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From the food editor: Three things you can do brighten your Christmas food festivities

We have a winner: Chocolate-Pretzel Cookies.

Stephanie Hayes | Times

We have a winner: Chocolate-Pretzel Cookies.

Every year, we produce a special Christmas issue of Taste. It's usually on a weekend, to make sure you have enough time before Christmas to put our holiday food tips to good use. The calendar worked in our favor this year, with our normal Wednesday release day proving suitable to prepare for Sunday. Throughout this issue, we have ideas for decorating your dishes in a festive way, recipes for a classic holiday cookie and more. And here are three small things you can do to brighten your Christmas food festivities.

Go shopping now: Try to make it to the store before the weekend. I will never forget the year I stopped into Publix on Christmas Eve and found exactly zero carts parked up at the front of the store. It felt like the grocery apocalypse. Thursday or Friday is an ideal time to stock up on everything you need for Sunday's dinner — especially any frozen meats that will need time to defrost.

Make a breakfast casserole on Christmas Eve: Your Christmas morning likely revolves around two things: presents and breakfast. Make the first meal of a festive day a hearty one that can sustain you through hours of gaiety. Prepare a breakfast casserole the day before, then pop it in the oven on Christmas Day. Try this Biscuit and Sausage Casserole: Add 6 cups biscuits, torn into ½-inch pieces, to a large container, then add 2 pounds cooked sausage; 9 large eggs whisked with ¾ teaspoon mustard, 1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese and 3 cups milk; and salt and pepper. Place in fridge overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour mixture into a buttered 9- by 13-inch baking dish and bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 30 minutes until eggs are set. For more recipes, go to

Bring back the punch bowl: Okay, it doesn't have to be an actual bowl. Dig out some sort of large vessel and fill it with a holiday libation you and your loved ones can sip on all day. All will be merry and bright, guaranteed. Try this Christmas Sangria: Combine 2 bottles pinot grigio, 1 liter chilled club soda, ¾ cup sparkling apple cider, ¼ cup sugar, 1 cup halved cranberries and 1 chopped Granny Smith apple. Stir together until sugar is dissolved. Serve chilled or over ice. More recipes at

Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17 .

We recently held a cookie contest in the Times Features department that produced a new recipe I will be adding to my Christmas cookie rotation. It was a fierce fight, with simple butter cookies competing against coffee toffee nut bars and bittersweet chocolate cookies from the cookbook for New York City's Babbo restaurant. After much internal struggle, an impartial judge declared Chocolate-Pretzel Cookies the winner, the recipe for which we've included below.


Chocolate-Pretzel Cookies


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 3 cups pretzel sticks, slightly crushed, divided


  1. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside. In electric mixer, beat butter and sugars at medium speed until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture.
  2. Add chocolate chips. Add 2 cups of the slightly crushed pretzels. Cover dough and refrigerate at least one hour, up to overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Scoop dough into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter and place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.
  4. Bake for about 7 minutes, then sprinkle each cookie with more of the crushed pretzels. Bake for an additional 3 to 7 minutes, depending on how done you like them.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes 4 dozen.
Source: Jim Webster, Tampa Bay Times

From the food editor: Three things you can do brighten your Christmas food festivities 12/19/16 [Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2016 4:10pm]
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