It’s that time of year again . . . if by “that time of year” you mean “the time of year when we have to bake a lot of cookies, mail a lot of packages, and frantically try not to think about the work we’re not getting done so as to remain in the ‘holiday spirit.'” Or maybe that’s just me.
In any case, pass the spiked eggnog, will you?
When I was a kid, I thought eggnog was a very grown-up, festive beverage. My grandparents served it to me (unspiked) in a grown-up glass, sprinkled with nutmeg, and it always made me feel very worldly and mature to drink it.
These days, I can hardly choke it down, it’s so sweet and thick. But I might be able to manage with a stiff shot of brandy…
In Room at the Inn, my holiday romance, characters Carson and Julie have their own spiked nog party, but it goes a bit off the rails:
“How quiet do we have to be?” he asked.
It was midnight, and they lay stretched out on the couch in her attic apartment, watching some chick flick and drinking eggnog spiked with a very expensive bottle of brandy he’d found in Julie’s pantry. Which he realized after he’d opened it had probably come from Leo.
He kissed her neck, loving the way she felt against him. Soft and rounded and drowsy-warm.
“Vewwy, vewwy quiet,” she said. And giggled.
“Are you drunk?”
But she lolled her head back and just about fell off the couch.
“Not a chance.”
“On eggnog. I didn’t know it was possible to get wasted on eggnog, but you’ve done it.”
“I’m mildly tipsy.”
“All right, Miss Mildly Tipsy. I’m putting you to bed.”
“Aren’t you going to take advantage of me?”
“I take advantage of you when you’re sober. When you’re drunk, I hold your hair.”
“I’m not going to puke.”
“Your credibility disappeared when you started speaking in that Elmer Fudd voice.”
“Aww, Wabbit. I wuv you.”
Carson ignored the thing that was happening in his chest and maneuvered around until he could get her in a fireman’s carry. “Don’t knee me in the nuts.”
I adore that moment in the story — the festive tipsiness, the Elmer Fudd voice, and Carson’s refusal to even think about what “Aww, Wabbit. I wuv you” means. “Don’t knee me in the nuts” might just be the new hero-speak for “You’re scaring the crap out of me, woman.”
In another scene, Julie bakes molasses cookies with lemon icing for Carson and his father: “He forced his dad to take a break in the kitchen and to eat a few of the molasses cookies Julie had made. She was trying out recipes for Christmas. The cookies had lemon frosting, which should have been weird but wasn’t.”
Intrigued? Psst — I’ll tell you a secret. These cookies are among my Christmas favorites. Unlike eggnog, which I find less and less drinkable every year, the molasses cookies were one of those treats I disdained as a kid that I find growing more appealing as I age. Something about the dark, mildly sweet cookie combined with the bite of fresh lemon juice in the frosting just makes my toes curl!
Here’s the recipe, in case you’re willing to give them a try.
Grandma Patzoldt’s Molasses Cookies with Lemon Butter Icing
1 c. sugar
1 c. molasses
1/4 c. hot water with 2 tsp. baking soda dissolved in it (may need a bit more water)
1/2 c. softened butter
1/3 c. shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
about 3.5 c. white flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. butter
1 c. powdered sugar
(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
(2) Mix sugar, molasses, hot water and soda, butter, shortening, salt, and eggs well.
(3) Add enough flour to make a thick dough, approximately 3.5 cups.
(4) Scoop cookies onto greased or Silpat-lined sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. (My notes here say, rather unhelpfully, “Don’t make too thin. Don’t bake too long.”
(5) To make the icing, mix the juice of one lemon with the butter into the powdered sugar. Beat until smooth. If it’s too thick to spread, dilute with drops of water until spreadable.
How about you — do you have childhood Christmas favorites or things you once disdained that have gained or lost traction as you get older? What are your favorite holiday treats? Bonus points for sharing favorite recipes in the comments!
One random commenter will win a gift tin of delicious Clairesquares (because, dude, I am not making any more cookies this year). Comment by the end of the day Wednesday to enter; include your e-mail in the body of the comment to be eligible. Winner will be selected Thursday morning, contacted by e-mail, and posted here in the comments.
About the Author:
Ruthie Knox graduated from Grinnell College as an English and history double major, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in modern British history that she’s put to remarkably little use. An earlier incarnation of Ride with Me won the 2011 Maggies Award for best contemporary series romance, as well as the 2011 Romance Junkies/Carina Press contest.
Buy her books here