Friday, December 27, 2013

Molasses Cookies, Cut-Out Cookies, and keeping it simple.

The days after Christmas often find me exhausted, sick and overwhelmed by the mess. This year, I'm healthy, rested and feeling peaceful.

My secret was to simplify. I did not buy a single Christmas magazine; I do not need more ideas to complicate the season. I did not put out all of my Christmas decorations.

I made major changes to my baking. So that I wouldn't be tempted to eat treats throughout December, I did not bake cookies until December 22. On that day, my husband, sons, and I baked cookies together, which I hope is a start of a tradition. They each picked a favorite cookie, and I picked a couple of sentimental favorites. The final result: five batches of cookies, pictured above.

I have to credit my mother-in-law for the concept. She decided to cut back to three varieties years ago, and asked each family member to pick a favorite, and those are what she's baked ever since.

At some point, my younger son asked, "don't you usually make more kinds of cookies?"

"Yep," I replied, "are there any you miss?"

He paused to think for a minute. Finally he replied, "nope."

So here's what we made. From the top going clockwise, we made my friend Marie's Cut-Out Cookies (recipe below), molasses cookies (recipe below), peanut butter blossomsScotcheroos, and my Grandma's oatmeal raspberry bars.

I'm sure I'll want to bake different varieties in future years, but I will no longer feel pressured to do so. I now realize that for me to enjoy Christmas -- and to enable others do so -- I need to look out for my own sanity and well being first.

Marie's Cut-Out Cookies
This makes a relatively soft, thick cookie. It's a large batch -- according to Marie, it yields 4-5 dozen cookies.

4 cups flour
1 cup softened butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cut softened butter into flour, pastry style. Add salt. (Marie does this in the bowl of her stand mixer and uses the stand mixer for the rest of the additions to the flour mixture.)

In a separate bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Beat well.

In a third bowl, combine milk, vanilla and soda.

Add egg mixture and milk mixture alternately to flour mixture. Mix well.

Roll out to 1/4" (thicker than most cut-outs). Cut into desired shapes and place on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes (check after 7 minutes. The bottoms should be a very light golden brown. When cool, frost with frosting below.

Frosting

1/2 stick softened butter
Milk
1 lb confectioners sugar
Lemon or orange flavoring

Beat butter and sugar with enough milk to create a spreadable, but not drippy frosting. Blend in a few drops of flavoring.

Marie's nutrition calculations for 1 cookie: 162 calories; 2.6 grams fat; 52.4 grams sodium, 32.3 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber, 2.6 grams protein. 4 Weight Watchers Points Plus.


Kristen's Molasses Cookies

1 1/2 cups oil
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 cups flour

Combine oil, sugar, molasses and eggs in one bowl. Combine the rest of the ingredients in another bowl. Then mix together both mixtures -- I find this works best in my 6-quart Kitchenaid mixer. Chill at least 1 hour.

Form into balls -- I used the smallest Pampered Chef cookie scoop, then roll in granulated sugar. Place on greased cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes -- don't let get too brown. THIS IS  IMPORTANT: remove immediately and cool on your counter (not cooling rack). Once cool, store in airtight containers.

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