How I survived the Holidays (YES!)… with Santa’s Chocolate Chip & World Peace Cookies
Updated: Jan 1, 2020
The holidays are almost over and I am graciously anticipating an unceremonious end to the festivities. I normally love the holidays and eagerly await it all year. The smell of cinnamon and pumpkin spice, the coziness of a fire, homemade baked goods, and my favorite- lights and decorations of all kinds, are all reminiscent of a time when caroling, songs, holiday specials on tv and good food, were the embodiment of feeling loved, appreciated, and supported.
But, as with all fairytales, reality sets in and I think it happened to me around junior high (as with most kids). Unable to reconcile the celebrations and happiness of the holidays with the consumerism and greed I saw around me, I blew up at my mother, one Christmas saying how much I hated it. My poor mother, a devout Catholic and from a country which literally shuts down for a month for Christmas, was in shock and in return, summarily became angry and shouted at me for my sulkiness and candor.
After that episode, I kept any misgivings to myself, and quite honestly, I really did and still do enjoy the holidays, until it can get to be too much. This year was particularly brutal, starting with the hosting of Thanksgiving. Between shifting work deadlines, multiple family functions, (two of which we hosted), fire restoration, playing engagements, playdates, and holiday parties, this is the first year we actually were unable to make all of the engagements we were invited to. (We almost always try to make it, even for an hour!) I remembered my smart ass Christmas moment as a teenager and instead, felt horrified that I felt the same way with the added guilt of being a mother. I watched my own overwhelmed family and friends, secretly grateful I wasn’t the only one feeling the pressure, and of course, I had to overthink it and ask “Why?”.
My perceptive niece sent me an article weeks earlier before the holidays began and I laughed, because when I finally did have the time to read it, I was already in the eye of the storm. The article, “5 Signs You’re Carrying All the Emotional Labor During the Holidays”, expressed the unmeasured emotional and physical toll caregivers may feel during the holidays.
I usually try to make people laugh when I see unease, but I watched helplessly as I saw my family and friends, running through their own mental checklists, chastising themselves and running themselves ragged trying to do EVERYTHING. I am somewhat guilty of this, knowing that things are not always perfect, but using every organizing ability I have to make sure our holidays would run with precision.
Regardless of gender bias or gender equity, the parity that ensues from unmet expectations can make any holiday suck, no matter which coin you identify with. (Although I consider myself a feminist, I may be more liberal in the workplace but quite traditional in my personal life.) And with any unmet expectation, it comes with an emotional and financial cost, which many countries, now realize, can capitalize on. Economic participation is at the very least, a precursor to gender equity, and equity under the law.
Did our holidays run with precision? Of course, it did not. My child got sick (with us fighting to stay healthy), my husband and I had (gratefully) more work deadlines, more delays with fire restoration, and my cello got smashed (another story). I had to cancel social engagements due to sickness, work deadlines, inability to get childcare, etc. and I felt like I was letting myself and my friends down.
I realize now that that guilt was an attempt to reconcile the nostalgia and the reality of what the holidays currently means to me and the images from my youth of a holiday that is no longer there. Past and Present. Reconciliation. Inability to control and understand the chaos. The formation or inability to confront what is real and not real, and ultimately, accepting the painful beauty by which time and age limit.
As when I was a teenager, but this time, cognizant of my own limitations and the limitations of others, the holidays represent a fragile beauty and state that I now understand, needs to be cared for as per self love, compassion, and understanding. “The Holiday Spirit or Christmas Spirit” extends to not only others, but to ourselves. Who wants a mean person taking out their frustrations on others at a holiday party?
Anyway, my holiday was glorious, after the “aha!” moment. We went to holiday parties, saw family, stayed healthy, I stopped beating myself up for not being able to attend everything, and our neighbors got drunk at our house on Christmas Eve, (after their own holiday party), while I baked cookies, and my husband woke up on Christmas Day with such a huge hangover, he drank pickle juice for hours, while grandma and grandpa played with my daughter and her pretend kitchen. The friends and family I was unable to see, I texted and laughed with sending funny pictures and our own holiday fails and saves. It was lovely.
Our holidays weren’t perfect, but the chase made it perfect. Ironic.
Here are two cookie recipes that embody nostalgia, present and future all in one cookie plate. Cheers! Here’s to next year’s “aha!” moment.
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Mrs Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies (from “The Best of Top Secret Recipes” by Todd Wilbur)
1 cup (2 sticks softened butter)
2/3 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 twelve oz bag semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1. Preheat the oven to 3500.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. (I usually set the eggs and butter out overnight and cream the butter after breakfast in the morning).
3. Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. (If I can, I’ll premeasure all of this the night before or sometime beforehand.)
4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Scoop golf ball sized dough portions 2 inches apart on an uncreased baking sheet. (Or, if you don’t want to bake all these cookies, scoop the dough, freeze the dough balls for 30 minutes, and pack into a container between sheets of waxed paper for baking later. Ultimate happy insurance policy.)
7. Bake for 9 minutes, or until edges are light brown. Because of the high sugar content, these will continue baking while cooking so try to take them out even though they may appear underbaked.
For the present and future:
World Peace Cookies (from “Dorie’s Cookies”, by Dorie Greenspan)
1 1/4 (170 grams) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 Tbs (11 Tbs, 5 1/2 oz, 155 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
2/3 cup (134 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 tsp fleur de sel or 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 oz (142 grams) best quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into irregular bits
1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
2. Working with a stand mixer fitter with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed until soft, creamy and homogeneous, about 3 minutes.
3. Beat in the salt and vanilla.
4. Turn off the mixer, add all the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to start the blending. When the risk of flying flour has passed, turn the mixer to low and beat until the dough forms big, moist curds.
5. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix to incorporate. Per Dorie Greenspan “This is an unpredictable dough. Sometimes it’s crumbly and sometimes it comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Happily, now matter what, the cookies are always great.”
6. Turn the dough onto a work surface and gather it together, kneading it if necessary to bring it together. Divide it in half. Shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Make sure they aren’t hollow. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and freeze them for at least 2 hours or refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (I froze the other log, plastic wrap, parchment, with labels and cook times, for another insurance policy in the future.)
7. Center rack and preheat oven to 325.
8. Slice the dough into 1/2 think rounds. If they crack, see the bits back onto the cookie.
9. Arrange rounds 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. If baking both logs, keep one rolled in the fridge while you bake the other.)
10. Bake cookies for 12 minutes- don’t open the oven, just let them bake.
11. When the time is done, they won’t look done or firm and that’s the way it should be.
12. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and cool until just warm or room temperature.
13. Bake remaining dough on cool sheets.