Ever since starting our family, it has been exceedingly imperative to me that we create our own holiday traditions. Maybe this stems from my childhood and remembering my mom working almost every holiday, shortening the celebration to only a few moments. It's possible that I feel this way because the very few happy memories that I have from that time in my life are of special holiday moments, like the insane amounts of holiday baking she would do from scratch for presents - cookies, colored popcorn balls, fudge and bars - all of them excessively delicious. I'm almost certain that creating our own traditions is to help me feel that our family is normal in an extraordinarily abnormal reality.
We haven't started many traditions yet since the boys are still very young and each year we add more to our list. This year we will probably go look at Christmas lights, maybe a horse-drawn carriage ride downtown on Christmas Eve, depending on how cold it is. We have always donned them in Christmas pajamas to go to bed in on Christmas Eve and we bake cookies. There is one kind in particular that I can say is our family's traditional holiday cookie - White Chocolate Pistachio Butter Cookies. It's a recipe that I've created myself, but is not totally genius - it just makes sense.
After a particularly rough night, kids screaming and fighting, my patience thin and Bill on a business trip, I needed to make cookies for Logan's preschool program. I got Carter to bed and had Logan help me out with the project. His disagreeable disposition changed drastically as I was getting the kitchen ready for baking. He was so excited, pulling up his wooden step stool, helping me flour the counter and cutting out pine tree-shaped cookies, just like he does with his Play-Doh. He snuck bites of crushed pistachios and smiled as I painted each cookie to dip in the nuts, telling me to be careful every time I burnt my fingers with melted white chocolate. Covered in flour from chin, arms and chest, he grabbed me around my waist. "Mom, guess what?" he asked. "What?" I replied. "I love you" he said from the bottom of his almost 4 year old heart.
White Chocolate Pistachio Butter Cookies, also known as "Christmas Trees"
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tea spoon salt
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 bag white chocolate chips
1 bag shelled pistachios
Have all ingredients at room temperature (68-70 degrees). In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed until very fluffy and well-blended. Add the egg yolk and beat until well blended. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed and slowly add the flour just until combined.
Dived the dough in half and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
Pre-heat oven to 375. Place the shelled pistachios in a sandwich bag and crush to desired consistency (I like mine moderately crushed, not too fine, but not too whole). Empty crushed nuts onto a plate.
Take one disc of dough and roll out on a floured counter top. Cut the dough into tree shapes and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are barely golden brown. Using a thin-bladed spatula, transfer the cookies to a baking rack to cool.
On the stove top, melt the white chocolate (my preferred method is a double boiler). Stir chocolate until it is smooth and shiny. Remove from stove top.
With a silicone basting brush, paint one cookie with the melted white chocolate and then dip onto the plate of pistachios, covering the chocolate almost completely. Repeat with each cookie. Transfer to an air-tight container.
Yields 2 dozen cookies