NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, December 22nd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: another trip into WORLD kitchens our Christmastime feasts.
EICHER: Every year, WORLD senior correspondent Katie Gaultney and her family of six create memories around a cookie recipe and the secret ingredient may just be chaos.
GAULTNEYS: Vivi, pour some—actually, come on this side of me—pour some sugar in the bowl, we need four cups of sugar./ Okay…
KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: One of my family’s favorite holiday traditions is baking my mom’s frosted butter cookie recipe and delivering treats to neighbors and friends, along with our Christmas card.
These cookies are special. And they’re a hit with everyone. I kid you not, I have a friend who has a child with severe food aversions—even to sweets—and when we gave them these cookies years ago, his mom remarked how this might be the only food he has been eager to eat. It’s crazy simple—just butter, flour, sugar, egg, baking powder, salt and vanilla. But the result is tender, flavorful, and kind of salty-sweet, with a rich buttercream frosting. And in my house, lots of sprinkles.
SAM AND DAISY: And I’m gonna do sprinkles, sprinkles, some sprinkles, and some other sprinkles!/ I’m gonna pour sprinkles on too!
I remember cooking and baking with my kids when they were tiny toddlers, thinking, “This will get easier when they’re older!” But I’m learning, family togetherness—while worthwhile—still has its challenges. Especially if you, like me, prefer things just so.
In the process of our cookie making and decorating, there was some creative mixing…
KATIE AND SAM: I just want to mix it up./ Okay, sorry, no, ah, Sam, what did you do?
KATIE AND DAISY: Oh, did you stab your cookies?/ Oh, um, Sam did it./ Okay, we don’t stab our cookies…
And biting sprinkle lids…
KATIE AND DAISY: Daisy, we don’t use teeth for that./ What?/ Don’t use your teeth, I’ll open it for you.
I’ll spare you the finger-licking and some overzealous sprinkle-pouring that I’ll surely be finding remnants of for weeks to come.
VIVI AND FORD: Oh, that’s plenty, that’s plenty… (laughter)
This particular family tradition also involves reading a children’s Christmas book about a mother bear and her cub delivering treats to neighbors. But, our whole family doesn’t fit comfortably onto the couch, so read-aloud time can get persnickety.
GAULTNEYS: … with her nose in the air, and said, “I believe our cakes are ready!”/ I want to sit there!/ Sorry, Sam is sitting here. You can sit there. Sam, scoot closer./ But I can’t—/ You can see the pictures.
Then comes delivering.
BRAD: Walk very carefully with those. Two cards, put one with each box…
Typically, it’s an easy walk down both sides of our street. But tonight, a water main burst, and the street is flooded—with water, equipment, and repair trucks. Add to that overtired kids from a big school day, and…
BRAD: You—you are done. No more.
That rebuke came after one child had dropped his or her boxes several times.
But, we delivered all our treats and cards, made merry small talk with a few neighbors, and lived to tell the tale. Back at home, it’s more happy chaos, with the boys pretend-building with battery-operated tools, my older girl picking out a carol on piano by ear, and my “baby” roughhousing with Dad.
SOUND: [Piano and playing]
For me, this night was a reminder that some traditions may never actually be easy to execute. But they’re worth continuing. Somehow, despite the dropped treat boxes and sprinkle explosions, these experiences are building a family culture worth preserving.
I’m Katie Gaultney.
NICK EICHER: (Laughs) That’s the spirit! Memories as difficult to forget as it’s difficult to get all those sprinkles vacuumed!
MARY REICHARD: Yep, just leave ‘em. That’s what dogs are for. Now come with me into my kitchen.
Confession: My goal every holiday is that I not make my family miserable with my perfectionistic tendencies. Or be that woman who runs around in hysterics while pretending to feel the love and the joy of the Christmas season.
You know, not to be like Martha in the books of Luke and John? But more like my namesake, Mary.
Let’s just say I’ve had some experience with that. So, I made a conscious decision that when I had my own family—ahhhh—I’d flavor the food with the right attitude. And some background music to set the mood while I prep the food.
When I was a kid, some Chinese friends served up a most amazing meal. They called it Hot Pot. I made a mental note —way back then— that this recipe could save my future family come the holidays.
All the prep is done ahead of time, and this is what I love about this meal: Chop up everything you’ll need.
Platters of broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, carrots, snow peas, and celery. Then platters of beef and chicken strips, scallops and shrimp. And a bowl of noodles you plop down into the hot soup stock for the satisfying, final course— after everything else is nicely settled into stomachs.
So, once you’ve chopped everything up, arrange all of those food platters within easy reach.
Put an electric wok in the middle of the dining table. Pour in the stock and heat it to hot enough to cook veggies and meat. Around 325 degrees. Start cooking the veggies separately or together- your choice. Ladle into bowls, eat, then segue into cooking the meats, or alternate plants and meat, and eat. Just make sure you have extra stock on hand at the end to cook those noodles for the last course. And set out a few sauces for dipping, like mustard or hoisin sauce.
No nutrition goes to waste with this recipe!
This night, my family enjoys a long, pleasant evening of watching the vibrant veggies and meats cook in a swirl of steaming stock with lots of intervals to talk, to laugh, to savor each other. I’m not jumping up and down out of my chair. Which helps my attitude immensely.
See, that’s the secret sauce in this recipe: Time. Time. To look into the eyes of my loved ones. Plenty of opportunity to practice that love and joy we Christians really do find in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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