Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

If you're anything like me, you are practically buzzing with excitement now.  Christmas is literally right around the corner!

Now, my blog is all about eating good food.  During most of the year, "good food" means "healthy, local, organic food."  But during the week leading up to Christmas - well, more like the month leading up to Christmas - "good food" means "tasty, homemade, delicious food."  Basically, Christmas is the time of year that my family and I eat all the sweet treats we want; peppermint-y candy, pie (oh, yes, I love pie), Christmas cookies...

Oh!  Christmas cookies!  That's what I've been leading up to.  What better way to spend the next couple days then baking (and eating!) cookies with your family?

Christmas cookies have become a bit of an afterthought, I'm sorry to say.  It's so easy to just pop into the grocery store and pick up some slice'n'bake dough from the frozen foods section - or worse, buy pre-made cookies from the store bakery.  But think about it; do those cookies ever taste as good as the fresh, homemade cookies that you've had?  There's no competition.  And if you do care about ingredients, it'll feel good to know exactly what's in Santa's cookies.

Now - down to business.  I've got a few cookie recipes, tried-and-true, that I absolutely love.  They're great Christmas cookies, but they're also great First-Day-of-School cookies.  Or Columbus-Day cookies.  Or Cookies-for-the-Sake-of-Cookies cookies.

Honey-Oatmeal Cookies
These are, quite simply, the best oatmeal cookies we've ever had.  Thanks to my friend Meridith for the recipe!


  • 1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter - don't use shortening or margarine; the real deal is always the best!
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c. honey - quick tip: if you grease the cup that you measure the honey in, it won't stick.  Or you can eyeball it, which is what we do most of the time...
  • 2 c. oats
  • 1 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 c. nuts (optional)
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix sugar, butter, eggs, and honey in a big bowl.  Stir in remaining ingredients.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls - well, I know you never actually measure, so you can make 'em as big as you like!  Just space them about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, so they don't all join together into one giant cookie.  (You can use parchment paper if you like, for easier cleanup.)  Bake 8-10 minutes, take the cookie sheet out of the oven, and place the cookies on cooling racks immediately.  Let them cool - or just grab one right away and enjoy!

Gingersnap Cookies RecipeGingersnap Cookies Recipe
This recipe is stolen from www.joyofbaking.com, which has a bunch of great holiday cookie recipes.  This one is very popular with my mom and me, since we both love gingersnaps.

  • 3/4 c. butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar - it's basically the same as light brown sugar, just with more molasses.  It's got a stronger molasses flavor that is quite delicious in cookies like this.
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. unsulphured molasses (which has a lighter flavor than sulphured or blackstrap molasses)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract - no imitation stuff here!
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves
Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes) with an electric mixer.  Add molasses, egg, and vanilla and beat until mixed.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Add to butter mixture and mix until well combined.  Cover and chill the batter for about half an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls.  Place the balls on baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart, and flatten them slightly.  Sprinkle granulated sugar on top (if you want), and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until cookies feel dry and firm on top.  The longer the cookies bake, the crispier they will be.  Cool on a wire rack.

Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies
We got this one from http://www.myrecipes.com/, searching for Christmas-y shortbread cookies.  You can make plain shortbread cookies by leaving out the cranberries and orange zest, but I personally love the holiday taste.

  • 1 c. butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla extract - the real kind, please!
  • 1/2 c. chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 T. orange zest
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/8 t. salt
Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth.  Stir in vanilla, cranberries, and orange zest until blended.

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl.  Gradually add four mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Shape shortbread dough into 2 7-inch logs.  Wrap each log in wax paper and chill for 4 hours, or overnight. (You can also freeze them in zip-lock bags for up to a month - it's always nice to keep some cookies on hand for when you really need one.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  If your cookie logs are frozen, let them stand at room temp. for 10 minutes.  Cut each log into about 24 slices.  (It's totally OK if you wind up with 23 or 25.  The cookie police won't come and get you.)  Place shortbread slices 1 inch apart on parchment-paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges of slices are golden.

Remove shortbread from baking sheets, place on wire racks, and let cool completely.  It'll take about 20 minutes, if you can wait that long!  Store in airtight containers on the counter or in your pantry.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all of you!

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