It's been a different kind of Christmas season for me this year. We're in the middle of a home renovation that is now at the CHAOS stage. After adding on, the workers are now inside the house tearing apart the kitchen. I'm leap-frogging our possessions from room to room as I'm clearing out closets and all our kitchen cabinets. We officially switched to paper plates and microwave dinners. I also have two rooms' worth of furniture stuck in my living room. Because of this, we've done not a stitch of Christmas decorating. No tree, no outdoor lights, no holiday plates to eat from or Santa mugs for hot chocolate.
In the midst of all this, my Dad went into the hospital the week after Thanksgiving. I've driven the 2+ hours north to Cocoa Beach twice, with the last visit a 7-day stay where I parked myself in his hospital room. To cut to the ending, he's gotten much better, they've cured his ailments, but he's struggling to walk after being in a hospital bed for 18 days. I would too, and he's 91! Anyway, my brother and sister and I are taking turns being with him, and I'm back now with my family for a bit. Hey, my daughter's a Santa believer, so we need to do at least a little bit of Christmas!
I knew just what would make it feel like Christmas -- baking Christmas cookies. So before my latest trip to Cocoa Beach, my neighbor and I got together and I made two of my mom's traditional recipes -- Spritz Cookies and Velvet Cookies. They're both made with a cookie press (I got a fancy electric one quite a few years back), and we cranked out quite a few hundred.
In our family, the white ones were always flowers, with a lemon flavor; the pink ones were hearts with a peppermint flavor. Those are from the Spritz recipe. The green ones were Christmas trees and we used the Velvet Cookies recipe. Oh man, those cookies taste so good! The recipe has peanut butter and a little bit of almond extract. Instead of white sugar, there's confectioner's sugar, which gives it that velvet feeling. Here's the recipe you can try, and maybe the craziness of your holiday season can feel a little better when you get in the kitchen and do some baking. This is a fun one to do with the kids because they love to decorate them with sprinkles.
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
green food coloring
1. Cream the shortening, butter, sugar, and peanut butter, until fluffy.
2. Stir in the egg and extracts.
3. Gradually add dry ingredients to the mixture.
4. Add green food coloring, as desired.
5. Fill a cookie press with dough.
6. Form into desired shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet.
7. Decorate with colored sprinkles.
8. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes.
9. Cool on wire racks.
10. Store in tightly sealed containers for 1-2 weeks.