Varina Denman | Unexpectedly Sweet Christmas Memories
December 18, 2015
When I walked down the aisle and said “I do,” I married into the Christmas
tradition of making roll-out cookies for Santa. My husband’s family has a
to-die-for recipe that produces cookies with a tea cake texture that melts in
your mouth. The secret ingredient is sour cream which makes them not too sweet …
just right. And nobody can eat just one.
We’ve baked cookies almost every December since then, but my favorite memory is
from Christmas 1999 … even though the evening did NOT start off well. At the
time, I was suffering from a lingering case of post-partum depression, and I
felt anything but jolly. I sat by the Christmas tree and watched the twinkle
lights as I held my two-month-old daughter and tried to think happy thoughts.
My husband and three older children were making cookies in the adjacent kitchen
where they were up to their elbows in flour. I knew how this would end; I’d seen
it before. Waxed paper would be cemented to the counters, bits of dried dough
would be sprinkled like gravel on every horizontal surface of the room, and tiny
drops of red and green food coloring (invisible to the naked eye) would end up
smeared across my favorite sweat pants two days out. Don’t even get me started
on the kids. They would be covered in flour from head to toe.
As I watched, sugar and butter were measured, dough was mixed and tinted, and
disagreements were initiated and solved. The four of them took turns with the
rolling pin, fought over the cookie cutters, and sang Christmas carols with the
old CD player. My husband told corny jokes, the kids giggled and squealed, and
the oven door opened a dozen times as they determined if the cookies needed
“just one more minute.”
And somewhere between the mixing and the rolling and the cutting and the baking,
my family’s joy crept into the living room where I sat. It swirled through my
new-momma emotions and outweighed my sadness... especially when my three small
chefs proudly brought me the baked goodies. Some of the cookies were
cracker-thin while others were as thick as Texas toast. Some were burned around
the edges while others were doughy. Some were cut into perfect shapes while
others were merely blobs.
But they were wonderful.
Those cookies (and the man and children who made them) reminded me that not
every Christmas is picture perfect. Life has its ups and downs, but over the
years, we had plenty of fun times and would have tons more in years to come. I
hugged their sticky necks until I was covered with flour too, then we all ate
cookies and milk until our stomachs ached.
Since then, we’ve made many more memories in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, but
my favorite memory will always be the year the cookies cheered me up. Here’s the
Denman Christmas cookie recipe. I hope you enjoy it with your family as much as
I’ve enjoyed it with mine.
Denman Christmas Cookies
- 1/2 cup shortening or softened butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 2/3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup sour cream
Heat oven to 425°. Mix shortening, sugar, egg
and vanilla. Blend in remaining ingredients. (You may want to
chill the dough 10-15 minutes at this point, even overnight won't hurt. Let it
set out a few minutes for workable dough.) Divide dough into
three parts. Roll each part 1/4 inch thick on well-floured
board. (Lots of flour!) Cut into shapes. Bake 6-8 minutes.
Cool. (Watch these closely, and remove from oven when the edges
start to brown.) Decorate as desired. Makes about a dozen
2-inch cookies. (You can also tint half the dough with red food coloring and
half with green. Then you don't need to decorate!)
Simple Powdered Sugar Icing
Sift 1 cup powdered sugar. Add ½ teaspoon vanilla and 2-3 tablespoons water or
milk. Add the liquid slowly, stopping when you reach desired consistency.
Tell us your favorite Christmas or holiday treat and what it means to you and
one lucky commenter will receive a copy of JADED and JUSTIFIED, plus a Christmas
Varina Denman writes stories about the unique struggles
women face. A native Texan who spent her high school years in a small Texas
town, Varina now lives near Fort Worth with her husband and five mostly grown
children. Her passion is helping others make peace with their life situations.
Varina’s second novel, JUSTIFIED, is a compelling blend of women’s
fiction and inspirational romance.
Series: Mended Hearts
In a small Texas town ruled by gossip, Fawn Blaylock believes others are
justified in condemning her untimely pregnancy. Stifled by guilt, she yearns for
grace while the local football coach treats her with gentle respect.
JUSTIFIED perfectly captures the rhythm and romance of life in a small
town, telling the unforgettable story of a woman searching for renewal, a man
looking beyond what others see, and a community torn between judgment and love.
It is the unforgettable story of broken dreams, second chances, and relentless
Buy on: Amazon.com
| Google Play
49 comments posted.
Re: Varina Denman | Unexpectedly Sweet Christmas Memories
I was captivated with your emotional and beautiful post
today which resonated with me. Being with your family and
enjoying this special time making your delectable cookies is
so important and meaningful since life is fleeting and time
flies. Sometimes we are so involved with life, our illnesses
and the problems that we cannot appreciate our surroundings
and the wonderful family with whom we are fortunate to have.
When I make my favorite apple cake it brings back memories
of my grandmother and mother whom I miss dearly. Merry
Christmas and best wishes.
(Sharon Berger 11:52am December 18, 2015)
I love making special holiday cookies. I also love spending Christmas with family and friends. I hope to win. Happy holidays.
(Cindy Davenport 1:02pm December 18, 2015)
my favorite memory is my mother making Divinity. It was so good. It is one of the memories I will always treasure.
(Mary Baker 2:16pm December 18, 2015)
Helping mom make them. The one year when all her grandkids
were little I made them beforehand and they thought she
made them. They only know last decade and they are in
their 30-40's now~
(Marissa Yip-Young 3:00pm December 18, 2015)
My fav Holiday treats are mini cheese cakes. My godmother used to make them every year and now I do. She was a wonderful cook.
(Cynthia Mahoney 3:24pm December 18, 2015)
Thank you for sharing your story. I have memories of
baking cookies with my daughters. It was a tradition when
had, and I enjoyed it very much. We made Scottish
Shortbread, butter cookies, peanut butter cookies,
chocolate chip cookies, Vienna crescent cookies, sugar
cookies, and Russian Tea balls. Sometimes we would bake a
cake too. Thanksgiving was always a carrot cake with
cream cheese icing from scratch.
(Beverly Beltz 4:33pm December 18, 2015)
My favorite is making homemake cookies from scratch. The women in my
family always get together and literally make dozens upon dozens. We wrap
them up nicely and give each family/friend/loved one a dozen of cookies
right before christmas. It means a lot because we get to spend time together
making something delicious that we then get to share with others. I
especially will enjoy it this year because I have been so busy and haven't
had much time to spend with the women in my family lately so it will be nice
(Lily Shah 5:22pm December 18, 2015)
I love making Christmas cookies every year with my
Grandmother(who is 94 years old now!),my
Aunt's,daughters,cousins & any friends or other family. We
make hundreds & it's such fun! It's a tradition I hope my
girls will continue when they have families of their own,as
(Catherine Wooster 6:32pm December 18, 2015)
(Marcia White 8:55pm December 18, 2015)
My favorite Holiday treat are my Mom's cookies, that I make
every year. It's funny that you mentioned sour cream in the
recipe for your cookies, because that's one of the
ingredients in my Mom's cookies, too!! Instead of
shortening, I use lard, but the reason this is used, is to
give the cookies a pastry flakiness. Mine are a bit more
involved, and the cookie base have to sit in the refrigerator
overnight, so the dough itself can rise. The next day, I
have to take it out, and then the craziness begins, when I
have to roll out the dough, in small handfuls at a time, and
cut the dough in pieces, fill them with the filling I cooked
the day before, roll them up, then put them in the oven. I
usually have about 100 of these cookies by the time I'm done,
and when the cookie vultures start coming, there aren't that
many by the time I'm done baking!! lol This is one memory
that makes me close to my Mom every year, since she's been
gone 15 years now. It seems like she's been gone only
yesterday, and I'm the only Daughter that makes these, to
keep her memory alive. Your recipe stirred those memories in
my heart, and I'll be making my cookies in a couple of days.
Have a wonderful Christmas, and a terrific New Year!! It
made me smile to read that you're starting such a great
tradition with your kids for the Holidays that they'll be
passing on with their kids, too!!
(Peggy Roberson 6:56am December 19, 2015)
My favorite holiday treat is Yuletide Cookies. They aren't very pretty, Hubby calls
them Yuletide Droppings (heh heh), but they taste delicious!
(C.E. Hart 8:13am December 19, 2015)
Love all the stories. I make ginger cutout cookies each year.
I use a very small gingerbread man cutter and get about 40
cookies to a sheet so it takes time. I also make rosettes
each year. When our kids were small we made cookies as a
family. I am from West Texas and have a granddaughter that
goes to TCU. I live in Minnesota now but once a Texan, always
a Texan. Merry Christmas.
(Leona Olson 11:02am December 19, 2015)
The poignancy of your Christmas memory strikes a deep chord with me. My husband was in the process of leaving this world two years ago, at this time. I'm still finding it difficult to face the Season he loved so much without him, but cherish the family members/friends who brought Christmas to us to celebrate in the hospital.
Helping my mother with her Christmas fruitcake and hard sauce preparation is another memory I cherish. This is a light fruitcake, unlike the store bought atrocities ;)
(Kathleen Bylsma 12:42pm December 19, 2015)
I love anything with mint!
(Lindsey Andronak 1:42pm December 19, 2015)
My favorite was my mom making fudge and the best divinity.
She has been gone for 10 years but I still think about it
every year. I have never been able to make it.
(Sharon Sommer 9:26pm December 19, 2015)
Every Christmas brings beautiful memories to me. I can't wait
to see what this years brings. Thank you for sharing yours
(Cindy Olp 1:34am December 20, 2015)
my mom does peanut brittle, and I can smell it all through the house now just thinking about it. best ever too!!! just all the baking smells makes me think of Christmas. the book sounds great can't wait to read .
(Jennifer Beck 11:57am December 20, 2015)
Loved your post and the pictures. I have never been a
baker. I leave that to my friend. But I do like sugar
cookies in holiday shapes, with frosting on top! Happy
(Linda Herold 11:28pm December 20, 2015)
My favorite holiday treats are Godiva chocolates, My husband buys me a box
every Christmas and I savor them one by one, but a great homemade cookie
pairs very well with hot chocolate.
(Diane Mcmahon 6:15am December 21, 2015)
Love homemade Christmas cookies and always look forward to this Christmas treat.
(Jean Benedict 12:05pm December 21, 2015)
I love recipes that are handed down! Those are the very best recipes of all! THANKS so much for sharing!
(Sandy Fielder 3:48pm December 21, 2015)
I live pumpkin rolls.
(Julie Wingate 6:24pm December 21, 2015)
Very intrigued about the book. Love the recipe..just in time for my cookie baking session. I have cookies to make for my family Christmas celebration...these cookies are gonna be made!! Love the near-sighted reindeer...super funny and cute!!
(Michelle Arredondo 7:37pm December 21, 2015)
I like making almond shortbread
(Lesley Walsh 7:43pm December 21, 2015)
(Linda Barrier 6:19am December 22, 2015)
We always made spritz cookies and would use food coloring and sprinkles to add some color to them!! They tasted great, although my father would have preferred them without the added color!
(Joanne Schultz 5:11pm December 22, 2015)
I make homemade frosting for our sugar cookies and everyone fights over
the ones that aren't up to giveaway quality.
(Valerie Miller 7:44pm December 22, 2015)
We enjoy making homemade cookies from scratch, especially walnut chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter blossoms.
(Bonnie Hometchko 7:54pm December 22, 2015)
I make homemade cookies from scratch also , but I'll get all my dough made up a day or two before I start baking . I put it in the freezer until I start baking .If I want to bake a dozen of this kind or a dozen of that, the dough will keep good for several days . Everyone has a different favorite so it really helps to get the dough fixed up ahead of time to do the baking .
(Joan Thrasher 10:13pm December 22, 2015)
Chocolate peanut butter balls are a holiday tradition.
Please enter me in today's contest.
(Noreen Fredriksen 3:12pm December 23, 2015)
I loved making cookies - any kind really. But this year it is
just me and baking seems silly.
(Kimberley Coover 6:38pm December 23, 2015)
Sugar Cookies were my favorite. I love decorating them.
(Mary Lynn Hayes 5:22am December 24, 2015)
I make a batch of Magic Bars. They're delicious but too
rich except for a Christmas treat!
(Lynn Anderson 7:10am December 24, 2015)
Our favorite holiday treat is decorating cookies with the kids and now grandkids
- so many memories!
(Dianne McVetty 9:12am December 24, 2015)
My favourite Christmas treat is the Slovenian nut roll called potica-- though I
generally make the year's six-to-eighteen loaves between the last week of
November and the first couple weeks of December. I use the recipe my
father did, back when I found the taste of potica too rich and complex for my
child tongue, but pretended to adore it because I adored my father. (Now, my
son finds potica too rich and complex and adores me, but knows there's no
need to pretend.)
(Mary Ann Dimand 10:48am December 24, 2015)
cookies sound yummy with a good book
(Gail Bartels 10:53am December 24, 2015)
(Mark Watson 11:13am December 24, 2015)
Every Year we make Sugar Cookies with the homemade powdered
sugar frosting..kids love making them and being creative
with the frosting..
(Ken Justus 11:46am December 24, 2015)
I usually make a German chocolate cake for my family. All seem to enjoy it.
(Anna Speed 12:02pm December 24, 2015)
My favorite memoryis remembering having the time and
paitience to make home made Christmas cookies.
(Janice Santillo 2:17pm December 24, 2015)
Lebkuchen cookies-my Great Aunt Margaret made thses every Christmas-with a whole almond in the middle.
(Richard Burr 2:32pm December 24, 2015)
Strawberry shortcake! My grandmother used to make a delicious strawberry shortcake every Christmas. She made it extra festive by piping green sugar wreaths all over the shortcake. I sure miss that shortcake.
(Nancy Marcho 3:20pm December 24, 2015)
My favorite Christmas treat is a chopped hazelnut meringue cookie from Germany. As I'm usually the only one eating them and they are quite a bit of effort, I forgo them and do the traditional cut-out cookies including gingerbread men. It's amazing how sentimental people are about gingerbread men. Adults love them as much as kids!
(Flora Presley 4:00pm December 24, 2015)
I love home made cookies of all kinds, but chocolate chip is my favorite
(Penney Wilfort 4:09pm December 24, 2015)
I love fruit cake. It brings back memories of making it with my
great grandmother when I was 6 or 7. I miss those days so very
(Denise Austin 6:44pm December 24, 2015)
I loved your recipes and will make them this year. My daughter-in-law goes nuts every Christmas, baking a variety of breads and cookies which are all fantastic. No matter how many years go by or how far apart our families are, the memory of those baked goods and our families being together will always be my favorite memory.
(Patsy Hagen 7:03pm December 24, 2015)
Our favorite cookie recipe is chocolate chip cookies.
(Carol Woodruff 7:21pm December 24, 2015)
Let me start this by saying my DH does not work in the kitchen
often but every Christmas, he makes fudge. This year he made 5
different flavors.That would be plain chocolate, mint chocolate,
black walnuts in chocolate, cherry chocolate, and peanut butter.
Of course part of this goes out for gifts.
(Nancy Luebke 9:23pm December 24, 2015)
My favorite holiday treats are sandbakkels, a Scandinavian
cookie sort of like a tart shell. Can be eaten unfilled
like a cookie or filled with something yummy. Our family
recipe has been passed down for nearly 150 years.
(Irene Menge 1:21am December 25, 2015)
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