolled oats. Drop by teaspoon full onto trays covered with waxed paper. Let harden. Makes 4 dozen.
Coconut fans can replace 1/2 cup of oats with 2/3 cup of coconut.
These harden quickly, so get them onto the tray ASAP.
(The recipe books says is great for first-time cooks, and they are. Easy and quick to make – there is no downtime to get bored.)
This is an old family recipe that I have never managed to get quite right. But this version is almost as tasty.
1 cup soft butter (salted)
1/2 cup icing sugar (confectioner’s/powdered sugar)
1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)
1/4 cup cornstarch
Maraschino cherries or slivered almonds
Put butter in mixing bowl. Sift other ingredients every top. Beat at high speed until creamy*.
Drop by teaspoon full on to tray and decorate with a piece of cherry or almond.
Bake at 325 F for 12 minutes.
Notes from Elle
* My recipe actually says “Beat at high speed until consistency changes. You’ll know it when you see it.” It sounds like terrible instructions, but if you are beating it and say “nope, it looks the same” then it hasn’t changed. For some reason, I think it takes 20+ minutes of beating (my mom used at hand mixture.) When the texture goes from cookie dough, to like whipped cream, you’ve got it! I’ve had it happen once. This year my mixer started heating up so much, the beaters got hot and started melting the butter. Folks, that shouldn’t happen! Creamy tastes just fine, and that’s usually where I stop because I don’t have the patience.
(This recipe is also available as part of the free 12 Dates for Christmas cookbook).
½ cup butter or margarine*
2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
3 tbsp milk
3 cups shredded coconut (medium or long strand)
½ tsp vanilla or mint flavouring**
Green food colouring* **
3 oz white chocolate for melting (chopped up baking squares or wafers) * **
Melt butter or margarine in a large saucepan or microwave. Remove from heat if using stovetop. Add icing sugar and milk.
Mix in coconut and flavouring. Add enough food colouring to tint mixture green.
Roll into 1” balls. Pinch tops to make into cones.
Place in refrigerator, uncovered, for at least 2 hours – preferably longer – to dry and firm.
Melt chocolate in saucepan or microwave. Dip tops of “trees” to give make them “snow covered”. Return to fridge until chocolate re-hardens.
Makes about 3 dozen treats.
Elle’s Notes from experience
* You can get fancy and leave your trees “white”. They look great with brown chocolate topping (melted chocolate chips work fine.) Or leave them as snow balls with white chocolate on top (see photo).
** If you want to go retro to the 80’s, you can make pink Christmas trees (remember those?). Tint the coconut pink, add cherry flavouring instead of mint, and dip in white or regular brown chocolate.
These cookies taste like a pepperminty dream. Making them is a … less pleasant dream. Unlike other recipes on my blog, DO NOT MAKE THESE WITH CHILDREN. As a grown-up, I get exasperated trying to roll and shape the delicate cookie dough. With kids, it will be an exercise in frustration.
But I promise you they are worth every single fiddly minute.
Candy Cane Cookies
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
1 tsp vanilla flavouring
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp almond flavouring
¼ tsp peppermint flavouring
½ tsp red food colouring
Mix first 4 ingredients together well. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
Divide dough into two equal portions. To one half, add almond flavouring. To the other half, add the peppermint flavouring and food colouring. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP)
Roll 1 tsp of each colour dough into ropes about 5-6 inches long. Lay side by side. Pinch ends together. Twist to form a spiral. Keep dough and rolling surface cool. Place on un-greased cookie sheet and shape to form a cane. Bake at 350F for about 10 minutes until pale gold. Cool on baking sheet 2-3 minutes then remove. (Transfer with care; these cookies are delicate.) Makes about 2 to 3 dozen, depending on how big you make them.
Based on recipe from “Company’s Coming: Cookies” by Jean Pare, 1988
Christmas isn’t Christmas without holiday baking, so let’s start with something easy to make, and a good way to get the kids involved in baking.
Unfortunately, these can’t be sent to school because they do contain nuts (I’ve heard of a Wow-butter version but have not tried it myself.) They are fine – and always popular – at home and work potlucks.
Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares
1/2 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1-300 gram bag of butterscotch chips
1-200 gram bag of mutli-coloured mini-marshmallows (you can use white but why be plain?)
Melt the butter, peanut butter and butterscotch chips over a low heat. Remove and let cool a little as to not melt the marshmallows. Pour in marshmallows. Coat thoroughly. Press into a 9″x13″ pan. Chill in fridge for 1 hour. (You can line the pan with parchment paper for easier removal.) Cut and serve.
Part of the fun of Christmas baking is enjoying the intricate creations coming from the kitchen. But for a quick, simple, and tasty treat, whip off a batch of this little darlings. And they can be made by your little darlings – this recipe is very kid friendly!
Chocolate Chip Cherry Coconut Drops (2 dozen)
1/3 cup – 75 mL margarine/butter
1/2 cup – 125 mL granulated sugar
1/2 tsp – 2 mL almond extract (can substitute vanilla)
3/4 cup – 175 mL all purpose flour
1/2 tsp – 2 mL baking powder
3/4 cup – 175 mL semi-sweet chocolate chips (can substitute white chocolate chips)
1/2 cup – 125 mL shredded coconut
1/2 cup – 125 mL chopped maraschino cherries (red or green or both if you want to be really festive)
Preheat oven to 325F / 160C. Grease a cookie sheet. Cream shortening and sugar. Beat in egg, extract flour and baking powder. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Drop by spoonful onto the cookie sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
These cookies stay soft in an airtight container.
There are a few things that say “only for Christmas” and for me, gingerbread is one of them. I’m all for cookies loaded with icing but I found this recipe for actual cake and on occasion, it’s even better. It is a dense, moist cake that does not rise. In fact, the texture is a lot like a brownie but a little lighter.
2 cups – 500 ml flour
1/2 cup – 125 ml granulated sugar
1 tsp – 5 ml baking powder
1/2 tsp – 2 ml baking soda
1 tsp – 5 ml salt
2 tsp – 10 ml ginger
1 tsp – 5 ml cinnamon
1/2 cup – 125 ml butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup – 175 ml fancy molasses
1/2 cup – 125 ml milk
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Measure all ingredients into mixing bowl. Beat slowly to combine together. Beat at medium high speed for 2 minutes until smooth. Spread into a greased 9 x 13 inch (22 x 33 cm) pan. Bake in oven for about 30 minutes until an inserted wooden pick comes out clean.
Do NOT overcook. Let cool and then place in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap. It dries out quickly.
Great with whipped cream or ice-cream. And caramel sauce.