Archive for the ‘The Twelve Cookies of Christmas’ Category

The Twelfth Cookie of Christmas

Friday, December 24th, 2010

I’m sorry to say that the cookies I’m sharing with you (metaphorically, at any rate) today are not my finest work.
There’s nothing wrong with the recipe, I assure you. But some cookie batches—and days—don’t turn out QUITE the way we hope they will.
Yesterday was my birthday. We weren’t planning a family celebration until tonight due to the Washington Capitals’ nefarious habit of scheduling hockey games on my birthday every year. 
My brother, sister-in-law, and nephew love me, but they are die-hard Caps fans, and I don’t want to ask them to choose between hockey and me. I don’t think I’d be happy with their choice.
I had only two simple goals for the day. I wanted to buy some peppermint-stick ice cream, my annual birthday treat. And I wanted to post my last cookie recipe for this year.
The day started out nicely with phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages wishing me a happy birthday. At about 10:30 in the morning it went downhill.
It wasn’t an awful day by any means.
I wasn’t hit by a truck.
I didn’t start a fire in the new apartment–unless you count the little melt down on one of the stove burners. (I really HATE electric stoves.)
My near and dear remained reasonably hale and hearty.
I did spend an awful lot of the day cleaning up after a slightly sick mother, however. I won’t go into details, but the clean up involved back-to-back laundry that lasted well into the night and a lot of on-my-knees scrubbing.
When she wasn’t being sick, the mother was longing to go for long walks in the open air—until she actually felt the wind blowing on her face.
I popped her into the car to search for the ice cream. She enjoyed the ride, but the frozen treat didn’t materialize. We found egg-nog ice cream and gingerbread ice cream. For some reason, peppermint stick was impossible to come by.
Luckily, my brother showed up in the middle of the afternoon to visit with the mother so I could work on the cookies.
Nevertheless, the baking process got a bit muddled. First I put too much milk in the dough (the recipe below gives the correct, not the Tinky, amount of milk).
Then I sprinkled sugar everywhere and spilled dough on the kitchen floor.
I couldn’t find my cutting board so I tried rolling the cookies out on a plate. They were a bit misshapen.
Finally, I tried to answer the phone while measuring vanilla and ended up with very pungent icing.
After all this I just plain didn’t have the energy to color and pipe the icing. I simply slathered icing onto the cookies, took advantage of the wonderful holiday sprinkles Wilton recently sent to me (really, I think sprinkles could save the world), and threw the things onto a plate.
As you can see from the photo above, I let the setting sun do its thing and dapple the cookies; I figured the light was nature’s decoration. And who am I to mess with nature?
Luckily, the cookies still tasted amazingly good—and brightened the day considerably. My mother also brightened up after a dose of sugar and sprinkles. She tried to feed one to the dog, but I explained that Truffle wouldn’t be able to fit into her Santa suit if she ate cookies.
My birthday wasn’t a perfect day, but it ended with laughter and good flavors. And I consoled myself with the thought that I will get a redo next year when I turn 39 yet again.
Merry Christmas to all. And remember, a loving family, sprinkles, and a cute dog can get you through just about any minor disaster.
Marge’s Star Sugar Cookies
This cookie recipe was given to me years ago by my friend and fellow thespian Marge Matthews. It’s simple and tasty. What more does one need in a Christmas cookie?
3/4 cup butter (1-1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
4 teaspoons milk
2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the egg and milk, and beat until light and fluffy. Blend the dry ingredients and stir them into the creamed mixture.

Divide the dough into manageable pieces (2 or 3; it depends on how comfortable you are rolling out dough). Cover the dough, and chill it for at least one hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut into shapes and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes (if you roll them out clumsily you may have to wait 10 minutes), or until the cookies begin to turn golden around the edges. 

Decorate with icing and/or sprinkles. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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Cranberry Key-Lime Squares

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
Just in the nick of time here is my November recipe for my Twelve Cookies of Christmas series!
It combines two of my favorite flavors, cranberries and key lime. If you’re not a fan of tart foods, you may skip the cranberries and just make key-lime bars. The cranberries lend lovely holiday color and flavor, however.
One could also counteract the tartness by adding a tad more sugar. I like my bars tart, however. And I did put LOTS of confectioner’s sugar on top of the bars; they looked a bit like the ground after a dusting of snow.  (The cranberries represent our hardy New England rocks!)

Until December……

for the crust:
1 cup flour
6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon sat
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
for the middle:
1/2 to 2/3 cup cranberries
for the filling and top:
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons key-lime juice
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons flour
confectioner’s sugar as needed for dusting
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8-inch-square pan.
First, prepare the butter crust. In a small bowl combine the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter.
Press this mixture (it will be crumbly!) into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Press the cranberries into the crust (they may or may not press down effectively; if they float up, they will be just fine!).
Move on to the key-lime filling. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, and key-lime juice until they are thoroughly combined. Whisk in the milk, followed by the flour.
Pour the filling over the crust and cranberries, and return the pan to the oven. Bake until the filling sets and the edges are just a little brown. In my oven this took about 45 minutes.
Allow the bars to cool in their pan; then cut them into squares. 

Makes 16 squares.

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The Ghost Farmer

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Jody Cothey (Courtesy of Pleasure Boat Studio)

Jody Cothey scribbles bits of poetry on little pieces of paper as she goes about her daily chores.
A farmer as well as a writer, the poet lives and works in the hills of East Hawley, Massachusetts, where she and her husband Edward run Tregellys Fiber Farm. There they raise yaks, Icelandic sheep, Bactrian camels, and several dogs as well as other exotic and non-exotic animals.
Jody, whose pen name is Pamela Stewart, is attuned to the seasons and the cycles of nature. Her farm, animals, and companions appear in her new collection of poetry, Ghost Farm, released by Pleasure Boat Studio.
So do feelings about love and loss, the aging process, and the joys of literature and music. 

I recently talked to Jody about her life and her poetry—and of course I asked her for a recipe! 

Courtesy of

I was curious about the origins of the fiber farm. She explained that she met her husband in Cornwall, where she was working on a poetry project. The two spent seven years in the U.K. before returning to the U.S.
They lived in Montague, Massachusetts, for several years until he suggested a change in lifestyle. “Ed, who used to work on a dairy farm, said, ‘I miss animals. Let’s get a farm,’” recalled his wife. Tregellys Fiber Farm grew out of that longing.
Jody laughed in retrospect at the potential folly of the project. “We got this farm and made it too big. But if I hadn’t gone along, I would never have experienced the stuff I have.
“I would never have learned to spin. I would never have met a camel. I would never have met the Tibetan people that we love,” she said. She added, “I think the farm is the center for the poet in me.”

Courtesy of

Nevertheless, she admitted that sometimes the farm overwhelms her poetry. She explained that she loves to run errands in her car. “That’s when I have time for me.”
When she has enough scraps of paper with snippets of poetry saved up, she takes a break from farming and goes to Wellspring House, a writers’ retreat in nearby Ashfield, which she called “a godsend.”
“I wouldn’t have been able to write the poems [in Ghost Farm] without it,” she noted. “I recommend it to anyone who needs to get away.”
About her writing process, she stated, “I write before I think. I have to write and then think. My angle is just scribbling everything. Then later I follow through on my scribbling.”
She compared composing a poem to making a soup or a stew. “You can start with something and then add something else and so on but you can’t always take things out.”
Asked whether she thinks of herself primarily as a poet or a farmer, Jody laughed. “Mostly I think of myself as a person with a large streak of housemother right now.
“It involves taking care of dogs, our friend’s son who’s about to turn 17, and my husband; and having my mother live with us,” she explained. “I feel that I think as a poet but it doesn’t often come out in daily life….
“I do what I want to do. I know other people for whom poetry is their all-consuming life. It’s not my all consuming thing. It’s a part of me.”
Jody agreed that poetry is not our culture’s most popular or most celebrated art form. Nevertheless, she clearly values it highly herself.
“I think poetry itself has a spiritual life of its own. It will always be there no matter what the culture or the society or the age is busy doing…. If you catch into it at any age, it becomes a part of you,” she said.
“When I’m doing it, I’m in touch with something that’s bigger than me and causes me joy–and sometimes agony, but mostly joy.”
Jody Cothey (and/or Pamela Stewart) will read from Ghost Farm and sign copies of her new book this afternoon at 2 pm at Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls. Massachusetts.
If you can’t make the signing, you may get her book from Boswell’s or from the publisher, Pleasure Boat Studio.
While you’re reading it you might like try nibble on one of Jody’s Ghost Farm Cookies.
When I asked for a recipe, Jody happily gave me these simple brown cookies. Their plain exterior belies their richness. “They are brown cookies—my forte,” she told me, “but lovely and crumbly/buttery.” 

I liked them so much I’m adding them to my Twelve Cookies of Christmas collection.

1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
1/2 cup dark (or light!) brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cream together the butter, brown sugar, and soda. Stir in 1 cup of the flour. Transfer the dough to a board (on which you have sprinkled part of the second cup of flour!) and knead it.
Knead in the remaining flour. The dough will be quite stiff by the time you finish incorporating all the flour.
Jody suggests a number of ways in which to shape her cookies, including rolling them out and cutting them. Here’s what I did: I rolled my dough into three logs and cut each log into little cylinders. I then pressed the cylinders into little flat circles.
Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling. 

Makes about 24 cookies (depending on how big you cut/roll them).

Courtesy of

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Dishpan Cookies

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I recently heard from Ramona Lynam, a reader of this blog who lives in Iowa and write about life, food, family, and books on her own blog, Chances R.
Ramona had just written about her mother’s “dish pan” cookies and wondered whether I could use a recipe for my “Twelve Cookies of Christmas” series.
Could I ever! I’m actually BEHIND on the series, having neglected to post a cookie recipe in August.
Ramona recently put her mother’s recipe on her blog, and I definitely urge you to try it as she wrote it up. Her cookies look lovely and chewy. Ramona thinks their name comes from the fact that a whole recipe (this is only half) could probably fill a dish pan.
I altered the recipe a bit when I tried it. Ramona, this has nothing to do with you, just with my family’s circumstances!
My nephew Michael’s nutritionist has asked him to cut back on gluten for the moment. So I decided to reduce the gluten in the cookies. 

I started out with a fun new product from Trader Joe’s, peanut flour. (I’m sorry about the weird photo; the flour really looks all scrunched up like this when one buys it.)

Peanut flour is basically ground up peanuts that have had some of their fat taken out. It’s a bit lumpy so I was glad Ramona’s mother’s recipe involved sifting the flour. (Note: if you try this with peanut flour, make sure you use a fairly wide sieve. The peanut flour doesn’t go through a tiny one.)
The end result was darker than Ramona’s version and tended to be crunchy rather than chewy. It also tasted a bit like a peanut-butter cookie. We all LOVE peanut-butter cookies in the Weisblat household so this was just fine with us. Michael ate the first one and couldn’t stop smiling.
If you’re thinking about playing with less gluten, or even if you’re not, I urge you to try it.
While you’re munching, think about your own mother or grandmother. Here’s what Ramona had to say about her mom:
She was the sweetest, kindest, do anything for anyone woman you could meet. Probably much like your Mom. When Dad died and we kids were out on our own, she shared her almost daily cooking creations with her neighbors. She lived 66 years on the farm she and Dad moved to after they married in 1937 continuing to raise pigs, cattle and chickens and a big garden on her own when she was widowed at age 59. I miss her every day.
Thank you, Ramona, for sharing your memories and recipe. Your mother sounds like a lovely person, and I enjoyed trying her cookies. (I’m going to try them with regular flour soon!) 

Here’s a photo of Ramona’s mother, courtesy of Chances R. She obviously loved to feed everybody around……

Ramona’s Mom’s Dish Pan Cookies (altered to be ALMOST gluten free)
Regular Ingredients:
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar (I packed mine, but not super firm)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups peanut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup oatmeal (Ramona uses quick, but I only had regular, which worked fine)
2 cups cereal—I used rice cereal, which is ALMOST gluten-free, having only a small amount of barley
Optional Ingredients:
3/4 cup coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans or other nuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the oil and the sugars. Beat in the eggs, followed by the vanilla.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir them in to the wet mixture, followed by the oatmeal and cereal. Stir in any or all of the optional ingredients. I used a generous cup of chocolate chips since that was the only option I was using.
The dough will get stiff and a bit hard to stir. Drop teaspoonsful of batter onto greased or silicon-lined cookie sheets. You will probably have to press the individual clumps of dough together with your hands to make them stay together.
Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before removing them from the cookie sheets. 

Makes about 4 dozen cookies. Eat them quickly; like most low-gluten foods they grow stale quickly.

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Curtis Country Store Sugar & Spice Ginger Cookies

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Mary Jane's Cookies as seen at the Curtis Country Store

At first glance, July is NOT the time of year for a molasses cookie. The spices and the rich brown color might seem more appropriate for fall–or even winter.
I couldn’t resist using this recipe for this month’s Twelve Cookies of Christmas entry, however. These cookies taste perfect after a summer swim. (A glass of milk is the ideal accompaniment.)
I came across the recipe almost by chance. I was expecting guests last weekend, and I was determined not to turn on the oven. As Cole Porter wrote with such panache, it was too darn hot.
So I stopped at the Curtis Country Store in Charlemont, Massachusetts, and picked up some cookies baked by the talented Mary Jane Miller.
That evening I apologized to my guests for not serving them homemade cookies. As soon as I tasted one of Mary Jane’s ginger cookies, I realized that no apology had been necessary. I don’t think I’ve ever made a cookie better than these!
Mary Jane was kind enough to give me the recipe to share with you. Of course, if you happen to live near the Curtis Country Store, I encourage you to buy Mary Jane’s cookies. They are huge (I cut the size down a bit for home baking) and absolutely delicious—sort of a cross between a soft ginger cookie and a snickerdoodle. 

You may be tempted to substitute butter for the shortening in this recipe. If you do, the cookies will probably still taste great, but they’ll lose a little of their chewy yet firm consistency.

Mary Jane’s Cookies
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar plus additional sugar for coating
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups flour
Cream together the shortening and the cup of sugar. Beat in the egg and the molasses. Stir in the seasonings and soda, followed by the flour.
Chill at least 1 hour or overnight.
When you are almost ready to bake preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll the dough into 2-tablespoon-sized balls and then roll them in granulated sugar.
Bake on parchment or silicone for 8 to 10 minutes. “They won’t look done, but you don’t want to over bake them,” says Mary Jane.
Cool the cookies on their sheet; they will flatten themselves out. 

Makes 30 cookies.

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