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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Christmas Time’s A Comn’ — Sooner Than We Think

By Sherrie Norris

Who can believe that Christmas is just two weeks away? It’s true, even if it doesn’t seem like it to most of us.

Things are really different at our house this year. Quarantined while dealing with the dreaded corona virus, and losing a loved one right in the middle of it all, has really hit hard. We are “free” now, but still staying close to home and trying to process it all.

I’m not physically or mentally up to all the cooking and baking I usually do, but I can still sit at my computer, go through piles and files of recipes — and hopefully help you find just the right holiday treat to prepare for your family, friends and neighbors. At least it will make me feel better to think I can do something to help, just a little.

I’m trying hard to keep it all in perspective, and as long as I have the true meaning of Christmas in my heart, it’s going to be OK. And I do.

So, here we go with a few special treats to get us closer to the big day.

May all your days be merry and bright!

Caramel Chex Mix

A sweet twist to a savory holiday favorite

2 cups each Rice, Corn and Wheat Chex

2 cups miniature pretzels

2 cups pecan halves

2 cups salted cashews

¾ cup butter, cubed

¾ cup packed brown sugar

In a large bowl, combine the cereal, pretzels and nuts. In a small saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour over cereal mixture; toss to coat. 

Spread into 2 greased baking pans. Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes. Stir; bake 6 more minutes. Cool completely before storing in airtight containers.

White Chocolate Cranberry Nut Cookies

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ half tsp. baking soda

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 Tbs. vanilla extract

1 cup dried cranberries, chopped

¾ cup white chocolate chips

¾ cup macadamia nuts, chopped

Heat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Mix flour and baking soda; set aside. On medium speed of mixer in another bowl, beat butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in cranberries, white chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop dough by spoonful onto baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, 12-15 minutes. Cool before storing in airtight containers.

Chewy Date Nut Bars

1 pkg. yellow cake mix

¾ cup packed brown sugar

¾ cup butter, melted

2 eggs

2 cups chopped dates

2 cups chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, combine cake mix and brown sugar. Add butter and eggs; beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on medium for 2 minutes. Combine dates and walnuts; stir into batter, which will be stiff.

Spread into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around sides of pan to loosen; cool completely before cutting. Makes about 3 dozen.

Fudgy Gluten-Free Chocolate Pecan Cookies

3 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

¼ tsp. salt

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (4 oz.) )semisweet chocolate bar, chopped

1 cup toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together powdered sugar, cocoa and salt in a large bowl. Whisk egg whites until frothy. Stir egg whites and vanilla into powdered sugar mixture. Batter will be very thick. Stir in chopped chocolate and pecans until well combined. Drop cookie dough, about 2 Tbsp. each, 3 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet lightly greased with cooking spray. Bake in a preheated oven until tops are shining and cracked, about 8-10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely, about 15 minutes before storing in airtight container.

Festive Grape Party Salad

½ cup brown sugar

1½ cups chopped pecans

1 stick butter, melted

½ cup powdered sugar

1 (8 oz. pkg. cream cheese

1 (8 oz.) carton sour cream

2 lbs. seedless grapes

Mix brown sugar, pecans and butter, place in bottom of baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool. Crumble up. 

In large bowl, cream powdered sugar, cream cheese and sour cream together; add grapes and most of crumbled pecan mixture; combine. Sprinkle remaining pecan mixture to top. Refrigerate until time to serve.