I’ve dragged myself into mid-December mode the last few weeks, buying gifts and addressing cards. I am a little out of sync because of my upcoming shoulder surgery; it hasn’t been easy to skip past Thanksgiving and Chanukah, and without passing go, head directly to Christmas. I feel a little clumsy about this. The rhythms of time and the habits of celebration imprint themselves on our lives, which is one reason that a gear shift is so hard for many of us. Just when we think we’ve settled into a holiday routine, life changes. A baby is born. A child marries. A parent dies. Someone moves away or returns after a long absence.
I’m glad that I get to shift those gears back to where they belong today. I’m focusing on Thanksgiving preparations right now. This year, we’re planning to spend time with our kids and grandkids throughout the day, and will also head over the river, through the woods, and onto I-88 to see some of our extended family. This isn’t always the way our holidays work, so I am really grateful to the Giver for this particular gift.
I am also grateful for the way my warm house smells right now. I’ve made salted bittersweet chocolate brownies and sweet potato kugel to bring to my sister-in-law’s house, and I let a little bit of my December cookie-baking routine slip into the cooking frenzy today. I realized I’m not going to be able to make my trademark holiday cookie next month, so I decided to make my famous Cranberry-Chocolate Chip ribbon cookies today to share with my family when they begin arriving tomorrow.
You can’t really tell from the picture, but that recipe card is stained and yellowed, a mark of both its age and its heavy usage. You also can’t tell that this recipe was a finalist in the Chicago Tribune Christmas cookie contest four or five years ago, but it was.
I’ve been making this recipe in December for probably a quarter-century now. Even cranberry haters like it, and one of the highest compliments I got was from a friend in MN who grabbed the recipe when I posted it a couple of years ago, and told me it is now becoming a part of her family’s yearly December traditions.
The whole delicious point of a food tradition is to take us back and help us remember who we are and where we’ve been together. If that doesn’t create some thankfulness, then what will?
Here’s the recipe, in case you want to add it to your own holiday repertoire:
Cranberry-Chocolate Chip Ribbon Cookies
1-1/2 C cranberries
1/2 C sugar
3 T orange juice
1 t orange peel
Combine first three ingredients in 4 C glass bowl, then cover with plastic wrap. Nuke for 6 minutes, stirring once. Mix in peel and let cool slightly.
3/4 C softened butter
2/3 C sugar
1 t vanilla
2 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
pinch of salt
1 C mini chocolate chips
Mix butter and sugar together until blended. Add vanilla and egg to mixture, beating by hand until combined. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Mix in chocolate chips.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough into four parts. Shape each portion into a log approx 12″ x 3/4″ and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Use your finger to press a depression the length of each log. Spoon cranberry filling into the depression.
Bake 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned. While the bars are still warm, cut on the diagonal into 1″ strips.