Goodies to share make thoughtful gifts

Published 12:43 am Saturday, December 17, 2016

I like to give some Christmas goodies to neighbors and postal workers (so they might be more careful with my mail) and other friends at church. So this week I started baking cookies, toasting pecans and making cheese straws. I am not a big baker so I do choose easy recipes, but if they taste good and are given from the heart what else do you need?


Chewy Molasses Cookies

I love these chewy cookies. They keep chewy for many days and can be frozen 2 weeks ahead and baked later.


Makes 2 ½ dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¾ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup mild-flavored (light) or robust-flavored (dark) molasses

¼ cup (packed) dark brown sugar

Coarse sanding or raw sugar (for rolling)

Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 375°. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and salt in a small bowl.

Whisk egg, butter, granulated sugar, molasses, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Mix in dry ingredients just to combine. Place sanding sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop our dough by the tablespoonful and roll into balls (if dough is sticky, chill 20 minutes). Roll in sugar and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2 “apart.

Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until cookies are puffed, cracked, and just set around edges overbaked cookies will not be chewy, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.


Cheese Straws

Makes 10 dozen

1 stick butter

2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Combine the butter and cheese and mix well. Add the flour and seasonings and blend well. This can be done in a food processor. Force the mixture through a cookie press into strips and place on ungreased cookie sheets. (Or form the dough into a cucumber sized loaf, chill, and slice and bake for cheese wafers.) Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Cool completely before storing in candy tins or other airtight containers. These can be made 1 week in advance. They can be frozen as well, and baked later.


Spiced Pecans

Makes 4 cups

4 cups pecan halves

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 heaping teaspoon dark brown sugar

1 heaping tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Season the pecans with the salt, pepper, cayenne, sugar, rosemary, butter, and olive oil. Toss together until the pecans are thoroughly coated. Return the pecans to the oven for another 2 to 3 minutes, until roasted and fragrant, but be careful not to overcook them.

Happy holiday cooking!