Homer Alaska - Cooking

Story last updated at 12:40 PM on Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Visit with sister revives Christmas memories





 

In October, on my annual visit to the Lower 48 to see family, I made a special trip to spend time with my sister, Gail, and her family at their new home in Idaho. It was so nice to be with them. Gail and I had a blast being the zany sisters, giggling and acting silly. I felt sorry for her hubby. We used to drive my Dad crazy acting up at the dinner table when we were kids.

Each Christmas, I decorate a special little tree with porcelain Hummel figurine ornaments. One depicts little blonde and brunette girls that look just like Gail and I did when we were 5 and 3 years old. Hanging this sweet ornament makes me miss her terribly; I recall all our cherished Christmases together.

On our big tree I hang a chubby whimsical mermaid ornament, one of two, Gail and I found while shopping together. One is blonde and the other is a redhead — they look like the two of us all grown up. I have the one that resembles Gail and it cracks me up to hang it on the tree every year, recalling the time we found these babes of the sea and how we laughed so hard we cried when we bought them.

Christmas brings back so many special childhood memories for me. We were blessed to grow up in a loving family in a nice town. At this time of year, Gail and I would walk to the school ice rink at night after dinner and skate and play Mary or an angel in the church Christmas pageant. Santa left us everything we had on our list and filled our stockings with candies and apples and oranges. We went to Gramma and Grandpa's for turkey or goose dinner on Christmas day — Gramma always put maraschino cherries in our glasses of 7-Up. Both our grandmothers always made the same wonderful cookies and candies we looked forward to all year, and every year our Gramma Bloom would sew Gail and I Christmas dresses.

Last week my sister texted me all excited about a new cookie recipe she got from the chef of the retirement home she works at. I immediately knew it would be a keeper and want to share it with you.

Maple Pecan Cookies

These buttery, subtly maple-flavored cookies are like the best pecan sandies you've ever tasted. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 large egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon imitation maple flavoring

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups roasted pecans, coarsely chopped (4 1/2 ounces)

(To roast pecans, place on cookie sheet in 325 degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes)

1. In a medium bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar until well blended.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the maple syrup and vanilla. Drizzle the egg-yolk mixture into the butter, beating at low speed until incorporated.

3. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and pecans. Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before rolling it out.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Roll out each disk of dough 1/4 inch thick between 2 sheets of wax paper. Cut the dough into 2-inch rounds and transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.

You can frost them if you would like with a simple glaze of ¾ cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1 tablespoon maple flavoring.

Make Ahead: The dough can be frozen for up to one month. The cookies will keep for up to one week in tightly sealed tins.

Cherry Cream Cheese Cookies

These sweet, tasty cookies are one of my son Dave's favorites. They are a good trade with my sister for her recipe. They are a bit time consuming, but so worth it.

COOKIE:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups all purpose or unbleached flour

FILLING:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons flour

3-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup chopped red maraschino cherries, well drained

1 teaspoon maraschino cherry juice or a dab of red food coloring

GLAZE:

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup powdered sugar

3-4 teaspoons water

In large bowl beat 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 cup butter until light and fluffy. Add egg and 2 teaspoons vanilla; blend well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Stir in 2 cups flour; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until firm.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. With thumb, make imprint in center of each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely.

In small bowl, beat 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, cream cheese and 1 teaspoon vanilla until light and fluffy. Stir in cherry juice or red food color, coconut and cherries. Fill each cookie center with 1/2 teaspoon filling.

In small saucepan, melt chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon butter, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/4 cup powdered sugar and enough water for glaze consistency; blend until smooth. Drizzle over cookies. Allow to set. Store in tightly covered container between sheets of waxed paper, refrigerate. Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

Until next time, I wish you all a very special and merry Christmas full of yummy treats and memories.

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