Traditions, and the Cookie I’ll Always Make for Valentine’s Day

Dear Joey,

I’m big on traditions. I will likely make a big deal about them in the years ahead, so I’m warning you now.

Things like chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast on birthdays, or going to the Niles Christmas parade the day after Thanksgiving. Opening stockings before presents on Christmas morning. Writing in your Birthday Book every year. Being surprised and delighted by flowers on our anniversary.

Traditions give me something to look forward to, something to count on every year. On the surface,  traditions may seem boring or tiresome. I admit, some certainly can be, but they also offer a bit of stability in this volatile world we live in. At their best, traditions connect. Traditions carry a rich history of where we’ve been, culturally and personally, and they offer the promise of where we will go, if only we keep them alive. For us, traditions connect my years to yours, and ours to the girls’,  shaping them into a lovely picture of our life.

When I was growing up, my family kept many traditions. Some were small (like checking beneath Grandpa Teague’s recliner for loose, lost change) and some were big, so big that if my parents had ever missed them, it would signify for my brothers and I that the world was, in fact, coming to an end. Like pajamas on the night before Christmas. Every year, like clockwork, my parents would act as if they were having mercy on our anxious hearts by letting us open just one present before going to bed on Christmas Eve. And every year, the present was a new pair of pajamas. (My brothers and I always acted surprised.) One of my favorites, though, was choosing our birthday dinner and eating it off of a cherry red porcelain plate that said, “You Are Special Today.”

And really, that’s what traditions tell us: something about today is special. 

At the heart of Valentine’s Day is something very good: it’s a day to let the people we love know how much we care. Sure, it’s overly commercialized and sentimentalized and sensualized and blah blah blah, but I will never stop making it a point to tell you I love you on Valentine’s Day. You are my forever Valentine.

Last year for Valentine’s Day, I made Red Velvet Cookies. I made them again this year. You can count on the fact that I’ll make them next year, too.

Love, Scratch

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies
These cookies are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They are a bit chewier than the original (which you can find here), thanks to the addition of corn starch. You can omit the red food coloring altogether (and I wouldn’t blame you if you did), but I use it to make it festive. I figure if I’m only making this recipe once a year, I can make an exception and use it.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup pure cane sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons red food coloring
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375. Cream together the softened butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Carefully add the food coloring (it splashes easily!). Stir in the cocoa powder, then add the flour cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. Mix until everything is combined. It will be sticky. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop out onto ungreased baking sheets, making dough balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (I suggest using a mini ice cream scoop to minimized the mess, as the dough is very sticky.)

Bake for 10 minutes; let rest on the sheet pan for 30 seconds or so, and then let cool on a wire rack completely.

Yields about 3 1/2 dozen

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