Friday, December 10, 2010

Neighborly holidays

Two days ago a box from 1-800-Flowers arrived on the doorstep. It contained this snowman plant:

Isn't that cute? Of course, the snowman head was in a separate compartment in the box, waiting for us to stick in the plant ourselves, and I couldn't bring myself to do it because I didn't want to CRUSH the beautiful plant, so instead we have a plant in a white pot with three candies on one side, and a snowman head lying on our coffee table. But I still love it!

Anyway, it took us forever to find the card (turned out it was taped to the outside of the shipping box, which Torsten had tossed in the corner), but when we did we discovered that it was a little holiday gift from our next-door neighbors. Isn't that nice of them? They are already the nicest ever, doing things like giving us a jump when we accidentally leave our car trunk cracked all night and the interior light kills the battery, and helping Torsten carry our nursery furniture upstairs, and taking care of Montana when we went to the mountains in September, and promising to take care of her again when I go into labor.

They are wonderful, is the point, and nice and thoughtful and generally everything you want in a neighbor. And since they have done so many nice things for us and saved us a ton of money in the process (in dog boarding costs alone), not to mention time and stress, and since it is hard for us to reciprocate because they rarely ask for or seem to need anything, we had decided that an appropriate way to thank them would be to stretch our budget to buy them a modest gift card to a local restaurant, and put it in a holiday card, and bring it to them along with a plate of homemade cookies. So we bought the gift card, and are planning to make the cookies this weekend.

Torsten will be making his traditional German Christmas cookies, which honestly? I do not like. They are dry and crunchy, and I like my cookies soft and chewy. To be fair, Torsten doesn't like my cookies either. I seem to be in the minority on not liking his cookies (they are full of so much butter that it is a WONDER I don't love them), so I have absolutely no qualms handing them out as gifts to others, but I DO want to make at least one thing that's to my own taste to include on the plate, so that if one of the neighbors is ALSO not a fan of crumbly cookies, there will be something on the plate for them too.

So now I am stewing over what, exactly, to make. I was thinking about peanut butter buckeyes, which I made last year, and loved, but since Torsten doesn't like peanut butter and I won't have family in town this year, seems like the perfect thing to make and then give away (I mean, not ALL of them, OBVIOUSLY I would keep some for myself, I mean PIGLET NEEDS PEANUT BUTTER BUCKEYES, but that way I won't eat the whole batch myself). But also, that isn't a cookie. So maybe I should make a cookie too? Like a traditional chocolate chip? Or something more unusual or fancier?

What are your favorite cookie recipes? Extra helpful if they are things that are generally universally liked, since we don't know a whole lot about this family's tastes.

(Also, is it kind of bad that I am a little annoyed that now that this lovely plant has shown up, it will look like we are doing our own holiday gift for them as a reciprocation? I am guessing it would not be so festive if I wrote on the card, "WE PURCHASED THIS GIFT CARD FOR YOU BEFORE YOUR PLANT ARRIVED, SO THERE.")


  1. I'm making my favorite cookies tonight for my parent's Christmas party tomorrow.

    I make:

    Pecan Pie Cookies

    Crandy Chocolate Chip
    (I substitute semi-sweet chocolate chips for the white chocolate chips)

    Hope you enjoy! :) I know I do!

  2. Instead of buckeyes, what about peanut butter cookies with Hershey's Kisses on top? Regular chocolate chip doesn't seem festive enough to me for some reason.

    Your neighbors sound awesome, and I'm sure they won't think anything of your gift being given after theirs. There are still 2 weeks until Christmas!

  3. My favorite, easiest, and universally loved Christmas cookie is the Ritz cracker cookie.

    All you do is take a couple of rolls of Ritz crackers put peanut butter on them, making cracker sandwiches. While you're doing that, melt some chocolate almond bark (I use a double boiler, but the microwave works too. For 2 rolls of crackers, I'd use about 1/2 a package of chocolate almond bark, or about 6 cubes). When it's melted, dip the crackers, sprinkle with festive sprinkles, and let harden on wax paper.

    Seriously, for such a simple cookie, people will not stop raving about these.

  4. When I was growing up we didn't make Christmas cookies; my mom was more about making candy (so the buckeyes would have been right up her alley). I don't think it would be bad to give them a plate that has cookies and candy on it. But I love the ritz cracker ones (Ryan's family calls them hockey pucks), and the peanut butter kiss ones. Otherwise, maybe a soft gingerbread/molasses cookie? I don't have any good recipes for cookies, unfortunately.

  5. I came to suggest hershey kiss cookies too, so I'm in agreement with R. Funny that someone mentioned the ritz cracker cookies. My grandma used to make those every year, and I loathe them! Who thinks a salty cracker makes a cookie?!?! I'm glad to finally find someone (in your comments) that actually likes would make my grandma smile :) They were always the last "cookie" on the holiday plate.

  6. Oooo, brownies! Mint or toffee.

    I would be feeling all cheesed about the "THIS IS NOT RECIPROCATION" situation, too!

  7. Wow, it's great to have such good neighbors! I don't know if it's necessarily Christmas related but I had this same problem this week trying to figure out a good treat to make. I ended up doing the ever so easy yet delectable chocolate no bake cookies. They really are quite easy and I can never get enough of them!

  8. Heh. I always get itchy about reciprocation issues, too, esp. since I'm typically a screaming-into-town-at-the-last-minute holiday giver. I believe that more than once I've resorted to trying to work in an ever-so-subtle-comment about how we sure are late with our cards/ gifts/ etc this year!

    Can I just say that your neighbors are the awesomest neighbors ever? And also that you and Torsten must be good neighbors, too, to keep that dynamic up. I think it takes two families to be good neighbors. I myself tend not to be very good at asking/ receiving and tend to accidentally stop good neighborness as it is just getting warmed up.

  9. I would love nothing better than to get a holiday card that says,"Hey neighbor, just so you know we planned on doing this even before we got your lovely plant, so there. And Merry Christmas." But I suppose it all depends on gauging their sense of humor.

  10. I'm with Marie Green, those peanut butter cracker cookies are wonderful.

    Of course you know that my vote is for Oreo truffles. Three ingredients: Pure deliciousness.

  11. My favorite are Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies even though they aren't chewy and I believe that's the hallmark of a good cookie. I actually did a roundup of cookie recipes over at Food Lush the other day and there are many of the chewy cookie varietals on the list. Something like this might work well or even rugelach

  12. oooh swistle's brownie suggestion is good. or fudge!!

  13. On the not reciprocation thing - wait until Christmas Eve to take over your gift. That way it looks as if Christmas Eve is when you do gift things rather than reciprocation. Then make Christmas Eve be the time you do it every year. Unless they're going away for the holiday... maybe find out if that's the case. If it IS the case, take it over and say, "We usually do this on Christmas Eve, but since you're going away..."

  14. Four words, and you already know them: GIANT! CHOCOLATE! CHIP! COOKIES!

    I gave these to our neighbors when they moved in several years ago, and their eyes bugged out of their heads. Do it, do it...

  15. Swistle beat me to the brownie suggestion -- specifically her salt brownie recipe. SO yummy! My other favorite non-cookie treat to give is homemade caramels but they can be a bit fussy sometimes so this year I'm thinking of trying toffee instead.

    My all-time favorite cookie recipe & the one I get the most requests for is my oatmeal coconut chocolate chip recipe. If it sounds good I'm happy to send you the recipe.

    Other favorites this time of year: white chocolate cranberry (with or without macadamia nuts)

    With macadamia nuts

    Without macadamia nuts (but, uh, with brandy so maybe a better choice for next year so you can fully enjoy them? So yummy!)

  16. Oh, and I meant to say that your neighbors sound awesome! :)

  17. Your neighbors sound like wonderful people!

    At Christmas time I like to make the standard sugar cookie and use Christmas cookie cutters. Sometimes I'll make red and green frosting and decorate them, or I just sprinkle red and green sprinkles on them.

  18. I think you CANNOT go wrong with buckeyes, unless they have allergies of course.

    I make the ones Marie Green mentioned above. I LOVE them and so does everyone else.

    AHAHAHA on the card. Priceless.

  19. Ummm, I'm absolutely in love with your little snowman plant!

    My favorite cookies at Christmas are snickerdoodles. I don't know what's really "holiday" about them, but I could eat a million of them!

  20. I was going to suggest the Oreo truffles too - they're easy, impressive and hold up well on a plate (no crumbs or melting).

  21. It is so nice to have good neighbors.

    I know this isn't very holiday of me, but it seems you can't go wrong with chocolate chip cookies either.

  22. I really wish that someone in my life would make me some buckeyes.

  23. Mmmm....buckeyes....we've been giving them out every chance we get so we don't eat the whole batch - they are SO addictive!

    If peanut allergies aren't a concern, these cookies deliver!

    Shortbread is another good option.
    We like to add some orange zest and chopped dried cranberries, then toss them in powdered sugar when they're still a little warm. They're really pretty if you chill the dough in a 'log' and slice them before you bake 'em.

    Have fun with your baking project!

  24. What a cute plant!

    Last year for a cookie swap at work I made snickerdoodles. They were a huge hit- email me if you want the recipe.

  25. This year I am making/have made:

    chocolate almond toffee bark
    chocolate salted caramel cookies
    butter cookies
    peanut butter kisses cookies

    Happy to send you recipes for any of those!