When Fake Beards Just Won't Do - Santa Edition

Yesterday, after a long & stressful few days at work, I was driving home on the same route in mindless traffic as always. I called my husband like always, and in one of my less that stellar marital moments - I intentionally hung up on him.  Here's why.

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Odds are you are thinking either I'm incredibly rude to risk an argument over this or you want to yell at me through the computer about taking pictures while driving.  I hear your frustrations.  But people.  I was behind a Santa.  And not any Santa.  One in the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas (IBRBS)

When Alex Trebek decides to toss in a Santa themed category, I will win, hands down.  Because who else sees that bumper sticker & immediately knows what it means.  Granted he had some other hints on his truck (sleigh), but still.  

Years ago I listened to the This American Life podcast episode 371 called 'Scenes from a Mall'.  One of the stories (Act 3) is all about fighting Santas - as in fist fighting Santas.  I just can't even put into words how mind-blowing & hilarious it was to hear.  My mind is full of pictures of Santa's with jolly bellies pushing each other around while tossing verbal assaults bad & forth.  All over who is in charge of the Santa's.  Because - hello...IMPORTANT!  To be fair, the Santa I drove behind yesterday is part of a different group so I'm sure he's of the happiest, non-fightng sort.  The podcast featured the Amalgamated Order of the Real Beaded Santas (AORBS), so totally different.  And yes I typically reference AORBS off and on throughout the year, I mean wouldn't you?  

Anyways, thank you to my local mystery Santa who MADE MY YEAR by being in the right place at the right time yesterday.  Thank you for making me want to head straight to the google to research any possible connection of IBRBS to AORBS. Thank you IBRBS for posting your newsletters on your website where I could see pictures of the last Santa convention, and sadly, a list of Santas, Mrs Clauses, and elves who had their "last sleigh ride".  No, I am not making any of this up.  I will not admit how many HOURS I spent in my investigative digging last night.  

So just when you though you knew all about your local mall Santa, go listen to the podcast and trust me, your life will never be the same.  For the better.  And thanks to the worlds' most awesome husband for understanding what a big deal this was & knowing I was totally justified in hanging up on him.   

Now, turn on some Christmas carols, pull out those decorations, and take a few minutes to learn about all our Santa friends.  Perspective is everything.  

Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies)

Christmas Cookies Around The World continues!  Next up is.......

GREECE

Kourabiedes cookies are a staple at Christmas in Greece.  These white crescent shaped cookies get adorned with a single clove on top at the holidays to represent the frankincense & myrrh that the Magi brought to Jesus at his birth.  The shape of the cookie began as a bit of defiance when the Ottoman empire overtook Greece, and it's stuck over the years.  Apparently different areas of Greece differ on what type of butter they use, since that is the foundation of the whole thing.  Goat vs cow vs buffalo.  Yes buffalo.  Never would have guessed that, but there it is! 

This cookie sounded so easy to make I couldn't help but try it.  It pairs perfectly with coffee - the final product is so rich & buttery with just a hint of sweetness from the powdered sugar coating.  A few hints, don't make your cookies too big or they won't cook through.  I read lots of different recipes before settling on this one.  And the time spent creaming the butter sold me.  I felt like I was prepping to make icing, and there's nothing that can go wrong starting a recipe that way.  It becomes white & fluffy - the perfect base for, well, butter cookies.  

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Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies)
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1 pound of butter, room temperature
1 large egg
2 1/2 tsp almond extract
8 TB powdered sugar, plus more to coat cookies
1/8 tsp baking soda
5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt (Note: I left this out - whoops!)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat butter in a stand mixer at medium speed for 20 minutes.
  3. Add egg and almond extract to the butter. 
  4. Sift powdered sugar and baking soda together then add to the butter mixture.
  5. Beat for another 10 minutes on medium speed.
  6. Sift 5 cups of flour and salt together in a large bowl. (Disclaimer: I didn't sift my flour, though this would likely had made even lighter cookies).
  7. With the mixer speed on low, add flour a little bit at a time until it is completely mixed.  If the dough is sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour.   (Mine required about 6 cups)
  8. Roll about a tablespoon of dough into a ball and then shape into crescents.  Place them on a lined baking sheet (my Silpat worked great).  You can place them right next to each other because the cookies don't spread.  ***The original recipe said to use 2 TB of dough to form the crescents and they were HUGE, and wouldn't cook through.  And I certainly wouldn't have gotten 5 dozen!  Smaller is better.**
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they turn a pale brown and are cooked through.
  10. Once the cookies cool, coat in powdered sugar.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Adapted from Cooking for Keeps.

Mohn Cookies (Poppy Seed Cookies)

A few weeks ago I saw the first episode of 'Holiday Baking Championships' on The Food Network, fell in love with the show, and immediately wanted to start making Christmas cookies.  They didn't share but one recipe from the episode so I started looking for new recipes to try.  And then it hit me.  I wanted to try making Christmas cookies from around the world.  My family watches (multiple times a year) Rick Steve's European Christmas DVD where he travels to different countries to show their Christmas traditions.  It makes me want to find a thick parka and head to Sweden and Germany to see the decorations and dining room tables for myself.  So what better than to have a taste of each country here at home, and maybe learn a thing or two about their Christmas traditions.  And a new blog series was born.

Around The World With Christmas Cookies

I'll post a recipe or two each week between now and Christmas, and I hope you try out a few for yourself.  If nothing else, you'll get a taste of traditions around the world.  Nothing like a little education on the side!

POLAND

First up are Mohn (Poppy Seed) Cookies.  Mohn actually means poppy in Yiddish.  Ok, so calling them a Christmas cookie isn't exactly accurate.  These are traditional cookies for Purim and other Jewish holidays.  But I figured why not include a Hannuakah cookie in the series?  The taste is worth it!  From what I can tell these originated in Poland (though some argue Germany).  I'll warn you, these cookies aren't very sweet, which makes them perfect for the non-cookie lover (or dieter) in your life.  Just be sure there's not a drug test in your future...there's a lot of poppy seeds in here.  Next time I make these, I'll try a lemon glaze on the top of add a touch more sweetness and play up the lemon flavor of the cookie.  

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Mohn (Poppy Seed Cookies)
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1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup poppy seeds
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup butter
Juice from 1 lemon

  1. Mix flour, baking powder, poppy seeds, and salt in a bowl & set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Add the slightly beaten eggs into the butter/sugar mixture.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until a thick batter is formed.
  5. Roll a teaspoonful of dough into a ball and place onto cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or oven-release foil. 
  6. Sprinkle  a pinch of sugar on each cookie & use a glass with a flat bottom to press down each cookie (sugar keeps the glass from sticking).
  7. Bake at 400*F for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are brown.
  8. Makes at least 2 dozen cookies.

Adapted from Jewish Food