This is the one time of year when I tie on that apron, get elbow deep in flour and do some serious baking. I’m sentimental that way and traditions run deep, especially food traditions. My fondest memories of the holiday season include my sister and I being lined up in my mother’s kitchen for cookie duty. We took great pride and joy in the responsibility of placing every sprinkle, dollop of jam or (my favorite) twisting the dough for candy cane cookies. It doesn’t get any more festive than that…well, that and putting on the  Christmas Eve With Johnny Mathis record, but that’s obvious and blasting at this very moment.

Candy cane cookies are my most favorite of the Christmas cookie varietals. They are cheerful, fun to make and an all around crowd pleaser. I’m no baker, so these are just my speed (AKA: easy as all get out). The only secret (or not so secret) tip I can offer is to keep the dough cool. I like to place my colored portions in the fridge for 30 minutes before separating out small balls. The warmer the dough gets, the stickier, which makes rolling up pretty little peppermints a little challenging. I’m not afraid to stick the dough back in the the fridge mid-process for a little cool down/twist management.

I also like to brush them with a little simple peppermint icing (powder sugar, water and peppermint extract) and crumble up peppermint sticks on top for texture. Even though I grew up with the red candy cane cookies, I started a new tradition this year of making green ones as well – I know, I know getting all crazy rebel style in my older years, but I’m loving it!

What is your go to cookie this season? Are you still braving the stores this week or were you a shopping online 3 months ago kind of pro? Such a crazy time of year and we can really lose site on what it’s all about. Deep breaths people, they are just gifts – remember this is a time for love, traditions and family….and loosening your belt a little.

Wishing all you Gastro Geeks a safe, blessed and delicious holiday. Whatever your food traditions are, embrace them…just as I will be embracing clover rolls and eggy cheese breakfast soufflé as I do…Every. Single. Year. And you know what? I can’t wait!! See you all in 2012 xox