Monday, December 6, 2010

Mama's Christmas Carrot Cookies and Family Cookbook

In my family, we had tea every day at 4:00 p.m. My mom always had homemade cookies, muffins, or date nut bread to go with the tea. She was a wonderful cook and her house always smelled like heaven. She died about 15 year s ago and I still miss her every day.

A few years after my mother died, I discovered that I didn’t have all of her recipes. I had a few favorites, but was missing many more. I felt kind of panicky because I had lost something extremely valuable. I began to email my sisters and nieces hoping to find the rest. Much to my relief, the replies came quickly with so many recipes that I began to compile them into categories. That gave me an idea so I emailed again, this time asking for everyone’s favorite memories of my mom. When those rolled in I knew I had the makings of a family cookbook. While reading everyone’s stories, I understood that my mom made everyone feel special and loved. It also made me cry more than I had in years.

Everyone who has lost an important person in their life knows that grief comes in waves. It hits you hard, and then goes away. I could be driving down the street feeling fine, hear a song on the radio like “It’s a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong (her absolute favorite), then I’d burst into tears. Having the cookbook to put together gave me a mission that year and it helped me to get through the holidays.

At the time I didn’t have a digital camera, so I drew and painted pictures of the food by memory. I cut out and glued the paintings on each recipe to put together one master copy. Next I color copied each page and I made 12 copies. I let Kinko’s put a clear plastic cover and back page and they bound them in plastic, also. The cover showed through nicely. I made a copy for each sister and for all nine of our children, put them all in large envelopes and mailed them off several days before the holiday. The carrot cookies were only made for Christmas Eve so I wanted them to arrive in time.

Mama’s Christmas Carrot Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream the first 3 ingredients below:

½ cup softened butter

½ cup shortening

1 1/8 cup white sugar

Add 2 eggs

1 ½ cup carrots

(cook until soft, then put through the food processor or blender)

In a different bowl:

Sift all 3 items below through a metal strainer:

3 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

Mix all the dry and wet ingredients together.

Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Make rounded tablespoon size drops for the cookies-I use a medium sized melon baller.

Bake for around 12 -15 minutes- They don't get brown just check to see that they are firm, but watch for the bottom burning.

Orange Icing

1 package confectioner’s sugar

2 oranges grated

Juice the oranges

½ stick of butter, softened

Add the sugar and butter then mix. Use as much orange juice from the 2 oranges as needed but don't make it too runny, then add in the grated orange rind.

When the cookies are cool, spoon as much icing as you want over the cookies.

Cut maraschino cherries in half, blot on a paper towel, and then place one on each cookie after icing. Delicious- not too sweet, but the flavor of carrots and oranges together is so wonderful.

Here's what my niece Cindy wrote in her memory of my mom for the cookbook: "The joy of walking up the stairs to her home after a long, long trip-tea every day-how wonderful it was for the whole family to be together-date squares, carrot cookies, reading on the back porch, having her put her large knitted afghan over me for a nap, sweet peas growing in her yard, decorating Christmas cookies at her house with all the cousins, watching her bring plates of food to neighbors who were alone or sick. She was so loving." If you ever have the opportunity to put together a family cookbook I know you will find it an exercise in love.

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