For many years in Peterborough, Ontario, my close friends and family would get together for the annual Cherney Chicks Bake Exchange. It started with an idea from the group of us that worked at Cherney Properties. Each person attending would make a favourite recipe of cookie or squares to share with the group. The folks attending would leave with a variety of holiday baking to enjoy.

The evening had each of us vying for the title of Most Innovative Containers. I swear everyone put just as much effort into what the other participants would take their pastries home in as the baking itself.  My neighbour, hair stylist and friend Jane Guthrie was hard to beat in this area. Her creative style is over the top. As a side note, it was hard to be her neighbour in the gardening realm! I finally had to concede that I could not keep up. Ask me about our spring compost parties!

Each year, attendees would create a new recipe for the group to enjoy, which would be included in the coveted annual recipe book. The bakers would submit their recipe so the rest could make it the following year.

To this day some of our family favourites come from the recipe books.  I would like to share with you a couple of these fantastic recipes.

Kristi Dick, my partner in crime in this venture and BFF, is the best baker I know. There is nothing that comes out of her kitchen that I would not eat!  These bars are nothing short of yummy!

Chewy Butterscotch Cashew Bars

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour, or whole wheat flour

½ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup butter, softened

Topping:

4 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup corn syrup

¼ cup butter, melted

1 package (300g) butterscotch chips

1 1/3 cups halved cashews

  1. Crust: Preheat over to 325F.  Grease a 9 x 13 cake pan.  Combine all ingredients for crust, mixing until crumbly.  Press firmly into prepared pan.  Bake in centre of oven for 15 – 18 minutes, or until lightly golden.
  2. Topping: Beat eggs, sugar, corn syrup and melted butter until well blended. Stir in butterscotch chips and cashews.  Pour evenly over crust.  Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until set and golden.  Cool completely in pan on rack then cut into bars.

Diane Clark, was a neighour and friend. I have not tasted a shortbread cookie that I like better than Diane’s. It may be that it has chocolate chips and anyone that knows me, knows chocolate chip cookies are my favourite dessert.

Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

2 cups butter, softened

1 cup icing sugar

2 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour

1 cup cornstarch

1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped red candied cherries

  1. Preheat oven to 300F
  2. Beat butter on medium speed of mixer until light. Gradually add icing sugar and vanilla, beat until creamy.
  3. Gradually add flour and cornstarch, beating until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips and cherries.
  4. Drop by spoonful onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake in centre of oven for 25 – 30 minutes or just until set and starting to brown around the edges.

Christmas baking has been a longstanding tradition in my family. I remember coming home from school after my Mom, Aunt and Nana had been baking to find the counters filled with butter tarts (with raisins!!), date squares, shortbreads, jam filled thimble cookies and these cookies that have become a staple with now my kids.

Nana’s Yum Yums

1 tin of Eagle Brand Condensed Milk

1 pkg (300g) mini chocolate chips (I prefer dark)

1 1/3 cups crushed graham crackers

1 pkg of unsweetened desiccated coconut

  1. Mix condensed milk, chocolate chips and crushed graham crackers together.
  2. Using a teaspoon, create balls and roll in coconut to cover.
  3. Place on parchment paper lined baking tray and refrigerate until firm.
  4. Store in plastic container in the refrigerator.
  5. Enjoy!

The best memory I have of these cookies was my Nana making me a whole batch, for my birthday which falls just before Christmas, to take on the bus to school and share with my friends. Was I ever popular that day!

As this holiday season approaches, bring out some of the old traditions. This year things will be slower as the parties will not be happening. Use this time to rekindle the memories of your past with your kids and grandkids. I can hardly wait for my granddaughter to be ready to bake with me!

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