Christmas Cookie Tradition

P1050371What’s better than baking Pecan shortbread cookies? Baking them with a friend.

Jenna is someone special in my life. I wanted to give her a gift that she’d really enjoy. Since her love language isn’t opening gifts, but is spending time together, I invited her to my home for a cookie baking marathon.

In a little under four hours, we baked three kinds of cookies, totaling 6 dozen of our all time favorites.

Before she arrived, I anticipated how much fun we’d have. I wanted our afternoon to have the kind of touches that minister to the heart. A fire crackled in the kitchen wood stove. Christmas music played from a little stereo. To complete the ambience, I plugged in the twinkling clear lights that drape over the turquoise buffet. It’s gorgeous, retro and is a focal point in my home.

P1050378When Jenna arrived, I immediately learned that Christmas music wasn’t eliciting fond memories of holidays past. Her crinkled nose and frown, a look of disgust and boredom, clued me into what she didn’t want to hear.

She let me in on her experience. I discovered that she usually loves the time tested songs that remind us of Christ’s brith, but she had listened to Christmas music at work ad nauseam where her boss has had it going all day, every day, since October. Okay, scrap the holiday tunes.

We put on some of her favorite Christian hits, and we sang, chatted up a storm, measured ingredients, creamed butter, blended, mixed, and scooped dough onto cookie trays–trays that are patinated from decades of use.

Many dozens of  happy cookie marathons were orchestrated on these trays with my children. All are now grown and married. The trays, darkened by years of use, remind me of the hours we spent making cookies during a lot of Christmases. Now counting thirty. That’s a lot of love and that’s a lot of butter.

What did Jenna and I bake?

Jenna’s favorite…snickerdoodles.

My family’s favorite…chocolate chip, coconut, walnut cookies.

And soon to be a new favorite…Amazing Pecan Shortbread cookies.

P1050375I’ve included the recipe for you and I hope you’ll give it a whirl. Maybe you’ll even use it in your own cookie baking marathon.

How’d I come up with this recipe? I transformed the traditional pecan cookie by adding almond extract and updating it with healthy ingredient choices. This new version is delicious.

These are five thumbs up, high fives, five stars all the way. I can hardly wait to serve them to my kids Christmas morning. They’re going to love them.

Amazing Pecan Shortbread Cookies 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cup pecans, chopped 
  • 2 1/2 cups Kamut flour (I  like baking with Kamut flour, which is an ancient and more wholesome flour. It’s lighter than whole wheat, is loaded with nutrients, including selenium. If you prefer the whiter variety, substitute for 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour.)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature. (Salted butter means that I didn’t need to add salt. But if you like measuring salt and sprinkling it into your mix, use saltless butter and add 1/2 tsp salt.)
  • 3/4 cup honey (Or 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar.)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Turning these ingredients into amazing Pecan Shortbread cookies is quick and easy.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake at 10-12 minutes. I live at an altitude of almost 5,000 feet and baked them in my old GE double oven for 12 minutes. They were very slightly browned on the bottoms and soft in the middle. Cool before transferring them from your trays to containers. For baking ahead, they do great served from the freezer.

  1. In a large bowl, pulverize butter using an electric mixer for 1 minute or until thoroughly creamed. Add sweetener (honey OR sugar), eggs and almond extract. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
  2. In another bowl, mix thoroughly together the flour and baking soda.
  3. Pour in flour mixture, and add the chopped pecans to the buttery mixture. Beat on medium speed just until combined.
  4. Cover dough and refrigerate for 3 hours or more. You can store dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  6. I usually oil my pans. But you can use parchment paper or silicon baking mats. I find that oiling them takes all of 2 minutes and clean up is easy.
  7. When the dough’s well chilled, scoop out dough with a spoon (about 1 tablespoon) and roll into balls. Using the back of a spoon, press an indentation into the tops and press a pecan half into the indention. (TIP: If you don’t have time to chill the dough, it won’t form into balls. Follow the same instructions, forming the dough into your spoon and plopping them onto your trays. This is what Jenna and I did. And they turned out great!)
  8. Bake on the center racks of your preheated oven, 10-12 minutes. Cool them completely before removing. Store in a sealed container or freeze. 

Merry Christmas!

Pamela Koefoed

To Follow me: http://www.pamelakoefeod.com, Facebook and Instagram.

 

How to Make a Friend and Why You Need to

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Photo: public domain, wikipedia.org

There’s more to good health and longevity than good genes, as a nearly 80 year old Harvard study has shown. Good genes are nice, joy is better.

As it turns out, it really isn’t good for mankind to be alone, Genesis 2:18. Friendship reduces the risk of chronic disease, mental illness and age-related mental decline, and having a friend adds more meaning and joy to life.

It’s been a long time since you were in grade school where friendships were made at the monkey bars or on the ball field. Since we’re no longer playing with classmates on the playground, having good relationships with people takes more effort than it once did.

Need some ideas on how to have awesome friendships?  Look at the practical “how to” lists below. They’ll show you how you might be sabotaging relationships and what you can do today to begin or build meaningful, fun and interesting friendships.

How to NOT have a friend:

  • Don’t reach out to someone you’d like to get to know better.
  • Don’t invite someone you enjoy being with to spend some time with you.
  • Don’t put any effort into being a friend.
  • Let the other person make all the phone calls to you.
  • Let the other person come up with all the things for you two to do together. (For example, never invite your friend to come to your house.)
  • Dominate the conversation with your friend.
  • Be rude to your friend…all the time.
  • Never ask your friend about his/her day, family, work or ministry, hobbies, faith.
  • Don’t even try to meet new people.
  • Don’t go places where you’re likely to meet people with good values.
  • Stay in your home…all the time.
  • Don’t initiate conversations with people you don’t know.
  • Don’t forgive offenses.
  • Don’t say yes to your friend’s invitation to do something together.
  • Agree with self doubt and avoid doing new things.

How to have amazing friendships with people who are awesome like you!

Embrace the follow three truths:

  • Friendships are all around you waiting for you to discover them.
  • Every person you see has been engineered for relationships with people.
  • You are a people and you qualify as someone with great friend potential.

And put these to practice:

  • Initiate conversation with people around a common interest. (Do you both like dogs? Cats? Do you enjoy movies, art, walking, good food, taking classes…? Are you in the same career field or are you both ministers? Do you play music or enjoy sports? Do you both have preschoolers? Are your spouses in similar fields? Do you both love God? Relationships begin around a common interest. Common interests are instant conversation starters.)
  • Put effort into existing friendships.
  • Invite your friend to do something that you think he/she will enjoy.
  • Invite someone you’d like to know better to lunch or out for coffee / tea.
  • Put your friend in the limelight for a while by asking open ended questions that lead to understanding: heart, mission, or life. A great getting to know you question is, why do you do what you do?
  • Celebrate your friend’s birthday, milestones and successes.
  • Comfort your friend’s broken heart.
  • Be your friend’s cheerleader by being a source of sincere and truthful encouragement.
  • Be transparent about your life and dreams.
  • Pray together.
  • Forgive offenses.
  • Listen to understand.
  • Be intentional in developing new or strengthening existing friendships.

Here’s some shocking news: Friendships rarely happen like they do in the movies. You bump into someone on the street. She drops her books. You pick them up. And magic happens. That’s called fantasy. Instant friendships happen all the time in movies, because there’s not a lot of time to develop initial engagement into a deeply meaningful relationship.

Life without a good friend is a life half lived. Friends add so much to who we are, and they contribute to a true sense of joyful fulfillment. As proven by the Harvard study, the joy of friendship is good for our health and longevity. Bottom line…your efforts to have a friend and to be a friend are priceless.

Look at the list of friendship sabotagers and you’ll see that when you make efforts to be a friend, you are one wheel on a two-wheel bike. The other wheel is your friend being a friend to you. Two wheelers cannot go anywhere without both wheels.

One more thing, most of us can improve in the friendship department. If friends have been passive in your life, then you’re very likely one of multitudes of people who wonder whether their friends care about them. Feel free to share this article with friends and let them know that you value your relationship with them. But if you’ve been the absent wheel, then the bike isn’t going anywhere, and the decision to get it going is yours to make.

Here’s to friendship and Happy New Year!

©Pamela Koefoed 2018