Fruit and Nut Angel Biscuits

I recall seeing these high, rounded yeast biscuits called “angel buns” years ago, and I took the liberty of adding some sunflower seeds and golden raisins just for fun. If you prefer a fluffy light biscuit without the chewies and crunchies, simply omit them. These are great for any meal of the day, with anything you’re serving—and they freeze well, too.

1 T. yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 T. sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup sunflower seed kernels
1/3 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 400º and spray a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with nonstick coating.

Dissolve the yeast in water that feels warm but not hot. Cream the butter and sugar, and mix in the buttermilk, baking soda, and the yeast mixture. Stir in the flour, salt, and baking powder until the dry ingredients are incorporated, to make a sticky, elastic dough. Stir in the sunflower seeds and fruit. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough about 1 inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass. No rising time is required. Bake 12-15 minutes until the tops start to brown (don’t overbake!) Transfer to a rack or serve immediately. Makes 12-20 biscuits, depending on the size of your cutter.

Kitchen Hint: Instead of buttermilk, I’ve used ¾ cup of milk with ¼ cup of plain yogurt stirred in. Works great.

Chocolate Apple Bread

Here’s a quick bread that satisfies your craving for chocolate and features the extra chewiness of apple and walnut pieces. It makes a great breakfast bread, and you can warm it in the microwave—or spread it with cream cheese and your favorite jam to make a sandwich!

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 T. plain yogurt
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. each of salt, baking powder, and baking soda
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup coarsely chopped apples
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, divided
1 cup chocolate chips

2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350º. Spray or grease a 9”x5” bread pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs, vanilla extract, and the yogurt and mix well. Gradually mix in the flour, cocoa powder, and remaining dry ingredients. Stir in the apples, the 1/2 cup of walnuts, and chocolate chips. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Mix the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and finish cooling the bread on a rack. Best if wrapped and served the following day. Freezes well.

Kitchen Hint: For a festive touch, make a frosting of 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. almond extract, and 2 T. milk (or enough to make a thin drizzle). Drizzle over top of cooled bread.

Apricot Banana Bread

Here’s a moist twist on banana bread, with chunks of sweet dried apricot and the added nutrition of bran (but no one will accuse you of serving health food!) Like a lot of quick breads, this one tastes richer after it’s been wrapped and stored for a day. I like to make breads like this ahead of the holidays and freeze them so I have special treats to serve visiting family and friends.

1/3 cup softened butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 medium)
1/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. each baking soda and salt
1 cup 100% bran cereal (buds, not flakes)
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray or grease a 9”x5” bread pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter or margarine and sugar. Blend in the eggs, and then the mashed bananas and buttermilk or yogurt. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and gradually mix into the batter. Stir in the bran, apricots, and walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack. Freezes well.

Kitchen Hint: You can make this (or any quick bread recipe) as muffins! Simply spoon the dough into a sprayed muffin pan, each cup about 2/3 full, and bake for about 15 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched in the center.

Tutti Frutti Banana Bread

Here’s a special quick bread loaded with colorful fruits, nuts, and chips. It’s great for giving to friends or for enjoying on Christmas morning.

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2-3 medium)
1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup mini chocolate chips
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries
1/2 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease/spray two 8” x 4” loaf pans. Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour and baking soda and mix into the creamed mixture alternately with the bananas. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from the pans to a wire rack to cool completely. Freezes well.

Kitchen Hint: I often bake this batter in mini bread loaves or muffin tins (adjust the baking time: about 12-15 minutes for muffins, about 20-25 minutes for mini loaves)—and I usually double the recipe so I can use the entire box of dates and jar of cherries.

Stained Glass Cookies

This slice-and-bake cookie is so easy and so colorful, it’s a must-add to your Christmas cookie trays!

2 cups butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups gumdrops, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup colored decorating sugars (or more, as needed)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and powdered sugar until creamy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, then add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until blended. Stir in the gumdrops. Divide the dough into quarters. On a lightly floured surface, roll each quarter into an 8-inch log.

Sprinkle 2 T. of the colored sugar on a sheet of waxed paper. Roll one of the logs in the sugar until the outside is coated, and then wrap the log in the waxed paper. Repeat with the remaining dough logs and chill until firm (at least 8 hours, or up to 3 days).

Heat the oven to 350º. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper. Carefully cut each log into ¼-inch slices with a sharp knife. Place slices 1 inch apart on the baking sheets (put most colorful side up!) and bake until set but not browned, about 8-10 minutes. Cool cookies for a minute before moving them to a rack. Makes about 6 ½ dozen. Freezes well.

Kitchen Hints: Gumdrops are easier to cut if you spray your knife or scissors with cooking spray. I like to use “fruit slice” gumdrops because of their intense flavor. You can roll each dough log in a different color of decorating sugar to add variety.

Dark Chocolate Fruitcake Bars

Not a fan of fruitcake? These bars are so chewy and chocolaty, you’ll forget all those jokes about using fruitcake as a doorstop—and because you frost and decorate them right out of the oven, you can make classy-looking cookies without much fuss.

1 1/2 cups each whole red and green candied cherries, divided
64 pecan halves
2 dark chocolate pudding-in-the-mix cake mixes
4 eggs
1 cup oil
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup coconut
1 bag mini chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 12-oz bags real chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350º. Fit foil into two 9”x13” baking pans to allow a “handle” on each end, and spray the foil with cooking spray. Cut 16 red cherries and 16 green cherries in half, and set these out on wax paper with the pecan halves, either before you mix the dough or while the bars are baking.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mixes, eggs, and oil until well blended. Add the remaining whole cherries, raisins, coconut, mini chips, and chopped pecans, blending until everything’s mixed in—batter will be thick. Press half of the batter into each prepared pan (a spatula makes this easier) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Immediately spread a bag of chocolate chips on top of each pan of bars. Allow a minute or so for the chips to soften, and then spread the melted chips on the hot bars to make the topping. With a toothpick, score each pan into 4 columns and 8 rows of bars. Press a pecan half sideways into each bar, and then press a cherry half next to it. Cool bars in the pans until the frosting is set and not sticky—several hours. Remove from pan by lifting the foil, peel away the foil, and cut along the score marks with a sharp knife. Makes 64. Store/freeze between layers of wax paper.

Lemon Cream Cheese Cut-Outs

These have become one of my favorite holiday cookies! They remain soft and chewy, and the lemon glaze gives them a pop of tart flavor.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
2 T. lemon juice concentrate
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups flour

Cream all the ingredients except the flour until well blended, and then add the flour. Roll dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap or wax paper, and chill at least an hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 350º. On a floured surface, roll out half the dough at a time and cut into shapes. Place an inch apart on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and bake about 8 minutes until firm but not brown. Cool on wire racks. For glaze, mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 T. lemon juice concentrate (or enough to make a thin mixture). Brush on cooled cookies with a pastry brush and allow to dry. Leave plain, or decorate with buttercream (recipe below) or your favorite frosting. About 4 dozen.

Buttercream Frosting

I put this recipe in AN AMISH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS and WINTER OF WISHES but it bears repeating! I love it because it doesn’t taste like shortening, and it dries firm when you decorate cookies or cake. It also freezes well in a covered container if you have any left over.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup softened butter (no substitutes)
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon flavoring
6-8 cups (about a pound) powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, blend the milk, butter, shortening, and flavorings. Blend in the sugar a cup or two at a time, scraping the bowl, until the frosting is thick and forms peaks.
For colored frosting, use paste coloring to maintain a thickness that will hold its shape during decorating. Makes enough to decorate/frost 6 batches of sugar cookies, or a cake.

Kitchen Hint: I divide my frosting into 4 or 5 plastic containers and color one batch with deep pink, one batch with yellow, one with green, one with sky blue and I leave some white. Use paste colors to keep the frosting firm. Let the decorated cookies dry/set up for several hours before you store or freeze them.

Chocolate Shortbread

If you love dark chocolate, this cookie’s for you—and the cinnamon adds a spicy little kick. These look pretty on a plate because they’re a dark contrast to other cut-outs.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350º. Cream butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. At a lower speed, beat in the flour, cocoa and cinnamon until well mixed. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the dough at a time, 1/4” thick, and cut into desired shapes. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until set but not browned. Cool on wire racks. Decorate with buttercream or your favorite frosting.

Kitchen Hint 1: For a different decoration, you can melt 1 ½ cups of white baking chips with 2 T. shortening. Spoon this into a plastic food bag and snip off a tiny corner—or into a pastry bag with a tip—and pipe icing over cooled cookies. Let stand until set.

Kitchen Hint 2: you can make this dough ahead and chill it, but you’ll have to bring it to room temperature before rolling it out.

Baby Cake

I stumbled across this recipe recommended for women in labor, and was so fascinated by the healthful ingredients and the unusual blend of flavorings I had to try it. Wow, is this moist and tasty! You get the best of both cake and bread—lots of nutrition without refined sugars. Great for breakfast or dessert!

3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled but still liquid
zest from 2 large oranges
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup honey and/or maple syrup
1 1/2 cups peeled, grated apple (about 1 very large apple)
1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 large carrot, finely grated
1/4 cup finely chopped dates or raisins

Preheat oven to 350° and grease a Bundt pan, 24 muffin tins, or two 9” × 5” loaf pans.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then blend in the pumpkin, coconut oil, orange zest, molasses, almond extract, and honey and/or maple syrup until smooth, using a whisk or a mixer.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well. Add in the grated apple, nuts, carrots and raisins. Smooth batter into prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. For a Bundt pan, allow 50-70 minutes, about 10-12 minutes for muffins, and about 30 minutes for loaf pans—or until the cracks in the top are no longer wet and doughy. Don’t overbake!

Kitchen Hint 1: I placed the apple, walnuts, carrot, and raisins in the food processor with the blade and processed them all at once. Quick and easy! This recipe freezes well.

Kitchen Hint 2: In a pinch, you can use canola oil instead of the coconut oil, and you can mix/match honey and maple syrup, as long as your total is 3/4 cup.

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