Holiday Goodies

mocha-kissy-cookie-blog.jpgEach year just before Christmas, we had a holiday gathering for all the children and their families at the campus child care center I worked at for several years. Each family contributed a plate of holiday treats.

One year, as I moved around the Center visiting with parents and siblings of the preschoolers I spent time with each day, I happened upon a conversation between two preschoolers. They each held one of those peanut butter cookies with a Hershey kiss in the middle.

“Kiss me,” said the little girl as she looked at the confused little boy in front of her. “You can’t take a bite of your kissy cookie until you kiss me. That’s what my mom and dad do,” she said sweetly. I pictured her young parents sitting on the couch in their living room at home with a tin of Kissy Cookies resting on their laps, sharing a quick little peck as they ate cookies together. I held back a little giggle.

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children-with-lanterns-at-midnight.jpgCertain people, I’m told, are particularly susceptible to taking their parents seriously, just as they might be to sunburn, or T.B.  I believe it, especially around New Year’s Eve, when a trio of my Mom’s personal aphorisms begins to clang around my head. 

“Don’t drive after dark: the drunks are out.”  Kinda true, and especially relevant.  Not only do New Year’s Eve activities happen in the dark, but most revolve around drinking.  Plus, this being Los Angeles, I drive wherever I’m going.  Looks like I’m not going anywhere.

“Don’t breathe other people’s exhalations.”  Admittedly one of her more bizarre pieces of advice, but no less applicable.  Parties, by their very nature, are full of people, and people (the unhygienic monsters) consistently breathe.  Best I stay at home.  (And ask my boyfriend to direct his exhalations out an open window.)

“Nothing good ever happens after midnight.”  Forget seeing the ball drop.  I’ll be desperately trying to will myself to sleep at that point, avoiding whatever general “not good” waits around to pounce on people in the wee hours.

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ImageEuropeans do it better. Not the wine, beer, and cheese, which are all great, but the holidays and vacations. A holiday in Europe occupies at least two weeks. Summer vacation is six to eight. With that much time off from work, one’s internal clock resets.  The mind and body slow down to take in the pleasures of the moment.

In America “hurry” is always the new “black”.  Racing between appointments, checking out what’s on sale before we buy, and dropping kids off at soccer, school, or play dates keeps most people’s nerves frayed.  Then when it’s time for the holidays, with only a few days off from work, it’s difficult to shift gears. Even though we look forward to being with friends and family during the holidays, entertaining means more work.

Just when we should be relaxing, kicked back on the couch or taking a long walk at the beach, we find ourselves in front of the stove cooking for guests coming over for dinner or making a dish we need to bring to a potluck. 
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scotishshortbreadAnother classic Christmas cookie - Shortbread is a traditional Scottish dessert that consists of three basic ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter. According to Wikpedia, this cookie resulted from medieval biscuit bread, which was a twice baked, enriched bread roll dusted with sugar and spices and hardened into a soft and sweetened biscuit called a Rusk.

Eventually, yeast from the original Rusk recipe was replaced by butter, which was becoming more of a staple in the British Isles. Despite the fact that shortbread was prepared during much of the 12th century, the refinement of shortbread was actually accredited to Mary, Queen of Scots, in the 16th century.

The name of one of the most famous and most traditional forms of shortbread, petticoat tails, were named by Queen Mary. This type of shortbread was baked, cut into triangular wedges as they are in this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.

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Dark-Chocolate-Peppermint-Crackles-perfect-for-that-holiday-cookie-platterMy house has been exploding with cookies lately. It’s not a bad thing and I’m certainly not complaining. I love this time of year when baking takes priority over dinner. “Here kids, have a few cookies and a glass of milk, we’ll call it good for a meal.” Just kidding…sort of.

Anyway, dark chocolate and peppermint is a combination that can’t be denied. I love putting it together during the holidays, mostly just to torture myself. I can barely say no to this melding of flavors and it kills me having it around. But this combo is refreshing in a sweet kind of way. You know what I mean.

However, in all truth, I love these cookies. They have hunks of melty chocolate inside, with crunchy sugar on the outside. They are insanely good and I hope you try them. They do not disappoint.

What did we do before Hershey’s came out with all these totally cute looking kisses? Not every flavor is my favorite, but I do really like the candy cane rendition. And they are so pretty.

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