Being parked in my hometown has flooded my mind and heart with so many Christmas memories. Christmas is a big deal here because we are considered "The Nation's Christmas Tree City." We have a permanent Christmas tree downtown, which is right beside our permanent Santa house. The Giant Sequoia is our symbol and there are shuttles all season long up to Sequoia National Park to enjoy the views as you drive from our little town.
It sounds like a scene from a Hallmark Movie, I know.
It's not, but it is Home.
It's an imperfect small little farming town and although it has plenty of its own problems, it does have a certain charm as well. I think any time you "come back" to your hometown after being away, there's a certain reluctance. It's another one of those "never" things for us and yet, it's been a nice change of pace for us too. We won't be here often, but it is our permanent address and there's a peace in knowing we have a place to come back to as often as needed. Every inch of this town has memories for us; some good, some not, but all significant. We are grateful to be home during Christmas time because that's when the good stuff happens around here. I'm working on a post that showcases more of Christmas here so I won't bog you down with all those details now but I will tell you all about what we did this week.
We entered the 22nd Annual Christmas Cookie Contest!
I have been saying for ages that I was going to enter. Every year I had a different excuse (or just simply didn't live here.) Now that we're back in town, I was determined to accomplish it. My girls wanted in, too so fortunately we have the ability to use my Mother-in-Law's kitchen. My RV oven is like, one step above an Easy Bake.
Cue 3 ladies in a small kitchen making dozens of cookies before a 1pm deadline.
Piper made our family's favorite cookie, ever. Old Fashioned Chewy Iced Molasses Cookies. We start with the recipe here and make a view variations. We always double the cinnamon and ginger, use salted butter and we make an icing instead of rolling them in sugar. The icing is simple; 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, a splash of vanilla and 2-3 tbsp of milk. Wait for the cookies to cool, dip the top and allow them to set up before serving. SO.GOOD.
(Not the best picture but I forgot to snap them before we wrapped them up!)
Trinity made something Piper dubbed "Hot Coals" for the sake of the Christmas theme, but are actually called "Chocolate Cayenne Crinkles." We topped them with powdered sugar to dress them up for the contest but man, these cookies were insanely delicious. They are crisp like a macaron on the outside, fudgy inside and have an amazing spicy kick to them! We also added 1/2 tsp cinnamon for a Mexican hot chocolate effect. If you click the link above, you'll find the peppermint variation too.
I decided to take my favorite brown sugar shortbread recipe and tweak it by adding coffee, vanilla and sea salt to the dough. Then I thought I'd drizzle it with a nutella/chocolate topping. I think the girls have me beat, but I must say that I was pretty pleased with these cookies too. I'm going to give you the recipe at the bottom of this post, but you'll have to excuse my lack of fancy, printable recipe formatting. I'm learning but I'm not sure I can even do this with the site I'm using. You'll have to use good ol' copy and paste for this one, y'all.
We are really looking forward to getting on the road on Sunday and extremely excited about being out of town most of next year, but there is something about being home for the holidays. Home is where we park it, sure...but sometimes that home *really* being HOME will be good for the soul I suspect.
What's your favorite hometown Christmas memory? Leave me a comment and tell me the story!
Santa's "Cuppa Joe" Cookies
For the cookies:
1 cup butter, softened (no subs)
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of sea salt (I use pink himalayan)
For the Drizzle:
1/2 cup nutella
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 TBSP powdered sugar
2 TBSP milk
pinch of salt
Whip the butter with hand or stand mixer until fluffy and light, around 3 minutes.
Add the brown sugar and cream together another 2-3 minutes, scraping the sides as needed.
GRADUALLY add the flour, a 1/4 cup at a time or so, until all is incorporated. This is one of the keys to great shortbread!
Add the vanilla and sea salt and combine well.
Add the coffee and either knead the dough (if using hand mixer) or set your mixer to low and let it knead it for you until a cohesive dough is achieved.
Roll out about 1/3 of an inch and cut with whatever sized/shaped cutter you want to use. I just used a 2 inch circle.
Bake at 300* for approximately 25 minutes or until bottoms are just beginning to become golden.
Allow to cool and prepare drizzle:
Add all the drizzle ingredients to a double boiler (or bowl over a pot like I did.). Use a whisk to apply the drizzle by dipping into the bowl and flinging the whisk back and forth over the cooled cookies to create whatever design pleases you. If you're like me, you'll also fling it all over the kitchen.
Pop them in the freezer to set the drizzle!
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