Happy Endings

Decorating the home for the holidays is a special event in my home. Everything from putting up lights outside to preparing the mantle for stockings is accompanied by warm thoughts of the special moments that the holidays bring. And nothing brings as much fanfare as decorating the Christmas tree. Even Java, our cat, finds a perch nearby and gives instructions on where to place certain ornaments and works hard to resist the temptation to "help".

But there's something else that makes the event so memorable. Once the various boxes containing all the ornaments are assembled and ready to go, I put on my most festive Christmas music and fill mugs with hot spiced apple cider and put out a plate of cookies to nibble on while we work. Sometimes the cookies are oatmeal raisin or even festive spritz cookies, but the traditional favorites are gingersnaps -- an always-present treat at my grandma's home while I was growing up and a perfect accompaniment to hot cider.

While I highly recommend trying this combination, I think it's most important to find ways to make your own customs into great holiday memories. Maybe your traditions will involve hot cocoa after an afternoon of ice skating or roasting chestnuts by the fireplace. Whatever they are, hold onto them and celebrate the many treasured traditions and memories the holidays bring to us.

As always, I encourage you to share your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at . Enjoy!

Crockpot Spiced Cider

I love this cider for two reasons: first, it's delicious and second, it's incredibly easy. Just pop the ingredients into the crockpot and enjoy in a couple of hours.
  • 2 quarts bottled apple cider or juice -- choose the clear stuff, nothing cloudy
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • Cheesecloth
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 4 cinnamon sticks -- broken into halves
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 tangerines

Combine the apple cider or juice with the brown sugar in the crockpot. Place the allspice berries and cinnamon sticks in the cheesecloth and tie it securely shut and add to the crockpot. Stick the cloves into the tangerines and cut the tangerines in half and add to the crockpot. Cover the crockpot and heat on HIGH for 2-3 hours. Remove the cheesecloth and tangerines and keep the mixture warm on the LOW setting.

  • Yields: 10 servings
  • Preparation Time: about 3 hours

Gingersnaps

Gingersnaps pair beautifully with spiced cider since many of the spices used in the cider are also present in the cookies. Give yourself a special treat by topping your cider with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg. You'll think you're in a Norman Rockwell painting!
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. molasses
  • 3 T. milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • Extra sugar for sprinkling

Combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, butter, molasses, milk, egg, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a large bowl. Beat well to combine. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (overnight works very well).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle generously with extra sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

  • Yields: 4 dozen cookies
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus chilling time

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