CINNAMON PINWHEELS

These red and white pinwheel cookies were a pretty addition to my Christmas cookie trays.  The recipe is slightly modified from the Food Network’s Cinnamon Pinwheels.  This was the first time I made these, and mine were admittedly not as perfect as the Food Network’s — but they were still attractive and delicious, and disappeared quickly.  Next year they’ll be more pinwheel-y.  🙂

CINNAMON PINWHEELS
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Recipe type: Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coarse or sparkling sugar, plus extra for rolling dough in
Instructions
  1. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat, using an electric mixer, until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in egg and vanilla. On low speed, beat in flour, baking powder, and salt, until just combined.
  3. Remove half of the dough and wrap in plastic wrap. Add the cocoa powder and food coloring to the remaining dough, and beat until thoroughly combined. Wrap red dough in plastic wrap.
  4. Refrigerate both pieces of dough until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Dust the dough lightly with flour and roll out each piece on parchment paper into a 10x11" rectangle. Flip the red dough on top of the plain dough, remove the top piece of parchment, and trim the edges. Sprinkle the cinnamon and coarse sugar on top. Starting from a short end, tightly roll up the dough, using the parchment to help. Roll the log in coarse sugar. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the log crosswise into ¼"-thick slices. Place on baking sheet 1-1/2" apart. Bake until slightly puffed and lightly golden on the bottom, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool briefly, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

 

SPLIT SECONDS

My Mom used to make jam-filled Split Seconds every year at the holidays.  These were one of her favorites because in addition to tasting good, you can bang out 4 dozen in no time.  When I looked up the recipe, I was surprised to see it was actually a Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe from 1954.  These added a little bit of nostalgia to my cookie trays this year.
SPLIT SECONDS
Print
Recipe type: Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup jam or preserves
  • Optional glaze:
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat using an electric beater until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg until well blended. Add flour and baking powder, and beat on low speed until dough forms.
  3. Divide dough into 4 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, shape each portion into 12x3/4-inch roll. Place rolls on cookie sheet. Using the handle of a wooden spoon or your finger, make an indentation lengthwise down the center of each roll approximately ½ inch wide and ¼ inch deep. Be careful not to press all the way through the dough. Fill the indentation in each roll with approximately 2 tablespoons preserves (it is easier to spoon preserves if you warm them slightly in microwave). Don't overfill indentations.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Allow to cool before slicing diagonally into 12 cookies. If using optional glaze, do so before slicing the cookies. Make the glaze by whisking the confectioner's sugar together with enough milk to make a smooth drizzle, not too runny. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Allow glaze to set before slicing and storing.

Fill the indentations with your favorite jam

Allow to cool slightly before cutting on the diagonal

Drizzled with glaze

Especially nice with tea

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN #6 — CARE PACKAGES

Care packages are a welcome way to spread cheer this holiday season.  College students studying for finals are obvious recipients.  Military personnel stationed far from home are another excellent choice.  Wounded warriors shouldn’t be forgotten this time of year, or ever for that matter, and a surprise care package would be a great way to let one know that they remain in your thoughts.  Know anyone hospitalized this season?  A care package would surely brighten their day.  Perhaps you have friends that recently moved, and would appreciate a care package of goodies to remind them of home.  Think  of them as random acts of kindness.

Care packages can be as simple or elaborate as you decide to make them — it really is about the thought.  Try to make them personal, and add in some holiday items.  I just finished preparing few for college students getting ready for finals, and assembling them definitely put me in a holiday mood.  Included among the goodies in the various packages are snacks, peppermint-striped socks, light up ski caps, hot cocoa mix and mini marshmallows, mugs, pens, and a holiday movie.  Other ideas are paperback books, holiday window clings, fleece throw blankets, holiday t-shirts or leggings, and of course, homemade cookies.

IMG_5518An assortment of snacks and holiday-themed goodies

IMG_5519Ready to be shipped

Surely you know someone who would be surprised and delighted to receive a care package this holiday season.  Have fun putting one together, and bring an unexpected smile to someone’s face.

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN #5 — REINDEER

Most people are not aware that Santa actually has 12 reindeer.  If you listen carefully to the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” you’ll hear them all named.  As the song goes, “there’s Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen.”  That’s 8.  Then there’s ol’ Rudolph — that makes 9.   Next is Olive, who is the bitchiest of the reindeer — “Olive the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names.”  That makes 10.  Howe is number 11 — “Then Howe the reindeer loved him.”  Finally, there’s Andy — “Andy shouted out with glee.”  🙂

I found loads of cute and easy ideas for making reindeer cookies and other holiday treats.  I haven’t included the many beautiful iced ones I saw, because those require a fair amount of skill and patience, and well, ’nuff said.  Perhaps one of these might inspire you to get all reindeer crafty this season.

These reindeer cookies made using an upside down gingerbread man cookie cutter are so clever:

A sweet and simple sugar cookie reindeer (and other cute ideas) from Sarah’s Sweets & Treats: cookies2Chubby little peanut butter reindeer cookies, from the now defunct Ladies Home Journal (RIP print media): cookies3 And another idea for peanut butter reindeer from Bakergirl: cookies5 Nutter Butter reindeer from Edesia’s Notebook: cookies4Take those Nutter Butter reindeer to the next level with a dip in chocolate, from Candiquik: cookies7 How about these clever chocolate-covered biscuit reindeer with Teddy Graham antlers, from Smart Party Planning: cookies12 These gingerbread and sugar cookie pieced reindeer cookies from The Bearfoot Baker are a little more work, but worth the effort, don’t you think? cookies11

Meringue reindeer from I Heart Kitchen are almost too cute to eat (I said almost):

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Oreos can be used to create adorable reindeer cookie pops, like these from Easybaked:

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But reindeer imagination isn’t limited to cookies.  For example, you could make chocolate-dipped marshmallow reindeer pops, like these from Just a Taste:

Or reindeer Rice Krispie treats:

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Savory little reindeer cheese snacks will get a few grins:

Cute Food for Kids

And finally, the piece de resistance, the reindeer bacon cheeseball (posted, unfortunately, without attribution on Pinterest):

Seeing these reindeer goodies definitely made me smile, and I’m sure the family would love to find any of these at our Christmas gathering.

I’ll leave you with one more Christmas joke — this one will “sleigh” you.  🙂

Q:  What does Christmas have in common with your job?

A:  You do all the work and the fat guy in the suit gets all the credit.

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN #4 — SOCIAL MEDIA

To spread a little digital cheer this holiday season, try being social on social media.  In the coming days you’ll be seeing LOTS of photos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. of kids with Santa, Christmas trees and holiday decorations, family celebrations, holiday foods, pets with antlers and jingle bells, and the Elf on the Shelf doing all kinds of naughty things.  Go ahead and “like” or “favorite” them.  It doesn’t cost a thing, and it brings a little joy to the person that posted the photo.  If you’re really feeling charitable, go ahead and leave a comment.  Ditch the political rants, the obscenities, the challenges to post something “for just 1 hour,” the inane quizzes (“what Christmas cookie are you?  I’m gingersnaps!!”), and other such negativity this season, and post some of your own holiday photos.

Here’s one of my holiday posts — what’s not to “like”?  🙂

nicemaisy

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN #1 — HOLIDAY PLANTS

It’s here!  The holiday season is officially here!  Tag Sale Tastes is counting down to Christmas with daily posts (updated for 2017) containing simple ideas to brighten the holidays for you and those around you.  (Of course, I’d love it if along the way you’d share your ideas with me.) I’d like to think of this Christmas Countdown as a sort of blog Advent Calendar.

According to my research the word “advent” is Latin in origin, meaning “coming toward.”  Christians were so awed by the importance of Christmas and what it celebrated, that they needed a period beforehand to prepare for it, giving themselves time to reflect on it as well as teach their children about the significance of it.  In the late 1800s, a German woman made an Advent Calendar for her son Gerhard Lang that consisted of 24 candies stuck onto a sheet of cardboard.  As an adult, Gerhard remembered how much he loved receiving his Advent Calendar and how it reminded him every day that Christmas was coming.  In 1908, he and a partner printed what is believed to be the first printed Advent Calendar with a little colored picture for each day in Advent.  Later they added the little windows that are still popular today.  The first Sunday of Advent varies from year to year, falling somewhere between November 27 and December 3 — Advent Calendars compromise for this by beginning on December 1.

For the first day of the Christmas Countdown, I’m going natural — holiday plants are an inexpensive and elegant way to decorate for the season.

Poinsettias are everywhere!  Pick up a few and instantly brighten your surroundings.  One of my favorite varieties is called Winter Rose — you can see why:

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I found these two stunning varieties this year:

An evergreen wreath is another easy way to usher in the holidays.  Wreaths have been a Christmas tradition for centuries.  The word ‘wreath’ is derived from the old English word “writhen,” meaning “to writhe” or “to twist.”   The circular shape of the Christmas wreath, with no beginning or end, is said to symbolize Christ’s eternal love and life never ending.  I got a beautiful one at Costco this year for $14.99 — it smells so fresh and pine-y, and looks so pretty on my door:

If you are lucky (or unfortunate) enough — all depends on how you look at it — to have mistletoe growing in a nearby tree, snip a branch and hang some with a ribbon.  You never know, you might get lucky!  (Unfortunately, mistletoe grows in the Chinese lace bark elms in front of my house, and every year a group of very loud neighbors wanders down and throws all sorts of things at the tree to try to knock some mistletoe loose.  Neither I nor my dogs find this holiday tradition amusing.)

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Rosemary Christmas trees are available at grocery stores and garden centers.  In addition to looking festive, they smell great, and you can snip a sprig here and there to use in cooking and baking.  My neighbor surprised me with one the other day, and I love to pat it when I walk by to release its fragrance:

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You could also force some amaryllis or paperwhite bulbs.  They, too, are widely available in garden centers and grocery stores, and kits for growing them can often be found at Target, Walmart, and other similar retailers.  Look for big fat bulbs with shoots and/or buds poking out.  If you plant some now, you can have gorgeous blooms by Christmas,  (Directions for forcing the paperwhites are here.)  Some people have luck planting them in their yard and getting them to rebloom year after year.  I am not one of those people.
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Paperwhites getting ready to put out buds

Fragrant paperwhite flowers

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Striking  amaryllis getting ready to show its colors

Amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs also make lovely, budget-friendly holiday gifts.  If you hurry, you too can have pretty blooms for the holidays.

There’s lots of other plants and natural elements that you can use to decorate for the holidays — hollies, berry branches, magnolia leaves, white tallow berries, evergreens, pine cones, cinnamon sticks, birch branches, just to name a few.  Ditch the silks, and use your imagination to combine natural elements to create beautiful holiday arrangements.

HALLOWEEN DEVILED EGGS — MERRY TO MACABRE

Who says deviled eggs are just for Easter?  They’re also fun to dress up for Halloween — cute or creepy, your pick!  I am constantly surprised by the creative ideas for these time-honored favorites.  Get inspired by this updated annual roundup of Halloween deviled eggs, from the merry to the macabre.

Nothing scary about these adorable candy corn deviled eggs from Edible Crafts (new for 2017):

 

Guests will go batty for these batty deviled eggs from Tastefully Simple (new for 2017):

Wonder who the brain was behind these creepy deviled eggs from Brit & Co. (new for 2017):

Who could resist a cute little pumpkin deviled egg, like these from Tadka Pasta?

 

Too generic?  How about a grinning Jack O’ Lantern, like these from Ochikeron’s You Tube channel:

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Or these from Happier Than A Pig In Mud:

halloween11

Who wouldn’t get a kick out of these owl deviled eggs from Maker, Baker, Glitter Shaker?  Hoo?  Hoo?

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Spider deviled eggs are cute without being too creepy, like these black olive ones from The World According To Eggface:

halloween1And these green olive ones from Momtastic:

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Of course, you CAN make them creepy, like this albino black widow spider deviled egg found on Hairpin:

white-spider

If you’re going to have spiders, you might as well have spider webs, like these from health-actually.com:halloween7

Food Planet kicks spider web eggs up a notch with a bright green filling;

green-web-eggs

Devil horns are an easy way to dress up deviled eggs for Halloween, like these from Cookin’ Canuck:

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You can have lots of fun coming up with devilish little faces on your deviled eggs, like these from So Lovely Sweet Tables:

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Or these amusing little devils from Kraft:

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Skeleton deviled eggs from Thrifty Fun are a scream:

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It wouldn’t be Halloween without some eyeballs, like these from Kath’s Kitchen Sync:

halloween4  Or these zombie eyeballs from Happier Than A Pig In Mud:

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Or next level creepy with piped on capillaries from Mom Foodie:

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Or even these dragon (or cat) eyeballs from Chow Bella Paleo (new for 2017):

These black and orange eggs from aol.com/food might be too scary for some people:

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These red ones found on Homemade Recipes puts the devil in deviled eggs:

red-eggs

Deviled eggs make cute ghosts in a graveyard, from Chef Morgan:

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These green goblin eggs from Betty Crocker are pretty scary:

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But nothing could possibly be creepier (or less likely to be eaten) than these Satan’s Spawn deviled eggs from Kravings.blog.  Nothing.  Ever.

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Happy Halloween!

P.S.  Do you know why ghosts don’t like it to rain on Halloween?  It dampens their spirits!