I clip recipes. I buy cookbooks. I read cookbooks. I print recipes from the internet. I scribble recipes while watching The Food Network. I love new recipes. But, come Christmas, I don't want anything new. I want to open up Mom's old recipe box and pull out all the cards in the "cookie" section: Tea Time Tassies, Surprise Meringues, Can-Do Sugar Cookies, Peanut Blossoms, Russian Tea Cakes, Thumbprint Cookies, Apricot Oatmeal Bars, Molasses Crinkles, Snickerdoodles, Old-Fashioned Shortbread Cookies, Orange Cookies, Coconut Diamonds, Devilsfood Drop Cookies. I love just saying the words; a litany of memories, Christmas baking, and a legacy of my mother's love.
I don't make every one, but I linger over the recipes. Some are in my mother's handwriting, some typewritten by her, and others written by me from her recipes. They are all gathered in the recipe box I took from her kitchen after she died, where they've been joined by recipes from sisters, friends, former roommates, and others who have shared the fun of cooking with me.
Part of my ritual of Christmas baking, of course, is that I do it with my daughters. They know where to find the recipes.
Here's one that Mom made every year:
1 3-0z. pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
Let cream cheese & butter soften at room temp. Blend. Stir in flour. Chill slightly--about 1 hr. Shape in 2 doz. 1 in. balls; place in tiny ungreased 1 3/4 in. muffin cups. Press dough on bottom & sides of cups.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 T. soft butter
1 t. vanilla
2/3 cup coarsely broken pecans
Beat together egg, sugar, 1 T. butter, vanilla & salt just until smooth. Divide half the pecans among pastry-lined cups; add egg mixture & top with remaining pecans.
Bake at 325 for 25 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool. Remove from pans.