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Ornaments Pretty Enough To Eat Liven Up Holiday Party With Edible Decorations

Shaped as reindeer, angels or stars, edible almond butter cookie ornaments can serve as a holiday dessert or snack. They can also be used to decorate Christmas trees or as part of the wrapping to top off holiday gifts.

“My butter cookies make delicious snacks and beautiful ornaments that can be decorated to suit everyone’s taste,” says Mary Bergin, cookbook author and head pastry chef of the star-studded Spago restaurants. “The addition of almonds adds an Italian touch to a tasty and traditional holiday recipe.”

To keep your holiday parties hopping, serve chocolate popcorn fantasy, an easy-to-make combination of buttery popcorn and pretzels tossed with mouthwatering white and dark chocolate.

“This tantalizing treat satisfies the snacking urge everyone gets while decorating and celebrating,” said Gale Gand, pastry chef/owner of Chicago’s Brasserie T and Vanilla Bean Bakery. “The sweetness of rich chocolate combined with the savory, salty flavor of the popcorn and pretzels makes for an indulgent taste everyone loves.”

Almond Butter Cookie Ornaments

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, finely chopped

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon almond extract

2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

Decorator frosting, multicolored sprinkles, etc.

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until smooth. Gradually beat in almonds. Beat in egg, milk and almond extract.

In separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Gradually add flour and salt combination to butter mixture. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate a minimum of 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes using holiday cookie cutters. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets. If desired, make a hole on top of each cookie with a wooden skewer to later attach a ribbon for hanging.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove cookies from baking sheet and cool on wire rack. Decorate as desired.

Yield: 16 large cookies or 32 smaller cookies.

Chocolate Popcorn Fantasy

12 cups popped popcorn

2 cups miniature pretzels

1 cup toasted pecan halves

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

4 ounces white chocolate coating, coarsely chopped (see note)

2 ounces milk chocolate coating, coarsely chopped (see note)

In a large bowl, combine popcorn, pretzels and pecans. Drizzle with butter and toss well.

Place white chocolate coating in 1-quart glass cup or microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high (100 percent power) 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Stir to melt completely. Drizzle chocolate over popcorn mixture. Toss gently to coat. Spread mixture on foil-lined cookie sheet.

In same bowl, microwave milk chocolate coating on high about 45 seconds. Stir to melt completely. With a fork, drizzle over popcorn mixture. Let stand in cool place until chocolate is set. Store in covered container.

Yield: 14 cups.

Note: Chocolate coatings are available in small blocks, chips or round wafers in the baking section of most supermarkets or in bulk food stores.

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