A labor of love

A baker I am not. But every year, around Christmas time, I inevitably forget this fact and get the urge to create sweet things in the oven. This is actually the third year I have made this recipe and I usually curse it at some point or another every time, even though it is ridiculously easy. And the fun thing about this recipe is that afforded me not one, but two opportunites to bang things really hard with my rolling pin (I believe the first time was a fluke- I don’t anticipate you having to do the same thing.) It took me four days to actually make the cookies, from start to finish. I started the dough on Sunday right before entertaining some guests, which led me to abandon the dough for a day and a half in the fridge. Yesterday I rolled out the dough and used a small jar to form the cookies into circles. Before I could roll out the dough, however, I had to pound it into submission after having let it “chill” (harden into a rock) in the refrigerator for two days.


Next I baked the cookies, let them cool, and then put them back into the stove so my butter-loving cats wouldn’t attack them when we left for a Christmas party last night. This afternoon, after Christmas Eve yoga and a brunch of baked eggs, I melted white chocolate in the oven, subsequently burned it, added milk to it, and then busted out the rolling pin again to crush the organic candy canes in my new dish towel.


Somehow, these cookies survived. And I think that’s why I keep returning to this recipe. My version looks nothing like the original, but I love them just the same.


In the spirit of that wise old saying- do as I say, not as I do- I am going to print the recipe the way that it appeared on Vegetarian Ventures. My adaptations- with the exception maybe of using all purpose whole wheat flour- are not recommended.


Peppermint Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies

From Vegetarian Ventures

  • 2 sticks of butter (1 cup), divided & at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 box of peppermint candy canes, unwrapped and crushed
  • 8 ounces of white chocolate

Start by browning half (one stick) of the butter. Place butter in a small saucepan over low heat and let cook until small brown flakes form. Stir often so the bubbles don’t bubble over the pan or so that it doesn’t burn. Once the butter has browned, immediately pour it into a glass cup and let cool completely.

Beat together the butter (browned and regular) and the brown sugar. Next, add in the flour and salt and continue to beat until a thick ball of dough forms. Wrap dough (with parchment, wax paper, etc) and let chill for at least 30 minutes (this will help keep the dough together).

Once chilled, transfer dough to a floured surface and roll out to about 1/2 inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter or the top of a round glass to cut out circular shapes. Transfer to a greased cookie sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place the cookies in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes while the oven preheats (this will help the cookies keep their shape). Cook cookies for 15 minutes or until they are golden brown around edged. Let cool completely.

Crush the peppermint candy canes anyway you see fit. I put mine in a ziploc bag and went to town using a meat tenderizer (also known as the kitchen hammer!) until they were in tiny pieces.

Melt the white chocolate in either your microwave or over a double boiler. I don’t have a microwave so I used the double boiler method which consisted using one saucepan inside the other and letting water simmer under the first pot while I constantly stirred the white chocolate over it until melted (this was a terrible explanation. If it is your first time using a double boiler, use this as a reference). Once melted, dip half the cookie into the chocolate and then roll in the peppermint chunks. Place on wax paper (this prevents sticking) and repeat with the rest of the cookies. Let cookies chill in fridge for 15 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened.


Merry Christmas, y’all.

Cheese ball

We may not have snow this year in Wisconsin for Christmas, but we can have a cheese ball. This recipe belongs to my Grandma Love, who hosted us in northwest Iowa for Christmas for most of my childhood. At the time I wanted nothing to do with the cheese ball, but I remember it distinctly appearing on Christmas Eve when the relatives first started appearing through the back door that led into the kitchen. Coats were peeled off, pink lipstick-covered lips gave shocks on the cheek when kissed and presents were placed under the tree. I was much more interested in the homemade sloppy joes that were served to the kids instead of the oyster stew that the adults feasted upon and the hard candy that I got if I went to church later that night with Aunt Agnes, but the cheese ball now holds a special place in our hearts- equal parts nostalgia and deliciousness.


My mom and sister made the cheese ball this week and split it into two- one they brought over for a winter solstice shindig and the other we will enjoy tomorrow for Christmas Eve. Served with crackers and a holiday cocktail, it’s just the thing.

cheese ball

Here is the recipe, the way my Grandma wrote it.



Harriet’s Cheese Ball

2 large packages Philly cream cheese
1 stick very sharp Kraft Cracker Barrel Cheese (cheddar)
1 1/2 dozen or so green stuffed olives- cut up fine
3 T dry onion flakes
(chopped pecans)

Soften philly cheese and cracker barrel cheese. I grind up the cheddar cheese and blend the cheeses together, add onion flakes and olives, blend well. Form in a ball. Roll cheese ball in chopped pecans and store in refrig. until ready to use.

Happy holidays!