Hey, no-one wants to seem like a Scrooge at this time of year but it’s hard to treat the family or entertain royally when money is tight. So here are a few festive recipes that are designed to impress, taste great and not break the old piggy bank. Best of all, they take very little time to prepare so you can whip up something at the last minute if need be, or actually get to relax and enjoy the season’s festivities.

Two Minute Fruit Cake

What would Christmas be without the fruit cake (no, I don’t mean your nutty grandma)? And it doesn’t get any easier than this:

2 lb mixed dried fruit
2½ cups iced coffee milk drink (better yet, make your own)
1 cup self-raising flour

Grease and line a 12″ springform cake pan. Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl mix all ingredients together and pour into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out dry. Cool in the cake pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire cooling tray.

Ginger Loaf

I love this next one. The name is misleading – it’s not a loaf at all. But I always get rave reviews when I serve this for dessert and it’s so incredibly simple to make. You could substitute brandy or even bourbon for the rum, but don’t buy an expensive brand. There are plenty of cheaper brands that will taste just as good in the finished product.

Package of round-shaped ginger cookies (or make your own, see recipe below)
Whipping cream
Rum (dark or spiced)

Start with very cold cream and whip ’til stiff peaks form. Add enough sugar to suit your own taste (I don’t add any, myself). Dip each side of every cookie very quickly into the rum. The idea is to just coat the cookie, do not let it get at all soggy. Paste whipped cream on one side of each cookie and “glue” them together to form a loaf shape. Cover the whole loaf with the remaining cream and chill ’til ready to serve.

For added interest you can flavor the cream. Try a teaspoon of vanilla extract or 2 tbsp of cocoa powder (you’ll definitely need a little sugar as well with this) or even 1 tbsp of orange liqueur.

Easy Ginger Biscuits

2 oz butter or margarine
1 oz sugar
4oz flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Blend the margarine with the sugar until it is a smooth paste. Add the ginger and flour and blend thoroughly. If it’s too dry add a teaspoon of water – it should come together in a dough. Roll out on a floured surface and cut out using a cookie cutter. Place on a greased baking sheet in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Santa Cookies – no bake

These are so adorable, you almost won’t want to eat them. A really fun project to do with the kids. See a picture at thesavemoneyblog:

2 (6 ounce) packages white chocolate baking squares, chopped
1 (1 lb) package Nutter Butter sandwich cookies
Red colored crystal sugar
32 vanilla chips or white chocolate chips
64 miniature semisweet chocolate chips
32 red-hot candies

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt white chocolate, stirring occasionally. Dip one end of each cookie into melted chocolate. Place on wire racks. For Santa’s hat, sprinkle red sugar on top part of chocolate. Press one vanilla chip off-center on hat for pom-pom, let stand until set. (You can also use a mini marshmallow cut in half) Dip the other end of each cookie into the melted chocolate to form the beard, leaving center of cookie uncovered. Place on wire rack. With a dab of melted chocolate attach semisweet chips for eyes and a red-hot (or red mini M&M) for the nose. Place on waxed paper ’til the chocolate sets.

Chocolate Cookie Cake

The original of this recipe (a favorite of my nephew’s, by the way) calls for the use of British digestive cookies. Your supermarket may carry them in a specialty section (McVities and Peek Freans are perhaps the most common). For the sake of this recipe I have substituted Graham Crackers. The golden syrup is another British product. Tate and Lyle’s is the most common and can often be found in supermarket specialty aisles. A poor substitute (but cheaper) for the golden syrup is 2 parts light corn syrup and 1 part molasses or equal parts of honey and light corn syrup. However, I strongly recommend you try and find the real thing:

6 oz graham crackers (broken in large pieces)
6 oz plain chocolate
1 tbsp golden syrup
6 oz butter or margarine
1 oz raisins
1 oz chopped maraschino cherries
2 oz flaked almonds

Melt the cocholate, add the syrup and butter. Beat ’til smooth. Cool slightly. Stir in remaining ingredients. Put in a 1 lb baking pan lined with wax paper. Chill for at least one hour.

Peanut Butter Bon Bons

How simple is this? And much more festive than Reeses Peanut Butter Cups:

1 – 1 Lb Box Powdered Sugar
1 Cup Margarine or Butter
1 Cup Peanut Butter
Chocolate Chips or Chocolate Almond Bark

Mix all ingredients except chocolate. Shape into round balls. Chill. Melt chocolate slowly over a pan of simmering water. Insert toothpicks in the bon bons and dip into melted chocolate. Chill until set.

Chocolate Cherry Balls

These are so yummy. They taste like a million dollars but cost about $5 (if you shop smart): Makes 2-1/2 dozen candies

6 oz Semi-sweet Chocolate
1/3 cup Evaporated milk
1½ cup Sifted powdered sugar
1/3 cup Chopped walnutsB\
1/3 cup Chopped Maraschino cherries (drained)
1 cup Flaked coconut

Combine chocolate and milk in medium-sized heavy saucepan and set over low heat. Heat until melted. Removed from heat. Add sugar and stir until well blended. Stir in walnuts and cherries (dry chopped cherries on paper towel). Set saucepan in refrigerator and chill until mixture is firm enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Shape mixture into small ball about 1 inch in diameter and roll each one in coconut. Set in a pan lined with waxed paper and chill until very firm, about 4 hours. Keep chilled until serving time.

Apple Crumble

This is so much easier than dealing with pastry (unless you buy ready-to-go refrigerated, of course) and, I think, more scrumptious.

6 to 7 tart apples
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Crumble topping:
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. firm butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel, slice and cook apples in saucepan with just a little water, the ½ cup sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg until apples are slightly soft but not mushy. Put apple mixture in deep, buttered baking dish. With your fingers rub the crumble topping ingredients together until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the apples. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown and apples are tender.

Make this more festive by substituting a cup of cranberries for one of the apples. If you have a sweet tooth you may also want to increase the amount of sugar.

Chocolate Christmas Tree

“O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, Much pleasure doth thou bring me!” And this tasty chocolate creation will certainly please the whole family. It’s another great project to do with the kids as long as they don’t eat all the branches before the tree is put together (Wait a minute! It’s my husband who does that!):

10 oz milk chocolate
1½ cups Rice Krispies or chopped nuts (or a combination)
¾ cup shredded coconut
Powdered sugar for dusting

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Add the Rice Krispies and coconut and stir until combined. Lay out sheets of baking paper on trays to make each of the crosses that will make up the tree. Use a spoon to make each cross shape, starting with the largest cross for the bottom of the tree, gradually getting smaller. This amount of mixture will make six crosses. Double the mixture for a larger and taller tree. Allow the crosses to set in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Using a serving plate or cake board and starting with the largest cross, build your tree. You will need the left over mixture (or a little extra melted chocolate) to use a ‘glue’ to gently stick your crosses together. Once complete allow to chill for a further 20 minutes in the refrigerator. Decorate with powdered sugar gently pushed through a sieve or tea strainer.

About the Author

A few years ago Liz Markovich and her husband were six figures in debt. With a combination of hard work and what Liz calls “creative” spending they managed to get themselves back on track. Liz has now entered the blogosphere at thesavemoneyblog to use her experience and expertise to help others get the most of every dollar they have.