Around this festive time of year – when we are supposed to be making merry and appreciating the special family connections, etc, it can be difficult not to feel stressed and overwhelmed by all the work that goes into making everything so darn magical.
I want the magical part – I want the connections and the appreciation of the lovely small moments – the additional stress and work however – I can do without.
Let me explain…
In my head the idea of making cookies with my kids seems like a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, followed by an evening of decorating our tree. The reality is that an activity like baking together can sometimes fall short of the Better Homes and Gardens moment I was anticipating – so I have some shortcuts and tricks to make things go more smoothly.
I do love to cook but I don’t like baking particularly. I think the oppositional part of my personality objects to the strict need to follow a recipe. I don’t really like the constraint and lack of freedom that I perceive as being involved in baking.
Nevertheless, a number of years ago I was given a recipe that is my secret weapon. It is one easy-to-make dough – that can then be made into an endless variety of cookies: cookies that will have others convinced you are a domestic goddess. I can’t quite believe I am sharing this and revealing my well hidden distaste for many things domestic. However, there are many of us with a few extra challenges that have been tossed our way, like supporting our children through transitions, sensory issues, and social expectations during the holiday season, so I think it is only fair that I share this little gem:
The Endless Cookie Recipe:
❄ 1 lb of soft butter (room temperature)
❄ 1 cup of pulverized sugar (this is white sugar that has been pulsed in the blender to make it slightly powdered)
❄ 4 cups of flour
Cream together butter and sugar then slowly add and mix in the four cups of flour (this may seem like an impossible amount of flour… but have faith) Kneed the batter well. Roll out or form into shapes (see below for options)
Bake at 350 – 375 on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are golden on the bottom.
Now here comes the fun part – where it gets creative – which is likely why I like this recipe!
❄ This dough can be rolled out on a lightly floured surface (or better yet on some baking parchment) and cookie cutters can be used to make festive shapes.
❄ Chocolate chips can be added to the batter and then it can be rolled into a “log” – frozen for 20 minutes and then sliced. Crushed candy canes, craisins, nuts, etc also work well for this. This year we used candy canes…
❄ The batter can be rolled into small balls and squished with fork tines to create a more traditional shortbread look.
❄ Alternatively, roll into small balls and then into crushed walnuts. Make an indentation with finger and fill with jam – We call these bird’s nest cookies, some people call them fingerprint cookies, my husband’s family always called them jam blisters. Whatever you might call them – they are good.
❄ Shape dough into crescent moons and after it is baked dip one end into melted chocolate.
❄ Use sprinkles, maraschino cherries, food colour, icing, and… well… whatever else might inspire you. Mostly though – this recipe is so easy – it just leaves lots of time and energy for fun and creativity!
So Nika, H and I popped on some Vince Guaraldi (Charlie Brown music) and had a good time in the kitchen. We had a few mis-steps and mix-ups – and I overcooked my little moons, but all was sorted out. Now the duo is watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas and cuddling with Finnegan the Labradoodle.
Ah… Peace… at least at this very moment in our house… (especially if I am willing to clean up the kitchen solo – which definitely seems like the most relaxing choice at this point.)
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2011)