Sweet Christmas Love!

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“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.” ~ Mother Teresa

Christmas provides us with unlimited opportunities to share the hope and love of Christ. Since He has given me the gift of hospitality, I share His love by making and giving yummy treats to others during the Christmas season. I also include a little message, letting the recipient know that he or she is loved beyond measure by Love, Himself.

You can do this by attaching a card with an inspiring message, a quote, scripture or a personal note—even a prayer for the recipient. One of my favorite ways is to attach a note that includes a personalized promise from God such as:

I am full of mercy and grace and I overflow with love for you, {insert name here}. Psalm 103:8

My love for you, {insert name here}, will persevere through every situation. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Here are some ideas to get you started: • Attach a thermos filled with Peppermint Mocha to your mailbox with a note for your mail carrier. • Leave a wrapped platter of assorted baked goodies for the garbage collector, yard maintenance persons, and anyone else who serves your street/home in some way. • Have little bags of goodies ready to hand to the UPS, FedEx or other delivery people who may come to your door with a box from grandma. • Reach out to neighbors, co-workers, classmates, grocery store clerks, waiters, etc. with a bag of goodies. Attach a brief message, sharing the meaning of Christmas and include an invitation to attend a free Christmas event at your church. • Put together a care package for a soldier (include a phone card so he/she can call home), and include a note letting that person know how much they are appreciated and how much you are praying for him or her. • Put together treat platters for your local fire department, police department, teachers, church staff or healthcare workers. Anyone who serves in the community would be encouraged knowing that they are appreciated.

Spread the love--and the goodies!

Here are some of my favorite recipes for sharing His love and hope this Christmas, or any time throughout the year!

Apple Cider Pumpkin Bread (Makes two loaves)

Ingredients:

• 3 cups all-purpose flour • 1 tablespoon baking powder • 2 teaspoons baking soda • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg • 1/3 teaspoon ground cloves • 3 cups sugar • 1 cup vegetable oil • 4 eggs • 15 ounce can pumpkin (not pie mix or filling) • 2/3 cup apple cider or apple juice • 1 cup chopped pecans • 1 cup raisin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour two 9x5 inch loaf pans.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. (Optional: Place all items in the bowl and whisk until smooth.) Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and oil until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated.

Alternating, add a little of the canned pumpkin and a little of the apple cider, beating well after each addition.

Stir in pecans and raisins (or the mix-ins of choice from below list of variations).

Divide batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pans.

Variations:

• Add mini chocolate chips instead of raisins and pecans. (This is my son’s favorite, of course!) • Replace raisins with dried cranberries. • Replace pecans with walnuts.

Short Cut Peppermint Fingers

I used to make the cookies from scratch until I discovered Walkers Shortbread Fingers. (You can also use Milano cookies.) Now, when short on time, I purchase the cookies and proceed as follows.

Ingredients:

• Cookies • 8 ounces dark chocolate chips, melted • 12 candy canes, crushed

Line baking sheets with waxed paper, parchment paper or foil. Dip end of cookie (about a third) into melted chocolate, then dip into crushed candy canes. Place on paper-lined trays. Place baking sheets in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set. Remove and store in airtight container.

Christmas Snowball Cookies

Ingredients:

• 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, room temperature • ¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted • 1 teaspoon salt • 12-ounce package mini semi-sweet chocolate chips • ½ cup finely chopped pecans • Powdered sugar for coating

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed until smooth and creamy.

In a separate bowl, sift flour and salt together. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating on medium speed. When combined, beat the chocolate chips and pecans into the dough on low speed.

Cover and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll tablespoons of dough into balls. Place two inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Remove from oven and let set for three minutes. While still warm, roll in powdered sugar and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Once cookies have cooled, use a sifter or fine mesh strainer to dust the tops with more powdered sugar so they look like snowballs.

Dark Chocolate Bark

Ingredients:

• 1 ½ bags (11.5 ounces each) dark chocolate chips • 1 cup mixed toasted nuts • 1 cup mixed dried fruit

Line a baking sheet with foil.

Melt chocolate chips. Pour over foil and spread to ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle chocolate with nuts and fruit. Refrigerate until set. Break into pieces. Store in refrigerator, but let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Note: You can also add holiday candies to give it some color if you like.

Peppermint Mocha

(Serves 1)

• 3 tablespoons cocoa powder • 3 tablespoons hot water • 1 ½ tablespoons peppermint syrup • ½ cup strong coffee or espresso • 1 1/3 cups hot milk • Whipped cream and candy cane for garnish (optional)

Mix cocoa powder and hot water in your mug until powder has completely dissolved. Add coffee and peppermint syrup. Stir to combine, then pour in the hot milk. Garnish with whipped cream and a candy cane and serve.

Clean-Out-the-Pantry Magic Layer Bars

This is an easy recipe for kids to help with!

Ingredients:

• ½ cup butter • 1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs • 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk • 10-ounce bag dark chocolate chips • 1 cup butterscotch chips • 1 cup Bits o’ Brickle Toffee Bits • 7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut • 1 ½ cups chopped pecans • ¾ cup caramel

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in a 9×13-inch baking dish and place in the oven to melt while the oven is preheating. As soon as the butter has melted, remove pan from the oven and sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. Mix crumbs into the butter and press into bottom of pan to form a crust.

Drizzle sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crust. Sprinkle with a layer of chocolate chips, then a layer of butterscotch, then the toffee, the coconut, and finally the pecans. Gently press down.

Drizzle caramel over all.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove to cooling rack and cool completely before cutting into squares.

FoodLeAnn RiceComment