It’s the most…paradoxical time of the year? Or perhaps the time of year when our paradoxes are made most plain for us to see & pick apart: our relentless consumerism despite clear evidence that it does not bring us happiness, our insistence on family togetherness even though families are fraught territory for most, our messaging about love, peace, and joy painted like a veneer over the stress, obligation, and resentment nearly everyone seems to feel during the month of December.
I’ve been examining these contradictions inside my own lived experience over the past few weeks; I have, for as long as I can remember, loved this time of year. I don’t love what our late-stage-capitalist culture has done with it, of course, but there is still plenty at the core from which I can derive meaning. Ritual is my jam, and I also have an affinity for the reflective looking back and meaning-making that comes with the end of the calendar year, however arbitrary that distinction. This year, everything feels fresh; even the old traditions are happening in a new place, which creates a dynamic I’m enjoying. Certain things are up for grabs, which means we can set a new precedent and workshop our holiday traditions a bit.
I take great joy in pulling out the Spotify playlist I only let myself listen to for a few weeks out of the year, in driving around with my family to look at lights, in pre-making & aging the eggnog we’ll serve while we trim our tree, and, perhaps most exciting of all, in planning and executing my holiday baking projects.
So, because I used to write a food blog and I still really enjoy feeding people as a way of demonstrating love and affection, I thought I’d share some of the recipes I’m planning to use this year, as well as old favorites, in case you’re still making your own lists. And please, share with me what your “must make” holiday baked goods are, or the new things you’re trying – I love talking cookies and treats!
NEW THIS YEAR:
Coffee-hazelnut crescents from Domenica Cooks – there are two coffee lovers in my house (Mom & Jill), and while I’m not a big coffee drinker, I do like the flavor in desserts. I will probably make the suggested switch to almonds for this cookie because, real talk, hazelnuts are expensive and I’m already planning to use them in two other cookie recipes.
Indian-spiced cashews from Genius Kitchen – okay, so technically I’ve made these once before, but I’m bringing them back for the holidays because they were such a hit last time. They are super-simple to make and I like having something savory to add to the mix of sweet things. FWIW, I use Penzey’s “The New Curry” curry powder.
Peppermint marshmallows from Bravetart – I swear by any & every Stella Parks recipe I’ve ever tried, and the holidays seem like the perfect time to tackle a more-elaborate-than-usual recipe like homemade marshmallows. Shiv is a marshmallow fan, so I think it will be fun for her to see how they’re made. We’ll gift some for her teachers, along with jars of this hot chocolate mix from Smitten Kitchen.
Chocolate-dipped orange shortbread cookies – this one’s on the old blog, in a post that also rounds up a bunch of other cookie recipes, should you be interested. Jill & Shiv are both big fans of the orange-dark chocolate combo, hence the origins of this one.
Chocolate-hazelnut meringues – this is an Alice Medrich recipe, and as she is the Cookie Queen, it’s no surprise that I’ve made this one several years running. I’m also fond of this recipe because meringues keep a good, long time, making them a good candidate for mailing out.
Rugelach from Lottie & Doof – rugelach are the best of all holiday cookies; come at me with your disagreements. This recipe from my friend Tim’s site is messy and labor-intensive and worth every bit of the work. I’ve made it several years running, and I don’t think I’ll stop anytime soon. The recipe yields a LOT of rugelach, which means you can eat a bunch yourself and give a bunch as gifts, making everyone happy.