Christmas with Family and More Cookies


We’re at Ellen’s sister Ann’s for a few days, and on Christmas Eve day, we made more cookies, to add to the many varieties we already had from Ellen’s niece Ina, Ann, ourselves, and some of Ann and Dave’s friends. First up was Ann’s favorite, their Italian Pepper Cookies. “Don’t put that online,” Ann and Cristina said, “It’s a family secret!” I looked up “Italian Pepper Cookies” on Google and easily found a dozen recipes, none exactly the same, but most quite similar, so I don’t think the recipe is all that secret, but I won’t type it out here. Above, making the dough.


The dough is shaped into a log and cut in slices. Each slice is a batch.


Each batch is rolled into a rope and sliced diagonally to make the cookies.


The cookies are placed on parchment paper on baking trays, ready for the oven.


Image © Ann Smiga Greene.

I’m cheating here by showing the recipe in Ann’s hand-written cookie scrap-book, so if you really want to try it, you can copy it down, or just compare it to recipes you can find online. The predominant flavor is chocolate, the pepper is there but subtle in Ann’s version. We had some made by one of her aunts in Pennsylvania that had a lot more pepper, spicy and interesting. I liked it, but Ann doesn’t care for that much pepper. The anise extract in the sugar icing is the other predominant flavor.


Then it was time to make the Butter Cookies, we usually help decorate those. It’s a rolled dough cut with shaped cookie cutters.


Before baking, they’re decorated with paint made from egg yolks and food coloring: red, yellow and green. Blue won’t work because of the yolk color. Small candies are added by dipping your finger in egg white, then into the candies, then placing them onto the cookies. Two of the three common shaped cookies are Butter and Sugar. (The third is Gingerbread, we didn’t make those this year.) The dough looks the same, but as you might guess, there’s more butter in the Butter Cookies, more sugar in the Sugar Cookies. At Ann’s, you can easily tell the difference by the decorating style, the Butter Cookies are decorated before baking, like this, the Sugar Cookies are decorated with icing and candies after baking.


A closer look at the tray I just decorated. By the way, recipes for these are easy to fine online also.


Zach and Dave working on another tray.


Here are some of the finished baked cookies. Yum!


After all the baking was done, we sat down to an excellent dinner made mostly by Ina, the young lady in the apron at right. Lasagna, antipasta salad, meatballs, garlic bread, shrimp scampi and more. Zach, Ann, Dave, Ellen and I all enjoyed it along with Ina.


I though Ina’s antipasta was particularly creative. Good cooks in this family!


And for dessert later there was, of course, a large tray of cookies. What else?


Here’s a close look at the tray. The Pepper Cookies are at upper left, and working clockwise are Ina’s Chocolate-dipped Shortbread, our Macaroons and Butterballs, Ann’s Biscotti, some Multi-chip Cookies, our Date-nut Bars and Mocha Nut Balls, some Pizzelles, the Butter Cookies at bottom center, some homemade chocolates and toffees, and Sugar Cookies at left. Beautiful!


Christmas morning there were lots of presents to open, this is only a small part of them. Zach is ready!


More presents around the fireplace. And that small TV was soon to be replaced by a much larger new one, Dave’s big surprise for the family.


In the afternoon we went to my brother Doug’s house, where there were lots more presents to open.


As always, it was a crazy scene, with about a dozen kids and close to 30 adults gathered around to open gifts, with everyone talking loudly and exclaiming over their finds. And this was the second or third round of gifts for many of the kids!


My mom was there too, and Ellen and I enjoyed visiting with her, as always.


Here’s Doug and his handsome family: daughter Hayley, wife Lena, and sons Dylan and Charlie, in a rare moment of repose. Doug served us another fine dinner, and everyone had a great time. We’re blessed to be able to spend time with our families at Christmas. Hope your holidays were good too!


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