(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking
at Creators Syndicate
If you love the socializing and stories that serve as side dishes to a holiday cookie exchange, but don't have the time to whip up the homemade delicacies yourself, you don't have to sit cookie-less on the sidelines.
cookies, brownies and bars make the perfect palettes for quick, simple and inexpensive touches that should have recipients clamoring for the "recipes." They are unique, flavorful gifts that won't be found in any bakery, like vanilla wafers that have been frosted with vanilla caramel and crowned with a layer of orange marmalade; peanut butter sandwich cookies that have been stuffed with a chunky peanut butter-espresso filling before being half dipped in a melted chocolate-coconut mixture and lemon bars that get a rum-cream cheese icing and then a topping of lemon zest and a dusting of allspice.
Food preparation can be easy, nutritious (try to buy sugar-free or low-fat versions of cookies, brownies and bars when available and the fillings and toppings suggested are fruit-filled and healthful), inexpensive, fun - and fast - as these split-second sensations prove. They take just
10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare
. The treats are delicious proof that everyone has time for tasty home "cooking" and, more importantly, the healthy family time in the kitchen that goes along with it! Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since
there are no right or wrong amounts.
These are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations, so whatever you - or your kidlet helpers - choose to use can't help but draw "wows" at holiday gatherings.
Crush candy canes and gently stir into vanilla or chocolate frosting. Use as sandwich filling between dark and white chocolate chip cookies. Add a dollop of the peppermint frosting on top.
Bow-Tied Candy Care Packages
Take long, very thin licorice string pieces and bow-tie small stacks of oatmeal raisin cookies. As the "to and from" gift tag, attach small denomination gift cards, like to a coffeehouse chain or healthful fast food location, such as a flame-broiled chicken restaurant.
Crystal Clear Ginger Gifts
Spread melted chocolate that's been mixed with cinnamon and dried cranberries in between gingerbread cookies. Top with a dollop of chocolate frosting that's got a small piece of crystallized ginger showing atop its middle.
Top the flat usually bottom parts of vanilla wafers (which will now be the tops) with vanilla frosting into which you’ve stirred melted caramel. Crown with a layer of orange marmalade.
Mix both espresso and hot chocolate powders with chunky peanut butter and use as a filling between peanut butter cookies. Dip half of sandwich cookies in melted chocolate that's meant for coating and that's been mixed with shredded sweetened coconut and let set.
BROWNIES & BARS
Good Luck Edible Gift Card
Buy a tray of uncut fudge brownies, cake decorating frostings and a decorating tip. Decorate the rectangular tray to look like a colorful $100 gift card for "good cheer, good luck and good times for 2011.".
Terrific Toffee Topping
Crush toffee-almond candies and candy canes and mix. Use as a topping over butterscotch brownies. Warm slightly before serving.
Brownie Bites with a Mouthful of Flavor
Pulverize malted milk balls and pretzels and mix. Roll brownie bites in the mixture to coat as much as possible. Press both a golden raisin and a dark raisin into the top of each brownie bite.
Tipsy Lemon Zest Bars
Mix rum and brown sugar into cream cheese and use as a frosting for lemon bars. Top with lemon zest and a dusting of allspice.
Cheery Cheesecake Brandy Blondies
"Frost" blondies with the filling of a strawberry cheesecake. Top with crumbles of the cheesecake crust, multicolored sprinkles and a drizzling of brandy.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
For a homemade touch, add your favorite bottled pasta sauce to an already-sauced takeout pasta dish and heat it for about 5 minutes on stovetop or in microwave, stirring frequently. Then, instead of it just tasting like the cookie-cutter version that every family in the neighborhood is eating, it will have its own distinct flavor that’s better than either the takeout version or the bottled version alone. This stands out even more when the bottled version has some special features, like added wine, a variety of chunky vegetables or a medley of cheeses.
is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling
The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and
Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission Granted for use on Dr.Laura.com.