Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Make a Lifelong Memory: Bake with a Little One!

December 24th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Never a Christmas passes that I don’t get a thrill from making cookies. My orange drop cookies, a family tradition, fruit rocks for the fruitcake lovers – all two of them, me included – pecan diamonds that thrill everyone, raspberry-almond bars, pecan sandies, turtles and more usually fill all my tins.

Simple sugar cookies

It’s the plain sugar cookies, and my hundreds of crazy cookie cutters, that flood me with the happiest memories, though. From the red-handled scalloped round one I remember from my neighbor’s kitchen as a girl, to the fancy copper flamingo that I used to make a tropical beach gingerbread scene for a TV shoot (complete with shredded-wheat covered tiki hut and shark-laden waters), those cutters represent a life of fun baking – and the bakers who helped.

My nieces started the tradition

Every year for a long while, my nieces, Sarah and Rachel, would come and help me make Christmas cookies. We’d work on my big round oak table, sorting out the huge box full of cutters into categories and sizes. There were sprinkles and sugar everywhere.  I’d make dough for days, then send them home with platefuls of artful creations loaded to the max with so much icing my jaw ached looking at them.

Of course, they got a big thrill out of it – their mother doesn’t bake much and never, to my knowledge, has made rolled sugar cookies or even used a cookie cutter. I have put together a set of vintage and new sets for Sarah this year; she’s all grown up and out on her own.

A new cookie baker visits

This year, my son’s girlfriend’s 4-year-old came to help with the cookies. It was a big event. So much so, we did it twice.

Kody was great at it, and jumped in as though born to the bakery. He wanted to take part in every aspect of it – and promptly commandeered the rolling pin, finding out how sticky dough is.

Secret to working with little ones

Martha would shudder at how we worked. I was out to have fun, and just let him do it with very little guidance – the object was to make memories – not really worry about the cookies.  Sugar, sprinkles and flour were everywhere – though clean hands were very important and we washed up a lot singing Happy Birthday each time.

Simplify, simplify

For the first batch of cookies, I made a spice-filled sugar cookie dough. For the second round when he paid a surprise visit, I used an all-natural storebought dough from Publix. I can’t think of its name – Inspiration or something like it. To it, I added my own spices, then rolled it out with Kody, and cut away. It worked beautifully and the cookies were tasty.

No such thing as too much glam

With kids, more is more.  A red candy cane isn’t enough – it must also have yellow and green. A shark is green and blue and poka-dots. Those pesky dragees are hard to afix, but Kody got them just right as the shark’s eye and buttons on the gingerbread girl.

And who says a hammer isn’t a Christmas shape? It was Kody’s favorite.

The resulting cookies, after a quick icing job (use a squeeze tube and make your life easy!) and all the many sugar sprinkles (“We need yellow for the star, Jan!”) were beautiful…

but not nearly as lovely as his oh-so-proud smile when he showed them off to his mom.

The cookies cost me about $4 and a couple of hours, start to finish, with a 4-year-old. The memories – priceless, and forever.

Tags: Holiday cooking

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Merrie Lee Reese // Jan 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Ah! Kids and Cookies! What a great combo. I remember a sugar cookie from my youth that I can still taste with the essence of family and holiday fun. It was a time of wonder and fantasy.
    Many sugar cookie recipes have been tested in my quest to find that taste again. Over the years I have realized that it was the flavor and feel of family memories that I remember so well.

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