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Sugar Cookie Bars

Stress-free cookies for the holidays


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

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.


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