Prepping for Christmas

By Fran DeWine

I’m almost ready for Christmas.

My menu is planned, although it is scaled down compared to past years because we won’t all be gathering together as a family. But we will still make many of our favorite foods for pick-up and sharing. We always start with thinly-sliced country ham on short little biscuits. This is my grandkids’ favorite appetizer. For the main course, instead of a large roast beef, I’ll prepare smaller pieces of beef, roasted at different times. We’ll have mashed potatoes and make-ahead casseroles, and a couple of other sides and desserts to be exchanged.

My Christmas gifts for my children and grandchildren are also scaled down — just simple gifts and books for all the kids. Although my oldest granddaughter, who has her first apartment, will get a set of pots and pans. (You have to start right!) My daughter Jill wanted a new rolling pin, so I pulled out the beautiful large, lovingly worn one that Mike’s Uncle Dick Harwood used in his bakery. I love to hand down family things for Christmas.

One tradition I’ve done for years is to have sweatshirts made for everyone in the family for Christmas. It’s a fun keepsake featuring our family owned baseball team. The message on it this year is simple and clear: Play Ball! It’s symbolic of everyone getting back to normal.

My little Christmas baskets are ready, too. They’re full of some of my favorite goodies, some of which I’ve shared with you in my columns — biscotti, maple syrup, granola, pickles and preserves, and my oatmeal maple syrup cookies. I was looking for one more cookie to add before I started dropping them off. My inspiration for my last cookie came from my hero this year — Dolly Parton!

My team worked really hard this year to make the Imagination Library available to every Ohio child younger than 5-years-old. We got every county signed up. These books are especially important during this pandemic. We thank Dolly for her love of children. In looking through her cookbook, in the section “Tasty food for tiny hands to make,” I found a recipe for thumbprint cookies. She loved it for the children because they have such fun putting their thumbprint in the cookie and a dollop of bright red raspberry jam in the indentation. It’s a perfect merry Christmas cookie!

As I write this, looking out at the beautiful snow, the song, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” is playing in my head. But what I’m really thinking about is next Christmas, when we are all vaccinated and the virus is behind us. We all want to be around the Christmas table. And for that to happen we have to be very careful in the next weeks and months. Merry Christmas and stay safe!

Dolly Parton’s Thumbprint Cookies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg white, beaten

3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 cup raspberry jam

Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream them together with a fork. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly. Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Working with 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls. Roll the balls into the egg white and then the nuts. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart, and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the sheet from the oven. Transfer the sheet to a rack to cool. When the cookies are cool enough to touch, use your thumb to make a depression in each ball. Fill each thumbprint with jam. Return the cookies to the oven and bake 5 minutes more.

Remove the sheet from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored in a rigid container with a tight-fitting lid for up to 3 days.

By Fran DeWine

Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.

Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.