As I write this post on what would have been my grandmother’s birthday, I am reminded of her artistic talents and how much we all enjoyed her cooking.
My grandmother’s cooking roots actually started with baking. So I have included a couple of her simple, yet really good Christmas cookies and angel food cake recipes.
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Vanilla Pudding
These cookies are usually a happy medium between fluffy and chewy. I love the texture the vanilla pudding adds to the cookies.
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (room temperature)
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package vanilla instant pudding
1 package (or 2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugars, vanilla pudding mix, and vanilla. Beat until it has a creamy texture. Gradually beat in the eggs. Gradually add the salt, baking soda, and flour. Stir in the chocolate chips. Then, CHILL DOUGH IN THE REFRIGERATOR FOR AN HOUR.
Remove the dough from the fridge. Drop dough by about a tablespoonful for each cookie – about 2 inches apart onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly brown on the edges.
Cool cookies slightly and then remove the cookies from the cookie sheet. AFTER EACH BATCH, RUN THE COOKIE SHEET UNDER COLD WATER & DRY before placing the next batch of dough on it.
Cinnamon Sugar Angels
(I used this recipe from the “Spirit of Christmas”- Baker’s Dozen by Leisure Arts, Inc.)
¾ cup unsalted butter (softened)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 container (15 ounces) creamy vanilla frosting
½ cup coarse decorating sugar
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium until it has a fluffy texture. Gradually mix in sugar, followed by the egg and vanilla. Continue beating well. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and then gradually add to the butter mixture. Shape the dough into a ball and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Use an angel shaped cookie cutter and carefully transfer the gentle dough to lightly greased baking sheets.
Bake 6-7 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. Microwave the frosting on high for 45 seconds, and then spoon frosting on top of the cooled cookies. Sprinkle with coarse decorating sugar and let dry.
Grandma’s Cocoons (Pecan Cookies)
2 sticks butter (room temperature)
2 cups sifted flour
5 heaping tbsp. powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans)
In a mixing bow, cream the butter, flour, and sugar together
Add vanilla and nuts to the mixture
Work into a stiff dough
Form the dough into egg shaped cookies
Roll the cookies in powdered sugar (My addition: If you brush the cookies with light corn syrup, the powdered sugar will “stick” better)
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes
Grandma’s Angel Food Cake
1 package yellow cake mix
1 package instant vanilla pudding
¾ cup cooking oil
¾ cup cream sherry (Sherry cooking wine)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix all ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes
Pour mixture into a well buttered angel food / Bundt cake pan
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes (Check with a toothpick)
Let it cool, remove cake and sprinkle with powdered sugar
Green tip: Package cookies in mason jars, tins, or something like a cute holiday kitchen cloth, tied with a ribbon. By using reusable gift packing for your homemade gifts, you avoid wasting materials. Plus, such gift packaging can be reused and enjoyed by its gift recipient.
More Christmas cookies and baking recipes to follow! Happy Holidays!
I have a goal to start thinking about green living this Christmas.
Christmas is not only a time for goodwill toward all but also for its care of Mother Earth. “All of nature reflects the wonder of this beautiful season” – A quote from one of my favorite Christmas cards.
8 Reasons to Go Green this Christmas:
Green living at the holiday helps one think more conscientiously and less commercially, allowing us to focus on the true spirit of Christmas.
Even just small steps toward green living will lessen our typically greater carbon footprint over the holiday.
Simplifying things reduces clutter, over-spending, and big messes.
Green decorating with real branches, tree trimmings, holly, pine cones, beeswax and soy candles creates a fresh and elegant feel to a room.
Natural decorations makes our homes smell like the holidays!
Using current supplies of extra Christmas cards from last year, wrapping paper, bows & ribbons, and even packing material for creative wrapping saves money, reduces clutter, and frees-up storage space.
Green living at Christmas saves energy, likely resulting in lower heating and electrical bills!
Going green over the holidays not only helps the environment, but it often helps our mental well-being.
If you cherish Christmas gift giving, minus the hassle and wastefulness, think green gift.
You can avoid the mad rush of holiday deals and crowds, or online shipping costs by shopping early, staying local, and keeping it green!
There is something charming about a used book as a gift.
Consider it a proper re-gift. A few years ago my sister included her copy of “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin with a note about how much she enjoyed it. It was perfect.
There are countless creative DIY projects!
Family History: In my family, one of my sisters interviewed our father on the Sicilian side of his family. She recorded the educative history and made audio CDs for everyone.
Personalized PJ’s: My other sister cleverly personalized cotton pajama bottoms with puffy paint. She painted a cute Christmas tree, along with my nickname in cursive, on the shorts.
Creative Jar & Tin Gifts: Other DIY presents might be making an eco-friendly soy candle, or planting herbs or English ivy in an old-fashioned coffee tin.
Homemade: Baked Christmas cookies can be nice neighbor gifts, or perhaps making ornaments or a trivet out of wine bottle corks.
Services: Consider offering your services, depending on your skills. A day of dog walking, childcare, or cooking lessons are likely to be very helpful. There are many examples online for personalized coupon books.
Farmers’ markets offer healthful and creative gift ideas, not to mention they are great for supporting small farms and businesses.
I’m fortunate to live just a block from such a market. The Christmas gifts I have scouted out include hip fabric totes, organic cooking oils, beeswax beauty products, “Bear Cub” granola, and organic dog treats.
Charitable Christmas Gifts
Many charities offer tribute donations in the name of a loved one, which could be a nice gift solution for the person who “already has everything.”
Free Wheelchair Mission (FWM) provides cost-efficient, innovative wheelchairs to people in the developing world. FWM will mail an Honor Card when you donate a wheelchair in your gift recipient’s name.
Other reputable groups, such as Direct Relief, ASPCA, World Wildlife Federation, andPolar BearsInternationalalso offer honorary gift options when you make a donation.
Compassion Internationaland Save the Children,provide honor cards, along with global child sponsorship programs.
Arbor Day Foundation has “Give-A-Tree Cards.” You can make a donation to plant your purchased tree in a loved one’s name. The card will be sent to you to sign personally and deliver.
(Important – If you are not familiar with a charity, be sure to research it before you make a donation. I recommend using CharityNavigator.org and Give.org.)
Hopefully, these green gift ideas will resonate for a blissfully green and hassle-free Christmas!