Sugar and Spice …

The holidays are not a good time to go on a diet. Not when around every corner and on every hostess plate are the sweets of the season. Sweets and goodies are part and parcel of the traditions that go into making the holidays something so many look forward to for months.

So what if the truly traditional treats -- cut-out cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels and fruitcake -- are feeling a little too predictable? Well, then it's time to bake outside the box! This month, a selection of truly festive sweets is here to help without making your hostess plate look like everyone else's. Enjoy and Seasoned Greetings!

Orange Marmalade Cookies

For the Cookies:
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. shortening
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 1/2 c. sweet orange marmalade
  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Cooking spray
For the Frosting:
  • 3 c. confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1/4 c. sweet orange marmalade
  • Orange juice, to thin frosting if necessary

Combine granulated sugar, shortening and eggs in large mixing bowl. Beat until well blended. Add sour cream and marmalade; mix well.

Combine all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to marmalade mixture and mix well. Chill dough in refrigerator for 1/2 hours or until cool.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 and coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.

Prepare frosting: Beat all frosting ingredients together in medium mixing bowl, adding orange juice only as needed to make frosting spreadable. Set aside.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned on edges. Cool on baking sheet 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Frost cooled cookies.

  • Yields: 60 cookies
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Cranberry-Walnut White Fudge

  • 1 (12-ounce) pkg. white vanilla chips
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 (3-ounce) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. vanilla frosting
  • 3/4 c. chopped walnuts
  • 2/3 c. sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp. grated orange peel

Line a 9-inch square pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Melt chips in small saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.

In medium bowl, combine powdered sugar, cream cheese and frosting; blend well. Stir melted chips, walnuts, cranberries and orange peel. Spread in sprayed foil-lined pan. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until firm.

Remove fudge from pan by lifting foil; remove foil from fudge. Cut into squares serve fudge at room temperature.

  • Yields: 36 squares
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Holiday Ice Cream Pie

  • 1 c. whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 quart (4 cups) Vanilla Ice cream, softened
  • 1 (6-ounce) chocolate flavor crumb crust
  • 1 c. frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1/2 c. fudge ice cream topping

In large bowl, stir cranberry sauce until softened. Add ice cream; fold until sauce is swirled throughout. Spoon mixture into crumb crust. Cover; freeze at least 1 hour or until film. To serve, cut into wedges. Place on dessert plates. Garnish each serving with whipped topping and ice cream topping.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Gingered Strawberry Tart

  • 24 gingersnap cookies (about 1 cup)
  • 2 T. plus 1/3 c. sugar, divided
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger, optional
  • 3 c. chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 c. water
For the Topping:
  • 2 c. sliced fresh strawberries
  • 5 T. seedless strawberry jam

In a food processor, combine the gingersnaps, 2 tablespoons sugar and butter. Cover and process until blended. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom; Set aside.

In a large saucepan, Combine the cornstarch, ginger if desired and remaining sugar. Stir in the chopped strawberries and water. Bring to a boil; Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat; Simmer, uncovered, for 4-6 minutes or until thickened. Cool for 30 minutes. Pour into crust. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or until set. Arrange sliced berries over filling. In a Small microwave-safe bowl, heat jam on high for 15-20 seconds or until pourable; brush over berries.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes