We're down to the last week - are you ready? Christmas is almost here and I hope everyone is ready to enjoy some time with family and friends.
I finished up my Christmas baking a few weeks ago, and froze the bounty, which I'll make into plates to take to neighbors. I already sent a plate with Mr. Official to share with his coworkers last week.
But as I scoured for new Christmas recipes to try, it struck me that we really do live in a slice-and-bake era, and most of the "new" Christmas treats are cobbled together from pre-made ingredients.
I'm sorry if I'm bursting anyone's bubble, but I don't think Christmas cookies include
your run-of-the-mill chocolate chip, M&M or peanut butter cookies or Rice Krispie treats. (Although if you usually
resort to pre-made or easy-bake cookies, maybe from-scratch versions of
these cookie jar staples ARE your idea of a special "Christmas cookie.")
And in the interest of full disclosure, I admit I have my share of what I call "cheater" treats - coated pretzels, Rolo "turtles," and Oreo truffles. These are treats with 2 or 3 ingredients that go together fast, are fun to make and tasty, and we use them to fill out the cookie plates as well as munch on ourselves.
But when it comes to cookies and Christmas, it's time to put the brakes on and get our bake on.
Let's slow things down a bit and dig out some of those old recipes. If you don't have copies of them, think back to what you remember from your childhood, or ask parents, aunts and uncles or grandparents about the special baked treats they remember most from their own "wonder years." Then look through cookbooks or online for recipes that will bake someone a happy memory or two.
Yes, it's extra work. Yes, we'll have read and follow archaic directions and actually measure out ingredients. We may have to measure out some time - something that is in short supply these days. And we may wind up with a big mess in our kitchen.
You can't cook or bake? Really? The generation that can figure out how to text and tweet has no excuse: we can read and follow directions, which is all cooking and baking really is.
No time to do a full-blown cookie bake-a-thon? No problem. Pick one recipe - just one. Carve out time and make a batch this week. Put on some Christmas music - (the Charlie Brown Christmas track is one of my all-time favorites), and before you know it, you'll be washing up the baking sheets and nibbling on your results as they cool.
I promise, it will be worth it. Be it ever so humble, those old-fashioned Christmas cookie recipes from a by-gone era are a bridge between our past and our future. Deciphering decades-old recipes scribbled on yellowed scraps of paper, searching out those ingredients we aren't familiar with, and even enduring the occasional failed effort. Those form traditions that give us and our children a rich layer of Christmas memories. And those memories will carry into their adult years and can be passed along to their children.
It is a sure bet that a child (even if it's only your inner child) will remember a December evening or weekend morning making cookies. No matter how messy or disastrous, it will stick with you long after you have forgotten the must-have toy of the year. Don't settle for slice-and-bake. Bake some memories, and make them special.