This morning I finally sat down to dig out my Christmas Cookie recipes that I have made every single year for the past 36 years (or more). Some of them were almost illegible having been written on scraps of paper that happened to be what was available at my Auntie Maryanne’s house (my mom’s sister, and the one who baked in the family and therefore had the very best recipes). There are a few other favorites such as the candy cane sugar cookie recipe. My younger sister Fran was taking a home economics class in high school at the time (1976?) and came home with these absolutely delicious sugar cookies in the shape of a candy cane. That recipe I finally had to rewrite since it was so faded after all these years. Another addition to the original Auntie Maryanne list was an Italian almond paste cookie that I searched for after having some at Michael’s Italian Bakery in Boston that were so good, I went on a search to recreate them. The recipe isn’t exactly the same but dang, pretty darn close.
So the final traditional list I have acquired consists of Auntie Maryanne’s Chinese Chews, Jelly Print Cookies, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Walnut Butterballs, and Merry Cheesecake Squares. The ones added on (with a story behind each and every one that evokes a memory of a special person in my past) include Thyra’s Raspberry Almond Bars, my sister Fran’s Candy Cane Cookies, Barbara’s Peanut Butter Bars, Laurel Bean’s Vanilla Bean Crescent Cookies, Lucy’s Chocolate Fudge and Barbie’s White Chocolate Crunch (well, she refused to share her secret family recipe however I found a similar one, so it still makes me think of her!)
What is the point of going into detail about all of these cookies on a health/nutrition blog? It makes me sad when people are so focused on dieting and eating perfectly (sometimes), and worrying about weight gain they end up missing out on the important things behind the food. Just trying to recall all of the recipes and thinking about all of these old friends in my past made me happy. It has nothing to do with the sugar or the butter or the health of the cookie or bar but everything to do with the connection and memories created. The problems arise when there is an imbalance in eating often triggered by restriction followed by compensatory binge eating or overeating and guilt. Not a way to enjoy the holidays.
Yes, all of the sweets and drinks and other holiday foods are very triggering for some people. Some people truly are not able to stop if sweets are in the environment. Again, as I have said so many times before, work on knowing yourself. If you have been working on intuitive eating, and you have learned to have some fun foods without binge eating them, then embracing the food traditions may not be a problem for you. For others, trying to avoid foods, not enjoying old family traditions or recipes because of fears of weight gain means missing out on part of the joy of the season. If this rings true for you, why not at least try to think about your own family traditions over the years? Do you have an Aunt Maryanne in your life who has the best recipes ever? Why not ask for them so you can start to build your arsenal of memories for the future……..when hopefully, you will have learned to enjoy every aspect of the season. That means getting to enjoy different foods, yet still listening to your body and remaining healthy and feeling good.
Anyway, after talking about all of these cookies, I feel I should at least share one of the recipes. Here it is!
Fran’s Candy Cane Cookies
Cream together: 1 1/3 cup butter, 2 1/2 cups sugar, 4 teaspoons vanilla, 2 eggs and 1 tsp salt. Blend in 3 cups flour. Divide dough in half and add a few drops of red food coloring to half the batter. Chill, then roll into small logs the size of a marker or pencil or crayon. Roll together a red strip and a white strip then shape into a candy can on the cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes. Cool on a rack. They will get crispy as they cool. If you use more dough for each one, they will be bigger, so make them as big or small as you like. You can also shape into circles. Enjoy!