Cookie contest results in tie for first place

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By Susan Halkin | TARA Community Center

On Sunday, Dec. 11, the TARA Community Center held its annual Christmas in Arboles. It was very well attended. Many thanks to all of our vendors who made the day so fun. Two of the vendors ran out of products as the sales were spectacular. 

The cookies were especially delicious this year. Thank you to all who participated. Cookie contest winners are as follows:

Two people tied for first place: Tessa Hanna for her Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Cookies and Eva Johnson for her Nutty Holiday Bars. 

Second place went to Alan Tracy for his Holiday Fruit Cookies. 

It was a great community event. Arboles is now in the Christmas spirit.

Recipes for these winning cookies are as follows.

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Cookies

(Tied for first place)

1 box lemon cake mix

1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 large egg 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 cup white chocolate chips 

1 3/4 cup fresh or freeze-dried blueberries 

In the bowl of a mixer, mix cake mix, butter, egg, vanilla and cream cheese. Beat until combined.

Gently stir in white chocolate chips and blueberries until just combined and evenly distributed.

Cover dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove from refrigerator and scoop with a small cookie scoop or roll into 1-inch ball-shaped cookies. Place cookie on a silicone mat or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven when the cookie is just beginning to turn golden brown on the bottom edges. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes to slightly firm up. Remove with spatula and place on a cooling rack to completely cool. 

Makes 36 cookies.

Nutty Holiday Bars

(Tied for first place)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs 

6 tablespoons salted butter, melted

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, divided

1 cup broken (not crushed) mini pretzel twists, divided

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate baking chips

1/2 cup pecan pieces 

1 cup butterscotch baking morsels

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and press crust firmly into bottom of a greased 9×13 pan.

Evenly pour 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk over crust.

Mix 1/2 cup pretzel pieces, chocolate chips, pecan pieces, and butterscotch morsels. Pour mixture evenly over sweetened condensed milk.

Pour remaining 1/2 can of sweetened condensed milk overtop; sprinkle with coconut and remaking 1/2 cup of pretzel pieces.

Bake 20-30 minutes until edges are golden brown and middle is just set. Remove; cool completely before cutting and serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Makes 24 bars.

Holiday Fruit Cookies

(Second place)

1 cup Crisco

2 cups dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup sour milk (add 1 teaspoon vinegar)

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda 

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups glazed cherries 

2 cups chopped dates

Mix all ingredients except cherries and dates until it becomes very thick. Fold in cherries and dates. Chill one hour.

Firm chilled dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and space 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.

Makes approximately 6 dozen cookies.