After being energized by the gorgeous Solstice Celebration at church, the lights on my tree have kept that glow within me. I love turning out all the lamps and only having the tree lit, sitting back with a glass of wine, and simply reflecting on the year. It has been a wonderful 2013, but I will go on to that later… there’s so much to do right now to prepare for seeing my family on Christmas Eve!
This year, the holiday hosts have been Robin and Illy. As it seems the torch has passed to the next generation for hosting the holiday gatherings, I have to admit that it felt a bit sad for me. I actually considered not putting up a tree at all this year, but I am so glad that I did.
I truly feel rejuvenated!
This really helped with that rekindling… when I returned from the Solstice Celebration, I was changing my clothes and noticed that the plant on my meditation space had flowered that day! It was a perfect culmination for a perfect evening. Add to that Zuzu’s (Sue-Sue’s?) petals from the It’s a Wonderful Run 5K, and I was ready to get into full swing.
One thing that I do every year is to make my Dad’s favorite Christmas cookie… Ribbon Cookies. My grandmother used to make them, and then my mom…now it’s me. These three-layered cookies consist of layers of poppy seed, chocolate, and candied cherry flavored doughs. They take a long time to prepare, but they are worth the effort. Over the years, though, I made a couple of changes that I think grandma would approve of. I use green food coloring in the poppy seed layer and red in the cherry layer to give them a more festive look.
Ribbon Cookies (from the kitchen of Grandma Neva Franklin):
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. shortening (USE shortening, not butter! Let me tell you from experience!!!)
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream shortening and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, and beat till fluffy. Beat in baking powder and salt, THEN begin adding flour. (Making sure baking soda is well beat in before adding flour will help avoid bitter-bump surprises if you dump it in with the flour…unless you sift dry ingredients. Then it’s all good. I don’t sift).
Divide dough into three parts.
– To one, add red food coloring and knead with hands till dough is fully colored. Then add 1/4 c. chopped candied cherries.
– For the second, you need to first mix 3 tbsp. of baking cocoa and 1 tbsp. softened butter (REAL butter, not margarine is best!). It will make a cocoa dough, which you will add to the next section of cookie dough. Knead this till the chocolate color is uniform.
– To the last one, add green food coloring and knead the dough till it is uniform in color. Then knead in 2 tbsp. poppy seeds.
Layering (fun, fun, fun!):
Press the cherry layer into the bottom of a waxed paper-lined 9″x13″ pan. Make sure the waxed paper is long enough to overlap the width of the pan on both sides (like tissue paper around clothing in a gift box). Chill. Then press the chocolate layer on top of that one. Chill. Finally, press the green layer on top. Wrap the sides of the waxed paper over the top and chill for a few hours.
Baking (preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly spritz cookie sheets with baking spray):
Lift the whole thing from the baking pan by the overlapping waxed paper and place onto a large cutting board. Doing a cut across the long way, slice off a 1/3 chunk of layered dough. You can use your large knife to lift it from the waxed paper and onto the cutting surface so that you can lift the remaining dough back into the pan to go back into the fridge to stay cold (got that?).
Slice and bake 8-10 minutes (I do 8). They don’t spread out that much, so you can put them fairly close (see picture).
Now here’s the best way to get the production moving and to ensure even baking. Put your oven racks on the 2nd and 3rd “rows” from the bottom of the oven. NEVER bake them on the bottom row! They burn! Put your first pan on the lower rack and set timer for half the baking time while you prepare the next pan. When the timer rings, move the bottom pan to the upper rack and slide the next pan onto the bottom. Bake for the other half of the time. Remove top pan from oven, move bottom pan to upper rack, and add another pan to the bottom rack. Keep going in this manner, and all cookies will be evenly baked.
Let cookies cool on the pan for a few minutes before attempting to remove them…they will fall apart if you don’t!
Because they are a family tradition, I will continue to make them as long as I am able. I hope that at least one of my girls (or even my boys!) will keep this recipe and continue the tradition after I am no longer able to do so.
No matter what path you follow, I want to wish the brightest blessings to everyone during this season of light! May you know the warmth of a home, the love of family, the satisfaction of food for the body and soul, and the joy of simply being here to celebrate. Love to you all!