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Cooking rule No. 1 — have ingredients

December 19, 2012
By ESTHER MCCOY - Food editor , The Herald-Star

One of the important things about baking for the holidays and any time of the year is having all the ingredients on hand at the start.

Nothing is worse than being in the middle of a sugar cookie recipe and discovering that only a half cup of flour or sugar is in the house.

If you are through with your holiday baking, you receive a star for being up to date on the Christmas season.

Article Photos

GETTING READY FOR SANTA — Neko Chirpas, 5, son of Gina and “Chirp” Chirpas, is awaiting Santa Claus by the fireplace with a plate of No Bake Oatmeal Fudgies. Christmas Eve is only five days away and will soon be upon us. Have your cookies ready for the big guy with a white beard and all dressed in red.
-- Esther McCoy

If you are about to start, there is plenty of time yet. But remember that a well-stocked pantry is necessary.

Needed ingredients for Christmas baking include the following:

Flour: There should always be a supply of flour in the kitchen, be it all-purpose white flour, cake flour or whole wheat.

Sugars: White sugar is the standard commodity in the kitchen, but confectioners' sugar, light or dark brown sugar, corn syrup or honey might be required.

Spices: The most commonly used are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice for baking. They are useful for Christmas baking or throughout the year.

-- Grains: Oatmeal is always needed for those prized oatmeal cookies, Rice Krispies for the marshmallow squares and sometimes cornmeal for Mexican or foreign-type cookies.

-- Flavorings: Vanilla is always a necessity, but other flavors used around the holiday are peppermint and almond.

-- Leavenings: Dry yeast, baking soda and baking powder should be in the cupboard year-round. They are necessities for cakes, breads and most cookies.

-- Shortening: Shortening, such as Crisco, sometimes lard for pie crust, and vegetable oil, even the spray cans of nonstick shortening, are necessary.

-- Milk: Many times, evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk is required in a recipe and is something that is not always in the pantry. Try to keep a can or two on hand for those recipes.


Neko Chirpas is holding a plate of these cookies as an offering to Santa Claus. They are easy to make and vanish quickly.

No Bake Oatmeal Fudgies

3 cups oatmeal, quick cooking type

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup peanut butter

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup margarine

1/2 cup water or milk

3 tablespoons cocoa

1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

Mix together sugar, butter, water or milk and cocoa in a saucepan and when it starts to boil, time it to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat immediately and add peanut butter and vanilla. Then slowly stir in the oatmeal and nuts, if desired, until it is well mixed. Drop dough onto wax paper with a teaspoon. Let cool and store in a covered container. Makes about 4 dozen.


McCormick, a champion in flavorings and spices for many years, has all types of flavorings, spices and food colorings that are necessary for holiday baking.

Here is a recipe from McCormick for candy that calls for their peppermint flavoring and food coloring.

Peppermint Bark

12 ounces white chocolate chips

1 teaspoon pure peppermint

8 to 10 drops red or green food coloring

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes

Microwave white chocolate chips in large microwave bowl on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until almost melted, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until white chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in peppermint extract. Spread on large foil-lined baking sheet to 1/4-inch thickness. Add food color, drop by drop, over mixture. Using a wooden skewer, swirl color throughout. Sprinkle with crushed candies, pressing lightly into mixture with spatula. Refrigerate about 10 minutes or until firm. Break into irregular pieces to serve. Store in covered container at cool room temperature or in refrigerator for up to five days. Makes 12 servings of two to three pieces each.


This recipe is from Dragana Lazic, who conducts a cooking class each month at the Jefferson County Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, Schiappa branch. This was her contribution for making wonderful Christmas goodies. The combination of German sweet chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips and while almond bark makes for a great peanut filled candy.

Crockpot Chocolate Candy

2 pounds salted dry-roasted peanuts

4 ounces, 4 squares, German sweet chocolate

12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate, about 2 cups

2 1/2 pounds white almond bark

Put peanuts in the bottom of a 4-quart slow cooker. Layer the chocolate over the peanuts, beginning with sweet chocolate, then chocolate chips and then the almond bark. Set the temperature on low and cook for 2 hours. Do not stir the mixture. After 2 hours, stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth. Drop the candy into cupcake pan liners using about 2 tablespoons per liner. Allow the candy to cool completely before removing from the liners, or they can be left in, your choice.

Note: If you can't find almond bark, substitute white chocolate chips.


This is a recipe for spiced nuts, either pecans or walnuts. Just a tiny dash of cayenne pepper could be added for an extra bite. Fran Breiner submitted this recipe to the Dobra Cookbook 2, compiled by the Weirton Senior "R" Club Chapter 58 and the Federated Russian Orthodox Club in 1999. (I like to go back through recipe cookbooks at times.)

Spiced Nuts

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound pecans or walnuts

Mix nuts with beaten egg white and water mixture until coated. Put them in sugar mixture and stir until evenly coated. Place on greased cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake 50 minutes at 300 degrees, stirring halfway through baking.


Colleen Mindzak of Weirton gave me this recipe from Tea Time magazine. It starts with a box of yellow cake mix and instant pudding and two types of chocolates are added to make it delicious, if you are a chocolate lover. I like the title of the recipe.

Days of Wine and Roses Cake

Box of yellow cake mix

Small box instant vanilla pudding

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup water

8-ounce carton sour cream

4 eggs

6-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Bar German sweet chocolate, softened

Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, vegetable oil, water, sour cream and eggs in a mixing bowl. Mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in chocolate chips and chopped German sweet chocolate bar. Pour into a greased and sugared bundt pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Note: The hollow center of the cake could be filled with hulled, whole strawberries and a bowl of fresh, whipped cream could be an accompaniment.


If you long for a lower calorie dessert with 6 grams of fat and low sugar, you could try this while others are eating the richer desserts. It is from a Hungry Girl column.

Freezy Peanut Butter and Chocolate Squares

1/2 cup reduced-fat creamy peanut butter

4 ounces fat-free cream cheese

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup light vanilla soymilk

1 cup fat-free whipped topping, thawed

8 chocolate graham crackers, crushed

2 tablespoons light chocolate syrup

Extra whipped topping

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter with cream cheese. With an electric mixer set to medium speed, beat until smooth and uniform. Reduce speed to low. Continue to beat while gradually adding powdered sugar, followed by soymilk. Beat until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in whipped topping until uniform. Pour into an 8-by-8-inch glass pan. Top with crushed graham cracker crumbs and drizzle with chocolate syrup. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 1/2 hours. Makes nine servings at 145 calories per serving.

Note: Regular milk can be used to replace the soymilk, and the mixture can be put into a 9-inch glass pie pan as well and then be cut into wedges like a pie.

(McCoy can be contacted at

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