Another Christmas has come and gone! This weekend Andrew, the kids, and I got our tree and decorations all packed up just in time to ring in the New Year with my parents and little sister. We had two weeks of cold, dreary, and wet weather that kept us indoors much more than we would have liked. So, what’s a girl to do over the holidays when stuck inside? Experiment in the kitchen of coarse!
Every year we try to do an assortment of cookies and sweets for our family gatherings as well as a few plates for friends who may need a little holiday cheer. Our usual spread includes chocolate chip cookies, chocolate fudge, sugar cookies, pumpkin bread, banana nut bread, and the occasional pie or cake. This year, I wanted to try something a little different.
Andrew and the kids LOVE peanut butter. I myself, not so much! However seeing as it is the season for giving, I decided to try a new recipe for Buckeye’s just for them. Andrew spent some time with me in the kitchen for this one, just waiting for a bowl or spoon to lick I think… but he asked a very good question. “What is the difference in a Buckeye and Peanut Butter Balls?” Hhmm. Well I am not sure how these actually came about, but here is my theory. Some time ago, a newlywed tried to make Peanut Butter Balls for her love. After many failed attempts to completely cover her peanut ball with chocolate her husband arrives home and asks what she is making. Embarrassed that her Peanut Butter Balls were not perfectly coated, the new bride thought quickly as her eyes wondered out the window and landed on a buckeye tree. “They’re Buckeye’s!” She exclaims. And they lived happily ever after. So whither you decide to call them Buckeye’s and leave an un-coated spot, or fully coat your balls in chocolate and call them Peanut Butter Balls, here you go!
½ cup butter, melted
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ cups peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 squares chocolate almond bark
Combine butter, sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla in mixing bowl and mix well. Refrigerate at least one hour, or until firm. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on waxed paper.
Melt the almond bark on low heat, just until fully melted. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent scorching. Using toothpicks, dip each ball into the chocolate and turn to coat all but one small uncovered area (so balls resemble buckeyes). Place balls on waxed paper. Smooth over toothpick hole with finger or spoon. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm.
These were a big hit with my crew here. I even tried one, and then realized I still don’t like peanut butter!
So after pleasing the rest of the family I looked for something new to try for me. I like sugar cookies, and have a favorite recipe for these which I use every year. This time though, I wanted to try something new. So I reached for a jar of our homemade peach preserves, and turned the sugar cookie dough into “cups” for little Peach Tarts! The baby and I really enjoyed these, and once the big kids and Andrew finished off the Buckeyes, so did they!
Easy Fruit Tarts
1 ¼ cup white sugar
1 cup butter
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Jam, jelly, or preserve of your choice
Preheat oven to 350 degree. Cream together sugar and butter. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Lightly grease mini muffin tin. Indent centers and fill with jam. Make sure to use a thick jam or jelly, as loose or thin ones will cause the centers to settle more. Bake for 11-14 minutes.
With two new experiments, it was time to add some tried and true recipes. We chose to do chocolate fudge, tree shaped brownies, and pumpkin bread this year. Our pumpkin bread has won blue ribbons at the fair in two different counties, and is a crowd favorite on the holidays. If you are a pumpkin lover, it is definitely a must try! This recipe makes 5 mini loaves, so it is perfect for sharing! This makes a very moist bread, be sure to cool for 10 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan so as not to tear it.
1 ¼ cup canola oil
1 can solid pack pumpkin (or 15 oz. Fresh prepared pumpkin)
2 (3oz) packages cook and serve vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Beat eggs until well blended. Add oil and pumpkin then blend until smooth. Combine all remaining ingredients. Gradually beat into pumpkin mixture.
Pour batter into 5 greased mini loaf pans (5 ¾ in x 3in x 2in). Bake at 325 degrees for 50-55 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Place on wire racks to cool.
So with our two new experiments and a few tried and true recipes, we were making great progress on filling our trays! Only one more treat left to do.
For many years my husband’s grandmother Mary made Snowballs for Christmas. Mary passed away in 2010, and there have not been Snowballs since. As fate would have it, both Andrew and his sister Amanda had recently asked me to make some. Only problem was her recipe had been lost. I did remember seeing them at Christmas, but had no idea what was in them. As we all discussed what we remembered tasting and seeing in them, I put together enough ingredients to look up some recipes. What Mary called Snowballs my mother called Danish Wedding Cookies. Before long, I had a plan!
1 cup butter
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla2 cups sifted all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt 1 cup finely chopped pecans
¾ cups sifted powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 baking sheets, or use parchment paper. Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla together until fluffy. Sift flour, mix flour and salt into butter mixture. Stir in pecans. Dust your hands with powdered sugar and roll dough into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes. Roll hot cookies in powdered sugar. Cool for 15 minutes then roll all cookies again in powdered sugar.
The recipe was a success! Our kids loved them, and so did our nephews. A little birdie told me they may even be better than the other recipe! Definitely make sure to roll them twice, both hot and cooled before serving. This makes them delicious!
Our trays turned out quit nicely this year I believe. The white Snowballs, brown and chocolate Buckeyes, and colorful tarts added color and variety to our usual fare. Paired with Christmas tree brownies, chocolate fudge, and pumpkin bread there was something for everyone. Next time you find yourself stuck indoors, try your hand at one of these recipes. You may find yourself adding it to your next holiday line-up!
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