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‘‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

In our house, Christmas was a big deal.

Decorating the tree was a major undertaking, usually requiring a few days to get everything tight. (Yes, we were a “one strand of tinsel at a time” kind of family.) Gifts were all thoughtful, and their wrapping was to be done with care. Everything was meant to be savoured.

Christmas Eve was inevitably busy, with last minute gifts to wrap amidst visiting friends. But once dinner was done, we settled in. Final preparations were near.

Every year of my childhood we read Clement C. Moore’s classic, once the cookies were set out for Santa.

Santa had to get a sample of each of the baked goods we’d made that year. I remember my mom explaining he probably wouldn’t have room to try them all, having to see everyone around the world.

I used to be able to recite all the verses… my favourite was

My mom usually read the story, but one year we were lucky enough to have Gramps there – he knew The Man in Red personally, so that was extra cool.

As soon as the story was finished, my brother and I would kiss our parents good night, and then it was off to bed to await the magic. I don’t remember dreams of sugar plums but I did sleep well.

I still get up in the morning to check and see what Santa sampled.

I hope there is magic in your heart too – you do know that Santa checks in anyway, even if you don’t put out cookies, right?

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Share kindness with a cookie

sharing a cookie

Today is World Kindness Day. I think every day should be World Kindness Day, but we have to start somewhere, right. One step at a time. So, I propose we start by sharing.

One of the easiest things to share is food. I know that in today’s world even that can be complicated, what with all the dietary restrictions and allergies. But the gesture of sharing is still a kind one, even if the recipient has to refuse the token. They don’t have to refuse the smile that goes with it.

My Mom used to say there wasn’t much a cookie couldn’t cure. Technology will argue that point; but if I have a bad day, I still feel better after I take the time to enjoy a cookie. If I can find someone to share the moment and maybe another cookie, so much the better.

Are you like me – certain kinds of cookies fit certain moods?

peanut butter criss cross cookies

 PEANUT BUTTER CRISS CROSS – for days when I feel like a dose of kid magic, that beautiful feeling of freedom and wonder you have when you’re a kid. There is something simple and nourishing about these squished rounds that make my soul sing.

 

cookie monster in bed happiness

TROPICAL DELIGHT – for when I want to “Sail Away” like in that old song, imagining that I’m at the beach or on the water, in holiday mode. These are particularly welcome in the dead of winter.

 

 

Dave Zen cookies

CHOCOLATE COOKIES – you know those days when you just don’t think you can get to the end unless you have a bit of chocolate? These are like a friend made into cookie dough. When your best bud isn’t available, these come to the rescue.

 

 

Maybe you aren’t so much of a sweets person? Not to worry, I have something for that savoury shortbread The Chef Insteadtoo. I always lean towards sweet treats for sharing a morsel, but SAVOURY SHORTBREAD that my hubbie, The Chef Instead makes is a perfect grown-up treat that’s good for one friend or many.

 

 

If, God forbid, you’re not into any kind of biscuit or cookie (it’s okay, we could still be friends) then how about sharing a pot of coffee or a bottle of wine? You can even “pay it forward” in the queue at Starbucks or Timmy’s. You could put something in the Food Bank donation box at your local grocery store.

Even if you’re reading this at the end of the day, you can still be a part of all this wonderful-ness. There is no expiry date on kindness. What do you say?

(I’m heading out to share my birthday cake from yesterday. I’m baking cookies tomorrow. I’ll report back on how they turn out!)

Get right in it!

One of the things I love about cooking is the hands-on approach. You have to touch the food, feel how it behaves as you mix it, taste it as you transform it. Cooking is a never-ending discovery of sensations.

As I was making Peanut Butter Criss Cross Cookies this afternoon it occurred to me that Spring Break started this weekend in the Okanagan. With apologies to anyone allergic to nuts, I thought what a great recipe this would be for kids to make.


Cookies are always a good thing to start with for a young cook and who doesn’t want to get their hands right in the bowl?! Squishing the dough between my hands as I made balls to be “criss-crossed” with a fork took me back to my childhood. There was a delicious sense of abandon at being able to get messy on purpose.

Okay, the secret is out – I live a double life. I love to be a girl, dressing up and being feminine and soft and delicate; I also love getting down and dirty in the kitchen and the garden. Is that bad? I don’t think so – the opposite nature of the two sides has helped me find a balance in my life, and feeling food and the earth it grows in keeps me connected to the universe.

So I suppose as much as the big kid in me just thinks kids would love messing around, I also believe it gives them roots in the world and connects them to something bigger than just us.

It’s not quite warm enough to muck in the dirt yet (although jumping in puddles is a highly underrated activity, especially with good gumboots). But at least you can get in a bowl of cookie dough and feel the inner peace that comes from creating something.

Happy Spring Break!

I Had a Hankering

Sunday is a day meant for tinkering. I like to do my tinkering in the kitchen. Sometimes it is more like work (ok, actually it is work – especially during wedding season). Thankfully I love what I do. But sometimes it’s just nice to kick around on one’s own, isn’t it?

My problem was, I had almost not energy. We just returned from our yearly winter break in Mexico, and both of us left fine but woke up at home sick the next day. I have been dragging my butt around for a few days now trying to get back up to speed. An easy recipe seemed like the thing to help. 

My mom used to say there isn’t much a cookie can’t cure. I had a hankering for a chocolate cookie, and found a tantalizing recipe through Yummly. I got to work right away….

 These kitchen-sink delights contain three of my favourite baking ingredients – browned butter, chocolate and dried cherries. And since they are made with whole wheat flour and oatmeal, they could be considered guilt-free, if not healthy. 

I will offer this counsel: Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies are so full of goodies they are hard to form into a cookie. Do use the recommended ice cream scoop to get them on the pan.  I also used a scraper to flatten them out a bit and corral the few chocolate chips that rolled away from the masses. I got 14 large cookies from one recipe. 

It has taken me two days and a few cookies to get back to full strength but I feel like I’m close to being my normal energetic self again. As usual, Mom was right. 

Watch for more updates from our Mexico travels soon. 

A Taste of Nostalgia

Today was one full of old food memories, every one of them delicious. And so, I thought I would share them with you; even though you likely don’t share the same memories I’m sure you have your own nostalgic foods to enjoy. Perhaps this post will spark an old flame or spur you on to dig up a forgotten taste…

My mom was one of the people who inspired me to start cooking; she was a great cook, even though she had hardly any experience when she started to cook for our family. Her sense of adventure, and the electric frying pan, were the secret to many a wonderful meal. As such, I find it a particular compliment that she now asks me for recipes. The internet is the biggest cookbook in the world, and she is on her computer all the time… and yet, when she is looking for a remembered taste she sends me an email. I have taken to posting the recipes she requests here on the blog, so that they are in one place for posterity. After all, I started out with all my favourite recipes of hers in one place – I bought the same black notebook she had and copied out everything (shortbread cookies,  lemon loaflemon pudding cakebutter-tarts … you get the idea). Today she asked me for shortcake biscuits . I had to chuckle when I pulled the recipe with my notes to post it, as it’s one of the first ones I ever cooked.strawberry-shortcake I’m excited to find out what exotic fruit she puts in the shortcake, being in Mexico for the winter 🙂

Just to top the day off, we got to enjoy some of my husband’s Québécois nostalgia as well. He made tourtière over the Christmas break and froze it for us to enjoy – tonight is the night! I must say, simple comfort food is something at which the Québécois excel.

So, amidst the guilt of having to start new things for a new year and the pressure of having to live up to all the inspirational quotes that get posted everywhere, how about a taste of days gone by? Familiar tastes are what comfort food is all about.

Not to mention, it’s cold and snowy here, so this really hit the spot.

Stay warm!

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