Practical Plates: Create your own family cookbook

Every winter holiday season, I ask my family what type of cookies they would like to bake and every year it is the same old cookies and recipes I have been using for years.

I try to bake at least one new cookie recipe each year, but the old family favorites always come out on top.

This year, I started thinking about the cookie recipes and the importance to our family traditions – making holiday cookies together.

I think part of the excitement of the holidays are those special foods we have only once a year and the memories of times past that they bring to mind. This is especially important this year as we may not be gathering as usual. So, the question becomes how do we preserve these traditions for future generations?

While it is easy to Google recipes, there is something special about having a recipe in the handwriting of a loved one providing a link to the past.

If you have an original cookie recipe that has been passed down. Think about making a copy of it and retire the original handwritten recipe before it became too worn or damaged.

If you have that one “special” recipe, whether it be a cookie recipe or favorite holiday dish, consider having it framed and have it hanging with other family pictures. You can start to hand write other recipes that your own family prepares to pass on to your children when they start their own homes and families.

To get started, begin with the recipes you may already have written down and either copy them or rewrite them. With technology today, you can create a great cookbook on the computer and those handwritten recipes can be easily scanned in for that homey feeling.

For recipes that have been passed down orally work on converting those pinches and dashes to actual measurements. Probably the best way to do this is to get in the kitchen and prepare the dishes, with someone assigned to writing down what it is being done.

Take pictures to include in the cookbook as well. This includes a picture of the finished product but also the cooks and helpers as they are preparing the recipe. Do not forget a picture of the Zoom screen if you are social distancing! Also think about making notes about color, feel or aroma of the foods. I know our Christmas cookie recipe calls for lemon zest, and while it is just a small amount that wonderful smell is a part of the whole experience.

While favorite holiday recipes may be the start of your family cookbook, do not let it end there. As the year goes on add in other favorites such as special salads you always take to the family reunion, favorite birthday cake recipes or the recipe for the meatloaf that everyone loves. Whatever you do, do not trust your memory to remember everything!

My grandma’s Polish cream cheese cookies (Kolaczki)

8 oz of cream cheese

1 cup of room temperature butter

2 ½ cup of all-purpose flour

½ of fruit preserves (my grandmothers used raspberry and apricot)

Confections sugars for dusting

Wash hands with warm water and soap. Scrubbing hands and arms for at least 20 seconds. Dry hands with a single use paper towel.

In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter using an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually beat in the flour until you get a soft and sticky dough. Divide the dough into 3 parts and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Work with one dough part at a time, keep the remaining dough refrigerated. Dust the working surface with four and roll out the dough very thin. Cut into 2-inch squares.

Place ¼ teaspoon of the filling in the center of each square. Moisten opposite corners of the square with the water and overlap them to the center, gently pushing the dough down to the filling. Repeat with all the dough.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown. Transfer to a wire rack and dust with confectioners’ sugar while still warm.


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