Michele Dykstra’s gluten-free almond macaroons are a festive favorite.

Have you taken a look at your calendar? Christmas is only 23 days away. And with everything that has gone on incrazy2020, I’m still in a quandary. Do I attend the two cookie exchange parties I am invited to every year? I’m not sure how much fun a drive-through cookies exchange party will be… Do I have my annual “Baklava and Bubbles Party and Demo?” And how do I only invite just five friends when I usually have 30 or more attend? Oh ... and the biggest decision— DoesOl’ Kris Kringledrop in early again and help us make cookies this year?

He is such a jolly old soul and happily pops in to surprise the kids with a pre-Christmas visit. They are always anxious to tell him their holiday secrets and show him all the festive decorations. Then before he heads back to the North Pole, he is a really good sport and joins them in the cookie baking.

Santa didn’t always come so early in December for a visit. Years ago, he didn’t help make cookies but he did join us for food and drink on Christmas Eve on his way to deliver toys. He would listen to the secret wishes of every kid and grown-up alike and promise to keep it secret. It was actually a rite of passage for the boyfriends of our daughters. Each year the newest boyfriend would disappear for about 30 minutes coincidently at the exact same time Santa would appear. What a good sport; they were always “Oh, So Jolly.” Yes, our family is a bit over the top about this and lucky for our daughters we have never had a boyfriend decline this memorable experience. Once the boyfriends became sons-in-law, this experience continued until we had grandkids and nowOl’ Kris Kringlearrives every year early in December to surprise them and often helps make cookies. We have family favorites and always one or two new cookie recipes to try, even a festive gluten-free one, so “Please Join Our Table.”

Karen, we will make these cookies again this year. I think the little hands in our family will enjoy this! Great and delish recipe! Decorate and be crazy!” This great cutout cookie recipe is from my dear friend, Danell Fields.

Danell’s Vanilla Bean Christmas Cutout Cookies

yield: 2-3 dozen cookies

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)

2 sticks butter, coldandcut into chunks

1 egg

3/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 vanilla bean, scraped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, stir flour and baking powder together. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar together. Stir in egg, extracts and vanilla bean. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients. Roll dough out onto floured surface to be just over1/4-inchthick. Cut cookies out using cookie cutters and place onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Freeze 5-7 minutes, and then bake 10-12 minutes. Cool 3 minutes on baking sheet, then remove to coolingracks.

Karen, here are my homemade gluten-free almond made with only three ingredients and then garnished elaborately. I also love French macarons. The almond ones are crazy good. I love cookies but I tend to resort to dark-chocolate, sea-salt caramels. If you love cookies, you will love these.”

Michele’s Gluten-free Almond Macaroons

1 8-ounce carton gluten-free Solo Almond Paste available at H-E-B or Amazon

1 extra large egg (white part only)

1/2 cupgranulated sugar

Optional, 10 maraschino cherries cut in half, or use candied cherries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line abaking sheetwith parchment paper, set aside. Break the almond paste into small pieces and place it in a food processor or mixer. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the egg white and mix till tacky, about 2 minutes. Spoon the mixture into a Ziploc freezer bag, snip one corneroff the bag, and pipe the dough onto a parchment-linedbaking sheetinto11/2-inch diameter cookies or, if you prefer, just use a 1 rounded tablespoon of dough per cookie. Top each cookie withhalf ofa maraschino cherry. Place in the preheated oven on a middle shelf and bake for 20 minutes then move thebaking sheetto the top shelf and continue baking about eight minutes or until light golden brown. Carefully pick up parchment paper with cookies on it and place on a cooking coolingrackand cool. When completely cool, peel macaroons off and store in an airtight container.

If you are looking for a great adult cookie, these aredefinitelycookies adults will want to try

My Christmas Cookies With a Kick

Every Christmas I always include 1 or 2 new cookies and this recipe last year was really hot, literally. It will make about 2 1/2-3 dozen cookies.

1 1/2 sticks salted butter at room temperature

1 1/4 cupgranulated sugar, divided (3/4 for the dough and 1/2 cup for rolling the cookies)

2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder, the higher the cacao % the better (save this for rolling the cookies)

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/4 instant espresso powder (I use the Starbuck’s Via Sticks)

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly groundblackpepper

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, the higher the cacao % the better

1 large egg at room temperature

2 1/2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (the large ones), not thesemisweetones but the bittersweet ones (if you can’t find the bittersweet chocolate chips, you will need 5 of the smallersemisweetchips)

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, espresso powder, cayenne, ground pepper, cardamom and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix the egg and vanilla. In a large bowl using a hand or upright mixer, beat the butter and 3/4 cup sugar for no less than 6 minutes on high speed. At 6 minutes, add the egg and vanilla and stir well. With the mixer on gradually, add the dry ingredients a third at a time, mixing well after each; when all is mixed, stop the mixer. Don’t overmix the batter. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in fridge for ahalf hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl or on a plate, mix the remaininggranulated sugarwith the remaining cocoa powder and set aside. Roll dough into walnut-size balls. I like to use a melon scoop for this to ensure uniform-sized cookies. Press a thumb indentation in the center of each ball and place three of the large bittersweet chocolate chips in the center and press the dough around them to cover the chips. Roll into a ball and roll each in the sugar/cocoa mixture that was set aside. Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool them on thebaking sheetfor about 5 minutes. They will be yummy and gooey in the center if you serve them warm, or if you are serving them later and you want the centers warm and a bit gooey, you can warm then in the microwave a few at a time for about 8 seconds (depending on the wattage of the microwave). DO NOT OVERZAP THEM OR THEY WILL GET HARD FAST, or put thepre-bakedcookies in a preheated oven at 300 degrees for 2 minutes.

Karen Boughton
Author: Karen BoughtonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I grew up in a big, Greek, cooking family. I married my high school sweetheart and soon had three daughters. My husband and I worked in the family’s Greek restaurant, “Zorba’s,” for several years before moving to Baton Rouge and eventually Corpus Christi. There I taught microwave cooking classes for Amana.in studio and on television for three years before moving to Kingwood in the late '80s. I reached out to learn more about regional and international foods, spending 16 years in management in private athletic/dining/country clubs for ClubCorp, where I embraced health and cooking. In 2008 I joined the Tribune Newspapers as food editor, the same time that I became a nutrition advisor and USANA Health Sciences Associate. These two passions have given me better health and the freedom to live life my way.

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