knockout christmas cookies

Okay friends...I'm going to level with you: these are by far the most addictive Christmas cookies I've ever had. They are a bit tedious to make so I haven't ventured to do so for a several years, but Strider's family Christmas reunion was cause enough for me to brush off the recipe. After watching them disappear in a flash, I knew they must be shared. They are delicious and pretty enough to always dazzle at parties. Recipe is courtesy of a friend's mom (thanks, Mrs. S!Without further ado, I give you...

Zebra Cookies or (chocolate-filled cream cheese rugelach crescents, to be fancy about it)
Each batch makes around 24 cookies.
And heads up, the dough needs to be refrigerated overnight so plan ahead at least 2-3 days if baking for an event.

- 1.5 sticks softened unsalted butter
- 8 oz softened cream cheese
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 12 oz bag semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
- 2-3 Tbsp water
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (regular size)

First, gather all your ingredients and make sure the butter and cream cheese are close to room temperature. Cream together the butter, sugar, and cream cheese. Add flour and mix until well combined but not overworked. 
Divide the batter into 2-3 sections and flatten into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight. 
(A double batch makes around 5 discs, as below.)
After talking someone in to helping you, roll the dough out on a floured surface, working one disc at a time, until around 1/8" thick. Using a round cookie cutter about 3.5"-4" across (or the rim of a plastic cup if you don't have a cutter), separate as many rounds as possible. Brush off any excess flour. 

While this is being done, the second person should fill each circle with slightly less than 1 Tbsp of the mini chips. Using a small dish of water, lightly wet one half of each circle, fold over, and press gently to close. (Hand modeling by and a massive thank you to Strider's mom for assisting!)

The trick here is to keep the dough cold until right before you need it, hence just working one disc at a time. Once the cream cheese and butter warm up, it becomes too sticky and absorbs too much of the flour on the table. It's hard to work with when very cold, but that is better than the alternative.
Once each pan is filled with crescents, bake at 350F for 10 minutes. The tops should feel slightly set but not actually be allowed to brown. Once they start browning, the dough gets hard very quickly. They may look slightly undercooked, but they are better that way than when overcooked. (Plus, no eggs = no undercooking concerns.)

Once cooled, mix the powdered sugar and water into a semi-thick glaze. The easiest way to coat each cookie is to just hold it upside-down and dunk the top into the bowl of glaze. Then set each cookie right-side up on your cooking rack with a pan underneath to catch glaze drippings (of which there will be lots!).
Once the glaze has hardened (usually an hour or two), melt the 2 cups of chocolate chips at 30 sec intervals in the microwave. Using a pastry bag and round tip (I prefer a Wilton #5) or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off, pipe a zig-zag of chocolate on each cookie top. Let them cool long enough for the squiggles to harden before storing.
**NOTE: though good on day one, these cookies are best after resting overnight or longer**

Beautiful if I do say so myself. And part of their magic is that the chips inside don't melt completely. Every time I make them people marvel at how they can still see the tiny chips. I've tried lots of varieties (Nutella-filled among them) but always seem to return to the original. Unfortunately, ours are already long gone and now the photos are making me hungry all over again.

Happy baking!!


home holiday happenings

Hi friends! Between work and cooking, I've been sewing and reading furiously of late. Plus, lots and lots of Christmas decorating and movie-watching. I absolutely love how festive and fun home feels this time of year. (Meanwhile, Strider is being a very good sport!) In lieu of having you over for cocoa, I thought I'd just share some snapshots of our seasonal fun-tivities!
Strider is much more trustworthy with a saw!
Our first-ever cut-it-yourself tree!
Bunting for living room wall - made with twine, scrapbook paper,
index cards, and a little acrylic-paint-time for the letters.
Remember that DIY crate entertainment center...now doubling as a nativity "stable".
No fireplace but still "hung with care" on our bookcase!
Fun story: My family has a longstanding tradition of a mistletoad instead of mistletoe.
Though they don't make 
my mom's version anymore (circa 1988), I managed to snag
this cutie at Hallmark then deck him out with a 
modified wine bottle santa suit
from the dollar store. Silly Christmas traditions for the win!
Oliver the Christmas Owl - our newest (and cutest) addition!
Candy cane pillowcases (because bedroom holiday decorations are scarce)
and a small Santa pillow cover just for fun. Have I mentioned that
I love making pillowcases?! So quick and fun!
Our little dining table all decked out! Tablecloth - Salvation Army $3.
Centerpiece vase - Walmart $3. Napkins - Pier1 via wedding gift card $0.
It may not be Lenox or Spode but I love it's antique charm!
Small glasses were found at Habitat Restore in NC, $3 for 6;
goblets were found at Salvation Army in PA, $2 for 4.
AND they totally match! We are so fancy!

Now back to baking and singing carols!

So, what's your favorite/silliest family holiday tradition? I'd love to know!