Holidays

Oreo Balls

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For a holiday party tonight, I needed a quick, festive finger food to bring. I recalled seeing these Oreo “truffles” somewhere, did a quick online search, and found the recipe.

They require just three ingredients and come together in about 15 minutes of hands-on time with a food processor. They made a great addition to a communal snack table.

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Oreo Balls
From Kraft

Makes 2 dozen

18 Oreo cookies
4 oz. cream cheese
4-6 oz. semisweet chocolate

In a food processor, process Oreos into crumbs. Add cream cheese and process until smooth. Form into one-inch balls (I used a slightly smaller cookie scoop) and freeze for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate. Working quickly,  roll the balls in chocolate and place on a cookie sheet lined wIth waxed paper. (If decorating with sprinkles, sugars or cookie crumbs, add quickly before the chocolate sets.) Refrigerate for at least one hour or until ready to serve. 

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Frosted Sugar Cookies

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We’re a week out from Christmas, and everybody is in the spirit! After a lot of general interest in the Christmas tree, lights, and shiny decorations, Gatsby has settled back into his routine — although he loves taking naps under the Christmas tree.

Frosted sugar cookies are one of my two favorite Christmas treats (and really, holidays in general — there’s never a bad time to make them). Not fancy, but always a hit.

A few random musings about sugar cookies:

1. Santa prefers his cookie with a Diet Pepsi, and a carrot for Rudolph. He’s had enough milk, thankyouverymuch. Time for a late-night caffeine jolt.

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2. Don’t waste your time with royal icing. If you don’t care about eating the end product, just impressing people with fancy, pristine works of art, knock yourself out… but the reason these cookies are so popular is that the frosting actually tastes good.

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3. I make the frosting by feel, not precise measurements. Have plenty of powdered sugar and some extra milk on hand, and adjust accordingly.

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4. They freeze well. In fact, you might even prefer them that way.

A few years back, my brother asked me to bring sugar cookies home for Christmas. He picked me up at the airport, and on the drive home started munching on the cookies. When I asked how they were, he said, “They’re okay, but they’re not crunchy. Mom’s are crunchy.” He was clearly disappointed. He had no idea he’d been eating frozen cookies all these years, and the texture changed at room temperature.

5. The best-tasting cookie is either a star or a Christmas tree shape, decorated with rainbow nonpareils. End of discussion.

Frosted Sugar Cookies

Cookies from Betty Crocker; frosting my own

Makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on size

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, if desired
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk (or more)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch salt
2 cups powdered sugar (or more)

Food coloring, decorating sugars and sprinkles, as desired

In large bowl, mix powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and egg until well blended. Stir in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 375°F. Divide dough in half. On lightly floured surface, roll each half of dough 1/4-inch thick. Cut into assorted shapes with cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 7-8 minutes or until light brown. Let cool 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. (Allow pans to cool between batches.)

In a medium bowl, cream the butter. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth and spreadable, adding more milk or powdered sugar to reach desired consistency. If desired, tint with food color. Frost and decorate.

Slow Cooker Spinach Artichoke Dip

Does anyone else have happy hours and parties in their office? Our division tries to do so every month or so (some would go so far as to say we have a “reputation” for happy hours), and I love that. As much time as we spend at work, we should at least have a little fun, right?

Baked goods always go over well, but I wanted to mix it up. The problem: if your office is anything like mine, bringing something homemade that isn’t a dessert can be difficult. My office has refrigerators and microwaves, but that’s about it. I crowdsourced suggestions through my Facebook friends, and someone sent a link to 25 Super Bowl party foods made in a slow cooker.

Genius! I got several great ideas, including classic spinach artichoke dip. I was admittedly skeptical that it could work in a slow cooker, but it worked beautifully.

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I especially loved how quickly and easily this came together. The night before, I prepped the vegetables and placed them in plastic container. I bought 2 cups of pre-shredded mozzarella and an individual pint of milk. I put all the ingredients in a grocery bag and stored it in the refrigerator.

At the office the next morning, I removed the cream cheese and put the rest of the ingredients in the office fridge until lunch, when I put all the ingredients in my slow cooker. By 3:30 it smelled divine and we were ready to dive in.

I didn’t have any slow cooker liners, but they’ make clean-up a snap.

Slow Cooker Spinach Artichoke Dip

Adapted slightly from Taste and Tell

Serves 12-20

18-oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 14-oz cans artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup (or more) milk

Place all ingredients in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on high for 2 hours, until cheeses are melted. Stir to combine all ingredients. If the dip is too thick, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, pita chips or vegetables.