Make us your home page

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 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]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 23


    The Art of the Brick: An elaborate display of more than 100 pieces of Lego artwork including the life sized sculpture of a man ripping open his chest, a 20-foot-long T. rex skeleton, a giant skull and replicas of famous works including Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night and Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona …

    Nathan Sawaya with a sculpture from his The Art of the Brick exhibition coming to Tampa June 23- Sept. 4. It will be open for free Wednesdays through Sundays,  from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 802 E Whiting Street, Tampa. No tickets are required.[Courtesy  of the Art of the Brick]
  2. I give you a fish, you give me back my man


    The B-52s are a band with such a distinct visual look that you could tell it was them with just a glimpse of a picture. But was it always beehives and bright clothes for the hipsters from Athens? You can find the different looks of the B-52s in their video for the irresistible Give Me Back My Man.

  3. Joss Whedon's ex-wife accuses him of cheating, being 'hypocrite preaching feminist ideals'


    Joss Whedon made his name directing cult television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and big-budget action movies, which often featured women in empowering roles. Many applauded him for being a champion of women, a feminist in an industry accused of misogyny and sexism.

    Joss Whedon at the screening of "Much Ado About Nothing" in 2014. Whedon's ex-wife Kai Cole alleged in an essay published by The Wrap on Sunday that Whedon had multiple affairs during their 16-year marriage. (Associated Press)
  4. For James Blunt, life is still 'Beautiful,' especially on tour with Ed Sheeran

    Music & Concerts

    Here's how much You're Beautiful still weighs on James Blunt: He specifically references his biggest hit twice on his new album, The Afterlove.

    ISCHGL, AUSTRIA - NOVEMBER 29:  James Blunt performs live on stage during the ‘Top Of The Mountain Concert’ on November 29, 2014 in Ischgl, Austria.  (Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)
  5. Wine of the week: Pull 2012 Merlot Paso Robles

    Bars & Spirits

    It's still too hot out to even think about big heavy red wines, but you can take a break from chilled whites with a lighter red varietal. One fine choice would be Pull 2012 Merlot from Broken Earth Winery, in Paso Robles, Calif.