Christmas time.

He's got the spirit, do you?
I still don't believe that Christmas is only two days away. I'm usually on top of everything (gifts, cards, food) by mid-December. This isn't because I'm a planner (I'm famous for my procrastination), it's because I love all things Christmas. The music, the clothing, the decorations, and the overall spirit of giving (all while trying to avoid the mall...crazies). If you're looking for last minute gifts (especially if you're on the cheap, like us, "it's a Tiny Tim Christmas!"), and you're not interested in fighting for that last snuggie for two. I have a couple of suggestions that I tried to pass as gifts (warning, when I told a co-worker of said gifts, her response was "how cheap of you!" proceed with caution).
Fact: No one wants this.
Chocolate & Peppermint Bark Cookies adapted from Cookin' canuck who adapted it from Bon Appetit magizine

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 finely chopped peppermint candy canes (about 3 ounces)
2 oz. high-quality white chocolate

3 candy canes = about 1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with parchment, letting it hang over the sides of the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Continue to beat until the mixture is light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla extract and egg yolk. Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually beat in the flour mixture, until just combined. Do not overmix.

Scatter the dough over the bottom of the prepared pan and gently press it, with slightly moistened fingers (this is important, dough sticks to dry hands), to form a flat layer. Prick all over with a fork.

Bake the cookie layer until golden brown and slightly puffed, and edges are beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, 25-30 minutes. Place on a cookie rack and immediately sprinkle chopped bittersweet or semisweet (or a combination of the two) over the cookie layer. Let the chocolate sit for about 3 minutes. Using an offset spatula (I don't have one of these, I found that the back of a large spoon works quite well), spread the chocolate into an even layer over the surface of the cookies. Immediately sprinkle crushed candy canes, over the chocolate layer.

Place chopped white chocolate in a medium metal bowl (I used a glass bowl, worked just as well) set over a simmering pot of water. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Using a fork, drizzle the white chocolate over the peppermint candies. Chill for approximately 30 minutes.

Gripping the overhanging parchment paper, lift the cookies out of the pan and place on a work surface. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the cookies into irregular pieces. This can be stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator for one week.
Highly addictive, don't say I didn't warn you.
Italian-Herb Party Mix
Adapted from Noble Pig, who adapted from Cuisine at Home

For the party mix-
2 cups each: Chex Corn, Chex Rice and Chex Wheat cereal squares
2 cups mini pretzels*
1 cup peanuts

For the Butter-Spice Mixture-
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon each dried oregano, thyme, parsley
1/2 teaspoon each: red pepper flakes, salt, garlic powder and onion powder

For the Cheese-Herb Mixture-
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 250o F.  Mix cereal, pretzels and nuts for the party mix in a large bowl; set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add oil, vinegar, Worcestershire, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes, garlic salt, garlic powder and onion powder; stir to combine.

Off heat pour butter-spice mixture over party mix and keep tossing until it is fully coated.

Transfer party mix to a baking sheet.  Bake mix 1-1-1/4 hours (I did mine for 1 hour only), stirring every 15 minutes.

Combine Parmesan, basil and rosemary in a bowl, sprinkle over party mix and toss together while mix is still warm.  Cool mix on a baking sheet and store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

*For the pretzels you can use any shape, just make sure they are small, I went with the sticks.
**The recipe suggested using slivered almonds, I used peanuts because I love peanuts in party mixes, but any nuts will do.

Tie a little bow around this, and you have yourself a nice (albeit cheap) gift that everyone will enjoy. 

Happy holidays everyone!

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