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My favorite holiday cookie recipes

My mother has been baking holiday cookies for as long as I can remember—at least 50 years and counting. Many years ago, she gave me a binder with her cookie recipes in it, which I basically ignored for a long time.

But in 2009, when our eldest daughter was six, I started making some each holiday season. And pretty much every year since then, I've made a batch of holiday cookies. Here's a sample plate of this year's batch*Click the image for a larger version with cookie names

And as nice as it is having her written recipes, some complete with notes, I wanted to digitize them, for easier access. I also wanted to convert them from their use of the inane US-based measuring system to one based on weight in grams, which greatly eases preparation (assuming you have a good kitchen scale).
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Recipe: Monkey Bread

Monkey bread is a nice bread to make for a party—it's made up of lots of bite-sized pieces. You can read more about it in this blog post, but here's the recipe.

This is very time consuming to make, mainly due to multiple long waits for the dough to rise.

Load recipe in LoseIt: Monkey Bread

The Recipe
IngredientVolumeWeight
All-purpose Flour4 cups500 grams
Sugar¼ cup47 grams
Active Dry Yeast1 packet--
Salt1 teaspoon6.1 grams
Milk (2%)1¼ cups305 grams
Butter¾ cup170.3 grams
Eggs1--
Preparation and Notes

Preheat oven to 225F (107C).

Mix all the ingredients together and chill. Roll into 10 to 15 gram weight balls. Place on an unlined light-colored baking sheet; dough can be spaced closely, as these cookies don't expand when baked. Cook for about 45 minutes. It can be tough to tell when they're done, as they don't brown. Place on cooling racks to cool.

When cooled, roll cookies in powdered sugar. When serving, cookies can be rolled in additional powdered sugar.

Recipe: Jumbo Raisin

These cookies are very soft, and have a wonderful mix of flavors and spices—as long as you like raisins! They puff up during cooking, and remain puffed. Softness is retained well in storage, but add a piece of bread to enhance their shelf life.

Load recipe in LoseIt: Jumbo Raisin Cookies

The Recipe
IngredientVolumeWeight
Raisins2 cups290 grams
Shortening1 cup205 grams
Brown Sugar1½ cups330 grams
Eggs3--
All-purpose Flour4 cups500 grams
Baking Powder1 teaspoon2.6 grams
Baking Soda1 teaspoon2.6 grams
Cinnamon1 teaspoon2.6 grams
Nutmeg½ teaspoon1.2 grams
Allspice½ teaspoon1.0 grams
Preparation and Notes

Preheat oven to 350F (177C).

Boil two cups (290g) of raisins with one cup of water, then let them cool back to room temperature.

Cream shortening and sugar, then add the eggs and the cooled raisins. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and slowly add to tjhe shortening mixture. Form into roughly 20 gram balls, and place two inches apart on a light-colored baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops just start to brown. Cool on wire cooling racks.

Recipe: Dream Kisses

These cookies are nut-laden and hard to describe—they're like a small ball of sugar and nuts that sort of crumbles in your mouth. Make sure you get crushed pecans, not chopped pecans—you want them in very small pieces.

Load recipe in LoseIt: Dream Kiss Cookies

The Recipe
IngredientVolumeWeight
Butter2 cups454 grams
Powdered Sugar½ cup60 grams
Vanilla2 teaspoons8.7 grams
All-purpose Flour4 cups500 grams
Crushed Pecans2 cups226 grams
Preparation and Notes

Preheat oven to 225F (107C).

Mix all the ingredients together and chill. Roll into 10 to 15 gram weight balls. Place on an unlined light-colored baking sheet; dough can be spaced closely, as these cookies don't expand when baked. Cook for about 45 minutes. It can be tough to tell when they're done, as they don't brown. Place on cooling racks to cool.

When cooled, roll cookies in powdered sugar. When serving, cookies can be rolled in additional powdered sugar.

Recipe: Shortbread

This dough can be tricky to work with, as it's quite dry, but it's worth the hassle—the resulting cookies are light and flaky and melt in your mouth.

Note: I never add the salt in any of these recipes; I've found I can't taste the difference, so I see no point in adding more sodium.

Load recipe in LoseIt: Shortbread Cookies

The Recipe
IngredientVolumeWeight
Unsalted Butter1 cup227 grams
Powdered Sugar½ cup60 grams
Vanilla1 teaspoon4.3 grams
All-purpose Flour2 cups250 grams
Salt¼ teaspoon1.5 grams
Preparation and Notes

Preheat oven to 350F (177C).

In a bowl, combine the flour and salt and set aside. In your stand mixer (or a separate bowl with hand mixer), cream the butter, then add the sugar and beat until smooth. Finally, add and mix in the vanilla.

Gently stir in the flour and salt mixture until it's just incorporated. Flatten the dough into a roughly circular disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least an hour.

Line two light-colored baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about ¼ inch thick. Cut into rounds, or use cookie cutters to cut into shapes. Place on the papered baking sheets, and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up the dough. The cookies can be fairly tightly spaced, as they won't expand much when baked.

Bake for eight to 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned (my preference is to get them out at the very first hint of brownness). Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe: Spritz

These cookies are shaped with a cookie press—I imagine you could use cookie cutters, but I've never tried. I don't have any experience with the linked presses; I have a 1960s vintage cookie press that works wonderfully well.

Note: I never add the salt in any of these recipes; I've found I can't taste the difference, so I see no point in adding more sodium.

Load recipe in LoseIt: Spritz Cookies

The Recipe
IngredientVolumeWeight
Butter1 cup227 grams
Sugar½ cup + 1 tablespoon105.8 grams
Eggs1--
Salt¾ teaspoon4.6 grams
Vanilla1 teaspoon4.3 grams
All-purpose Flour2½ cups312.5 grams
Preparation and Notes

Preheat oven to 400F (204C).

Cream butter, then add sugar. Blend in egg, salt, vanilla extract and flour. Knead dough in hands until soft and pliable. For Christmas, divide the dough in half and color each half red or green.

Press dough through cookie press onto ungreased cookie sheet; decorate as desired (I sometimes use red and/or green sugar sprinkles).

Bake for eight to 10 minutes, until just lightly browned—I prefer mine not quite browned, as they're just a bit softer that way.

Recipe: Sand Tarts

A thin slightly-chewy cookie. The frosting can take a long time to dry!

Load recipe in LoseIt: Sand Tart Cookies

The Recipe
IngredientVolumeWeight
Butter½ cup113.5 grams
Sugar1 cup188 grams
Eggs1 (beaten)--
All-purpose Flour1¾ cups218.8 grams
Baking Powder2 teaspoons5.2 grams

For the frosting, you'll need these ingredients:

IngredientVolumeWeight
Egg white1 (beaten stiff)--
Powdered sugar (sifted)½ cup60 grams
Cream of Tartar½ teaspoon1.5 grams
Preparation and Notes

Preheat oven to 350F (177C).

Cream together butter, sugar, and beaten egg. Slowly add flour and baking powder to the mixture. Chill the dough a few hours, or even overnight. Roll thin on a floured surface, and cut to desired shapes. Baking time is probably under 10 minutes, but you need to watch them closely—they go from not done to burned very quickly. Remove and cool on wire racks.

For the icing, add food coloring for seasonal colors. Add more powdered sugar if necessary to get the consistency you need. Allow cookies to set out in the open for the icing to dry; a fan can help speed the process, but it will take a while.

Recipe: Snickerdoodles

These cookies are light and softish at first, though they tend to dry out relatively quickly (add a piece of bread or two to the storage bin to help that).

Note: I never add the salt in any of these recipes; I've found I can't taste the difference, so I see no point in adding more sodium.

Load recipe in LoseIt: Snickerdoodle Cookies

The Recipe
IngredientVolumeWeight
Butter1 cups227 grams
Sugar1½ cups282 grams
Eggs2--
All-purpose Flour2¾ cups344 grams
Cream of Tartar2 teaspoons6 grams
Baking Soda1 teaspoon4.6 grams
Salt¼ teaspoon1.5 grams
Sugar2 tablespoons23.5 grams
Cinnamon2 teaspoons1.7 grams
Preparation and Notes

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

In a large mixing bowl, cream at medium speed the butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture until well blended. Refrigerate dough for about 30 minutes.

For normal, non-holiday versions: Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and form dough into balls that weigh about 20 grams. Roll balls in the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

For holiday versions: Replace the sugar and cinnamon with red and green decorating sugar, and roll dough balls in that mixture instead.

Place two inches apart on a light-colored baking sheet. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Snickerdoodles will puff up at first and then flatten out during baking.

Recipe: Soft Gingerbread

Deliciously soft and airy gingerbread cookies—I much prefer soft gingerbread to the hard crunchy type, though I'll admit it's much worse for making gingerbread houses!

Note: I never add the salt in any of these recipes; I've found I can't taste the difference, so I see no point in adding more sodium.

Load recipe in LoseIt: Soft Gingerbread Cookies

The Recipe
IngredientVolumeWeight
Butter, Softened¾ cup170.2 grams
Sugar1 cup188 grams
Eggs1--
Molasses¼ cup84.3 grams
All-purpose Flour2¼ cups281.1 grams
Ginger2 teaspoons10.2 grams
Baking Soda1 teaspoon4.6 grams
Ground Cinnamon¾ teaspoons2 grams
Ground Cloves½ teaspoons1.1 grams
Salt¾ teaspoon1.5 grams
Preparation and Notes

Preheat oven to 350F (177C).

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in egg and molasses. Separately, combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in another bowl. Gradually add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture until well integrated.

Roll into 20 gram balls, then roll in sugar. Place two inches apart on ungreased light-colored baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Remove and cool on wire racks.

We have (semi) new robotic vacuum overlords

In late 2019, I wrote about how we were using two Deebot robotic vacuums to help keep our floors clean. And while these vacuums worked well, they had two issues that became more annoying as time passed:

  • They clean using a random path method
  • There's no way to map out obstacles they should avoid

The Deebots are basically non-intelligent robot vacuums. They have the ability to avoid bumping into things, and they won't fall off drop-offs, but that's about where their intelligence ends. They clean using a random path, which works but seems very inefficient. Much worse, though, is that there's no ability to mark areas you don't want them to clean.

For me, that meant I had to close the door to our laundry room so it wouldn't try to clean and get stuck in there. And block off access paths to other areas where it could get stuck. And put one shelf on risers, as the Deebot seemed to be able to get under it, but not back out!? And I had to do this any time I wanted to run the vacuums. That gets old pretty quick.

I wanted to find a vacuum that would clean in a more orderly fashion (using some sort of room map), and to electronically block off areas where they shouldn't clean. The problem was most vacuums that offered these features were (at the time) $350 or more, while the Deebots had cost us only $170 or so. So I kept searching and waiting.

tl;dr version: We bought two Wyze Vacuums with LIDAR and restricted area capabilities, and love them. Ours cost $225 each, but the price today is $267 each. Read on for a much more detailed review, if you wish.

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