Are you getting nervous yet? It is the DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS! Meh - as far as I'm concerned, my planning, my fretting and my actual work all goes downhill at this point. Christmas starts for me today with a time-honored tradition: Christmas Eve with my dad's side of the family.
It's kind of funny - when I was a kid, I know I enjoyed the holiday from the sheer presents side of the equation. Family was an additional bonus - for my dad's side of the family, Christmas Eve was one of those times where I'd get to see my cousins from out-of-town. It also meant lefse and my Grandma Phyllis's beef stew (I think I was a foodie at birth ...). But then as I grew up, Christmas changed meaning ... my rebellious teenage self didn't really like the get-togethers where my dad and his siblings would talk and talk and TALK and talk, usually ignoring us kids who would then conspire to throw my cousin Larry into a snowbank. No kidding - this happened a couple years in a row until Larry shot up over six feet in height.
Then there was the year that I actually missed the Christmas Eve get together. I was probably 24 or 25 and I had pulled the short straw to work Christmas Eve at the newspaper in Wisconsin. So I hung out with my then-boyfriend, but my mind kept wandering to what my family would be doing at that time (eating and talking, perhaps?). And as cheesy as it sounds, I promised myself that year that I wouldn't miss Christmas Eve again. I can't guarantee that things won't come up, but I missed the simplicity of tradition that year. I would have given my right arm to chat at my Uncle Gary about some obscure book or musician from the 1960s or to talk to my Uncle Bruce about movies. I missed the hugs that I get from my aunts. I missed the prayers that usually come from my Uncle Steve or my Aunt Robin. I especially missed my Grandpa Bob ... he's the patriarch of the family. He doesn't usually say much, but it's nice to have him near. Every once in awhile, he'll just chuckle to himself and that's when I realize that me being random doesn't really have anything to do with me just being me - being random in a birthright in my family ...
So if you're reading this on Christmas Eve and are a little pressed for time, here's a recipe from my favorite Brit, Nigella Lawson. (BTW - she's gorgeous. I know that's random, but it's so refreshing to see a woman who actually looks like she eats the food that she cooks on food TV. She is God's gift to men and women alike. Sorry - RANDOM!)
Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
by Nigella Lawson
* 2 1/4 sticks (18 Tbsp.) soft butter
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 tsp. baking soda
* 1 tsp. baking powder
Preheat the oven to 325° and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl and, when you have a light, soft whipped mixture, beat in the 1/3 cup cocoa powder (sifting if it is lumpy) and, when that's mixed in, beat in the flour with the baking soda and baking powder.
Pinch off pieces about 1 tablespoon in size, roll them into balls, then slightly flatten into fat discs as you place them, well spaced, on cookie sheets. You should get about 12 on at a time.
Bake each batch for 15 minutes. Move to a cool surface and let sit for a bit before moving them to wire racks.
I found this recipe on Oprah.com and Nigella suggests topping these cookies with a chocolate frosting. Although I am loathe to argue with the domestic goddess, I had some leftover powdered sugar frosting from my cutout cookies and just slathered that on top of the finished goods.