Plate for Santa

Christmas Cookies

Merry Christmas! I am sharing some Christmas cookie recipes from my mother-in-law. I could eat a million of these pecan rocks and I really like this half recipe of Toll House chocolate chip cookies that result in a flatter, crispier cookie than the one that is currently on the package. The rolled chocolate cookies are a nice alternative to the traditional sugar cookie and fun because you get to use cookie cutters. Enjoy!

Pecan Rocks

  • 1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
  • 6 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cut finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream butter, add sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Sift in flour, mix thoroughly, add nuts. Roll into balls – they do get bigger when they bake so don’t make them too big. Bake for 35-40 min. Cool completely and roll in powdered sugar.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the Tollhouse Recipe

  • 1 cup and 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 6 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 7 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
  • 1 tbsp hot water (optional for flat crispy cookies, do not use if more fluffy squishy cookies are desired)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, salt and baking soda and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Add the egg and water and mix. Gradually mix in dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop tbsp sized spoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 min.

Rolled Chocolate Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg or 2 yolks
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder or 2 oz melted unsweetened baking chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add chocolate. Fold int dry ingredients and form dough into ball. Chill dough in refrigerator for 1 hour. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out into Christmas cookie shapes with cookie cutters. Bake for 8-10 min.

Epic Holiday Baking Day

December is like a month-long full moon for people who like to bake. We get a little…out of hand. It’s the perfect excuse to make those cookies and candies and sundry snacks we’ve been eying since the end of summer fruit season but couldn’t quite justify.

The below-depicted Epic Holiday Baking Day was suggested by my dear friend Erin, who is also a foodie and a fantastic cook. She could be an honorary asian if she wasn’t so nice and thus insufficiently prone to squabbling. Having grown up in a household that is chock full of bite size buttery temptation for the duration of the holidays, I enthusiastically agreed.

Evidence of a day well spent

Cranberry-Orange-Walnut Bread

You MUST try it. It is perhaps one of my all time favorite things to eat, ever.

Bar Nuts, courtesy of Union Square Cafe (courtesy of

If you make these, which you should, skip the hazelnuts and be generous with the seasonings. Resist the urge to eat them by the fistful. The urge will be strong, but you’ll only end up with spicy sugar all over your face. Trust me on this one.

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Chocolate-Hazelnut Truffles


These gingersnaps are easier than falling down, and unfailingly delicious. Their ingredient list is pure americana (read: cheap!).


  • 2 c flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 c Crisco
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c molasses
  • extra sugar for dipping

Mix all dry ingredients in a medium bowl, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream shortening with a hand-held mixer, add sugar and mix until combined and fluffy, 20-30 seconds. Add egg and molasses, mix until color is even and ingredients are well combined.

Add dry ingredients, mix until combined, then cover and chill for a while. You want the dough to be firm enough to handle, so anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight.

Roll dough in to 1″ balls, roll each in sugar, place about 2″ apart on baking sheet(s). I like to line them with parchment paper first, for easier clean up, but these work just as well without.

Bake at 350 for 11 minutes for a softer cookie, 12 for a crispier cookie. They will be all puffed up and soft and look very underdone when you take them out of the oven, but they will flatten out and crisp up as they cool.

Night Before Christmas

While Little Miss braved the holiday crowds and chilly weather in Chicago, Yuan came to our house in Davis for a low-key but food focused holiday. Yuan and I, having come from predominantly non-Christian Asian nations, never had strong family traditions around Christmas. For me, Christmas meant Bond marathon, TNT’s Christmas Story marathon, and a giant Christmas tree my dad usually got on Christmas eve when the big trees were on sale. Yuan arrived on the afternoon of Christmas eve after battling holiday traffic with a holiday duck in tow. We did some last minute holiday shopping at the grocery store and cooked our Christmas Eve meal.

Although my Christmas traditions revolved around the cable tv schedule, Bjorn, having descended from Vikings, actually has family Christmas traditions. As far as I can tell, Norwegians celebrate most of Christmas on Christmas Eve – at least the fun parts that involve food and presents. Christmas Eve dinner feature Norwegian meatballs (NOT to be confused with Swedish meatballs which have cream….oh the horror) and lefse, a thin potato pancake that is rolled up and usually slathered in butter and sugar. There are always mashed potatoes and sometimes herring salad which is actually quite good (although not if you don’t like pickled fish). Since lefse apparently requires some special equipment (lefse roller, lefse flipper, lefse skillet), we skipped the lefse and focused on the meatballs. I make a lot of meatballs, but mine are usually Italian style meatballs so there was some anxiety to be a good Norwegian wife and make some Norwegian meatballs. Norwegian meatballs contains ground beef and onion, held together with fresh breadcrumbs and milk, and then crowded in the pan where they are cooked until very very brown. The meatballs simmer and then a dark gravy is made from the pan drippings.

While I was fretting about overcrowding the meatballs, Yuan wrapped some prawns in pancetta.

Yuan also made some brussels sprouts cooked with hickory smoked bacon and Bjorn made some garlic mashed potatoes to complete our Christmas Eve meal.

For dessert, I made some sour cream cookies that I’ve been making forever. They are always as delicious as I remember them being…maybe a little too delicious because I promptly ate five of them in succession.


Aunt Annie’s Cookies

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks of unsalted sweet butter
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla (be generous)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (1/4 pint)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add baking powder, vanilla, eggs, flour and sour cream and mix together until blended. Drop spoonfulls of dough onto cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 20 min. Make icing with powdered sugar mixed with milk and brush onto cookie when they come out of oven.

Our Christmas meal featured 3 lbs of protein, 2 lbs of potatoes and an entire stalk of brussels sprouts. We ate almost all of it, oh and half a carton of egg nog. Holidays are great because somehow it’s okay to drink an absurd amount of spiked liquified custard.