Wow, mango IS better than apricot!

Last year I tried a new recipe from a Betty Crocker Christmas Cookies book from 2010 (you know, the little ones they sell right up by the cash registers at grocery stores. I’m a sucker for those). The Apricot-Chai Almond Bark recipe had a lot of potential, but it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. The dried apricots made it rather bitter, and the almond topping ended up all over the other cookies and candies. Sadly, it was the only thing left when I took the cookie tray home from work.

This year I changed it up a bit and it turned out pretty good. In fact, I’m eating the little reject pieces for breakfast as I write this. Since the annual hunt for the hand-written gingerbread cookie recipe* every December is such a pain in the ass–I’m setting down this new recipe so I don’t forget it.

If you’d rather try the original recipe, here’s the link to it on the Betty Crocker site: Apricot-Chai Almond Bark

And here’s my take on it:

Mango-Chai Almond Bark

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
24 oz vanilla-flavored candy coating (almond bark), chopped
1/4 cup mango nectar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped dried mangos

  1. Sprinkle almonds in ungreased heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until nuts begin to brown, then stirring constantly until nuts are light brown. Cool 10 minutes. In food processor, process almonds and coconut until finely chopped; set aside.
  2. Line 15x10x1-inch pan with waxed paper. In medium microwavable bowl, microwave 12 oz of the candy coating on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted. Quickly stir in the almond and coconut mixture. Spread evenly in pan. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until set.
  3. In small bowl, mix mango nectar, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon peel; set aside.
  4. In medium microwavable bowl, microwave remaining 12 oz candy coating on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted. Quickly stir in mango nectar mixture and dried mangos.
  5. Pour and spread over chilled bark. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Cut diagonally into one-inch diamond-shaped pieces.

Makes approximately 48 servings

Variation: I changed up the measurement for the almonds from the original recipe because I had a lot of leftover unsweetened coconut from a birthday cake last month. I’m still not sure the inclusion of the coconut added anything or not (toasting it didn’t make much of a difference either), so next year I may change it back to 3/4 cup of almonds and leave the coconut out completely.

I also doubled this recipe for my cookies trays. Yes, it’s really that good now.
 
 
*Hopefully I’ll finally convert the measurements for the gingerbread cookies and get it added to my working cookbook so every time I want to make awesome gingerbread cookies I don’t have to hunt down that tiny slip of paper with the recipe my old pastry chef scribbled down for me.

It’s an Orgy of Baking

All the Sugar Cookies
(I can’t decide if ‘orgy’ is supposed to be capitalized or not. It looks kinda funny that way…maybe it’s just that I don’t use that word often enough.)

It’s that time of year again.

The table is cleared and the kitchen is clean.

Recipes are brought out, picked through, and a lucky few chosen.

Around $150 in baking supplies and gift containers are stacked up against a wall.

My updated Kitchen playlist is scaring the cats and probably also disturbing the neighbors.

And for once, I was actually able to schedule four days in a row off from work so I can do all my Christmas and holiday baking early this year. I’m so excited about this that I’m sitting at my cleared table, in my nice clean kitchen, writing all about it before the baking actually begins.

Normally, I’m baking on my weekends and after work, frantically picking through my list of cookies and candies to see which can be quickly doubled or completely dropped from the list because I’m already out of time. It’s always so stressful that I not only don’t get to enjoy the baking part–but I don’t have time to enjoy delivering the treats either. Steve may argue that the point of all this is to thank people and businesses, but to me it’s really all about feeding people and making them happy, even if it’s just a momentary happiness.

This year I plan on enjoying myself.

The tentative list for baking is:

  1. Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Balls
  2. Divinity
  3. Sugar Cookies
  4. Gingerbread cookies
  5. Raspberry Almond Cookies
  6. Mango Chai Almond Bark
  7. Chocolate Spritz Cookies
  8. Cherry Pecan Cookies
  9. Sugar & Spice Coffee Slices
  10. Raspberry Fudge Brownies
  11. Citrus Glazed Lemon Spritz Cookies

It’s tentative because I padded it just enough that I can remove one or two items if things get behind, and they’re items that don’t require any special ingredients to purchase either.

The first two I make every year because it’s something my grandmother used to do at Christmas until I took over for her. I’ve modified the coconut ball recipe, but the divinity is exactly the same. One of my coworker’s calls it “Shiny Ferret Sugar Crack” because of how wired she gets when I bring divinity to work. The next three cookies are things that have become a holiday tradition for Steve and I (two of them are recipes from the resort where I did my externship). Hopefully the Mango Chai Bark will be an improvement over the nasty Apricot Chai Almond Bark from last year. It had a lot of potential, but crashed and burned once I added the apricots. Everything below that is new. We’ll see which ones are good enough to keep on the list for next year.

Now it’s time to stop writing and start baking.  Woo hoo!

Why I no longer enjoy the holiday season

It started with the announcement that everyone would have to work Christmas day (my department got out of that one at the last minute). And then it spiraled into everyone will be required to work the day after Christmas, even if Sunday is your day off (and those are the LUCKY people who only have put in three hours. If you’re normally scheduled to work that day–you get to work your normal shift as well as three additional hours). Afterwards, there is a set amount of overtime that must be worked for each of the following two weeks.

With having to get Christmas cards mailed, cookies baked and delivered, and gifts purchased, wrapped, and delivered, and then follow it up with two weeks of mandatory overtime – who has time to enjoy the holidays?

Now before you you begin to feel too sorry for me, there is also a positive side to this, and it’s the main reason why I put up with this same shit year after year.

Our company provides decent incentives for all extra work we put in over the next two weeks. The free food’s not bad. The raffles for all kinds of cool and expensive toys is pretty cool (I won an iPod Touch a few years ago). But what really seals the deal is the money. With all the different types of pay that come into play during this time period, I usually make enough to make the stress, screaming customers, and loss of sleep and relationship time worth the effort. However, it is difficult to make it through the full two weeks without cutting back to the bare minimum of overtime by the end. I just keep reminding myself that we can start the year ahead if I can make it all the way through while grabbing as many hours as they’ll let me have.

It all ends on January 8th. I’ve taken a vacation day for that Saturday, and my husband and family are coming together to celebrate a belated Christmas (I only wish my sister and her kids could be there as well). So instead of looking forward to a December overflowing with screeching over-entitled assholes – I look forward to the end of overtime and the beginning of a new year.

That’s why there may not be much from me over the next few weeks. Unless I really, really feel the need to make fun of someone.

Which is quite possible – this is when support calls get interesting.