12 Days of Christmas

I’ve decided to start off the official twelve days of Christmas by posting a holiday recipe every day until the 25th!  Cookies, candies, and other foods that are bad for you (but it’s okay because it’s the holidays).  The recipes will be some old, some new, but all worthy of your holiday baking list.

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First Day of Christmas:  German Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

This is an old recipe, dating back to 3 years ago (didn’t really think I had a blog that long ago tbh).  These cookies remain one of my favorites, and I also like how they look snowy!

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Second Day of Christmas: Soft Sugar Cookies with Sour Cream Frosting

These cookies are perfect for the holidays, because the recipe makes a lot, everyone likes them, and you can decorate them with holiday sprinkles.  They take a little extra time than most cookies, but it’s worth it, I promise!

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Third Day of Christmas: Orange Drop Cookies

This is my grandma’s recipe that I bake entirely too much (although, I don’t really see anyone complaining about it).  It’s been one of my favorite desserts since I was really little.  If you’re indecisive about holiday baking, just trust me on this: make these cookies.

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Fourth Day of Christmas: Cheesecake Crumb Bars

Taking a break from the cookies to present cheesecake crumb bars!  A mix between cheesecake, crumb cake, and shortbread.  Customize with different flavors, or go simple with a little vanilla.

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Fifth Day of Christmas: The Best Nut Caramel Ever

This is one of my family’s favorite holiday recipes!  The caramel is super easy to make, and it’s customizable, because you can just add in whatever nuts you have on hand (although I highly recommend walnuts and hazelnuts).  Wrap them in mini Christmas cupcake liners, because it’s cute.

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Sixth Day of Christmas: Pineapple Zucchini Bread

This bread is a nice break from all the super sweet that comes with cookies and candy during the holidays.  Filled with zucchini, walnuts, and pineapple, it’s perfect with a little butter and some coffee for breakfast!

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Seventh Day of Christmas: Cinnamon Butter Candy

Unique, spicy, and the hardest part of the recipe is boiling the water.  Wrap as a gift, and give your friends a break from peppermint chocolate bark.  Or just keep it for yourself (trust me, you’ll want to)!

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Eighth Day of Christmas: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

These are time consuming, but if you make these, you will pretty much win Christmas baking altogether.  P.S. They’re not hard.  They just have to rise for a few hours!

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Ninth Day of Christmas: Cranberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies are really easy to make, and I love how festive they are!  Sweet from white chocolate, tart from the cranberries, and chewy from the oatmeal.  Santa will be happy 🙂

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Tenth Day of Christmas: Butter Cookies with Walnuts

Effortless, buttery icebox cookies filled with walnuts that melt when you eat them.  Keep them simple with vanilla, or add extra flavors to get more creative with your holiday baking.  This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so you have plenty to wrap up and gift!

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Eleventh Day of Christmas: Espresso Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Whipped Cream

This is by far my favorite hot chocolate I’ve ever had.  Only 5 ingredients and perfect for Christmas brunch!

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Twelfth Day of Christmas: Norwegian Lefse

My family’s Christmas tradition every year!  Lefse is a cross between a tortilla and a crepe, made out of potatoes.  I look forward to making lefse every year, because it’s fun and of course, it tastes amazing!  If you’ve ever wanted to make Nordic food, this is the best place to start.

Merry Christmas, my friends ♥

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Norwegian Lefse

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Merry Christmas!  I’m extra excited to share a recipe today, because it’s a traditional Norwegian recipe my family has been making for years.  For non-Norwegians, lefse is pronounced lef-sah, and it is a flatbread made out of potatoes.  It’s kind a cross between a tortilla and a crepe.  My family makes it every year, and we always have it on Christmas Eve with oyster stew (and other things, because as it turns out, many people aren’t necessarily fans of oyster stew).

I’m not quite sure if lefse is a Christmas tradition in Norway.. Actually I’m pretty sure it’s something they eat year round (??).  However, we make it for Christmas, and we always have it with butter and sugar.  Just roll it up and eat it like a tortilla!

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I love lefse, because it’s my family’s “thing”.  We never have to worry about it coming out perfectly round, and if it turns out too dry or too thick, nobody cares.  When it’s covered with butter and sugar, it’s always going to be good!  Growing up, we always had it during the holidays, and I love being able to share the tradition with my friends.  I watched my grandma make it growing up, and now I make it with myself with my grandmother, mom, and brother!

Like I said, we always had it with butter and sugar, but if that isn’t your thing, there are many other ingredients you can put on lefse: cinnamon, PB&J, meatballs, ham and cheese, veggies and cream cheese, jam…whatever concoction you create in your mind.

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Some lefse making tips:

1. Microwave your potatoes instead of boiling them.  It avoids any unnecessary water.

2. Mix riced potatoes with butter and refrigerate overnight.  Again, this dries out the potatoes a little so the dough isn’t too wet.

3. Roll them as thin as you can.  Thin lefse is a lot better than thick lefse!  (Although, if they do come out a little thick, they’ll still taste good!)

4. Don’t worry about them coming out perfectly round.  I don’t even understand how people make that a reality.

5. Only add cream if the dough feels too dry.  Otherwise, leave it out.

lefse!

Merry Christmas friends!

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*Song of the Day: Baby It’s Cold Outside by Zooey Deshchanel and Leon Redbone*

Espresso Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Whipped Cream

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You can ask anyone in my family about my hot chocolate preferences, and they will tell you that I am a hot chocolate snob.  No really, that’s a thing, and I am part of the demographic.  When I was really little, my dad would make me hot chocolate every night with Ovaltine.  If it was too hot outside, he would make me chocolate milk.  I called it “brown milk” and I specifically remember asking for it while my parents read me my books.  So naturally, the first time I had the packet-mixed-with-water type of hot chocolate, I was sorely underwhelmed.  As a kid, I hated it, and I hate it now.  I don’t even want flavored hot chocolates-peppermint, orange zest, and cayenne pepper have no right.  I’ll just take my regular hot chocolate made with milk and Ovaltine or some type of pretentious homemade chocolate syrup, thank you very much.

Until now….Because in case we haven’t yet discussed my obsession with coffee or how I want to own my own cafe someday (we have), I have quite the love affair with all things coffee.  And like my hot chocolate, I don’t want extra added flavors-I want pure, good quality, black coffee, maybe with a little cream and sugar when I have a craving.

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I was fairly skeptical at the idea of mixing together my beloved espresso with hot chocolate.  While I do appreciate a good mocha every once in a while, it’s not usually my cup of tea coffee, and I wasn’t really looking to make a mocha here.  What I really wanted was a creamy hot chocolate with intense cocoa flavor.  Borrowing the idea that sometimes coffee is added to chocolate cake recipes to enhance the cocoa flavor, I decided adding a little espresso to my hot chocolate might to do the same thing.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.  I will reiterate that this is not a mocha.  The espresso is definitely noticeable, but its main function is to complement the cocoa flavor.  I added some vanilla whipped cream to the top, which melts with the heat, and creates this cool layer on top that mixes in with the hot chocolate, and overall, it was probably my favorite part.  Honestly, I was worried that with only five ingredients, it would be bland, but it was anything but.

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hot chocolate recipe

Merry Christmas Eve to you and your family!  Make this hot chocolate when you’re opening presents or having dessert tonight, or even for breakfast tomorrow.  It’s the perfect mix of your favorite childhood drink and your favorite (morning) adult drink, so it will be sure to make everyone happy!

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*Song of the Day: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra

Butter Cookies with Walnuts

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Times my family uses my great grandmother’s china:  1. When I’m in town and pull it out of the cabinet with the upmost precision so I can take pretty, feminine pictures of cookies delicately sprinkled with powdered sugar.  2. For a holiday about once ever four years when my mom doesn’t talk herself out of using the plates, because they have to be handwashed.  Other than that, they essentially sit in little boxes, covered in bubbly plastic wrap stacked neatly on top of one another.  I’d like to think that someday I will have a fancy Alice in Wonderland themed tea party or host an extravagant ball that requires black ties and antique, fragile plates laced with gold.  But for now, they’re the host of my grandma’s crumbly butter cookies that are filled with walnuts and literally melt while you eat them.

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I love these cookies, because they’re extra easy, only six ingredients, and it makes lots of cookies to gift to your neighbors and coworkers.  My family has been making these cookies for as long as I can remember, although, if we’re being honest, I got all creative and added the almond extract.  I really think it adds extra flavor to these cookies, but you can also leave it out if you want simpler, more vanilla-flavored cookies or if you just don’t have almond extract laying around.

On the other hand, you could also go crazy with these cookies and add whatever you have laying around your kitchen.  Dried fruits, nuts, citrus zest, cocoa powder, vanilla bean, etc.  The cookies are so versatile that you could get extra creative and add some matcha powder or lavender buds or even dip them in chocolate.  If you don’t have time to bake, these cookies are the effortless, buttery, icebox cookies your kitchen needs right now.

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Song of the Day: Everlasting Arms by Vampire Weekend

Cinnamon Butter Candy

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About once a year, my mom visits me in Reno and we take a day visit to Virginia City with my aunts, cousins, and grandmas.  Since I’m already aware that you have no idea what Virginia City is, Mark Twain used to write there, and it’s a pretty popular place to take “old-timey” photographs dressed in stockings and boas with a sepia filter.

Virginia City is also the home to multiple candy shops, which are famous for their cinnamon candy.  If you ask my mom or aunts, all of them will tell you about how much they used to look forward to visiting Virginia City just to get their famous cinnamon butter candy.

This year for Christmas, my mom and I decided we would try to recreate the recipe for our friends and family.  It took 3 batches and multiple trips to the store, but we got pretty close.

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First off, let me give you a few opinions on cinnamon oil vs. cinnamon extract.  We first tried cinnamon extract, because it’s much cheaper and easier to find than cinnamon oil.  First, we tried 2 tsp., and it was not flavorful enough.  The next batch, we tried 4 tsp., and it still wasn’t what we were looking for.

We then researched where we could find cinnamon oil, called a special store, made a trip to said store, spent $15 on a bottle, and used it in the third batch.  While it was spicier than extract, it still wasn’t exactly what we wanted out of our cinnamon candy.

The candy isn’t really what we thought it would be (since we had the high expectations from Virginia City), but we ended up loving it!  While we were looking for that artificial cinnamon flavor (like in Red Hots or Cinnamon Jolley Ranchers), we actually got a real cinnamon flavor, which was a pleasant surprise.

In the end, if you like spicy, get some cinnamon oil online (it’s cheaper over Amazon!), or just go the easy way and buy cinnamon extract.  Either way, you’ll end up with a buttery, unique hard candy that’s really easy to make and can be packaged up as a gift (alternative for peppermint bark??)

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*Photos courtesy of my brother*

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*Song of the Day: Inside Out by Spoon*

Cheesecake Crumb Bars

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After some things didn’t go *quite* according to plan today, I ended up taking on the 7 hour drive to my hometown all by myself.  This made an abundance of room for Sara Lynn time, which included motivating self-talks, judging everyone’s driving besides my own, and running through Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not three times.  Recipes were developed, life plans were made, and I’m pretty sure I had at least four revelations.

All in all, it was a pretty spiritual day.  And now, I have a cheesecake crumb bar recipe.  Sometimes, things just work out.

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While I won’t say that cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts, I also never pass it up when offered.  Realistically, I had big plans of making a huge cheesecake before reminding myself that 1. I didn’t have the ingredients to make a whole cheesecake and I was already wearing pajamas, which meant that there was no way in hell I was going to the grocery store, and 2. No one should ever make a whole cheesecake when they live alone.  But cheesecake bars?  Portable.  Sliceable.  Freezable.  Slightly more social acceptable to have hanging around the house.

These ended up being a mix between cheesecake, shortbread cookies, and crumb cake.  They’re everything you want from each of those desserts, but I think next time I’ll cut the dough in half and double the filling.  If you like more of the “cheese” part of cheesecake, I would recommend following that method.  If you prefer shortbread, stick with the original.

Customize with pumpkin, raspberry, lemon, caramel, chocolate, etc.  If it fits in a cheesecake, it fits in these bars.  I opted for simplicity and added a little vanilla.  Okay a lot.  Whatever.

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Song of the Day: Fake Tales of San Francisco–Arctic Monkeys

Rocky Road Chocolate Bark

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Raise your hand if it’s only December 5, and you’re already tired of peppermint chocolate bark.

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As much as I love December and all the food that comes with it, I get bored of the peppermint chocolate bark you inevitably get offered 1,000 times between Christmas parties, work, and everywhere else ever.  Chocolate + crunchy crushed peppermints is tired, but luckily, rocky road isn’t.

The best part of this recipe is that you don’t necessarily have to measure the ingredients, so you can kind of just throw everything down on a piece of foil or waxed paper and walk away for a little while.  If holiday baking is not your thing, this is the best way to contribute.

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Have a Merry Christmas ♥

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*Song of the Day: Horchata by Vampire Weekend*