WRITTEN ON December 14th, 2011 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Uncategorized

A couple weeks ago I went to my doctor for a standard glucose tolerance test, which checks for gestational diabetes. Feeling lighthearted and utterly cocky, I had a late night snack of two mini-Snickers bars, the last vestiges of our Halloween stash, less than 9 hours before I was to get my blood taken. Big mistake.

Not so long story short, I ended up spending four hours last week in the Quest diagnostics lab, drinking ungodly amounts of syrupy sweet orange flavored swill and getting stuck in the arm five times. Honestly though, I think the worst part was that I was forced sit in the waiting room and listen to the drivel that is Fox News, followed by the Wendy Williams show (is “she” a woman or a man?)

This follow up test was ordered when I failed the first test by two measly points. Two points! Are you kidding me? I get that it’s better to be safe than sorry but come on. Two points? Even my doctor told me that he thought it was a bunch of bull. So, naturally, I made cookies in protest.

Now lets get one thing straight. I am not some goody two-shoes, gotta get an A, over achiever when it comes to test taking. In fact I’m pretty much the exact opposite. In college I was lucky enough to pass my classes and graduate in the requisite four years, but more often than not I was wholly unprepared, arriving at an exam having skipped the three classes beforehand, completely unaware that it was test day. Let’s just say there was a lot of winging it, and a natural talent for BS involved. You know that phrase never bull shit a bull shitter? I coined it. For real.

Having said that, when it comes to tests taken at the doctors office, I am a straight A student. HDL? Sky high. LDL? Lower than dirt. Blood Pressure? 110/70. Lungs? Clear. Cavities? None. So maybe I was a little cavalier about the damn glucose thing.

Alls well that ends well, I passed the second test with flying colors because I actually followed the directions and fasted for 12 hours prior to the test. My reward to myself was a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Not your average run of the mill chocolate chips. They’re made with vanilla soaked dried cherries, flakes of sweet coconut, lightly toasted walnuts and dark chocolate chunks. They’re the black tie version of your standard chocolate chip, and perfect for the holidays.

Growing up, my grandmother made the most insanely beautiful, impossibly delicate and incredibly labor intensive hand painted sugar cookies. She’d start the day after Thanksgiving; her kitchen and laundry room (storage and prep area) would turn into an all out cookie factory for the holiday season. They were treasured nuggets of buttery sweet Yuletide gold, and she earned herself quite a reputation as cookie maker extraordinaire. Those who were lucky enough to be on her list of recipients knew they had just received the holy grail of holiday cookies, not to be taken for granted. These cookies were to be savored, one at a time, slowly, and rationed with extreme care.

Sadly, when she passed, the tradition (mostly) passed with her. The cookies require so much work that my brave mother only makes a few dozen (still considered a Herculean effort) to be eaten on Christmas Eve and Christmas, because it just wouldn’t be the same without them. But gone are the days when we’d have an unlimited supply (Dot would make upwards of 100 dozen.)

When I first started dating that darling hubby of mine, I got the idea that I’d make Dot’s Christmas cookies for his family as gifts. We’d only been dating a short time, and it seemed weird to buy them gifts when I hardly knew them, but I wanted to show I’d remembered them in some way. Much to my chagrin, my grandmother rarely let anyone help, and my mom lives in Baltimore, so I was on my own. My teeny tiny New York City galley kitchen tuned into a veritable holiday mine-field. My poor roommates were banished entirely, for fear that they’d knock over the sprinkles, or spill the thin confectioners icing I’d use to paint the cookies into dozens of stained glass-like snowmen and wreathes.

Proudly, I presented the tins of cookies, tied with beautiful ribbon (I’m a sucker for big bows), to my then-boyfriends family members. My now-brother-in-law Brian accepted them graciously, and, I later learned, never even brought them in from the car, preferring to keep them to his sweet tooth-afflicted self. He apparently ate the entire tin of cookies while driving around the following day (he was a medical sales rep at the time, and spent most of the day in the car), one hand on the wheel, the other dipping into the tin and shoveling the cookies whole into his mouth, as if I had handed him a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. Never bothering to look at or appreciate the beauty of a hand painted cookie. Sacrilege.

My father-in-law, who shall remain nameless seeing as he lives around these parts, accepted the holiday offering with a chuckle and the following comment “Great, as long as they’re not sugar cookies!” My heart shrank three sizes that day, and I slunk off, muttering “Bah, Humbug” and looking for a bowl of egg nog big enough to drown myself in.

Lesson learned.  For better or for worse, I’d married into a family of chocolate chip men. Still, for years I tried to find a version of that venerated, All-American cookie that could be used for the holidays. To me, a chocolate chip cookie, while a thing of beauty in it’s own right, is an every day kind of treat.  At Christmas, I want to make something a little  more special, and I believe I’ve found it.

Ten years later, I’ve just about forgiven my beloved in-laws for their poor taste in Christmas cookies.  Turns out I quite adore them, so it made swallowing my pride a lot easier. And hey, marriage is nothing if not a compromise. Besides, it’s the holidays. ‘Tis the season to be merry.

Christmas cookie redux

Christmas Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 3 dozen)

Adapted from Epicurious.com

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp pure vanilla extract divided into 1/2 tsp and 1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp

3/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chunks

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, pour about 1 cup boiling water over cherries and add 1/2 tsp vanilla. Let stand 5 minutes. In the meantime, combine butter and sugars in a large bowl, mix on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the remaining vanilla, beat till combined. Set mixer to low, add in flour slowly.  So not over mix- this should take no longer than 30 seconds. Once combined, gently stir in cherries, chocolate chunks, nuts and coconut. Drop dough by heaping teaspoons full onto a non-stick cookie sheet, 12-15 per sheet. Place cookie sheet on a rack in the middle of the oven, bake about 10 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven, allow cookies to cool on tray about 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.  Bake rest of dough in the same way.

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