CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN — DECEMBER 2

Add a little spice to your holiday celebrations with gingersnaps.  And if you really want to experience a holiday treat, order a tin of crisp, spicy gingersnaps from The Center, a private not-for-profit agency serving persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities (Houston readers can usually purchase these at the Eastside Farmers Market as well).  The sale of the gingersnaps began as a volunteer effort led by Alicia Lee, whose son and nephew were residents at The Center’s Willow River Farms.  According to the website, the request for gingersnaps came from Barbara Bush, and Ms. Lee set about testing recipes for months in her quest for a crisp, crunchy, spicy cookie.  After many test batches, they sent a sample to Barbara Bush, who loved them, and the rest is gingersnap history.  Each gold tin is decorated with a hand-pressed and gilded ornament, made by one of the Center’s clients.

If you’d like to make your own gingersnaps or ginger cookies, there are a million recipes out there.  My personal favorite recipe is this one, and I bake tons of them every year.

The Center also has a traditional fruitcake that we adore.  It is loaded with red cherries, pecans, dates, walnuts, and coconut, and is more of a confection than a cake.  They are not kidding when they say that this is “the best you have ever tasted! EVER!”  (At the suggestion of one of The Center’s volunteers, we now freeze one of these fruitcakes every year to enjoy as a special treat in the summer months.)

fruitcakesAlthough the gingersnaps are wonderful all by themselves, they are even better served with Amazing Pumpkin Dip.  We discovered this years ago at a small grocery store that had samples out of various products you could order for the holidays.  They called it Amazing Pumpkin Dip and had copies of the recipe printed for anyone who wanted one.  What was truly amazing was that we were not asked to leave, because my young son ate at least half of the bowl of dip while I was shopping.  (He tended to view free samples as his own personal buffet.)

If you need to bring a dish to a holiday party, or are looking for something to serve at one of your own, gingersnaps and pumpkin dip are a crowd-pleaser.

 

AMAZING PUMPKIN DIP
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Recipe type: Appetizers, Snacks, Desserts
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 10 ounces pumpkin butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 8-ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • Gingersnaps, for serving
Instructions
  1. Place cream cheese in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add pumpkin butter, sugar, and vanilla, and beat until well-blended. Gently fold in whipped topping. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve with gingersnaps for dipping.

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MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM BROWNIE BARS

Happy 3rd Birthday to Tag Sale Tastes!  My very first post — Patriotic Red and Blue Spritz Cookies — was July 1, 2012.  Each year around this time I’ve continued to post a recipe or two for some sort of patriotic-themed treat:  Giant M&M Cookies, 4th of July Firecrackers, Stars and Stripes Pie, and this year’s Red, White & Blue Biscotti:

I hope one of these might inspire you to make a special dessert to celebrate Independence Day.

If you are not quite into red, white, and blue, in honor of Tag Sale Tastes’ birthday, I’m sharing a recipe my daughter made for Father’s Day that is worthy of any summer celebration.  Layers of brownie, mint chocolate chip ice cream, chocolate ganache, real whipped cream, and a topping of shaved chocolate — it’s easy, cool, and quite decadent.  Although I think you cheat yourself if you use whipped topping instead of real whipped cream, don’t think twice about using Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix instead of making your own brownies.

MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM BROWNIE BARS
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Recipe type: Dessert
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 box Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix
  • 1.5-quart container good quality Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1.5-ounce chocolate bar
Instructions
  1. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions. Lightly spray a 9x9 pan with cooking spray. Spread brownie batter in prepared pan and bake according to package directions. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Remove ice cream from freezer and allow to soften at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, until soft enough to spread. Spread ice cream over the cooled brownie layer, leaving approximately ½" to top of pan for ganache layer. Place pan in freezer and allow ice cream to harden, at least 1 hours.
  3. Prepare ganache by placing ¾ cup heavy cream in a microwave-proof container and heat for 2 minutes until hot but not boiling. Add the chocolate chips to the cream and set aside for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt, then stir until cream and chocolate are thoroughly combined. Set aside and allow to cool (ganache will thicken as it cools). When the ganache is cool, spread evenly over the ice cream layer and return pan to freezer for 2-3 hours, until ice cream and ganache are firm.
  4. Just before serving, whip 1 cup heavy cream and powdered sugar using an electric beater, just until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overwhip -- you don't want butter!).
  5. To serve, cut into 2" squares. Pipe or dollop whipped cream decoratively on top of each square. Garnish by grating chocolate over whipped cream. Serve immediately.

 IMG_6319Happy 3rd Birthday to Tag Sale Tastes!