Christmas comes but once a year but if you visit New York City, it’s Christmas time again. The holiday time crowds and decorations are out in force. The stores are busy with shoppers and the lines for everything from seeing a famous Christmas sight to visiting a restroom stretch out as far as the eye can see. Speaking of seas, we chose ferries as our means of transport. It made for a far more peaceful visit. We sat shoulder to hip and knee to each other on the Staten Island Ferry while we watched the sites go by, we lunched BLTs on sourdough with organic blue corn chips, mandarins and shortbread cookies. Then we walked along the shoreline past helicopters to ride the NYC ferry to 34th where we walked past miracles and wonders that make New York a delight. In the afternoon, we’d made our way to Times Square but the ball for the drop does not come out to fall until New Year’s Eve so we looked about at the glittering people and lights instead. By evening, we were standing shoulder to hip and toe to see the tree at the Rockefeller Center and to catch a glimpse of the skaters down below. As we boarded the ferry once again we all missed our native state of California and the times we stood shoulder to hip and toe to see the tree at the Embarcadero Center. I am lucky to have shared holiday times and traditions on both coasts with those I love. We have expanded our circle of beloved family to include cherished friends and our lives are blessed because we keep our minds open to learning about and accepting others. We have acquired new tastes and adopted new traditions from the places we have lived and visited and in so doing, enriched our lives. If there is one take away of the holiday season, it is love. Love goes wherever you go... That is the true miracle. Never stop being in awe of its wonder... Wishing ALL you Dear Readers a peaceful, phenomenal and love-filled new year!
It’s our family’s tradition to have Eggs Benedict for dinner on Christmas Eve. My husband, Russell, shaped napkins into Christmas trees and my Hollandaise sauce might just have been the best I’ve ever made. I spent a delightful day baking a chocolate cake, making vanilla buttercream frosting, rolling pie dough for Russell’s fruit mince pie, finishing side dishes and mangling macaroons. I sang as I baked and cooked while my husband and daughter’s did their traditional Christmas Eve shop. Last night I tasted the homemade limoncello I made weeks ago and today I paid the price. I drank gallons of water to help and will probably never not add making limoncello to my list of holiday traditions.
Lately I have been asked a lot if I’m “ready” for Christmas. It seems many of my friends stress over organizing, shopping and wrapping. I do not stress over Christmas. I get excited about the process of rolling along toward Christmas. I adore the preparations of decorating and gathering of loved ones about our home. I enjoy making treats and finding just the right present for someone that shows I put a lot of love and care into their gift. I wait for Santa to come and leave surprises in our stockings and around the tree. I treasure the looks on my family’s faces as they open gifts. I love the holiday lights, decorations, music, movies and events. I love planning breakfast, snacks drinks and setting the table. Am I ready for Christmas? Yes. I am!
Every family has a favorite holiday cookie or three right, Dear Readers? Our family is no different. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without Press Cookie Cookies. Making them with our children is such fun. Making them with my mother, Ellen, is Press Cookie Magic! My mother and I have not baked Press Cookie cookies together since my brothers and I were very young. I loved the rich buttery almond flavor of the cookies then and I love it still. I adore the way we were completely un-monitored and allowed to make as much mess as we wanted. My youngest brother, John, decorated with abandon while my older brother, Steven, was meticulous. With John’s cookies it was nearly impossible to see the cookie for all the decorations and Christmas music was always playing while we spilled, I mean sprinkled decorations all over the floor, I mean cookies. Toward the end of the decorating process there is always a bit of batter left over and my mother divided it between the three of us and let us make whatever shape(s) we wanted! I think I loved those creative times with the last bits of dough most of all!
The batter for Press Cookie cookies is super simple to make and I don’t know of a more fun cookie to decorate! I hope you give the recipe and decorating a try and share your results in the comments section. Go make some Press Cookie magic!
1 cup salted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure almond extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Sprinkles or other decorations
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix or cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Add egg, then extract. Add flour and baking soda. Mix.
Load dough into cookie press. Squeeze trigger to extrude enough dough to form the desired shape. Cookie should be about 1/3 of an inch thick. Add green or red sprinkles or other desired decorations.
Bake pressed and decorated cookies 7-10 minutes, until slightly golden.
There is just over a week until Christmas and today my holiday tips and recipes were shared in The Morning Call newspaper. I thought I would share this little holiday read with you, Dear Readers, and hope it is a helpful guide.
All this talk about bringing home the bacon and putting eggs in baskets being offensive is so silly. This morning, I want you to know something, Dear Readers, I did downward facing dog in front of our dog Lollipop and she was completely okay with it. That is all.
This past week, our family has been making Christmas cookies, lots of them. We made buttery spicy cookies and cookies scented with vanilla. We made press cookies and those that are rolled. We painted cookies and used decorative sugars to adorn everything from angel and tree shapes to Santa's and houses, all while Christmas carols played. Later we watched silly, sappy movies while munching our cookie creations, both holiday musts! We had a blast! I do not know if Santa will put me on the naughty list or not because, as you can see, I got a little carried away while decorating. (Personally, I blame the second Cosmo.) But hey, it's not my fault Santa took the saying 'I'll leave the back door open...' a little too much to heart. It is my firm belief, Christmas laughs are always in season!
There are two ways to welcome Christmas in our home, decorating the Christmas tree (which is not complete without the Christmas goat, as shown) and the making of our family's favorite Christmas cookie. Our family has been making the same cookie at Christmas time for generations, they are called "Press Cookies." My grandmother, Mary, made them and my mother, Ellen, made them and now I make them. It doesn't seem like Christmas until the yummy, buttery smell of Press Cookies is wafting through our halls. I will spend days forgetting to put away the sprinkles and weeks tracking down the dragee decorations. (I believe the recipe came from the cookie press box recipe pamphlet.) Anyway, below is the recipe I make every year, although any flavor of extract will work wonderfully and I believe the new cup-to-cup gluten-free flours available on the market will allow anyone to enjoy these crispy bites. The cookies keep for weeks in an airtight container but will be eaten in days! I advise making a double batch!
1 cup salted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Add egg then extract. Add flour and soda.
Christmas is fast approaching so I thought I’d share my table setting as a sort of Christmasy Carol. Isn’t it lovely? I firmly believe a lot of money should not be invested in a table setting but instead should be used to purchase the best quality food a budget allows; therefore, I spent next to nothing on this table setting. Our daughter, Mia and I, collected branches from the garden and painted them gold. My mother, Ellen, sewed the edges of this piece of yard sale fabric and all the table setting pieces I own. Holidays are not about the amount of money spent but the amount of love given.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor