Bacon-onion pizza will help counteract all the sweets that are about to come into your life. Karen Schneider / For the Forecaster

“The most wonderful time of the year” is upon us and here at the cove, the baking has begun in anticipation of the Annual Family Cookie Exchange, one of the highlights of the season. Back in the day, I used to make about 20 kinds of cookies all by myself. At present, however, I just knock off a few varieties and my four grown kids – as well as the grandchildren who are old enough to read a recipe and use the oven – do the rest. We definitely have our favorites and every year there are a few new entries to bring into the fold.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

For the exchange, we get together on a Friday evening at my daughter Katie’s house, which she will have decorated to the hilt. The Hallmark Channel is on in the background, the knitting projects are released from their satchels and Christmas tree decorations are swapped. There is also hot chocolate, hot cider and wine, as well as numerous heaping platters of sweets to be sampled and, later on, packed for the road.

To offset all the sugar we ingest (because yes, we have to sample everything,) I’m planning on providing a few of these savory pizzas along with a crudité tray and eggplant dip … for health reasons.

After all, a girl can eat only so many cookies.

Bacon-Onion Pizza

Crust

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water then add oil and salt. Stir in flour and knead to form a soft, pliable dough. Rise for about an hour in a warm place.

Topping

8 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
8 ounces mozzarella, shredded
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons rosemary
2 ounces baby spinach, julienned
Olive oil, flaky sea salt and freshly grated Parmesan for garnish

In a large skillet, cook bacon, onion and garlic over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until onions begin to caramelize. Add herbs.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread dough out on two greased baking sheets and pre-bake for 3-5 minutes. Remove crusts from the oven and top with mozzarella and bacon-onion mixture. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven again and add spinach. Bake for about 4 more minutes or until spinach begins to frizzle up.

Before serving, drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with sea salt and Parmesan. Yield: 2 12-inch pizzas

Baba Ghanoush

4 pounds (3 medium) eggplants
1 1/2 teaspoons tahini
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Juice from 1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce eggplant with a sharp knife and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour or until dark brown and soft. Cool.

Cut the eggplant open and scoop the flesh into a colander then press with the back of a spoon to remove excess water. Put the eggplant into a food processor and add tahini, garlic, lemon and salt. Pulse until smooth.

Spoon the mixture into a serving bowl and garnish with olive oil and parsley. Serve with raw vegetables. Yield: 2 cups

Starry Night Cookies

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups softened butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter until light and fluffy, then add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon then stir in the white chocolate.

Using a tablespoon, drop dough about one inch apart onto baking sheets. Flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges are firm, but the middles are still soft. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for a few minutes then place on cooling racks. Yield: Approximately 3 dozen cookies

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