It sure was freezing cold and frosty this morning. Down at Council Point Park, the Ecorse Creek was lightly frozen over and I watched a few geese navigating around that thin veil of ice. They floated along in a row, hugging the shoreline where no ice had formed. The fields looked as if Mother Nature had whipped up a little white icing and piped it onto the grass blades.
Speaking of icing, today is “National Bake Cookies Day”.
When it comes to cookies, there are so many to choose from. Whether you buy ‘em or bake ‘em, what are your favorites? Do you like them icened or plain? Thin and crispy or soft baked? Biscotti or bar cookies?
My mom loved to bake and believe me, none of her “baking genes” rubbed off on her daughter. I’ve not made cookies in many years and they were just the slice-and-bake variety, and I burned them to a crisp. I didn’t do anything but peel them off the cardboard tray and place them onto the cookie sheet. I was so disgusted, I’ve not made cookies since.
Actually I’ve not eaten cookies since 2011 … I gave up all sweets for Lent 2011, and decided at that time to just give up sweets forever! * But, just like an asterisk is sometimes used to clarify a statement, my personal asterisk, as to eating sweets, was that I gave myself a wee bit of wiggle room.
Like when I bought cornbread and decided that even though it was sweet tasting, it was definitely not a “sweet” … after all it is a staple to accompany the first course of a Southern meal, and certainly not dessert! So I continued to buy cornbread every so often and gave myself a generous helping, heaped with butter and honey. Then, one day I decided that probably wasn’t so smart after all, and, if you gave up eating sweets forever, then follow through properly!
However, I did finish that cornbread cake first. 🙂
Did I miss eating sweets, especially cookies? I have to say I didn’t really miss them. That’s because half of the delight in enjoying homemade cookies is inhaling that wonderful smell. Nothing is more aromatic than a fresh batch of cookies, just out of the oven. If you don’t bake cookies, you won’t crave cookies either.
But then something happened.
My good friend Ann Marie stopped by the house around Christmas last year bearing goodies, including kolaches she had just made. I opened the box – they smelled so good and immediately evoked memories of Mom’s kolaches which she made with raspberry or apricot.
Well, I ate them up, while telling myself they were a special treat and I’d go back to my no-sweets regimen after I finished up Ann Marie’s treats.
And I did – no more sweets, until Ann Marie left a package at my door on my birthday. It was a torrential rain that day and she sent me an e-mail to say she had made a drop at my door. Inside the bag was a humungous birthday cupcake she had just baked.
And a candle to put on it.
Well, I had that sweet treat and got to thinking – hmmm, maybe there has to be a little wiggle room from time to time.
But I continued to be steadfast in the no sweets regimen, until I walked into Meijer about a month ago and saw a big display of Pepperidge Farm and Archway Christmas cookies. Sigh. Perusing the holiday assortment of cookies brought an instant wave of nostalgia for Mom’s goodies so lovingly baked over the years.
My mom would start making Christmas cookies and tarts right after Thanksgiving. Every night I’d come home to a different smell in the house – chocolate, peppermint, spice, cinnamon – even rum from her potent mincemeat tarts. There was the inevitable plate of samples – yup, that day’s misshapen or broken cookies were mine. The rest of these cookies each had their place in respective Tupperware canisters in the bottom of the cupboard. I liked to open the cabinet and reach in there blindly, lift up a lid – any lid – then drag out a few cookies, even though I had already eaten my “boo boo samples”.
For years, Mom would make something to please everyone in our family:
peanut butter and chocolate buckeyes,
Mrs. Maltman’s raspberry jam sandwich cookies,
Scottish shortbread … plus about a half-dozen varieties of dainty little balls of fat-laden goodness that had dates, coffee, rum, or nuts in them.
There were the fancy-schmancy, bite-sized tarts in damson plum, mincemeat and good ol’ Canadian butter tarts as well
I have included a few snapshots of those favorite recipes from the old red binder that served as the “family cookbook”.
When I opened the binder, I reminisced about all the recipes I grew up with – these were not all sweet treats in Mom’s cookbook – there were dinner recipes as well. Some of the recipes, like these decadent brownies or the biscotti never got taped in – were they awaiting final approval before being written out and taped into the “cookbook”?
Ever since I was a little girl, Mom baked candy cane cookies for me at Christmas, every year, even long after her “baby” was grown. Eons ago, when I was in grade school, the last week before Christmas break, all the moms sent in cookies for all the kids. My contribution was Mom’s peppermint-flavored candy cane cookies, which she made to share at school, as well as some for home. Over the years, she lamented that her favorite turquoise melamac mixing bowl was stained a dark red from making candy cane cookies. You had to use food dye to create the red ropes of dough to braid with the regular-colored dough. That mixing bowl is still around, and is as old as I am. If I look into the bowl and see the dark stains that still linger all these years later, I can picture Mom with a plate of those candy cane cookies, baked with love, just for little ol’ me.
After the reverie about all the holiday treats, I succumbed – bigtime. I brought home a grocery bag stuffed with Christmas cookies, the likes of what I’d not thought of, or eaten, in at least a decade when Mom last baked Christmas cookies. I even bought a package of gingerbread … a family of cute little gingerbread people to have while I enjoy some custard eggnog … another holiday indulgence.
So, I’ve decided it is time to eat sweets again and it’s a big concession for me. I’ll try not to go all crazy … maybe ease back into this cookie and treat thing again slowly, even if I think walking all these miles deserves a little “pigging out” because everyone needs a little wiggle room sometimes.
[Candy cane cookie image courtesy of Pinterest]