Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make yummy memories

I really admire people who make gorgeous Christmas cookies: buttery cutouts decorated with elaborate frosting, dainty wafers dusted with powdered sugar, layered cookies oozing with sticky goodness. But I also admire moms and dads who make Christmas cookies with their children and don’t mind getting sprinkles all over the table and floor.

My husband and I decorated cookies with our children from the time they were old enough to shake sparkly red sugar onto mounds of cookie dough. Every year we’d buy new bottles of pretty sprinkles and let them shake on as much as they wanted. When they were finished, the kids would stand by the oven and peek through the window, watching their cookies bake. Afterwards, we’d all sit around the table and munch on sweet sugar cookies and drink ice cold milk. The kids loved it, and so did my husband and I.

Over the weekend, we repeated the tradition, this time with our 3-year-old granddaughter, Sora, who loves to decorate cookies whether it’s for the Fourth of July or Sunday afternoon snack.

This time around, the cookies weren’t homemade. They weren’t even the slice and bake kind. I purchased already-baked butter cookies — the flower-shaped kind with the hole in the middle.

Sora watched me frost one of the cookies with vanilla frosting I had dyed green, then she picked up the plastic knife I had provided and frosted her own. She liberally added red sugar, cookie confetti and red hots to decorate her cookie “wreaths.” She had so much fun with this impromptu cookie-decorating session before church on Sunday. It was so easy and an inexpensive way to enjoy a holiday tradition.

Were her cookies the perfect example of a magazine-quality cookie? Of course not. But they were pretty to us and were delicious. She also got a good lesson in frosting cookies.

One of the main things you must get over when decorating cookies with children is the desire to make them perfect or even pretty. Let the cookie be their creation. Let them use their imagination and decorate as they see fit. As the child gets older, his abilities will certainly improve, and he can help out more.

He can add the pretzel antlers to reindeer cookies and carefully drop on eyes and a mouth when the cookies come out of the oven. The older child can also help roll out cookie dough and press down the cookie cutter to make snowmen, Santa Claus and Christmas tree shapes.

Look through Christmas cookbooks and at online cooking sites and find cookies you and your child will enjoy making together. When you’re out shopping, let her pick out one or two bottles of sprinkles she likes and let choose someone special to share the cookies with them when they are finished.

And one more very important thing. Take photos of your child while he’s decorating her cookies.

It’s fun for me to look back and remember those days.

Reindeer cookies
  • 1 package ready-to-bake cookies (I used chocolate chip)
  • Mini twist pretzels (two per cookie)
  • M&Ms for eyes and mouth (I used red and green M&M baking bits)
Preheat oven as directed on package.

Break cookie squares into individual pieces. Gently shape squares into slightly vertical rectangles. Place pretzels at top, where antlers would be on a reindeer. Put cookie onto cookie sheet and gently press down so pretzel goes into the cookie. Don’t press down too much; you don’t want the cookie dough to be much thinner than it is from the package.* Repeat with remaining cookies, leaving space for the cookies to spread out.

Bake according to package directions.

When cookies come out of oven, add eyes and mouth while cookies are still hot.

*You can add the M&M’s at this point, but they will “bleed” into the cookie while baking. But it is safe at this point for a younger child to add the eyes and mouth. Have him put the eyes close together because they will spread out when the cookie bakes.

Cookie Wreaths
  • 1 package butter cookies with a hole in the middle
  • A tub of vanilla frosting
  • Green food coloring
  • Assorted sprinkles
Mix drops of food dye into the desired amount of frosting. Stir and continue adding dye until frosting is a pretty shade of green.

Frost the cookies. Decorate with sprinkles.

Eat a few cookies and enjoy the time spent with your child!

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