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*

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

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.

*raises hand*

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*

The Best Nut Caramel E-V-E-R

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THIS IS MY 100TH POST EVER AND IT’S ON CHRISTMAS EVE!

And my 100th post is one of the best candy recipes ever!

We make this every Christmas.  Actually my mom made it.  I’ve been eating it…

These caramels are buttery, have three types of nuts in them, and need to be cut super small, because otherwise you will just have a huge wad of caramel in your mouth.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a little hard to chew.

I promise, they only take a few minutes to put together and they’re always everyone’s favorite.  Recipes that are super easy and that everyone loves=something you should make rn.

rn rn rn

*Recipe slightly adapted from Taste of Home*

Ingredients:

1 c. walnut halves

1 c. pecan halves

1 c. hazelnuts

1 tsp. butter

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 c. heavy whipping cream

1/2 c. light corn syrup

Place walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350*F until you smell the nuts, and they are toasty brown.  Cool.  Line an 8 in. square pan with foil, and grease with butter.  Set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cream, and corn syrup.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Stir in toasted nuts.  Cook, without stirring until candy thermometer reads 238* (soft-ball stage).  Remove from heat.  Stir with a wooden spoon until creamy and thickened.  Quickly spread into prepared pan; cool.  Cover, refrigerate for 8 hours or more.  Lift candy out using the foil.  Discard foil.  Cut into little squares.  Place in mini cupcake liners to keep from sticking.  Keep in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 lbs.

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Thanks for reading my 100th post ♥

XO Sara

(2nd) Song of the Day: Little Drummer Boy–Josh Groban

Orange Drop Cookies

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This is the first time I have left the kitchen all day.  Literally, I have been in the kitchen since I woke up this morning.

(Granted, I slept in til 10:30, but that is irrelevant).

Every single year my mom makes this whole big deal about how “we’re not doing any holiday baking this year!”

And then I say, “Hahaha okay, if you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen baking cookies” (Because baking around the holidays is just a thing.  It’s the only time you can eat as much as you want and blame it on a holiday…?!?!)

We then proceed to make about 100 more baked goods, because once you start, you can’t stop.  Luckily, we have a good compilation of holiday recipes going on.

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These orange cookies are one of my family’s favorite recipes.  It’s my grandma’s recipe, and the family always gets excited when these are around.  We make them for all occasions, but I thought they’d be good for Christmas since oranges are a winter fruit (although I always associate them as summer-y?)

They pretty much taste just like cupcake tops with sticky, melty icing, which would normally be my worst nightmare, but when something is this good, exceptions can be made.

Thanks to Grandma for passing this recipe along.

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Ingredients:

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

1 c. shortening

2 eggs

1 c. buttermilk

1 scant tsp. baking soda, dissolved in buttermilk

1/2 tsp. salt

3 1/2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking powder

Grated rind of 1 orange

Juice of 1/2-1 orange (about 1/2 cup)

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350* F.  Cream the shortening and sugars until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Mix in buttermilk, orange rind, orange juice, and vanilla.  Add flour, salt, and baking powder until smooth.  Drop by the spoonful on a greased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  They will seem too soft and will dent if you press them in, but they will be done and slightly browned on the bottom.  Frost with icing.

Icing:

3 c. powdered sugar, sifted

1 Tbs. butter, softened

3 Tbs. orange juice

1 Tbs. orange rind

1-2 Tbs. milk, or enough to desired consistency

Mix ingredients together with a mixer until desired consistency.  Frost slightly warm cookies with icing and let it harden before stacking and storing!

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To make them more Christmas-y you could even add dried cranberries!  That might be my project next year…

Keep an eye out for more holiday recipes in the next few days!

XO Sara

Song of the Day: This Girl’s in Love with You (cover)–She & Him

Soft Almond Sugar Cookies

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Way to go with posting all the holiday stuff two days before Christmas, Sara.

I know that’s what you’re all thinking.

Don’t lie.

But I’m just now getting to it because 1. I was waiting until I got back to Vegas so I could bake with my mom and 2. I decided not to bake at home since I’m the only one there to eat all of this stuff.

That’s my excuse(s) and I’m sticking to it (them)!

But on the bright side, these are the best sugar cookies I’ve ever had.  I know that you’ve seen that phrase a sickeningly obnoxious amount of times on Pinterest but this is the for real truth.  I mean it!

They’re soft and biscuity and not to sweet and almondy and just plain delicious and the frosting is perfect okay?  So just take my word for it and make them, OKAY?!

Okay.

Also, I’m posting two different recipes for frosting.  The first is Royal Frosting and you use it to outline your cookies so the flood icing (second recipe) does not spill over the sides and give you a huge headache-y mess.  Just outline your cookies and designs with the royal icing (the thick white icing in my pictures) and fill it in with the colored flood icing and sprinkles and stuff.  Just add some food coloring to your flood icing to make a bunch of pretty colors and have fun!  Also, I recommend you use these kinds of bottles…

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…to spread your flood icing on your cookie.  It makes your life sooooo much easier, I swear.  You can get these at Michael’s in the baking section and probably at other grocery/baking stores.  Use a pastry bag (or plastic bag) and small round tip to outline the royal icing.

If you have any questions for me about these cookies, feel free to ask!  I have become an expert.

Cookies:

1 1/3 c. butter

1 1/2 c. sugar

3/4 c. buttermilk

2 eggs

1 Tbs. vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp. almond extract (if you’re allergic, you can just leave this out!)

5 1/2 c. AP flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

In a bowl, combine butter and sugar until creamy.  Add the buttermilk, eggs, and extracts.  It will look kind of curdy and gross, but don’t worry.  Combine all of your dry ingredients and add to the wet mixture in 3-4 stages.  If the dough is too runny, add more flour.  If it seems good and sturdy at 5 cups of flour, just stop there.  Seal the finished dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or more.

Roll the dough about 1/4 in. thick on a floured surface and use cookie cutters to make your favorite shapes.  I recommend rolling in batches and keeping unused dough in the fridge because when this gets warm, it becomes a huge mess.  Lay your cut out cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 5 minutes.  Bake them for 8-12 minutes at 350*.  They should be slightly browned around the edges and when you press them, they will feel soft.  Let them cool before frosting them!  *The time it takes to bake them depends on the size of your cookie cutter(s) and the thickness you roll out the dough*.

Royal Icing:

1/4 c. meringue powder or dried powdered egg whites

1/2 c. water

3 3/4 (1 lb.) powdered sugar

2 tsp. light corn syrup

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. almond extract (use vanilla if allergic)

Combine water and meringue powder (dried egg whites) and mix until frothy.  Add the rest of the ingredients and beat for about 6-8 minutes or until thick and stiff.  It should not be runny!  Outline the cookies using a pastry bag and small round tip.

Flood Icing:

1 c. powdered sugar

1 Tbs. milk

2 tsp. light corn syrup

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. almond extract (or vanilla)

Combine ingredients together with a whisk.  It should be the consistency of syrup.  Add more milk if it is too thick.  Add food coloring and put in bottles!  You can do as many or as little colors as you like.  We did dark green, light green, red, blue, and white.  I think we ended up making about 4 recipes of this for our cookies, but we had a bit leftover so I would start with maybe 2 or 3 batches and add more if needed.

Then just fill the outline of your designs with icing!  And add sprinkles or whatever else you like.  We used some black gel frosting from the store to make small designs on our cookies.  But be careful not to add too much or there will be a funky taste.  Which is bad joo joo.

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Aren’t they just so cute and happy?  These are a few of my favorites.  But we had some real gems.

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Merry Christmas!  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your families.  P.S. These cookies would be good for any holiday in any shape!

XOXO Sara