Do you have traditions around the holidays? Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what makes the holiday season special for each one of us.
And more and more, I realize it's not the date that's important - it's about being with the ones you love and having fun.
It's like we were all told to prepare and get ready for that one day at the end of this month. And any day around that is just not as important. When in fact, it's the whole season we are celebrating. Your own traditions; getting together with loved ones; giving to those who need it most - that's the holiday spirit. It's more than just one day. It's a state of mind.
Self Magazine recently wrote it best - "When you focus on good company and great vibes, you'll realize it's not the time of the year but your attitude that makes any season bright."
Growing up, my family always cut down or bought a real tree. Then, on a Saturday in December, we would listen to Christmas music, eat red and green peanut m&m's and help decorate the tree together. For me, this day was good as gold, and we still come home to do it. It's a tradition that goes far beyond that one Christmas Day - and may be even better.
Other traditions come from the kitchen - and for me - usually involve making cookies.
Last weekend, I made these cookies for Chad's grandma who came to St. Louis for lunch. After eating the few left over, Chad told me he wants these around Christmas every year. A tradition was born right then and there.
This cookie invoked a feeling in Chad that will come back each time I make them. Likely reminding him of the Christmas season while we were engaged, living in an apartment, working long hours and trying to decide what we wanted to do in life. But, always enjoying the season as we cut down a tree, bought toys for a toy drive and decorated our apartment's front entrance. And to us right now - that's perfect.
These gingerbread cookies are adapted from a recipe I've had since 2007. That was the year I first owned a copy of Martha Stewart's book, "Cookies." The book is now well worn, written in, tabbed with post-it notes and has chocolate smeared on several pages. Signs of a good baking book!
These cookies are a keeper and I'll be making them each holiday season.
Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)
- 1 1 /2 cups good quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup turbinado (raw) sugar, for rolling
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment. Chop dark chocolate into chunks and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
- In a mixer, beat the butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add the molasses and beat until combined.
- Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking soda, then remaining half of flour mixture.
- Mix in chocolate. Refrigerate dough about 1 hour, until firm.
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Roll the dough balls in raw sugar and press down slightly on cookie sheet.
- Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. This will make about 2 dozen cookies.
This holiday season, it's a time to remember that it's not just one day but all winter long.
And, it's a time to make traditions (and bake cookies). :)