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Homemade Cookie Day

Baking has never been my thing. I enjoy cooking quite a bit, because of the lack of science involved. If the recipe is feeling a little bit bland, just sprinkle in a little more garlic or pepper. If you have an onion sitting around, maybe that will make a nice addition to the dish. You can get creative and make changes on the fly. Baking involves measuring, exact temperatures and timing- it’s a precise operation with a whole lot less creativity, in my opinion. But when it comes time for holiday cookies, baking has a special place in my memories.

As a kid, it was a special ritual around Christmas time. I grew up an only child and have a cousin who is like a sister to me. Our moms are sisters and are close, and we are just one year apart, so we frequently did things together as mother-daughter duos. One of these things was sugar cookie decorating. When we were little, our moms did the baking and we did the decorating. Obviously, our handy work with the icing wasn’t great at a young age (I doubt I’m much better these days), but my aunt who is an artist and formerly worked at Cookies By Design, always wowed us with her creations.

When I got older and moved away from Chicago, my mom started visiting me in Colorado for my birthday, which is in mid-December. I worked in the news industry for years, which meant working holidays and only being allowed vacation time on a first-come-first-served basis. So, a birthday that falls right between Thanksgiving and Christmas was perfect because no one else asked for time off when my mom was visiting. Every year, we baked cookies together while she was in town. My mom and I get along well, but not always when it comes to being in the kitchen together. We each have our own way of doing things and we’re both stubborn. So, in the midst of measuring our flour and sugar and rolling our dough, there is always bickering. She tells me my measurements aren’t as accurate as they need to be, and I tell her that she is being too uptight. But I wouldn’t trade those holiday baking days for anything.

Every year in anticipation of her visit, we would sit on the phone together and pick out which recipes we wanted to make that year. My mom has quite the collection of Christmas cookie recipes she’s compiled over the years. Then, we’d take our grocery shopping trip together and spend one afternoon baking. I can’t imagine the holidays without it. When my mom would return to Chicago, there would be sweet treats and cookie tins left behind, as a souvenir of her visit.

Over the years, I’ve gathered baking items, always with our baking adventure in mind. I’ve acquired an electric mixer, a rolling pin, mixing bowls, and extra baking trays.

This year, my mom moved to Colorado, which makes the yearly tradition even more special. Now, instead of organizing a cross-country trip, she can come over to bake cookies with me anytime.

Here is one of the recipes my mom and I frequently make together, maybe it can become part of your winter traditions as well:

“Toffee Bars”

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups flour

1 tsp. vanilla

10 oz. bar milk chocolate

Chopped nuts (optional)

  1. Whip butter. Add brown sugar, flour, and vanilla and whip until combined.
  2. Spread in greased 13”x9”x2” pan. Press down, medium firmly.
  3. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until brown.
  4. Melt chocolate in double boiler (or a small pot for the chocolate placed inside a larger pot of boiling water. The water should reach about halfway up the side of the smaller pot, but the water should not be high enough to enter the pot of chocolate).
  5. Then spread the melted 10 oz. bar of milk chocolate over the top of the pan cookie while warm.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired.
  7. Cut in squares while warm.