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Nana’s Shortbread Christmas Cookies

I posted this recipe on my blog about four years ago, but it was kind of buried with other things that were happening in that time of my life, so I have decided to redo it.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that my beautiful Nana is 101 years old and still going strong!

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You may also know that my Nana is famous in our family for her cooking and baking, most notably her shortbread Christmas cookies.

She made these every year when I was growing up, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I still can’t get enough of them. These cookies taste like childhood to me.  I use her exact recipe, use the same cookie cutters she used to — well, the stockings and the gingerbread men are new, she used this weird Santa cutter and no one could ever tell what it was — and I try to ice them exactly how she used to.

I have also made them for Easter, so they are quite versatile.

They are seriously the best cookies I have ever tasted. Everyone who eats them also says they are the best cookies they have ever tasted. They just melt in your mouth.

They are a bit of work, but so, so worth it. I hope to make them every Christmas for the rest of my life, and hopefully one day my grandchildren will rave on about my Christmas cookies (or my cats, if I don’t have grandchildren, because there is so much butter in them that my 22-year-old cat likes them too. Yeah, my Nana and my cat are basically the same).

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Here we go!

NANA’S SHORTBREAD CHRISTMAS COOKIES

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch (secret weapon)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla (Nana says this is very important for flavour)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1  Whip butter with an electric mixer.

2  Slowly stir in icing sugar, cornstarch, (sifted) flour and vanilla.

3  Mix until dough “sqeaks” (Nana is very adamant that the dough must squeak!) Once I get to this point I usually use my hands to get the dough squeaking.

4  Roll out dough in 1 cup (ish) increments. This is very important: roll out your dough between two sheets of parchment paper. If you do not do this, your dough will stick to EVERYTHING. It will just be a big annoying mess. I was so frustrated the first time I made these, and then I found the beauty that is parchment paper, and all is well.

5  Once your dough is rolled flat (not too thin), put it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. I always find it’s easier to work with chilled dough than warm dough, because warm dough, again, sticks to everything. It’s hard to get it out of the cookie-cutters when it’s too warm.

6  Bring a slab of dough out from the freezer and go to town with the cookie cutters!

(I usually put the scraps in a bowl and repeat the process so it doesn’t go to waste.)

7  Place each cookie on a baking sheet. I like to prick my cookies a few times with a fork, because my Nana used to, but I don’t know if that actually does anything. Bake for about 9 minutes, but you should watch them after 7 minutes or so because they will brown really quickly and you do not want brown cookies.

8  Remove cookies from oven. Allow to cool.

While your cookies are cooling, you can make your icing! It is a very important part of the cookie.

I use my Nana’s recipe for this also:

BUTTERCREAM ICING

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (do not melt your butter, the icing will be too runny)
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • splash of milk. I do not measure this, but I would estimate maybe 1/4 cup. You don’t want to use a lot [I used too much in my above Easter cookies pic, and notice the icing looks a little runny), so I typically just use enough to get things moving).

Directions

  1. Just mix until you have beautiful looking, delicious tasting icing.

Yes oh yes.

Once your cookies are cooled, ice them!

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I usually keep one white icing and then use food colouring to do red, yellow and green.

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And then you eat them.

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I’ll be taking these cookies to my Nana on Sunday. She better appreciate (just kidding).

If you’re looking to make a holiday cookie, these are IT! Enjoy! And let me know if you try them!

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The Sweater Party

Evan and I hosted our very first party in the condo on Saturday night. I have lived here for over a year and some of my friends have never seen my place before (most of my friends do not live in the city and are about an hour away). So that needed to be rectified. And finally our kitchen is ready to be shown off.

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No Christmas holiday is complete without a tacky sweater party, and I haven’t actually been invited to another one this year, so that was our party theme. Or Santa suit, as you can see Evan is wearing in the above photo…

Evan picked me up a sweater cookie-cutter a few weeks ago, so I switched up my usual shortbread cookies (my Nana’s recipe) this year and made little sweaters for the occasion.

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Totally got the decoration idea from Pinterest, I can’t take all the credit there. But yes I did make the buttercream icing (the icing is THE BEST) and then all the colours, and yes it sure was time consuming and that was my Friday night and a few hours on Saturday.

Brotherman had mentioned to Evan that these cookies were all he wanted for Christmas, so while I was doing the sweater thing I decided to make some special for Brotherman. He really loves his Toronto Maple Leafs so…

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Little Leafs’ jerseys! He was pretty excited when I gave him those.

A bunch of friends were bringing food to the party, but we started with a pretty decent spread.

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I love hanging my Christmas cards on a string – such an easy way to display them. My mom used to do this every year when I was a kid.

I don’t know how well you can see in the above picture, but we made ravioli pasta skewers like we first had on Canada Day at my brother’s girlfriend’s mom’s place. And Evan also made bacon-wrapped cheddar smokies.

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Meaty and delicious.

Not a bad dessert table either…

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Onto the sweaters…

I made mine with a hot glue gun (and Evan’s help), and I was pretty proud of it.

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And a bow with jingly bells on the back…

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My friends enjoyed it, as I knew they would.

Evan’s Santa suit cost a total of $3 from the Dollar Store.

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That was a good find right there.

Our guests looked pretty great as well.

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Nothing says Christmas like a captain’s hat and Daniel Boone’s cap.

Corey and Emily were gorgeous in their matching Christmas vests…

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Dawn and Mark had matching festive balls.

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You can’t tell in this picture, but Dawn’s apron said “How To Keep Your Husband” and included much helpful advice from the 1950s such as Don’t Nag, Have Dinner Ready, Don’t Gossip On The Phone, etc. Thanks for that.

My friend Hannah and her friend Francine in their ugly sweaters spruced up with bows.

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And Sarah, Joanna and Sherrie in their beautiful sweaters.

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And a photobomb from Dawn and Emily…

Sarah’s sweater was from Northern Reflections, which I had pegged immediately. I had a very similar one in Grade 7.

There were intense games of air hockey…

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And we did a Secret Santa gift exchange…

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But not your typical Secret Santa… I asked everyone to wrap something they already owned and didn’t want, then we drew numbers from 1-12 (for everyone there), number 12 (me) got to open a gift first, then number 11…but number 11 had the option to trade for my gift or keep the one they opened, and so on. So by the time number 1 opened their gift, they could steal whatever they wanted.

This is what I opened.

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Thank you Dawn and Mark. In case you are having a hard time making out my wonderful gifts, I received Depends, a cheesy poem about love, Pez, a 2nd place ribbon and an honourable mention ribbon, Mr Bean’s holiday, a teeth wind-up toy (which is broken), a generic Dion poster that isn’t even Maple Leafs branded, and informative pamphlets on elder abuse, drug facts for young people, and a teenage survival handbook. Very useful. No one stole this, so lucky me got to keep it all!

Here we have a Cosmo magazine from 2010 and expired (brown) Ketchup…

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So some pretty high quality gifts for sure.

Sherrie opened cranberry juice and a bottle of Grey Goose and we were all like “What?! Grey Goose! Fancy! That’s a good gift!”

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But then we noticed that the Grey Goose was less than half full.

The game was hilarious and the stealing really took it up a notch. We were all dying laughing. I think it might have to become a Christmas tradition. Party at our house! A bunch of people couldn’t make it, which was sad, but it was still such a good night.

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I can’t believe Christmas is in two days! I am officially on holidays until January 5th and I feel so thankful for such a break!!! I am lucky though and have always worked somewhere that gave employees two weeks off at Christmas. It is much appreciated. I could not be more excited for the holidays.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

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Nana, Cookies and #icestorm2013

Good morning and Happy Eve of Christmas Eve! I am especially excited for this glorious day because today is my last day of work until January 6th. Hurrah and also yippee. My entire office is shutting down for the holidays, so I am a very lucky ducky. I am so grateful. I have been looking forward to having some leisure time since October. Not that I will be getting much of it over the holidays either, as I seem to be booked with activities every day until New Year’s Day… But at least it’s fun festive times with family and friends.

Well, I guess that isn’t entirely true about the leisure time. Forced hibernation and therefore leisuring came unexpectedly this weekend when (HASHTAG!) icestorm2013 rolled in.

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Freezing rain literally all weekend long, the worst from Saturday night through Sunday morning, but pretty icy all around. My friend Sherrie was hosting a gathering full of Christmas cheer on Friday, and I had my glitter shirt all laid out and ready…but since it’s about an hour drive Evan and I opted to stay in since the storm was starting, the roads were not the most fabulous, and they were just supposed to get worse. Flash freezing at any time. And on Saturday it was my friend Julie’s 30th birthday party, but again. Ice. And by then the roads were even worse, so that was out also. I was bummed to not be able to see everyone, but I cannot lie, I was excited to stay in my pajamas and enjoy being forced inside with my lover and a rum and Coke (I tried rum and egg nog but I am not really a fan).

At least we have had power the whole time, as a couple hundred thousand people do not. My dad and Mona were powerless for nearly 24 hours and at one point my dad called me and was all “If the power doesn’t come back on, Christmas might be CANCELLED!” (they always host Christmas on Christmas Eve, and it’s expected that some people may be without power for 72 hours, and no power = no heat, so cancelling Christmas would not be completely unwarranted). But the power is back on for them, so there will be Christmas! It’s a Christmas miracle. We only lost cable and the internet last night, but most of our neighbourhood is without power (and it’s estimated they will be until Christmas Day!) so I cannot complain. I really, really cannot complain.

I remember the last time we had a crazy ice storm like this, when I still lived in the middle of nowhere, and it was SO insanely icy that we could skate right on the streets. I figure skated over to my friend Melissa’s house, picked her and her skates up, and skated all through the streets with her all day long. Winter in the country is the best. Winter in the city…I can’t say many good things about it.

Anyway, Evan and I spent the entire day on Saturday making my Nana’s famous Christmas cookies.

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And I am not exaggerating when I say all day… We finished decorating them at about 7pm. They are quite time consuming, and we also made three batches of them so we had enough to bring to our families this week for Christmas celebrations. The time is totally worth it though, they are so ridiculously good. And as they should be, as they mainly are just butter and sugar, which is one of the best combinations of all time (chocolate and peanut butter might top it).

Evan was Santa’s little helper, which was awesome. It was the first time I have ever had help making these.

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He also figured out how to make the parchment triangles that I accidentally bought last year into icing bags.

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So I was pretty impressed with that.

When all was said and done, and after I ate about a pound of butter during the icing process, we had 70 beautifully decorated cookies, just like my Nana used to make.

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Speaking of the Nanners, we did eventually venture out on Sunday afternoon to go and visit her. It was still lightly freezing rain, but the roads were salted and not too horrible. She really needed Q-Tips, paper towels, and Werther’s Original, so we had to make it there. But maaaaan was it an adventure. Her nursing home is north of the city and most of the way there, the power was out everywhere. All the streetlights were out, and of course no one knows how to deal with a street light if it isn’t working (four way stop!!!), a lot of cars didn’t stop at all. Trees were down all over the place. Gas stations were closed. But the streets were still really busy with people. It was chaos. I felt like it was the apocalypse.

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I don’t have any good pictures of all the trees down, but some of my Facebook friends sure had some crazy things happening. At least it was pretty. The trees are suffering, they’re all bent over and mangled under the weight of the ice, but they are suffering beautifully.

We eventually made it to the Nanners, and we gave her the Q-Tips and the paper towel and her Werther’s Original. And she was reunited with her Christmas cookies!

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I hope they remind her of family Christmases like they do for me.

She was telling us about a certain young man in her nursing home who gave her a stuffed “dog” (it was actually a stuffed tiger, but close enough), and who is obviously trying to woo her. She said she kissed his hand to thank him, because “I wasn’t going to kiss him on the face!” It was very cute. 99 and a half years of age and she’s still got it.

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What a MINX!

And she still wears her wedding band even though my Papa passed away over 30 years ago.

I still cannot believe how great she looks and how with it she is. She definitely has her rough days, but she’s still mobile, she’s happy, and does a surprising amount for herself in that home. At that age I think that’s all we can ask for.

I left there with my heart just full to the brim and a bag of cookies she saved from meals for me. I’m so glad we braved the icepocalypse and trekked over.

I guess that’s pretty much it. I am all ready for Christmas. Our stockings are hung by the fake chimney haphazardly…

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Winnie only gets hers if she continues to be a good cat.

And we’re basically done all the wrapping.

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So I am feeling pretty good. I’m still waiting on two online presents to be delivered, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without minor annoyances now would it?

Hope you all had a great weekend, with power and heat!

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Nana’s Christmas Cookies

Merry Christmas Eve!

Yesterday was my last day of work until January 9th! I am so pumped for two weeks off. We are about to head to my dad’s for Christmas dinner, possibly followed by our friend Cameron’s parents Christmas ham bun party (a tradition, and always so much fun), and then tomorrow we are celebrating with Andy-roo’s family. Fun times. My stretchy pants are laid out and ready for me.

So today I have been busy making my Nana‘s shortbread Christmas cookies!

My Nana made these every year when I was growing up, and I couldn’t get enough of them. These cookies taste like childhood to me :). I use her exact recipe, use the same cookie cutters she used to (well the stockings and the gingerbread men are new), and I try to ice them exactly how she used to.

Remember when I made them for Easter?

And I told you guys I was going to share the recipe, and then I never did? Yeah. Sorry about that.

Anyway, today I am sharing the recipe. They are seriously the best cookies I have ever tasted. Everyone who eats them also says they are the best cookies they have ever tasted. Even Andy’s grandma, and she is not the easiest to please.

They are a bit of work, but so, so worth it. I hope to make them every Christmas for the rest of my life, and hopefully one day my grandchildren will rave on about my Christmas cookies.

Please note, these are not healthy at all. I thought about healthifying them up slightly by using whole wheat flour and light butter or something, but I can’t bring myself to mess with them. They are just too perfect. They need to remain indulgent.

Nana’s Shortbread Christmas Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla (Nana says this is very important for flavour)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1  Whip butter with an electric mixer.

2  Slowly stir in icing sugar, cornstarch, (sifted) flour and vanilla.

3  Mix until dough “sqeaks” (Nana is very adamant that the dough must squeak!) Once I get to this point I usually use my hands to get the dough squeaking.

4  Roll out dough in 1 cup (ish) increments. This is very important: roll out your dough between two sheets of parchment paper. If you do not do this, your dough will stick to EVERYTHING. It will just be a big annoying mess. I was so frustrated the first time I made these, and then I found the beauty that is parchment paper, and all is well.

5  Once your dough is rolled flat (not too thin), put it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. I always find it’s easier to work with chilled dough than warm dough, because warm dough, again, sticks to everything. It’s hard to get it out of the cookie-cutters when it’s too warm.

6  Bring a slab of dough out from the freezer and go to town with the cookie cutters!

(I usually put the scraps in a bowl and repeat the process so it doesn’t go to waste.)

  1. Place each cookie on a baking sheet. I like to prick my cookies a few times with a fork, because my Nana used to, but I don’t know if that actually does anything. Bake for about 9 minutes, but you should watch them after 7 minutes or so because they will brown really quickly and you do not want brown cookies.

  2. Remove cookies from oven. Allow to cool.

While your cookies are cooling, you can make your icing! It is a very important part of the cookie.

I use my Nana’s recipe for this also:

Buttercream Icing

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (do not melt your butter, the icing will be too runny)
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • splash of milk (I do not measure this, but I would estimate maybe 1/4 cup. You don’t want to use a lot [I used too much in my above Easter cookies pic, and notice the icing looks a little runny], so I typically just use enough to get things moving).

Directions

  1. Just mix until you have beautiful looking, delicious tasting icing.

Yes oh yes.

Once your cookies are cooled, ice them!

And then you eat them. 🙂

Enjoy! And let me know if you try them!

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

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