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Last updated: December 12. 2013 11:56PM - 1073 Views
ALISON LADMAN, Associated Press



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We know, we know. You have your favorites that you go back to every year. But if you’re feeling adventurous, here are a few off-the-beaten path Christmas cookies to try.


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We’ve seen all manner of ways to make brownies a holiday treat, everything from burying peppermint candies in them to topping them with candy canes. But we prefer the delicious simplicity of this recipe, which swirls lime marmalade and cherry jam over a rich brownie base studded with chocolate chunks and dried cherries. If lime doesn’t do it for you, feel free to leave out the zest and substitute another variety marmalade or jam.


CHERRY LIME BROWNIES


Start to finish: 40 minutes, plus cooling (10 minutes active)


Servings: 24


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted


2 cups packed brown sugar


1 teaspoon salt


Zest of 1 lime


1 teaspoon vanilla extract


3 eggs


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour


3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted


1 cup dried cherries


1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks


1/3 cup lime marmalade


1/3 cup cherry jam


Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with baking spray.


In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, lime zest and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder, then stir in the cherries and chocolate chunks.


Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Dollop lime curd and cherry jam over the top of the brownie batter. Gently drag the back of a spoon through the top of the batter and the marmalade and jam to swirl them into the surface. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center yields just moist crumbs. Allow to cool in the pan. Cut into 24 bars.


Nutrition information per brownie: 250 calories; 90 calories from fat (36 percent of total calories); 11 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 40 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 29 g sugar; 3 g protein; 100 mg sodium.


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And you thought you were done with ice cream cones for the season. But we found a way not just to bring them back, but to do so deliciously and with just the right festive spirit for the holidays.


We combine crushed sugar ice cream cones, toasted pecans and jammy cooked dates in a delicious bar topped with melted caramel candies and — of course — more pecans and crushed ice cream cones. The dates combine with the caramel to form a luscious sticky, rich filling reminiscent of sticky toffee pudding.


ICE CREAM CONE CARAMEL DATE BARS


Start to finish: 45 minutes


Makes 2 dozen cookies


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature


1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar


1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/2 teaspoon salt


1/2 teaspoon baking powder


1 egg


1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour


1 cup crushed toasted pecans, divided


1 cup crushed sugar ice cream cones (about 6 cones), divided


8-ounce package pitted dates, finely chopped


3/4 cup half-and-half


8 ounces soft caramel candies


Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with baking spray.


In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and baking powder. Beat in the egg. Stir in the flour, then 3/4 cup of the pecans and 3/4 cup of the crushed sugar cones. Press the mixture in an even layer into the prepared pan and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown.


While the crust bakes, make the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the dates and half-and-half. Cook until the dates soften and begin to break down, about 10 minutes. Add the caramels and cook until melted, stirring constantly, about another 10 minutes.


When the crust is baked and the filling is made, pour the filling over the crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle the reserved toasted pecans and crushed sugar cone over the top, then let set up until firm. Cut into 24 bars.


Nutrition information per cookie: 230 calories; 80 calories from fat (35 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 27 g sugar; 3 g protein; 95 mg sodium.


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These drop cookies may be fast and easy to make, but they deliver big, bold flavor just right for the holidays.


We take a basic brown sugar and butter-based drop cookie dough, then add tons of deliciousness with a blend of cloves, allspice, nutmeg and orange zest. We also tinker with the texture, adding the delightful chew of tender dried apples. Top it all off with an orange glaze and you have a cookie that begs for an eggnog accompaniment.


APPLE-ORANGE SPICE DROPS


Start to finish: 30 minutes


Makes 4 dozen cookies


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature


3/4 cup packed brown sugar


1/2 teaspoon almond extract


1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/2 teaspoon baking powder


1/2 teaspoon salt


1 teaspoon ground cloves


1 teaspoon ground allspice


1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg


1 egg


Zest of 1 orange


2 tablespoons orange juice


2 cups all-purpose flour


2 cups chopped dried apple


3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional)


For the glaze:


1 tablespoon orange juice


2/3 cup powdered sugar


Heat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.


In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, brown sugar, almond extract, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt, cloves, allspice and nutmeg until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Stir in the orange zest and orange juice, then the flour. Stir in the apples and the almonds, if using.


Working in batches, scoop tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just pale golden brown on the bottoms. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a rack to cool completely. Allow the baking sheet to cool slightly between batches.


To make the glaze, whisk together the orange juice and powdered sugar. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over each cookie. Once the glaze sets, store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.


Nutrition information per cookie: 70 calories; 20 calories from fat (29 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 1 g protein; 40 mg sodium.


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This is the cookie to make when you’re looking to clean out the cupboards. We’ve packed them with all manner of treats — and oddities — from rolled oats, peanuts and chocolate chips to chopped prunes, crushed potato chips and even coffee grounds (trust us on that last one). The more unusual the combination, the better the results.


But don’t feel you have to stop there. Got any other crackers, chips, nuts or dried fruit handy? Toss them in and let these cookies truly earn their kitchen sink name.


SWEET-AND-SALTY KITCHEN SINK COOKIES


Start to finish: 30 minutes


Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature


1 cup packed brown sugar


1/2 cup granulated sugar


1 teaspoon baking soda


1 teaspoon baking powder


1 teaspoon kosher salt


1 egg


1 egg yolk


2 teaspoons vanilla extract


2 tablespoons previously brewed coffee grounds


2 cups all-purpose flour


3/4 cup rolled oats


3/4 cup chopped prunes


1 cup crushed wavy potato chips


1 cup salted peanuts


1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate


Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with kitchen parchment.


In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, both sugars, baking soda, baking powder and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and coffee grounds. Stir in the flour, then stir in the oats, prunes, potato chips, peanuts and chocolate.


Working in batches, scoop 1 tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between the cookies. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until light golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Allow the baking sheet to cool between batches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


Nutrition information per cookie: 120 calories; 60 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 2 g protein; 75 mg sodium.


**


Face it… The dark days of winter may bring the holidays, but they also bring a longing for warmer, sunnier weather. So we decided to give a tropical makeover to a classic cookie — the macaroon. The combination of dark rum, dried pineapple and either coconut or maraschino cherries should help get you into a more equatorial mood.


TROPICAL ALMOND MACAROONS


Start to finish: 40 minutes


Makes 60 cookies


Two 8-ounce cans almond paste


3/4 cup sugar


4 egg whites


1 tablespoon dark rum


1 cup finely diced dried pineapple


Maraschino cherries (patted dry and halved) or flake coconut, to garnish


Heat the oven to 325 F. Line 2 baking sheets with kitchen parchment.


In the bowl of a stand mixer, break up the almond paste into pieces. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the egg whites and beat again until smooth. Stir in the rum and pineapple.


Drop the dough by the teaspoonful onto the prepared baking sheets. Garnish each cookie with a well-dried cherry half or a piece of coconut. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and dry to the touch. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


Nutrition information per cookie: 50 calories; 20 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 1 g protein; 5 mg sodium.


**


For anyone who loves macaroons, these chewy, cranberry-speckled no-bake cookies should help you satisfy your coconut cravings.


Feel free to decorate these cookies however you like. We prefer to roll them in yet more shredded coconut (toasted is a nice touch), but you also could roll them in chopped pistachios, peanuts, hazelnuts, even pine nuts would be delicious. Or for a sweeter version, get colored decorating sugar from the baking supply shop and roll them in that.


NO-BAKE CRANBERRY COCONUT BITES


Start to finish: 1 hour (20 minutes active)


Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies


14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk


4 cups shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened


1/2 cup water


1/2 cup packed brown sugar


1 teaspoon cinnamon


1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


Pinch salt


1 cup chopped dried cranberries


1 cup toasted shredded coconut, finely chopped nuts or colored sugar


In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the sweetened condensed milk, 4 cups of shredded coconut, the water, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until it forms a thick paste, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the cranberries, then set aside off the heat and allow to cool completely.


Once the mixture has cooled, set out a bowl of toasted coconut, finely chopped nuts or colored sugar. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls, then roll each ball in the coating of your choice. The cookies should be stored in an airtight container between layers of kitchen parchment or waxed paper.


Nutrition information per cookie: 110 calories; 60 calories from fat (55 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 1 g protein; 15 mg sodium.


**


These tiny tarts — named for the small cup or goblet they resemble — could be filled with any chopped dried fruit, but we loved the idea of beautiful golden apricots spiked with honey and amaretto. But feel free to substitute an equal amount of another dried fruit. Golden raisins, dried figs, dried cherries, or even dried cranberries would all be delicious.


Though technically a tart, tassies are small enough to serve as a cookie. And the rich cream cheese-based pastry used for the crust may remind you of Jewish rugelach.


HONEYED APRICOT TASSIES


The only special equipment needed for this recipe is a mini muffin pan. And to make your holiday baking easier, both the filling and dough can be prepped ahead of time.


Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)


Makes 18 tassies


1 cup dried apricots, chopped


1/2 cup water


1/2 cup honey


2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur


4 ounces cream cheese, softened


6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1/2 teaspoon salt


In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the apricots, water and honey. Cook, stirring frequently, until thick and jammy, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the amaretto. Allow to cool completely. If desired, the filling can be prepared up to a week in advance, then covered and refrigerated.


While the apricots cook, make the pastry. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, butter, flour and salt. Pulse just until the dough comes together. Divide the dough in 2 pieces and pat each into a round about 1/2 inch thick. Cover each round tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerator for 30 minutes, or up to 2 days in advance.


When ready to make the tassies, heat the oven to 400 F. Lightly dust a counter and rolling pin with flour.


Working with one round of dough at a time, roll each until 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut 9 rounds of dough from each piece of dough. Fit each piece into a mini muffin cup. Depending on the number of cups in your mini muffin pan, you may need to work in batches.


Fill each cup with 1 tablespoon of the apricot filling. Cut miniature shapes out of the scraps of dough and top the filling in each cup as garnish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the dough is light golden brown. Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.


Nutrition information per cookie: 150 calories; 60 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 2 g protein; 75 mg sodium.


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