Tag Archives: Christmas

Cookie Observations

29 Dec

I’ve been at the same job for almost four years. One of the perks of working in my office is that there are break rooms filled with snacks. The thing that I have been watching over the years is what gets eaten first. With each Peapod delivery – 100% of the time – the fresh fruit goes first and the pop tarts go last.

I’ve developed this hypothesis, given the option people will naturally gravitate toward healthy food choices. I accidentally ran an experiment over the Christmas weekend with some cookies.

For Christmas Eve I made these ‘Moon Cookies.’ I got the recipe from my mom, she’s been making these since we were kids. They’re my brother’s favorite so I try to make a batch for either Christmas or New Year’s Day. I brought these with me to my aunt’s house and at dessert time almost everyone ate one, a couple of people declined and my brother ate two.

Moon cookies

Moon cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter
5 TBS sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pecans
Powdered sugar

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a mixing bowl sift flour and salt.
Step 2
In a separate bowl cream butter until light and fluffy. Then work in sugar and vanilla and mix well.
Step 3
Work in flour until combined then add chopped nuts. Roll the dough into small logs and shape into crescents about 2” each and place onto a baking pan.
Step 4
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cookies start to brown. Cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack for cooling. Arrange on a platter and dust with powdered sugar.

For Christmas Day I baked ‘Citrus-Kissed Honey Buttons.’ A recipe I found in the December issue of Eating Well Magazine, page 82. The recipe is from Teresa Ralston who was a finalist in their cookie contest. Take note that they’re lower in calories and fat and smaller than the ‘Moon Cookies.’ When I brought them over to my mom’s house she tried one right away and then had my aunt and brother try them before dinner. For my mom, that’s unheard of. There were close to forty cookies and not a single one was left over after dessert time.

Citrus-kissed honey buttons, prebaking

Citrus-kissed honey buttons, prebaking

Citrus-kissed honey buttons

Citrus-kissed honey buttons

Ingredients:
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
4 TBS unsalted, softened butter
1 large egg
1 TBS honey
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp lemon extract

Step 1
Whisk flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a small bowl.
Step 2
Beat sugar and butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until lightly fluffy. Add egg, honey, lemon zest, orange zest and lemon extract and beat until blended. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating on low-speed just until combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes or overnight.
Step 3
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line 2 large baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
Step 4
Roll the dough into 36 balls (about 2 level tsps each) with your hands. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Step 5
Bake, one batch at a time, until puffed and beginning to crack, 6-8 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for two minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Maybe it’s time run some real experiments… stay tuned.

Wigilia Tradition

26 Dec

Wigilia (pronounced, Vee-gee-lia) is the traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner. My family is from Poland, my parents came to the U.S. one year before I was born. Almost everyone in my extended family still lives there and my parents have spent half of their lives there so naturally we follow all the Polish traditions. This one is my favorite.

In Poland the tradition is to put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve when the first star appears in the sky. Once the tree is up the table gets set for as many guests there are plus one. The plus one is for the less-fortunate traveler, almost always there is an extra place setting at the table. There is also hay under the tablecloth as a reminder that Jesus was born in a stable.

We formed our own family tradition and place small gifts under the table cloth. This year everyone got a lottery ticket!

Me with my lottery ticket

Me with my lottery ticket

I was the big winner this year with $7! Woohoo!

Each part of the evening is filled with symbolism and the food is without exception. There are typically twelve different dishes at the table to represent the twelve apostles. Another tradition of Polish Christmas Eve is that none of the dishes have meat, that means plenty of potatoes, starches, vegetables and fish.

Before dinner we exchange oplatki. Oplatek is a small wafer. Everyone at the table gets a piece and then we exchange oplatki wishing each other well wishes for the new year.

Oplatkek

Oplatek

We start our dinner with barszcz (borscht) a beet soup with mushroom filled dumplings.

Barszcz z uszkami (Borscht with dumplings)

Barszcz z uszkami (Borscht with dumplings)

Then we move on to a second soup sauerkraut with mushrooms and mashed potatoes.

Sauerkraut soup with mashed potatoes

Kapusniak (Sauerkraut soup with mashed potatoes)

Next we eat a few different types of herring. My favorite is herring with marjoram and fresh chopped garlic.

Sledzie (Herring with marjoram and garlic)

Then we move onto the rest of the dishes like this Polish vegetable salad. It’s reminiscent of potato salad but with about ten more ingredients.

Polish vegetable salad

Salatka jazynowa (Polish vegetable salad)

There are always at least two kinds of fish, there’s one battered and fried and one in vegetables. The fish is layered and folded in between a carrot puree.

Fish

Fish

Of course a Polish Christmas is never complete without pierogi.

Pierogi

Pierogi

I also strayed a little from the traditional foods this year and made some roasted acorn squash.

Roasted acorn squash

Roasted acorn squash

Here’s my first plate.

Joanna's plate

Joanna's plate

Before dessert we finish up the dinner with homemade noodles with sweet poppy seeds, raisins and nuts.

Kluski z makiem

Kluski z makiem (Noodles with poppy seed)

We also open all of our presents on Christmas Eve.

Christmas presents

Christmas presents

My dad got the most presents this year.

Dad with presents

Dad with presents

I’m fortunate to have a close family that spends the holidays together and is able to maintain our cultural holiday traditions. Growing up I thought that everyone had Wigilia like we did. Now that I’m all grown up I know it’s a special tradition and I’m happy to share it with you.

Do you have any unique and favorite holiday traditions?

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