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3 classic holiday recipes

Celebrate the season with chocolate nut fruitcake, wassail, and spicy gingerbread men.

Spicy gingerbread men

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses [From our kitchen: Unsulphured molasses has a more pronounced sugarcane flavor, as no sulphur is used during processing.]
1 large egg yolk

1. Mix together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in molasses and yolk. With mixer on low speed, beat flour mixture into molasses mixture until just combined. Turn out dough onto a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap, wrap tightly, and chill at least 1 to 2 hours and up to 3 days.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F and put racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies using a 3-inch gingerbread-man cookie cutter or another favorite cutter. Space cookies 2 inches apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets.

3. Bake in batches in upper and lower thirds of oven until tops of cookies are firm to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer cookies immediately to wire racks to cool completely. If you like, frost or decorate once cooled. Makes 30 3-inch cookies. 

Number of Servings: 30

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 88 cal., 3.3 g Fat, total (2 g sat. fat), 14 mg chol., 13.9 g carb., 93 mg sodium, 0.3 g fiber, 1 g pro.

Chocolate nut fruitcake

1 cup candied red cherries, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment or waxed paper; set aside. In bowl combine cherries, apricots, raisins, and chocolate; set aside.

2. In large mixing bowl beat butter and both sugars with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Beat in orange juice and almond extract. Add flour, baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Beat until just combined. Stir in fruit mixture, walnuts, and pecans. Spoon into prepared pan. Sprinkle with almonds.

3. Bake for 1-1/2 hours, or until wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack. Wrap and store 8 hours or overnight before serving. Makes 16 servings.

Nutritional information: 311 cal., 16 g Fat, total (5 g sat. fat,  5 g Monounsaturated fat,  5 g Polyunsaturated fat), 51 mg chol., 41 g carb., 78 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 21 g sugar, 5 g pro.

Holiday wassail

6 inches stick cinnamon, broken
12 whole cloves
8 cups water
1/2 12-ounce can frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate (3/4 cup)
1/2 12-ounce can frozen raspberry juice blend concentrate (3/4 cup)
1 6-ounce can frozen apple juice concentrate (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 cup brandy or rum or 6 tea bags (optional)
Orange slices (optional)

1. For spice bag, cut a double thickness of 100 percent cotton cheesecloth into a 6-inch square. Place cinnamon and cloves in center of cheesecloth square. Bring up corners of cheesecloth and tie with a clean string.

2. In a 3-1/2-, 4-, or 5-quart crockery cooker combine water, cranberry juice cocktail concentrate, raspberry juice blend concentrate, apple juice concentrate, sugar, and lemon juice. Add the spice bag to juice mixture.

3. Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Remove the spice bag and discard. If desired, about 5 minutes before serving, add brandy or rum or the tea bags to the crockery cooker. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Discard the tea bags, if using.

4. To serve, ladle beverage into cups. If desired, float an orange slice atop each serving. Makes 14 (6-ounce) servings.

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