The Reason For The Season

To me, the definition of the holiday season is family, tradition and remembering. I miss a lot, perhaps too much from my traditions with my family. We used to make a huge thing of Christmas day. My mom would spend the day cooking, family would start to show up and we’d have the pickle and relish tray out with the cream cheese filled celery and olives, sometimes cheese. We would be chatting and hanging out until meal time. Someone would set the table. If my mom had a bit of time while waiting for the ham to come out, we could open gifts. If not, we would just have to wait until after dinner. These were of course the gifts to and from the extended family. My mom would never make us wait until that late in the day to open our gifts from Santa. But my mom now lives in a different state from my sister and I, while my sister, her family and rest of the closer family (which now only really consists of my dad and grandma) live a few hours away from me. The only real traditions we still uphold are cookie day at my dad’s and Christmas eve at my grandma’s. So once I married and moved away from the remainder of my family, I needed to create my own traditions with my husband. My husband and I like to open Christmas gifts at midnight Christmas eve/Christmas morning. Partly because neither of us can wait a second longer to give each other the gifts we’ve hand picked and made for each other and also because we can sleep in without having the present opening interfering with the day’s travels or any cooking/baking we need to do.

its a wonderful life

My husband’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, because of the food. He’s a chef, so it’s understandable. He likes to do the unusual, whereas several family members, myself included always fight for the traditional. Turkey. He could do without it. I cannot. There are staples you just don’t mess with. My family (any many others) have always done a turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry, sweet potatoes/yams, rolls, green beans and either one or two other veggies. We love doing brussel sprouts in more recent years, he’s also done a root vegetable hash and other experimental veggies. His mom likes to change things every year and would constantly change the side dishes if it weren’t for the rest of our insistence to keep well enough alone. Of course, almost everyone has pumpkin pie for dessert. Some of my families past traditions have been to only serve ice water to drink. My grandma always simmered her green beans all day long with bacon and pepper. Some families do another meat in addition to the turkey, like lamb, duck, ham, beef… My step father’s family did a cornbread and a meat stuffing as well as a potato casserole with sour cream and corn flakes on top, a broccoli casserole dish and rigatoni. All very delicious.

Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love the sparkle, the lights, the smells, the music, pretty wrappings (another post to come) and the traditions with family. It’s just the two of us, and our two French bulldogs, and his family doesn’t really do a meal on Christmas, not like my family used to do. That’s not to say that they don’t celebrate Christmas to its full extent. It’s just a matter of getting us all together, so it’s usually done at a later time, often closer to New Year’s Day. Cookie day, as I mentioned is a day for my dad to use his [no longer] new Kitchen Aid mixer. We are a cookie factory, essentially. We normally make the standards of chocolate chip, peanut butter, pb kisses, sugar, and then throw in the family recipes of molasses, and my sister has been doing the pb sandwiches coated in chocolate. One year she made mint oreo’s covered in white chocolate, my favorite that year. But Oreo stopped making the peppermint cookies so it got harder to recreate those. We’ve also tried haystacks, no bake cookies, various sugar cookie doughs, snowballs and others from an old cookbook someone inherited. This year, I am dying to try out the cookie press I got last year and make even prettier cookies with sprinkles and frosting.

cookie press cookies


christmas cookies

Here are some of the pictures from my own family christmas last year, where I cooked everything at my house.

relish trays christmas 2013  christmas traditions cooking  christmas sweets 2013

Relish and celery options, ham, grandma’s green beans and mostaccioli as well as the potatoes ready to be mashed, followed by the sweets of pecan pie and cookies.

These are a few of our favorite cookie recipes:

wilton sugar cookies


Wilton sugar cookie  



step 1

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

step 2

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and extracts. Mix flour, baking powder and salt; add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Do not chill dough. Divide dough into 2 balls.

step 3

On floured surface, roll each ball into a circle approximately 12 in. diameter x 1/8 in. thick. Dip cookie cutter in flour before each use. Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet 8-11 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.


crisco peanut butter cookies  crisco peanut butter cookies kisses


Crisco Peanut Butter Cookie

  • 1 cup Crisco® Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
  • OR 1 stick Crisco® Baking Sticks Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 cup Jif® Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  Sugar for dipping
  • Crisco® Butter Flavor No-Stick Cooking Spray

COMBINE shortening, peanut butter, 1 cup sugar and powdered sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Mix into creamed mixture at low speed until just blended. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

HEAT oven to 350ºF. Coat baking sheet lightly with no-stick cooking spray. Form dough into 1-inch balls. Dip 1/2 of each ball into sugar. Place sugar side up, 2 inches apart on sheet. Flatten with floured fork.

BAKE 12 to 15 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to cooling rack.


tollhouse cookies


Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts


PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Whatever your reason to celebrate this holiday season, make sure it’s a good one. It doesn’t have to be about the same things as mine is, but you should definitely find out what means the most to you and embrace that.

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