Celebrations · Food Memories · Life with Littles · Traditions · Uncategorized

A New Year’s Eve Tradition and Mema’s Green Chili Cheese Dip

Dear Joey,

I think we made a good decision when we chose to put off our own New Year’s Eve tradition in favor of letting the Goobies stay up a little bit later than usual to get a taste of what New Year’s Eve is all about.

We usually make Shrimp & Grits and kick off our annual Harry Potter movie marathon on New Year’s Eve, a tradition we started a few years ago when it became clear we were the sort of people who used to go out on New Year’s Eve, but have traded in our party shoes for slippers. (Things really changed once we had kids, didn’t they?) It occurred to me on New Year’s Eve morning this year that our kids didn’t really know what New Year’s Eve was, let alone realize it was that same day. I tested this thought at the breakfast table, excitedly prodding them, “Who knows what today is?!”

Blank stares.

“Saturday?” It might have been Addie who asked this, but I don’t remember. I do remember thinking I was right. How can they not know what New Year’s Eve is? What kind of parents are we that we haven’t even mentioned this before?

“Yes, it is Saturday. But it’s also….NEW YEAR’S EVE!”

More blank stares.

Mia tentatively asked, “So what do we do to celebrate?”

 

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And it was that question, right there that wriggled its way between my excitement over Harry Potter and my deep desire to cultivate a culture of celebration in our family. These kids are young, yes–but aren’t they too old to send to bed without marking the occasion in some small way? If we don’t show them what New Year’s Eve is all about this year, we will have to wait a whole year to introduce it, and Addie will be seven years old by then. I felt it grow inside, that pesky feeling that I had to act now or miss my chance, and that the opportunity to weave another strand of tradition into our family life was there right then, and really? How long do we have until these Goobies want to spend New Year’s Eve with their friends, and not us? The time is now, I thought.

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So we threw together a plan for our own family New Year’s Eve party–nothing fancy, but different enough from a normal night to make it feel special and fun. Central to this party was the idea of tradition–something that connects us as a family to our collective past and forges a bridge into our future, a bridge that we’ll keep building as we grow and change and step into the first few days of a still-hazy 2017.

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Maybe that’s why your mom made sure to keep her New Year’s Eve offerings consistent every year: bridge building. Her traditions led you from one year to the next, first then and next, now. Maybe she knew that all that time ago when her her Green Chili Cheese Dip and Sweet and Sour Little Links showed up at the table while that funky 1960 rendition of H.G. Well’s The Time Machine flickered on the TV. Those things were constants for you then, and perhaps that’s why it felt right and good to make the same party snacks for our family this year–because traditions connect our individual pasts with our collective future.

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Logistically speaking, cheesy dip is sort of a nightmare to serve with a kid who has a dairy allergy. But Emery was sick on New Year’s Eve and he took a nap straight through the dinner hour–a serendipitous coincidence that allowed our girls to enjoy that dip without any of us having to worry about Emery being around it. We taught the girls how to play Charades while we knelt around the coffee table and nibbled our way through dinner. By the time Emery woke up, we had all had our fill of dinner snacks and Emery joined in the fun of making s’mores around the fire and watching the Peanuts movie (which we had to explain to Mia wasn’t really about peanuts at all). All five of us piled on top of each other on our too-small-for-us-all couch and giggled our way through the evening. By 8:30, everyone was in bed but us, and we toasted to the new year in our pajamas, watching Food Network reruns while the fire petered out.

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And so, we said goodbye to 2016 in peace, not feeling guilty or pressured, soaking up the joy of what we had right around us, and in the process, I think it’s safe to say we started a new tradition. Perhaps it’s not flashy or exciting, but it’s ours–and that’s what matters the most.

Love,

Scratch

P.S.–We collapsed on the couch with big bowls of Shrimp & Grits last night instead–on New Year’s Day after the Goobies were in bed. They crashed early, after being up late the night before and in preparation for going back to school in the morning. We turned on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and geeked out (well, I did, at least), and fell asleep right as Hermione Granger is figuring out who Nicolas Flamel actually is, and totally missed midnight. I think we’re both ok with that being our new tradition, too.

Mema’s Green Chili Cheese Dip

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This is the dip my mother in law made every year for New Year’s Eve–and still does, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a constant  in Joey’s memory of the way he spent New Year’s Eve as a child: eating dip and little smokies while watching the 1960 version of H.G. Well’s The Time Machine, so it’s no surprise this is what he requested when we talked about starting a New Year’s Eve tradition for our own family. I admit this recipe deviates from the original a bit, meaning mainly that this one is gluten free. That famous national brand of Cream of Mushroom soup (you know the one) is made with wheat flour, which poses a problem for people like me. But Pacific Foods makes a fantastic gluten free version that works just as well as that other brand, and it’s made with organic ingredients, too. Use mild cheddar cheese — it melts beautifully into the soup and stays creamy. Add more cheese if you like it even cheesier, but Joey gives the amount listed here two thumbs up. Also, this dip is mild as can be, so add hot sauce if you want things to be spicy. 

Ingredients:
  • 2-12 oz. boxes Pacific Foods Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup (or 2-10.5 oz. cans conventional cream of mushroom soup, such as Campbell’s)
  • 2-4 oz. cans fire roasted green chiles
  • 1 cup milk (we used 2% milk, but use what you prefer)
  • 12 oz. shredded mild cheddar cheese
Method:

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, mix together the soup, chiles and milk. Heat for a few minutes, until warm and steaming. Add the cheese, about a cup at a time, and whisk until melted and combined. Heat thoroughly–the dip will bubble up around the rim of the pan when it’s ready to pour into a serving bowl*.

*Joey says his mom always serves this dip straight out of a small crock pot to keep it warm and gooey, but we fared just fine using a regular serving bowl. You might need to reheat the dip a bit as it sits, but it stays nice and smooth at room temperature.

 

 

Appetizers · Love & Marriage · Traditions

Walking Hand in Hand, and Ms. Joni’s Shrimp Cocktail

Dear Joey,

Remember that sweet elderly couple, the ones who always hold hands as they walk the long stretch of sidewalk that hugs the hills? I used to drive by them on my way to drop the girls off at preschool, and they were always there, at 8:00 sharp. Forget the clock: I could tell whether I was running late or not by how far down the street they were by the time I passed them. The closer they were to Walgreens, the later I was. I haven’t seen them in awhile.

I mentioned this to you on our way to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving this year. I miss seeing them, partly because their absence made me wonder why they weren’t walking together anymore. At their age, it’s hard not to wonder if they are putting feet to the “in sickness” part of their marriage vows, or more difficult even–the “until death parts us” part. Every time I saw them walking hand in hand, I smiled and thought of my grandparents and how happy I am they still do that sort of thing, and as I watched the familiar sweethearts walk every morning, I saw my grandparents walking and my own parents walking and us walking, still happily hand in hand even after all those years.

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Since it was Thanksgiving, I assumed we would go for a walk, because that’s what we do on Thanksgiving. We don’t have much in the way of Thanksgiving traditions — not yet, at least, except for Ms. Joni’s Shrimp Cocktail and the walk I’ve come to count on. You whisk me out of the chaos of the kitchen, taking my hand and strolling with me on a long walk toward nowhere in particular. Where the sidewalk takes us doesn’t matter, really, as long as it leads us home again.

We usually walk along the same street I walked when I was younger, the one that led me through my childhood, really. That long stretch of Glenview Drive runs between my family’s old house, the first home I remember, and the new one that really isn’t new at all now. My parents have lived there for nearly 25 years, and I with them for most of those years. The road between those two homes connects many smaller streets, the ones that saw countless summertime bike rides to Fremont Market for ice cream cones, the garish blue bubble-gum flavor being a perpetual favorite. They pass through the place where the old El Patio restaurant used to be, along the grassy park that encircles the neighborhood pool; just past the elementary school where my dad went to Kindergarten. The same magnolia trees are still on the corner of Rodgers Avenue and Glenview Drive, and every time we walk beneath them I think about the day I watched dozens of high schoolers huddled beneath them painting posters for Homecoming, and how I wondered if I would ever be as grown up as they seemed.

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And now, somehow I’m even more grown up that those teenagers I used to long to be, and I’m still roaming the same streets I used to as that child that wanted so much to grow up. I never would have guessed I would find myself lumbering up and down Glenview Drive with my very pregnant belly leading the way. In those days, with you by my side, I wondered whether our baby would walk up and down those streets along with us some day, or if we would move out of my parents’ house into a neighborhood of our own, a place where the path back to our own home would eventually become etched upon our hearts.

In all the years we have walked those streets, at Thanksgiving and otherwise, I admit I didn’t exactly like walking along the same sidewalks I used to walk as a child. At first it was sort of nostalgic: I probably bored you to tears with the sheer amount of detail you did not really ask for when you asked what it was like when I lived there as a kid (That’s the house Mary Ellen mom grew up in. That’s where you turn to go to Molly’s grandma’s house, the one with the pool and the freezer stocked with ice cream. This is the street took when I rode my bike to school all by myself–with my mom following close behind me in the station wagon. In High School, we called this street “Cute Boy Way” because Cari had a crush on one of the boys who lived on that corner. Richmond Avenue was where the rich people lived, so you knew you’d get the really good candy if you trick-or-treated there. There’s Anna’s house, that crazy old lady who shoved a swim cap on my head and tried to sell cheese to my mom.)

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I know I should feel more connected to that tangle of streets and perhaps I ought to love them more than I do. These days when I walk them, I’m not filled with the sense of connectedness I always assumed I would feel for them as an adult. Instead, I feel so very disconnected from the people and places I used to know in my youth. Kids grew up and people moved on, leaving the illusion of sameness in their wake in the houses and streets that remain largely unchanged.

The trees are bigger, new flowers have been planted, and the homes themselves have gotten a new coat of paint. But the lawns are still well-manicured, a few people still go for walks in the evening, and believe it or not–newspapers still dot the driveways every now and then, and the sound of dogs barking as the sun quietly tucks itself in for the night echoes through the streets. Every so often I catch a bit of laughter carried on the breeze, a sound that reminds me someone else’s childhood is here somewhere amid the tangle of streets that saw me through my own.

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Maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy and am feeling a little displaced. Or maybe I’m feeling sad because I don’t know what became of that sweet couple that I used to watch walking around our new neighborhood. Maybe I’m just ready to plant my feet in one place and stop moving already. Maybe I want to start walking our own neighborhood’s sidewalks ragged with our own family walks. Or maybe I just wish I was from a smaller town that doesn’t change the way a bigger town like this does. I don’t know. But this year–this year we didn’t take our annual Thanksgiving walk, and I missed it. I missed watching the crisp air clear your head and inspire you; I missed hearing you vent and dream and plan and laugh, and I missed the way your hand steadied my steps and led the way.

With so many walks behind us, I realize over the years our footsteps forged a new history of that place in my heart. I hope very much that we’ll pick up our tradition again next year. Maybe we’ll walk along the same streets we always do, or maybe we will find ourselves walking a new path. As long as I am holding your hand along the way, I will be content wherever we end up walking.

Love,

Scratch

Ms. Joni’s Shrimp Cocktail

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For Joey, it’s just not Thanksgiving without Ms. Joni’s Shrimp Cocktail. Joni Lyons (and John and Christy and Adam and, and, and…) walked closely alongside Joey and me before there even was a “Joey and me.” They held our hands and led us through those murky days when we were still trying to find our place in the adult world. Joey often showed up at their holiday gatherings, and Joni’s Shrimp Cocktail won his heart the first time he tasted it. He would eat bowl after bowl of the stuff at the Lyons’ house, caring not a whit about turkey or mashed potatoes or any of the more traditional Thanksgiving day fare (except for the pumpkin bars, clearly. This is Joey we’re talking about). After we got married, at some point, he started requesting that I make it on Thanksgiving, maybe because its presence at the table connected him to the people who were very much his family before I even was, or maybe because it’s just so yummy. Either way, in true Joey style, he knew it would become deeply entrenched in our traditions long before I ever did, but I’m so glad I feel the same way about it as he does now. I don’t really know why I never asked Joni for her recipe; maybe I just wanted to see if I could recreate the thing on my own. In any case, this is my rendition of Ms. Joni’s sort-of-like-ceviche Shrimp Cocktail. (Thank you, Joni–for this. For everything. We love you dearly.)

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds bay shrimp, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 cup freshly (finely) grated horseradish, + 2 more Tablespoons if you like it with a little more “bite”
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped celery stalks
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 avocados, cubed
  • 2-14.5 oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 1-12.5 oz. bottle chili sauce
  • 3/4 cups pure cane sugar (or 1/4 cup + 2 T Pyure Organic Stevia Blend)
  • 3/4 white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup + 3 T lemon juice
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Method:

First, make sure you have a large mixing bowl. Next, thaw the shrimp in the refrigerator overnight, then rinse and drain well.

Next, prep the veggies. I always start with the horseradish because it’s sort of a pain to deal with and I like to get the hardest part out of the way. Use a sharp knife and remove the bark-like peel from the ragged root. Finely grate the white part of the root (beware, your eyes will water). Then, chop the onion and celery and set them aside.

Move on to make the sauce. Combine the grated horseradish, tomato sauce, chili sauce, sugar, vinegar, lemon zest and lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, and salt; mix them up well, then taste. Adjust as you see fit.

Finally, gently stir in the shrimp, onions, and celery. Put a lid on the bowl and put it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve (at which point, cube and add the avocados).

 

 

Dinner · Traditions

Our Halloween Tradition, and Pumpkin Chili

Dear Joey,

I’m so sorry you weren’t able to be really present to all the fun of Halloween again this year.

I wish we could have watched Vertigo together, huddled together on the couch and balancing bowls of pumpkin chili on our laps after a successful night of trick-or-treating, instead of the way it actually turned out: you living through an episode of Vertigo yourself while I tried very hard to keep the day from further unraveling my already frayed nerves. You stayed in bed most of the day trying to feel better, and we were both pretty bummed out when we realized this would make two years in a row you would miss out on enjoying the best parts of Halloween with us.

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It wasn’t your fault you were laid up this year, and last year wasn’t your fault either. I certainly wasn’t upset with you for being in South Dakota to say your final farewell to Grandpa Maier, paying tribute to his memory with your brothers by toasting tomato beers and homemade schnapps, swapping stories, and eating your weight in kuchen.

This year you were equally unavailable to join in on all the (work and) fun of Halloween, but if it’s possible, I was even more disappointed about it this year. My heart was heavy with a strange mix of frustration and disappointment because Vertigo came on so suddenly. You were here, but you weren’t here, not really. And this would make two years in a row that I had to do this thing Halloween thing by myself. At least this time around you got to see them in the Goobies in their costumes and help sort through their collective candy haul, listening to them marvel over how crazy it is that strangers just kept filling their buckets with the stuff.

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Keeping true to tradition (and a true testament to the sort of people they are), Thomas and Katelyn drove all the way out to our place to go trick-or-treating with us. The tradition started the year Eli was born; he was just a little Sweet Pea asleep in his stroller as Katelyn walked around the Fremont Hub with me and the girls, Addie dressed as a butterfly and Mia as a strawberry. Mia was only four months old at the time, and Addie was a breath away from turning two years old–none of them old enough to appreciate the whole experience, really. You and Thomas were both still at work, but we dressed those kids up and took them anyway, and Addie hesitated to let strangers fill her pumpkin with candy. I’m not sure either Katelyn or I could imagine a day when those kids would run ahead of us to the next house and say “trick or treat!” without our prodding. They came back to our place (in Fremont, at the time) for pumpkin chili, and a tradition was born.

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Through the years we’ve wound our way through crowds of big-kids together, coaxing our own very small ones to say “Trick or treat!” to strangers, while holding their hands and helping them to be brave. Our nights used to end with tucking all those little ones into their beds (or pack and plays), and uncorking a bottle of red, piling our bowls high with pumpkin chili, and one year even watching a Hitchock flick–a piece of our tradition that only made a one-time appearance.

Last year you were out of town for your Grandpa’s funeral, but Thomas and Katelyn brought their boys to our place to trick or treat with us anyway. This year when I told them you had Vertigo, they offered to come help me take the Goobies trick-or-treating (because trying to take three small kids out on Halloween by myself would have been mayhem, and they knew it). By the time the kids’ loot was sorted, sampled, and stowed, it was bedtime. And so, instead of enjoying dinner together, we split and swapped salad and pumpkin chili and said goodnight, happy to have another year of friendship in the books as we waved goodbye to them.

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Next Halloween things may go a little differently than we plan again. Unexpected things happen on Halloween, and that has sort of become a tradition itself. When Halloween comes around each year, perhaps I should ask: what will be different this year? and always expect there to be an answer. Life happens, and we can’t predict what circumstances we will face year after year after year. People pass away. Others move away. Sometimes we get sick. Kids grow bigger and braver and have bedtimes that matter (because sometimes Halloween is on a school night). I think the best we can do is come up with a framework for what we would like our tradition to look like, and do our best to make things work within that framework, like friends celebrating together; a hearty, warm meal waiting for us after a long trek through the neighborhood soliciting candy from strangers; dressing up in silly costumes and letting the kids eat just one piece of candy before bedtime.

This year I learned that if I keep my expectations low enough–and give myself a whole lot of grace when things aren’t just so–then maybe I won’t be disappointed. And if I’m not disappointed, then perhaps I can enjoy things for what they are, as they are, because even in the middle of disappointment, there is always something redeeming if we look for it, right?

Love,

Scratch

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I’ve made many iterations of pumpkin chili until finally landing on this one. It is the one, in my opinion. The first time I made this Mia was a baby (and couldn’t eat it), and she still cries when I try to make her taste it. The kid just doesn’t like chili. But Addie loves it, and actually sighs and says, “Oh, yum. YUM!” when I serve it to her. There isn’t anything super special about it–it’s quite straightforward and similar to my classic beef chili recipe. The biggest difference is I use pure pumpkin puree instead of tomato sauce, a swap that make the chili slightly sweeter than its classic counterpart, but equally hearty and satisfying. Use beef if you prefer, but I like the combination of turkey, pumpkin and butternut squash. I use Heavenly Homemaker’s recipe for homemade taco seasoning in this recipe because I always have a stash around, and using it makes this chili a snap. Make the chili a day ahead so the flavors have plenty of time to meld together–and so you don’t have to spend time fussing in the kitchen on Halloween night.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tablespoon refined coconut oil (or other neutral tasting oil)
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup homemade taco seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2-15 ounce cans pure pumpkin puree
  • 2-14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 4 cups black beans (drained)
  • 2- 12 ounce bags peeled & chopped butternut squash
Method

First, roast the butternut squash. (Do it a day before you plan to make the chili, and two days before you plan to serve the chili, to make chili-making super easy on yourself.) Grab a 2 pound bag of cleaned, cubed butternut squash (from Trader Joe’s, for example), pour the bag out onto a sheet pan, and drizzle some olive oil on top. Give it a sprinkle of salt and pepper and spread it into an even layer. Roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes, or until the butternut squash is tender and golden, but not burned.

Next, chop the onions and mince the garlic. Then, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until almost translucent, then add the ground turkey to the pan and then turn up the heat to medium high. When the turkey is almost all the way browned (as in, when it’s still slightly pink), toss in the garlic, taco seasoning, coriander, kosher salt and stir it the meat, crumbling it up as it cooks. When the meat is browned, add the pumpkin puree, diced tomatoes, water and red wine vinegar; stir well to get everything incorporated. Next, add the beans and butternut squash. Cover and let simmer for about an hour, but remember that the longer it simmers, the better the flavor will be.

To serve, top it with hot sauce, or sliced green onions, or cheese and sour cream (if you can have them), or nothing at all, because it’s good that way too.

 

 

 

Baking · Cookies · Food Memories · Traditions

On Christmas Baking and Chocolate Peppermint Spritz Cookies

Dear Joey,

Let’s talk of pleasant things, shall we? Skip all the “There’s been so much going on, lately” catch-up and jump straight to Christmas cookies? What do you say?

Christmas cookies have been on my mind for the past couple of days, ever since my Grandma Teague told me she was just getting her Christmas baking underway. As I listened to her admit that she was finally letting go of the need to strive toward perfection during Christmastime and was only going to bake a handful of varieties of cookies this year, I completely missed the point and started fretting about the fact that I myself haven’t started my Christmas baking yet. Nor had I made any sort of list or plan about cookies and the people to whom they would eventually be given.

I guess the truth is that I don’t think of myself as a Christmas baker.  I bake during Christmas – that is true. I even enjoy it and honestly, the season just doesn’t feel complete without doing at least a little of it. But I do not have an urge or need to make any one certain treat this time of year. I know that sounds completely bizarre coming from me of all people, but truly, I am pretty content with letting other people do all the dirty work so I can loaf on the couch with a box of Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s and a tin of my mom’s Russian Tea Cakes.

 

But alas, the more I thought about Christmas cookies and how I am the mom now, and responsible for making new traditions (or passing on old ones) to our children, I realized I ought to get my act together and at least devote a little bit of brain power to what sorts of cookies I want our girls to think of when they think of Christmas. It was just this afternoon when I decided that Spritz cookies were going to  be at least one tradition to pass on. There may be others that make the cut along the way too, but for now, those are the ones I am going to perfect.

Ah, Spritz cookies. Those delightful little butter cookies decorated with shimmering red and green sprinkles. They always looked a little bit like ornaments to my little girl eyes. I can see them piled high in a funky old Christmas tin alongside all the other treats that filled my Grandma’s dessert table. In my memory, there was always a great variety of cookies, but the ones I remember most clearly are Russian Tea Cakes, Krumkake, and of course, Spritz cookies.

Spritz cookies are a traditional, somewhat under-celebrated cookie these days. They originated in Germany, but I always think of them as Scandinavian (since my Norwegian Grandmother always baked them but I don’t remember my German grandmother ever  making them). There isn’t much to them: butter, sugar, vanilla, flour. What makes them special is the way they are made and the shape they take. Using a cookie press with changeable molds, they can be Chrismas trees or wreaths or flowers or hearts. The result is a delicate little butter cookie whose beauty was completely lost on me in childhood. It’s not to say Grandma’s Spritz cookies were not any good — they were. They are. But, well, is it any surprise my heart didn’t swoon over a dessert that didn’t include chocolate?
Even so, whenever I think about Spritz cookies now, I wish I would have lingered a little longer over those gems and paid them their due. Even though I sort of think of them as old-fashioned, in my grown up mind that makes them charming and important. As I stirred together the dough and filled the cookie press and made dozens of those delicate little cookies, I thought about my grandma and how she lovingly makes those cookies year after year, and how she must have learned how to make them from her mother, and then I started thinking about all the women’s hands who had mothered all the generations before me. I wondered how many of them felt like they had to create a perfect Christmas every year, and how many of them baked out of duty and not pleasure?
Mothering comes with so many non-negotiable duties, some the same as they were in the generations before me, and some that aren’t. Baking cookies certainly is not one of them these days. Baking is inconvenient in today’s world: it is messy and time consuming. In a  culture that values convenience, buying cookies saves time and sanity. But I find that when I do the messy things, the messes always somehow manage to get cleaned up eventually, and what I’m left with are the smiles and the giggles and the shy, hopeful whispers of “May I have another one Mommy?”
I think it’s safe to say that I will continue to bake at Christmastime for the sheer pleasure of it. And I hope my girls someday will, too.
Love,
Scratch

Chocolate Peppermint Spritz Cookies

Adapted from 100 Days of Real Food 
On Christmas Baking and Chocolate Peppermint Spritz Cookies
These cookies don’t look like much, but if you like chocolate and peppermint and crispy little tea cookies, I think it’s safe to say you’ll enjoy them. I admit I would not go out of my way to hunt down a good Spritz cookie recipe had I not had a cookie press begging to be used, but since I had one, and a good one at that (a Wilton Cookie Pro Ultra II, which I highly recommend), it was easy to walk in my grandmother’s shoes and make a batch of these delicate little beauties.
UPDATE: I first made and wrote about these cookies in 2013. I updated the recipe this year (2016) to be both gluten free and dairy free, but the ingredient list to make the cookies with butter and wheat flour is pretty much the same–just omit the xanthan gum and use salted butter instead of Earth Balance and all purpose or white whole wheat flour instead of gluten free flour. The good news? The kids couldn’t tell the difference and Addie again three years later shyly asked me if she could have another cookie, just like she did when she was three years old.
Ingredients:
1 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (or salted butter), softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend (like this one), or white whole wheat flour

 

Method:

First, prepare your cookie press by getting everything set up (design plate chosen/inserted and get everything assembled to the point where all you need to do is add the dough).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then, soften (but don’t melt!) the butter. In a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar on medium high until well combined. Add the egg, extracts, and salt; reduce speed to low. Add the xanthan gum (if using), cocoa powder and flour. Stir until just combined. The dough will be sticky.

Then, fill your cookie press, and press the dough out onto an ungreased cookie sheet (don’t use parchment paper, either). You can add sprinkles at this point, if you want to – just sprinkle on top before you put the cookie sheet in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes–much longer, and they’ll burn. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.

*Variation: for plain Chocolate Spritz Cookies, increase vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons and omit peppermint extract.