Quick and easy cookies for holiday festivities

 (ARA) – Close your eyes and anticipate the sights, the sounds and the aromas of the winter holiday season. How far did you get before you started thinking about holiday desserts?

There’s good reason we centre much of our celebrating around food – especially those tantalizing baked desserts. Holiday baking warms our hearts and encourages the spirit of sharing and celebration. It’s a perfect opportunity to indulge in the festive extravagance that marks the season.

But that extravagance doesn’t have to mean a lot of prep time. You can still wow your guests with holiday desserts that don’t require a lot of fuss to make. Just use high quality ingredients to provide full, rich flavor – whether you’re baking a quick recipe from scratch or taking advantage of a box mix.

Kendall McFarland, food research and development manager at Simply Organic, suggests  some cookie recipes – oven ready in just 10 minutes – that are sure to add enjoyment to your holiday festivities.

Pecans are a popular nut at the holidays, found in pies, cakes, cookies, even main and side-dish recipes. Here’s one very delicious way to enjoy pecans. These cookies are rolled in confectioner’s sugar, and melt in your mouth.

Pecan snowballs
1 cup butter

2 egg yolks

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups flour, sifted

1/2 cup pecan pieces, chopped very fine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and egg yolks. Add 1/2 cup of the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla extract, and sifted flour. Stir in pecan pieces.

Roll batter into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake until bottoms are lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.

Cool on cooling rack, then roll in remaining confectioner’s sugar to coat.

There’s always room for these light cookies — even following a big holiday meal. Kids like to help with this one. Let the real little ones put the almonds on.

Almond cookies
50 almonds, blanched

1 cup butter

3/4 cup honey

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind 12 of the almonds to a fine powder. Cream honey and butter together. Add egg, ground almonds, and extracts.

In another bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Add gradually to wet ingredients. Knead into a dough. (Add a drop of water or flour one at a time if necessary to make a kneadable consistency.)

Pinch off small balls of dough and place on greased cookie sheet. Press flat into 1/2 inch thickness. Make an indention in top of each cookie and place a whole almond in each. Bake for 15 minutes.

Crisp Vanilla Butter Cookies
Makes two dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chocolate pieces of choice

Directions:

Cream the butter, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla powder in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt on low speed until just blended. Place the dough on parchment paper and shape into a 12-inch long log. Chill between 3 to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat an insulated cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Cut the dough log into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Place the cooled cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Place the chocolate pieces in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on “high” for 15 seconds. Repeat at five-second intervals, stirring and checking the consistency. The chocolate is ready when it freely drips from the spoon in a fine line. Spoon the chocolate into a large plastic food storage bag. Twist the bag until the chocolate is in one corner and then trim the tip of the bag. Drizzle the chocolate over the cookies.

Variation: Add 1/2 teaspoon of any pure flavor extract, such as chocolate, almond, lemon, orange or coffee, to the cookie dough to create a signature cookie.

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