Saturday, November 28, 2009

I’m back! Thanksgiving in North Carolina was wonderful….a little rainy, but generally sunny and warm, definitely wonderful!
My sister, Ann, made sure there was Eggnog Pie for me; Bruce, my brother-in-law, made sure there was plenty of Beef Barley Soup in the refrigerator so I could have a cup of warm broth when I’d eaten too much Eggnog Pie! They make quite a team.
One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Pancakes, my nephew’s Bulldog. She is such a character! I do believe Pancakes is a great name, but I also feel “Tank” would be appropriate. When David arrives at his parent’s house, as he opens the door to enter, he yell’s “INCOMING!” Pancakes can down an adult male before you can blink, this 4’11” woman didn’t have a chance! I received so many doggy kisses I know I am one of her favorite people.
Thanksgiving Day was spent with my niece, Lori, and her family. Her brother, Neal, and his two sons came from Denver and of course, brother, David, was there, minus Pancakes. The food was abundant, to say the least, but the company was outstanding. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to make the trip to Raleigh. Surrounded by the Wilkinson/Pote family on a holiday is truly magical.

Guess what comes next…. ….CHRISTMAS! Many people wake up in the middle of the night and get in line at their favorite stores for Black Friday. I am not that wild about shopping, except at gourmet grocery stores. No, the day after Thanksgiving is when I start planning the food and wine for dinners and parties. I make hundreds of lists and menus, which I usually misplace, so then I make some more.
What I am the most anxious to do is baking Christmas Cookies! I think Christmas Cookies are so important; after all, I was once a little girl.

During my research for blogging about Christmas Cookies, I found myself filled with Christmas memories. No, I know my sister and my brother will say I am embellishing be honest, maybe a little. Both of them are sitting there shaking their heads wondering why they don't remember this, wondering how I can remember it. Simple, there are moments, however insignificant they are, they stay with us forever. This is one of those memories.
It was 1949, Columbia, Missouri.
The Johnston side of the family always celebrated on Christmas Eve and this particular Christmas, the celebration was to be held at my Uncle Frank’s and Aunt Ellen’s house. They had 6 children, Mom and Dad had the 3 of us. At the appointed hour, the family began arriving at their home, loaded down with gifts and food. As we entered the kitchen, I noticed a very large box sitting on the kitchen counter. It was a box from a department store, a large box they used to call a “suit box”. I can still see the edges of waxed paper sticking out the corners of the box; and because of that waxed paper, I knew the box had to have food of some sort tucked inside. What could it be? A box that huge could hold a lot of different foods! I was more excited to see what was inside that particular box than I was over all the beautifully wrapped gifts piled under the tree!
I begged to look inside, but was shooed out of the hot kitchen, out of the way of the turkey roasting and potato mashing! I’m sure you cannot imagine me being determined and sneaky, but I really wanted to know what was inside that box! So, I lurked, I skulked, I went furtively to the threshold of the kitchen, only to be banished to the garage to play ”Carom” with my cousins! I was on a mission! I had no time for games! My cousins didn’t seem to care about the box; their mission was to whack each other with pillows! They were so childish…didn’t they know there was a mystery at hand?
Back to the box….I had inhaled as many aromas as I could while lurking, hoping to detect a hint. That was my first inkling that turkey and onion laced cornbread dressing have aromas that wipe out all others. The box did not hold the turkey, it was in the oven. It did not contain the cornbread dressing….it was inside the 24 pound bird that was inside the oven! No one would put mashed potatoes or cranberry sauce in a box. The pumpkin pies were on the kitchen table, waiting for big dollops of whipped cream. I was slowly being driven over the edge!
Thank God! It was finally dinner time; let’s get this show on the road! I watched as bowls and platters were loaded with our Christmas Dinner…..but…nothing was removed from the box and put on the table! How come? Could it be just a box with waxed paper sticking out of it? The disappointment was overwhelming! My appetite was gone, my Christmas dinner was ruined!
Uncle Frank carved the turkey; the potatoes and gravy were passed followed by the best part, Cornbread Dressing. Next came the country green beans with big chunks of Boone County Ham. In all fairness I must say I am sure dinner was wonderful, I just don’t remember eating it.
My Mom and Aunt began clearing the table. Soon I heard my name being called from the kitchen. Aunt Ellen asked me to help her with the desserts. There sitting in the middle of the kitchen table was the box! “Go ahead and open it” she said . Suddenly I was afraid to, what if, after all my worrying about what was inside, I was disappointed? I didn’t think I could stand that!
Slowly I removed the lid, squeezing my eyes closed tightly. Suddenly there was the most heavenly aroma wafting through the kitchen….butter, sugar, vanilla…it had to be COOKIES!
I pushed aside the waxed paper! There before me was a huge box full of the most beautifully decorated sugar cookies I have ever seen! I was amazed at the decorations…icings of every color! Little silver dragees for the reindeer eyes. Multicolored nonpareils decorating the green iced trees. White coconut tucked around Santa’s chin. Aunt Ellen had worked late into the night, after my cousins had gone to bed, making these beautiful cookies, so beautiful that they brought tears to my eyes. It was then and there that I decided Christmas Food Memories are the best! So were Aunt Ellen’s Cookies!
I will never forget the Christmas of 1949.
Here is a great cookie recipe for cutout cookies to decorate. It is courtesy of Sub-Zero and Wolf
Soft Sour Cream Rolled Cookies
3 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 400°F. Sift flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt together. In large mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes on medium power. Add sour cream. Reduce power to low. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Combine just till combined. On well-floured surface, roll half dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using 3” cookie cutters, cut desired shapes into dough. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until edges are light golden brown. Repeat with remaining dough. Frost and decorate as desired. Make 5 to 6 dozen.

As for the icing for decorating the cookies, I don’t think you can beat good old buttercream. The one pound box of powdered sugar has a wonderful recipe printed on it. Make a lot, divide into bowls for coloring. If you want to make really special colors, visit a Wilton dealer. There you can also buy decorating tubes and disposable pastry bags. Wilton also has cookie cutters, idea books with patterns, baking sheets, etc.
Start a new tradition this year by baking sugar cookies and decorating them for your family. Find a giant box, line it with waxed paper, and then fill it with your works of art….I guarantee you, it will drive some little kid absolutely bonkers!

More cookie recipes to come....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the butter cookie recipe. Could you, would you, please also share your recipe for eggnog pudding and for the onion cornbread dressing you mentioned?

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