Tag Archives: christmas

Walnut Fig Sandwich Cookies

This is a recipe I tested for The Post a few weeks ago that completely surprised and delighted me!  I love figs, but didn’t think I’d like the walnut cookie part as much as I did.  The recipe is very similar to a shortbread, and the nuttiness of the walnuts gave it a rich, graham cracker feel.  It’s a great addition to your Christmas platter!

Walnut Fig Sandwich Cookies

For the cookies

  • 1 cup walnut halves, toasted (see NOTE)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups unbleached flour, plus more for working the dough
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (see headnote)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg

For the filling

  • 8 ounces (about 13) dried Calimyrna figs (tough stems removed), chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Peel (without pith) from 1/2 orange
  • 1 cup water

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Don’t Forget: Tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day!

susan-sealsDon’t forget to leave out your stockings or your shoes as tonight’s the night St. Nicholas comes…

As children we always celebrated St. Nicholas Day – just sometimes it was on December 5 and sometimes December 6 – my mom could never remember which day it was!  So on the eve of which ever day she thought it was that year, we’d leave out our shoes and in the morning, they’d be on our chair at breakfast filled with nuts, coins and candy.

Here’s a little history of this religious holiday… Traditional celebrations of St. Nicholas Day in Northern Europe included gifts left in children’s shoes (the origin of our American Christmas Stockings).  Good children receive treats – candies, cookies, fruit, nuts, while naughty children receive lumps of coal.  Sometimes coins were left in shoes, reminiscent of the life-saving dowries he once provided.  Today, especially in families of German descent, children still put a shoe outside their bedroom doors on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, and expect to find candy and coins in the morning.

To learn all about St. Nicholas click here.

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Tip of the Day: Taking Down the Christmas Tree


The best way to avoid a mess when removing your tree is to place a plastic tree bag (which are available at hardware stores) underneath the stand when you set the tree up. You can hide it with a tree skirt. Then, when the holidays are over, pull the bag up around the tree and carry it outside. It is inevitable that some needles will stil scatter inside. For those, it is better to sweep them up; as needles can clog vacuum cleaners.

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Holiday Countdown: Anise Cookies

For my final cookie contribution to the site for the year, I saved the best for last. These anise cookies are beyond delightful. They aren’t for the faint of heart though – you definitely have to like anise. The recipe (which my mom has been making for YEARS) is from the December 1977 issue of McCall’s magazine and is in such rough shape, it is barely legible. Without any further ado – Merry Christmas and Enjoy!

Anise Cookies
makes 5 dozen

3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp anise extract

Grease and flour 3 baking sheets.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed, beat eggs until very thick and light.

Gradually beat in sugar. Continue beating for 20 minutes longer.

At low speed, beat in flour, baking powder and salt; beat one minute. Add anise extract; beat just until blended.

Drop by teaspoonfuls, 1/2 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. Swirl each to make a circle about 1 1/2 inch in diameter.

Let stand at room temperature uncovered, 8 hours (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake cookies about 10 minutes or until smooth and firm when pressed with fingertips. Cool cookies on wire rack then store in an airtight container.


For a little history on these cookies and a variation to make pressed patterns in the cookies, Continue reading

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How to: Make a Holiday Wreath

Wreaths are as much a part of the holiday season as are Christmas trees and holiday cookies. As easy as it is to go pick on up from the floral shop, it’s really not that difficult to put one together from the greens in your yard (with maybe borrowing a couple of pinecones from the neighbors)


1 to 2 large bundles of hemlock, spruce, Douglas fir or a combination
1 bundle of holly
1 metal wreath frame
Garden clippers
Wire clippers
Spool of fine green wire
Embellishments such as pine cones, ribbon, holly, etc.

For the directions on how to make a beautiful wreath, click below.

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Holiday Countdown: Eggnog Cookies

Similar to snickerdoodles, these are packed with a bit of an eggnog punch!


Eggnog cookies
makes 3 dozen

2 1/2 cups flour, all purpose
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup purchased eggnog
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
2 to 3 tsp ground nutmeg

    Preheat oven to 300°. In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend well with a whisk and set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl cream sugar and butter with an electric hand-held mixer. Add eggnog, vanilla and egg yolks; beat at medium speed until smooth. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed just until dry ingredients are moistened.

    Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.

    Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove to a flat surface with a spatula.


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    How to: Buche de Noel (aka Yule Log)


    It has become expected that I will arrive with no less than the Buche de Noel at Christmas dinner as I made the arduous mistake of taking on the challenge a couple of years ago. Now I must admit, this is a fun recipe, it just takes a little bit of time (and several mixing bowls) as there are so many parts to the log. So settle into the kitchen with a glass of wine and have fun!

    Buche de Noel

    Chocolate Genoise

    5 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for parchment and pan
    2/3 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
    1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
    Pinch of baking soda
    6 large eggs
    3/4 cup sugar
    2 tsp vanilla extract

    Chocolate Mousse

    4 oz semisweet chocolate
    4 tbsp unsalted butter
    4 large eggs, separated
    Pinch of cream tartar
    1/2 cup heavy cream

    Chocolate Ganache (for icing)

    6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
    1 cup heavy cream

    Meringue Mushrooms (garnish)

    1 cup sugar
    4 large egg whites
    1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    1 tbsp cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
    3 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

    Sugared Rosemary Branches (garnish)

    1 egg white
    3/4 cup sugar
    rosemary sprigs

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    Butler’s Orchard: For All Your Holiday Needs

    This past weekend we went to Butler’s Orchard up in Germantown to get our Christmas Tree. We have a tradition of making the trek up there to pick out and cut down our own tree. Their land is beautiful and they have a variety of pick your own crops throughout the year – they are my favorite place for picking blueberries during the summer months.

    For Christmas trees, you drive out to the field and they give you a saw to pick out and cut down your perfect tree…


    This past weekend, they had Newfoundland dogs on site to help pull your tree from the field to your car…


    For more about Butler’s click below…

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    Tip of the Day: Putting Lights on the Christmas Tree


    First, it is necessary to figure out just how many lights you need. I always average 100 lights per foot of tree – so an 8 foot tree gets 800 lights.

    Next, plug in all strands of lights to make sure they are working before you put them on the tree.

    Then starting at the top of the tree loosely “wrap” the tree by placing the strands of light just inside the ends of the branches – you don’t want too much of the wires to show, but you do want the lights around the widest parts of the tree. Work your way down the tree, attaching more strands of lights as necessary.


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    Holiday Countdown: Santa’s Whiskers

    As a child, these cookies were one of my favorites, as I thought there was nothing better in the world than maraschino cherries. My tastes have changed a bit, but I still can’t resist a good batch of these cookies, which are easy to make.

    Santa’s Whiskers
    makes 5 dozen

    1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
    1 cup sugar
    1 tsp almond extract
    2 1/2 cups flour
    3/4 cups maraschino cherries, roughly chopped
    1/2 cup flaked coconut
    1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped (my mom only included these sometimes)

    In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale in color. Mix in almond extract. Stir in flour, cherries, and nuts until incorporated into a large ball. Remove dough from mixing bowl and form into two logs about 1.5″ in diameter. Roll in parchment paper and chill for 1 hour (or up to 1 day). When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Remove the logs from the fridge and slice into rounds 1/4″ thick. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. The cookies may look like they need another minute or two, but you want to take them out before the edges begin to brown.


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