1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon of orange zest
Dash of salt
Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add about half the flour, egg, sugar, milk, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Beat in remaining flour. Fold in orange zest. Flour a counter surface and roll out dough until 1/8 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters and bake for seven to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool, decorate with frosting and sprinkles, serve, and enjoy!
I grab a wooden spoon and stick it into softened butter. Pouring sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk, and baking powder together I ask, “Grandma, am I doing this right?”
It’s a struggle to balance the silver, mixing bowl with small hands while blending the ingredients together in yellow and white swirls.
“Yes, you are,” Grandma Chris says, as she adds flour to the mixture.
Melanie and Staci arrange plastic tubes of red-hot cinnamon dots, red and green sprinkles, silver balls, miniature stars, and white candy flowers on the kitchen table. The room is alive with chatter and warmth from the oven. We look forward to making sugar cookies with Grandma every year.
“The secret is the orange zest,” Grandma Chris says adding a heaping tablespoon to the cookie dough. “You only need a little bit, but it makes the cookies taste extra delicious.” She is wearing a red apron over her plaid Christmas sweater. I feel special knowing Grandma trusts me with her secret recipe.
“Grandma, look at all the pretty colors,” Staci says proudly of her arrangement of the cookie decorations lining the kitchen table. She sways along with Amy Grant’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree blasting from the stereo in the living room.
“Can I roll the dough?” Melanie asks, already knowing the answer will be yes. Her blonde hair bobbed just above the shoulders bounces as she rushes to Grandma’s side. They take the dough out of the mixing bowl and put it on the floured kitchen counter. Melanie flattens the round ball with a wooden rolling-pin as Staci and I stand ready to shape it with cookie cutters: gingerbread men and women, stars, Christmas trees, and angel shapes. The fine and powdery flour covers our hands and the Santa Claus painted with colorful puffy paint on the front of Staci’s sweatshirt.
“We have to make a lot of the angels,” I announce. “They are the prettiest to decorate.”
Beep beep, beep beep. The timer alerts everyone that the cookies are ready. “I’ve got them,” I say jumping from my chair and pulling large, well-used pot holders over my hands. Melanie and Staci stir red, green, yellow, and blue food colors into ceramic bowls of sweet cream cheese frosting.
The scent of cookies infuses the entire house. Straight from the oven, the first batch of warm cookies doesn’t make it to the decorating table, but instead into our anxious mouths. “Yum,” Grandma says with a nod of approval.
Grandma takes my hand in hers and gives it a soft squeeze. Her hands are strong and slightly wrinkled with the wisdom of raising children, grandchildren. I wonder, what other hands she has held. Certainly children on the playground at the school where she was a teacher, my father’s, aunt and uncles, Grandpa Drag’s. But what other hands has she held?
“You girls are such good little cookies,” grandma beams, referring to me and my sisters and our productive afternoon baking session. ‘Little cookies’ is a term of endearment in our family, going back several generations. I feel extra special each time she reminds me.