IN THE KITCHEN BAKING COOKIES

PHOTO: ETHAN, GRAMMY’S SOUS CHEF

What’s Christmas without cookies ? Christmas cookies to share with family, friends, and coworkers—perhaps some cookies for the mailman.  I also give cookies to my manicurist.  Each of my sons receives a tin of his very own cookies—chocolate chip, no “ingredients” (ingredients are nuts, raisins, coconut or any of those other yucky things that I love so much. When my sons were children, they took containers of cookies to their teachers.

One year, I bought Disney-theme cookie jars and filled them with different kinds of cookies. Along with my sons and their families, one of the cookie jars went to my younger sister and her family, who also live in California. Other cookies are wrapped in baskets or tins—or whatever suitable containers I find (I search for cookie containers throughout the year. Some of our best bargains have been containers bought at Target, after the holidays, for 90% off).

When I got married in 1958, I had one Betty Crocker cookbook and a boxful of recipe pamphlets. That Christmas, General Mills published a small booklet called “Betty Crocker’s Holiday Almanac” – I kept it, and began saving the Christmas recipe sections in my December magazines; Woman’s Day always published a tear-out cookie/candy recipe section—the earliest I have was published in1962. These are in 3-ring binders that have somehow grown to 5 thick binders, just with cookie recipes.

What I had, in 1958, was a start – enough recipes to bake some cookies and a few batches of fudge. When we moved to California in 1961 we had little more than a car-trunk full of clothing and the baby’s bed—but I somehow managed to do some holiday baking.

In 1963 – after moving back to Ohio in March, returning to California in December-We didn’t even have furniture (much less a tree)…but I baked cookies; we invited friends over and everyone sat on the floor drinking coffee and eating Christmas cookies.

From these austere beginnings, my holiday cookie baking grew until it began to reach mammoth proportions. In the mid 60s, a girlfriend and I began making cookie dough in September, and freezing the batches. When we thought we had a goodly amount of cookie dough (I think about ten or twelve batches each) we’d embark on a cookie-baking-marathon. We did our baking late at night at her house, around the corner from me, because her husband worked nights and it was the only time I could get out of the house—when all four of my children were asleep. When we finished, we had filled all of our Tupperware containers and anything else we could find to use for storage. We’d divvy up the cookies, giving burnt ones to our husbands and children to eat and were ready to pack our own cookies into smaller containers for gift-giving.

We were purists, in those days—everything was made from scratch, with real butter and only the best of all ingredients—no imitation vanilla for us! I think there was one frightful year (1975?) when sugar was $5.00 for a 5-lb bag and we had to search for cookie recipes using honey or molasses.

In the 80s, along came cookie exchanges—frankly, these don’t always work out the way you’d like; someone always shows up with store-bought cookies (“I didn’t have time to bake”) or cookies with burned bottoms that no one wants. In theory or in the women’s magazines, cookie exchanges are always fantastic. Take it from me; it doesn’t always happen.

In the 90s, along came grandchildren and my niece and two nephews, children of my younger sister who herself is young enough to be one of my children (I was 21 when she was born). The arrival of these children opened new vistas for cookie baking. We have baked cookies (children love to make cut-out cookies) which are wildly decorated with sprinkles (children believe that more is better). We also began a new family tradition of having a cookie-and-craft day sometime before Christmas, but also for Valentine’s Day and Easter. I make large cookies for them to decorate and we do some kind of craft project that “goes with” the cookie—for instance, when they decorated big tree-shaped cookies, they also decorated small artificial Christmas trees to take home). This has turned into a big event not only for my grandchildren and my sister’s children, but for my godson, and some of my friends’ children. (The big cookie idea actually has its roots back when my two younger sons were in first and second grades, and I would make enough large cookies—and plenty of frosting—for all the children in their classes to decorate a cookie to take home).

Nowadays, I admit—I’ve learned a lot of short-cuts, such as making cookies from cake mixes. There are entire cookbooks dedicated to teaching you how to bake wonderful tasty cookies from a cake mix!  I still search all year long for sales on tins and other containers, for sprinkles and jimmies when they are on sale after a holiday, or for cookie cutters on sale half price after Christmas.

And even though I have retired, former coworkers know they can expect to receive a tin of cookies from me. I also take large containers of cookies to the Claims Department, where I worked. My friend Tina says that whenever she takes some cookies home, her husband asks, “Are these from the cookie lady?”  It’s a good title. I think I’ll keep it.

Happy Holidays from my house to yours!

Sandy

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8 responses to “IN THE KITCHEN BAKING COOKIES

  1. I so much love this blot. I have a suggestion for finding baskets – our Goodwill store sells baskets for fifty cents each. They always have pleanty.
    Sharon Arab

    • good suggestion, Sharon! I have bought many baskets and tins at the Goodwill Store or Salvation Army. and if the baskets look a little drab, some spray paint – gold or silver or even just white – works wonders! Thanks for writing. Sand6y

  2. Oh to be a former co-worker of yours–I think you put the Energizer Bunny to shame, whilst nipping on Santa’s heels.

  3. Nancy, I wish I had friends like you living closer to me–I would happily keep you supplied with Christmas cookies! Thanks for this message – it gave me a chuckle. I didnt have any Christmas spirit last year & didnt know if it would come back – well it HAS (much to my astonishment) so I have a lot of cookies to bake and candies and jellies to make. Have 2 gallons of pomegranate juice to make jelly. Have a great holiday. Sandy

  4. Oooo! Sandy, My husband Reza is from Iran and I would love to know your pomegranate jelly recipe. As you know, pomegranates came from Iran, and my late father in law had a pomegranatge farm. Both Reza and I love them and I would like to surprise him with the jelly. Where did you get the juice.

  5. Hi, Sharon–I will type up the recipe & send it later this evening. am in the middle of making a pot roast dinner for my son, grandson, & daugther in law. I love pomegranates & after having pomegranate trees for 19 yrs I think I have finally found the best way to “shell” them. The jelly is the favorite of my entire family plus extended family. And I made cranberry-pomegranate relish for Thankstgiving and I love that the best of all the cranberry dishes. Will write again later this evening. It’s an easy enough recipe if you buy a couple of boxes of the low sugar/no sugar pectin – that way you can control how much sugar goes into the batch. I like the taste of the fruit to come through, not just a sugary taste. If you have access to pomegranates, I have some other recipes you can make besides the jelly.

  6. Sharon to 4 cups of pomegranate juice; get a box of low sugar or no sugar pectin & follow the directions on the leaflt inside each box – just follow the directions for making grape jelly which would be the closest to pomegranate. I add 2 cups of sugar to 4 cups of juice when using the low sugar pectin recipe–it keeps the flavor of the pomegranare juice vibrant and alive and not cloyingly sweet from sugar. This will make 4 8-oz jars of jelly–have the jars washed and then scalded in boilingwater. Follow the directions in the box for canning the jelly 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.I will look up the exact recipe but this is a general idea of how its made. You need to boil the lids for about 5 minutes in order to get a good seal. once the jars are vacuumed sealed, the jelly will keep for years–it never lasts that long around here; the pomegranate is everybody’s favorite. – will try to explain my cranberry pomegranate sauce tomorrow! I dont follow a recipe for that one – I make it up as I go along depending on what is in the frig.
    Sandy

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