by Lisa Crockett
It happens every year. I have big plans. Plans that include a clean house, happy children (always dressed in something cute and pristine), and wonderful smells coming from the kitchen, announcing something special and different about December.
In reality, I usually hit the wall sometime around December 10. Stacks of holiday cards sit on the dining room table waiting for stamps and mailing. Dishes are stacked in the sink, washed only when they need to be used again. Gifts, if they've been purchased, sit idly in a (hopefully) secret spot in the basement waiting for wrapping and I am searching frantically for something – anything – clean the children can wear to the church/neighborhood/work holiday social. We arrive, disheveled and typically about 10 minutes late. Not exactly something out of a Norman Rockwell painting ...
But I think this year I'll make my resolutions in December instead of January. At the top of my list of December resolutions: find ways to enjoy more and stress less. I'm inspired by a party I attended several years ago where the menu consisted entirely of delicious things to drink (cocoa, cider, punch) and cookies, which were provided by the guests. Some of the cookies were fairly elaborate (coconut pinwheels and elaborately decorated gingerbread men) and others pretty basic (think chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal.)
The most popular cookie at the party, by far, was a tasty lemon drop cookie. They weren't much to look at, especially compared with the carnival of dried fruit and sprinkles that surrounded them, but the plate emptied quickly and multiple guests raved about them. The cookies were light and had just the right combination of sweet and tangy. I asked around and was eventually able to find the baker amidst the considerable crowd. When I asked her if she could wait for me to grab a pen to write down her contact information so I could get the recipe later, she chuckled and told me I wouldn't need a pen and that she could give me the recipe on the spot.
That recipe, which I still have committed to memory after all these years, was this: with an electric mixer, mix a box of lemon cake mix with an eight ounce container of Cool Whip and an egg. Drop the batter by spoonfuls (give them plenty of room, as they spread quite a bit) onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for ten minutes, just until the edges are lightly browned.
Normally, I'm not a huge fan of recipes that feature lots of processed ingredients. But in December something I can have mixed up and out of the oven in less than half an hour is just what I need. The fact that they are tasty is a bonus.
So this year, instead of slaving over a Martha Stewart-style feast, put the kettle on and invite your neighbors over for a cookie party. Ask everyone to bring four dozen or so of their favorites to share. Provide small plates for sampling and large plates and plastic wrap for everyone to take a plate home to enjoy later (or stash in the freezer to pull out on Christmas.) When the party begins, instruct everyone to fill the large plates with three dozen or so (a few from each plate) to take home. When everyone's done "shopping" and the take-home plates are wrapped and ready to be taken home, let the eating begin.
For your contribution to the cookie table, whip up a batch of my friend Michelle's "sugar cookies in a pan," decorate them with frosting and festive sprinkles, and then hang your apron on its hook and spend some time with your guests. With all the time you save, you might even have time to get a few of those other holiday chores out of the way.
This recipe comes from Castle Pines Connection reader Michelle Guest. They're just as delicious as a regular roll-out sugar cookie but infinitely faster.