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Christmas Cookie Overkill

December 20, 2012

imagesMy mother was a master cookie baker. At Christmas, she baked for weeks, filling the freezer with a dazzling number of cookies, including her most loved – tollhouse, thumbprints and nut rolls. I have nice memories of watching her bake, and of seeing my dad – rarely in the kitchen except to eat – help her coat the nut rolls in powder sugar.

Over the years, she tried to vary our Christmas cookie diet, but I don’t recall that any of us were ever entranced by her Mexican wedding cookies or those little cream-cheese-based flaps with apricot jam inside (not even sure what their name was). It was a bit like cookie overkill, but we ate them anyway and certainly didn’t complain. There’s a sweet tooth on both sides of the family, and diabetes has been the bane of the Martinacs.

All this is by way of introduction: I am getting ready to make thumbprint cookies this evening. It is the only cookie, Christmas or otherwise, that I make. It’s not my mom’s recipe – we couldn’t find hers – but it’s close. My 89-year-old mother eats them with gusto, maybe thinking that she made them herself. A couple of years back, my brother-in-law actually pronounced them better than my mom’s – such heresy!

Yes, the recipe calls for a cup of butter. Yes, it calls for a cup of refined sugar. Yes, it calls for white flour. Although I occasionally use a pat of butter on toast or for scrambled eggs, I have eliminated white sugar and flour from my life. But with these cookies, I don’t try to substitute organic sugar or whole-wheat flour.

Here’s what I do: I don’t bake batches and batches of them. I make just one batch of three dozen, and we have them as Christmas dessert. I freeze a dozen for friends who are coming to visit. I myself eat maybe four, tops, over the course of a week. And that’s it. It brings back a nice memory of my mom, who loved Christmas and always tried to do everything up right.

So it all comes down once again to portions. How many Christmas cookies do you really need? Could you bake your most favorite variety this year in a small batch and forget the rest? Because if you make them, they will eat them – you know it’s true. Also, taking one or two cookies as your own serving gives you the taste – and the memories – without the extra fat and sugar that you’ll be trying to diet off come January.

Remember, deprivation is the surest way to failure when you’re trying to lose pounds or follow a healthy diet.

Merry Christmas!

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