Oh, the aroma of cookies baking and the counter covered with powdered sugar and sprinkles. The children are not standing by the chimney; they’re standing by the oven waiting for the timer to chirp and the first batch of the season to come out. It’s Christmas time in the city.

Christmas cookie baking is genetic in my family. As a little girl, my mom and aunts gathered in Gramma’s kitchen to chop the nuts, cream the butter and roll out the dough. After moving across the country when I was 10, it was just my mom, sister and me.  Now at 58, it’s my daughter, my grandchildren and me.

The Christmas cookies serve as hostess gifts, co-workers gifts, and desserts at parties. We also make batches to give to city employees such as the mail person, the gas man and the local police station. But mostly, it’s the cookie baking with the children that brings great joy. Well, that is if some simple rules are followed.

Rule #1– Keep it Simple

When making cookies alone, I go into overdrive because I want to make a lot of different cookies for a lot of different people.  However, when the children are in the kitchen it’s best to keep it at two or three recipes. This will keep the sanity for the day.

Rule #2 – Plan Ahead

Take a census of the ages of the children. Set up stations in different spots around your work space that are appropriate for sizes and levels of ability. A 10 year old might be able to handle standing on a sturdy chair at the counter but the two year old needs to be sitting on the floor or in the high chair. Make sure your selection of recipes include something for everyone. Let the children crack the eggs into a separate bowl so you can get out any shells. They can measure, stir, pour, blend, scoop, scrape, roll, cutout and sugarcoat. Make it their day.

Rule #3 – Lower Your Expectations

This is not a gourmet chef’s kitchen. Remind yourself ahead of time that it’s about the relationships you are building. I help the children to wash their hands if they lick their fingers and to not put the dough from the floor back into the bowl. But remember, everything will be cooked.  And if the egg drops on the floor, make it into a lesson about chickens.

Rule #4 – Have Fun

Sing Christmas songs or put the CDs on; tell stories about “when I was a little girl.” Talk about who you will share them with and why. And of course, have lots of taste tests.

Rule #5 – Remember Safety

When working in the kitchen with children, extra alertness is a necessity.  The oven is hot, some things are glass, and of course raw dough can make you sick. Just be aware.

Great- Gramma’s Fork Cookies

Preheat oven to 350Ëš

1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. white granulated sugar
1/2 C. shortening
1 C. shredded coconut – not packed
1 egg
1 C. pre-sifted white flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, cream the sugars and shortening together with a wooden spoon. In a separate bowl, gently mix the flour, soda, baking powder and salt. Add the coconut and egg to the creamed sugars. Beat well. Slowly add the flour mixture.

Form into 1-inch balls. Place on a greased cookie sheet and press down with a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to racks.  Yummy!

Annette’s Peanut Blossoms

Preheat oven to 375Ëš

1-3/4 C. flour
1/2 C. white granulated sugar
1/2 C. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. shortening
1/2 C. peanut butter
1 egg
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
48 milk chocolate kisses

In large mixer bowl, combine all ingredients except candy kisses.  Blend well at low speed. Shape into balls, using a rounded teaspoon for each cookie.  Roll the balls in additional white sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Immediately top each cookie with a candy kiss, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around edge.  Let cool and share a kiss!

Gramma’s Empanadas

Preheat oven to 375Ëš

1/2 C. soft butter
1  3-oz. package cream cheese
1 C. flour
1 C. cherry jam or jelly – with chunks of cherries
1/3 C. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Beat butter and cream cheese.  Add flour and refrigerate overnight. Thirty minutes before ready to use, remove from frig.

Roll the dough into a large, thin (about 1/8-in) circle. Use a 3-inch round cookie cutter or glass edge to cut out circles.  Put a small about of jam or jelly in the center of each circle.  Moisten the edges of the dough and fold in half. Use a fork to press down around the curved edges.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  When empanadas are out of oven, while still warm, roll them in the sugar mixture. Viva la Empanadas!


EXTRA:  Non-eatable Playdough

This is the best recipe for playdough I’ve found. Make several batches in different Christmas colors.

3 C. flour
1-1/2 C. salt
6 Tbsp. oil
6 tsp. cream of tartar
3 C. water
few drops of food coloring
few drops of flavoring – mint, lemon, strawberry, etc.

Mix everything in a large stove-top pan. Heat slowly until the ingredients lump together. Remove from heat. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and dough-like.  Let cool. Store in air-tight, plastic bags.  Remember this is NOT for eating. Watch the children create!