One of those new recipes were these fun Cranberry-Eggnog Twirls. Using a buttery cookie dough laced with rum extract and fresh grated nutmeg, the inside contains thickened cranberry preserves (you could also use cherry, raspberry or another type as well) mixed with toasted pecans for a wondrous nutty surprise. Be sure to finely chop the nuts so they don't cut into the dough when you spread it on top. This cookie can definitely be made ahead of time - keep the rolls of dough in the freezer to slice and bake as needed (remember our cookie dough log trick - store them in paper towel tubes to keep their round shape!), or bake them and stash them in the freezer that way. Either way, you can't go wrong!
These skinny sticks, made with plenty of ground toasted almonds in the dough, are a real eye grabber. Dipped in melted white chocolate, the decadent "glue" allows the sparkling sugar and crushed red candy to stick on one side. They may look innocent enough, but your first bite will let you in on the secret - those red jewels are not just any sweet candy, they are energetic Red Hots!
This next new treat was a last minute addition. While made in the same fashion as any other spiced nut, these almonds are anything but ordinary. Not only do they get a boost from a generous amount of vanilla bean paste and Dutch-process cocoa powder, but a dose of cinnamon and cayenne really fuel the fire for a complex bite. Out of the oven, they had a pretty rough look to them - not necessarily all that attractive. Jeff had a good idea though - after they had cooled down, we tossed them in a bowl with a couple extra spoonfuls of cocoa. This gave them a more cohesive look (and a hot cocoa-esque taste!) - we were tempted to call them hot chocolate rocks instead!
One of our best "no recipe" recipe has to be these one-bite bombs. All these happen to be is miniature Ritz Bitz sandwiches (the peanut butter stuffed ones), dipped in white chocolate and topped with a variety of jimmies/sprinkles/what-have-yous. We found some festive Mickey ones while in Disney a couple weeks ago - I had to practically pry them out of Jeff's fingers to use, but they made it on too! Somehow, though, they managed to escape the picture - I bet I know where those went! One of these years I'll go all out and sandwich the large crackers with a smear of peanut butter myself for giant snacks, but these poppable tiny discs are so easy to do and just too cute to resist.
Growing up, one of my brothers' must-haves in the cookie trays (besides Buckeye Balls!) were those classic crackly chocolate cookies smothered in confectioners' sugar. This new-to-us version, which is the other recipe we made just for the neighbors, does have a slightly different method, but it is a bit more adult in taste - just what we were looking for! Blooming the cocoa in the warm melted butter seemed to extract a deeper chocolate essence and helped give the cookies an awesome brownie-like texture. The espresso powder can be optional, but I urge you to give it a try using the lesser amount first - it makes for a richer chocolate punch, yet doesn't leave a lingering coffee flavor behind. If you'd like that mocha-hint, kick the amount of powder up.
As always, we used the most butter this year (a bit frightening how much in total) making batch after batch of "the" roca. Once again, using our tweaked recipe, each three and a half pound of sweet candy came out without one issue standing in the way of an impeccable slab. One of these years I'm going to scatter a mess of dark chocolate shards on top for a sharp contrast, but Jeff asked we keep with tradition and use blocks of milk chocolate.
I think one of the most popular and requested munchies from our list would have to be this crazy delicious candied popcorn. Some people may opt to have a pot of mulled cider simmering on the stove to give the house that holiday aroma wafting throughout the house, but I'd much rather let the magical combination of fragrant ginger, cinnamon and molasses do this and end up with a crunchy treat when its done.
One of the items that Jeff requires several batches (I lost count of how many we baked if that is any indication) of every year are these thin, crisp and chewy cookies. We began making these several years ago and haven't looked back - they are fairly unique in taste from a generous scoop of chocolate malt powder and you'll find plenty of M&M's in each one. I do have one quibble though... I used to be able to get enough M&M's from one bag to use in the recipe. Now? I need more like 1 1/2 bags - darn package downsizing!
Kahlua Spiked Pecans
This fudge always surprises people with its creamy, intense cinnamon rush. I know it can be hard to find cinnamon chips (we did this year!), but it is worth the effort - stock up and stick them in the freezer once you find them if you need to!
Here's another recipe we did for Jeff's co-workers that we thought would make for a smashing treat in our boxes this year. Peppermint and chocolate is a natural setting for a Christmas cookie and the filling in these is just that - they may look a little plain considering their other counterparts in the box, but one bite will wipe that idea right out of your mind. We figured the crisp cookies would be sturdy enough to hold up to shipping, but we're still waiting to hear how they fared.