What Southern Folks Eat: Keeping it simple this Christmas
Christmas is only a couple of weeks away, and this year it may look somewhat different for many of us. We have been through a lot due to the pandemic, so this year many of us are really latching on to the joyous things we love about the holiday season.
Those things are what make it best to me. Family traditions enjoyed together, special treats baked for this time of year, driving around to look at lights, and other special parts of the season are much-needed after all we've been through. It's usually the simple things that bring the most joy, just like when we were young children.
When I was a little girl in the '70s, Christmas felt like magic to me. I loved going to church and learning about the birth of Jesus in my Sunday school classes. I loved going with my little sister to our grandparents' house on Ponce de Leon Street and setting up the nativity scene on Grammy's hutch. She let us do it every year, a job that felt very important to us.
We perused the TV schedule in the newspaper carefully to make sure we didn't miss Frosty, Rudolph, or Charlie Brown's Christmas. We'd sit much too close to the big television on the floor and take in every claymation second. It was magical.
I could hardly wait to make cookies with mom each Christmas. She would make icing for our rollout sugar cookies in several different coffee cups, dropping just the right amount of food color into each one, to create the perfect green for the trees or red for the Santas. We'd create our edible works of art while listening to Mom's Christmas records: Elvis' Blue Christmas, for example. We loved Julie Andrews and Johnny Mathis and others singing the holiday classics, their pictures featured on burning pillar candles on the album cover.
On Christmas eve, we'd place several of the prettiest cookies on a Christmas plate, and we'd set it and a glass of milk out for Santa to enjoy when he visited us that night. I'd lie in bed, trying to figure out how Santa would get in, since there was no chimney on our house. Somehow, though, he always did! There that plate would be on Christmas morning, with nothing left on it but a few crumbs.
Those are the things that stand out in my mind when I think about Christmases past. I don't remember many specific gifts, and I doubt my parents spent the hundreds and hundreds of dollars that we parents often do now. Christmas was about the traditions, the lights, the magic, the baby in a manger. Make sure that you don't lose that part of Christmas, for yourself as much as for your children. Long after the latest toy or game system is dead and cast aside, the child in your home (and in your heart) will remember the experiences that you shared together. That's the important part; that's the most needed part.
If, instead of buying gifts for some important people on your list, you'd like to make them something, this recipe gives you a lovely batch of the most delectable homemade cookies you'll ever eat. They're one of my most requested each year. Feel free to substitute pecans for the walnuts, and dried chopped cherries for the dried cranberries to make them your own.
Cranberry-White Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts
- 1/2 cup salted butter, softened slightly
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars until smooth.
3. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
4. Combine the flour and baking soda; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips and cranberries.
5. Use a cookie scoop (I use the OXO Good Grips medium-size scoop) and place scoops of dough on a nonstick cookie sheet, or use parchment paper to line sheets before placing and baking cookies.
6. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still soft, being careful not to overcook.
7. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
Happy holiday baking, friends!
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is "Mama Steph". She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home. She is married and has three sons who are substantially taller than she is. You can email her at Steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com.