December 15th, 2017

From Our Table: A big birthday requires lots of great food

By Medicine Hat News on December 5, 2017.

“Jingle Bells,” “O Holy Night,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Silent Night,” “It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas,” the endless list of Christmas carols goes on while the number of days until Christmas Day arrives get shorter and shorter.

I am often a bottom line person. This Christmas season has been very challenging for my family. With many changes happening and a large kitchen renovation I feel like my life is turned upside down, backwards and inside out. There has been no chance to even consider decorating for Christmas and no kitchen to bake in.

With all the challenges in my life I started to get a bit discouraged about getting behind for Christmas. I was reminded in church a few weeks ago that Christmas is not my birthday. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, God’s only Son, the Messiah and my very favourite name — Emmanuel; It’s Jesus’ birthday. It’s not about how much I get done or about all the extravagance related to the Christmas season. It’s all about celebrating the greatest gift of love ever given to us. That’s the original reason we celebrate. It’s the bottom line that I’m choosing to focus on.

Having said all that you would definitely celebrate an important birthday with lots of great food, right? Of course! And it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas cookies.

One of the best basic cookies that are a must to be made at Christmas is shortbread cookies, especially the ones with the little green and red candied cherries on the top.

Although I haven’t had a kitchen for a few weeks my friends Teresa, Barb and Christine graciously planned a bake day at one of their houses. We had so much fun making Christine’s mom’s amazing melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie recipe. (Mine are hiding in Barb’s freezer so my Cookie Monsters can’t eat them all before Christmas.) The recipe is the traditional whipped shortbread and it’s so delicious and very special because her mom passed away a few years ago so it’s a part of her love Christine’s family can have with them every Christmas. I’m sure many of you have similar recipes that are priceless and precious pieces of the past.

I’m also including my family’s favourite cookie recipe that is a spin off shortbread. I got it from Marilyn Roset many many moons ago when I was interviewing different families about their Christmas traditions for this column. It’s so popular I barely get it whipped up and I have spoons and fingers digging in the batter before I can even attempt to roll it out, cookie cutter it and get them baked.

I hope you love them both. Have a wonderful season of celebration and remember that bottom line reason for the season.

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

Whipped Shortbread

3 cups flour

1 pound margarine or butter

A little salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup icing sugar

1/2 cup cornstarch

Mix to dough stage. Whip with beater until like whipped cream.

Drop on ungreased cookie sheet by teaspoon full. Top with candied green and/or red cherries if desired.

Bake in preheated 325 F oven for 25 minutes.

Velvet cookies

2 cups butter

8 oz. cream cheese

2 cups sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla (I like clear vanilla so dough stays white)

4 1/2 cups flour

Use blender to cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add sugar, egg yolk and vanilla blend until well mixed. Add flour a little at a time mixing well after each addition.

Put in a covered container and chill in fridge for 2 hours hours or overnight.

Roll out small pieces at a time on a well floured surface until about one quarter inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes.

Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake in preheated 350 F oven for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes then remove to cooling rack.

Makes a very large batch so could cut the recipe in half, but trust me they go fast!

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