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For the Joy of Cookies

Published: October 22, 2009

For Susan Smith—mother of three, grandmother of five, and sibling of seven—a traditional white Christmas in Naples, Florida, is out of the question. Susan’s daughters, however, enjoy a “white Christmas” of a different kind every time they visit for their annual cooking-baking ritual, when snowflakes fall in the form of confectioners’ sugar and the occasional flour fight (a lot less painful than snowballs) has been known to break out.

The sensational art of cookie making remains a tradition in American households, especially during the holidays. It’s a custom that makes precious memories and embraces life’s simple pleasures. Susan and her family take it seriously, in the most lighthearted way.

“I have fond memories of being allowed to help press the cookie cutters down after Mother placed them on the dough,” Susan recalls. It’s an affectionate moment that she and her sisters kept alive by reuniting year after year for the holidays, each bringing a batch of their own homemade cookies to share.

“In spite of time and distance, the tradition has continued with my own daughters, Kelly, Leslie, and Lindsay,” says Susan. “They helped me when they were young children, when they came home from college, and even now that they are all married and have children of their own.” Sharing the experience, the girls would all agree, only enhances a family bond.

After the final dusting of powered sugar settles, and the remaining sprinkles have nestled into a freshly frosted cookie, the treats are then packaged as neighborly gifts or thoughtfully placed in breakrooms to be shared with appreciative coworkers.

Over the years, the annual affair has been a simple reminder for Susan and her daughters of the values of teamwork, “of taking part in something bigger than themselves, not to mention a chance to pass along some basic baking and kitchen skills,” says Susan. “It provides a fond memory that they will look back on and enjoy, over and over again.”

More than a memory, though, the Smiths’ yearly cookie fest has become a part of their lives. Recently, when Susan was house-hunting, daughters Lindsay and Leslie accompanied her. As they toured a prospective house, their first reaction wasn’t to wonder about the age of the roof, the plumbing under the sink, or how well the furnace worked. Instead, Susan says, “as we stood in the kitchen, Leslie looked at her sister and me and said, ‘I can see us making cookies in this kitchen.’ ”

Cream Cheese Cookies

Cream Cheese Cookies

Cream Cheese Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen*

  • ½ cup margarine
  • 1 3-ounce package of reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • food coloring (optional)
  • 1½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • sprinkles (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Cream together margarine, cream cheese, and sugar until fluffy. Add egg yolk, vanilla, and beat well. (Add food coloring here if desired.)

2. In separate bowl, sift flour and salt together. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture in 3 additions.

3. Place cookie dough in cookie press and make desired shapes on ungreased cookie sheet. Add sprinkles if desired. Bake for 8-10 minutes. [Note: Watch carefully as cookies burn easily.]

*Amounts may vary depending on cookie press shape(s).

Nutrition Facts

Per two-cookie serving:
Calories: 101
Carbohydrate: 12 g
Protein: 2 g
Sodium: 137 mg
Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
Fiber: 0.3 g

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies

Makes 3 to 4 dozen

Cookies

  • ½ cup margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 36-48 maraschino cherries, drained (reserve liquid)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream together margarine and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla.

2. In separate bowl, sift dry ingredients and add to wet mixture in 3 additions.

3. Make 1-inch balls with dough and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Push cherry into center of ball and bake 8-10 minutes. Frost (if desired) when cooled.

Frosting (optional)

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons cherry juice (from reserve)

1. Melt chips and milk.

2. Add salt and cherry juice. (If frosting becomes dry, add more juice.)

Nutrition Facts

Per two-cookie serving (with frosting):
Calories: 229
Carbohydrate: 35 g
Protein: 3 g
Sodium: 155 mg
Fat: 8.5 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Fiber: 2 g

Zesty Orange Cookies

Zesty Orange Cookies

Zesty Orange Cookies

Makes 2½ dozen

Cookies

  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) freshly squeezed orange juice (grate the fruit’s zest before juicing)
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest (the rind of 1 large or 2 small oranges)
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Beat in egg, then orange juice and zest. (Mixture will look curdled.) Add flour, beating until smooth.

3. Drop dough by the tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

4. Bake, reversing pans midway through (top to bottom, bottom to top), until edges begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove cookies and let cool on pans for 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.

Frosting

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest (rind of 1 small orange)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon orange extract
  • 18 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1. In medium bowl, beat sugar, butter, orange zest, extracts, and salt until combined. Beat in orange juice till mixture is spreadable.

2. Spread icing on cookies after cooled, using 1 teaspoon per cookie.

Nutrition Facts

Per two-cookie serving:
Calories: 263
Carbohydrate: 39 g
Protein: 3 g
Sodium: 163 mg
Fat: 10.5 g
Saturated Fat: 7 g
Fiber: 2 g

Holiday Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour (plus a pinch more depending on moisture of dough)
  • 1½ cups of rolled oats
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup pecans

1. In large bowl, mix dry ingredients. In medium bowl, mix wet ingredients.

2. Mix wet ingredients with dry mix. Stir in raisins and nuts. Add pinch of flour if mixture is too wet. Refrigerate dough for 20 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 335 F. Drop by teaspoonful onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Press dough down with fork. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Nutrition Facts

Per two-cookie serving:
Calories: 278
Carbohydrate: 34 g
Protein: 4 g
Sodium: 179 mg
Fat: 14 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Fiber: 3.7 g

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