Christmas Cookies

Alabama Living Magazine

The first Alabama Living Christmas Cookie contest generated a variety of recipes from our readers, from fruitcake cookies, to tea cakes and brickle, and even a gluten-free cookie. Our office staff pitched in to bake a dozen of the entries, and then judged the contest in October. Although it was a tough job, they managed to choose three winners. Congratulations to Karen Turnquist, who won $100 for first place for her “Big Soft Ginger Cookies;” Mary Grace Miller, whose “Lemon White Chocolate Cookies” won her $75 for second place; and Gabrielle Russell, who took third place with “Peanut Butter Blossoms” and won $50. Special thanks to Lorelei Weston, daughter of our art director Danny Weston, who helped with the baking.  –Lenore Vickrey

And the winners are…

First Place: Big Soft Ginger Cookies

Karen Turnquist, of Vinemont, a retired waitress who grew up in Texas and now calls the Cullman area home, has been baking since she learned how to make biscuits from her mother when she was “itty bitty.” A member of Cullman Electric Cooperative, she’s made these soft ginger cookies for several years, back when her youngest son, who’s now grown, was in school and she baked cookies for his class parties and other events. Although the cookies are moist, if you want to make them even more so, Karen suggests adding ¼ cup cream cheese to the dough.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Combine flour, ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ground cloves. Add to creamed mixture slowly. Mix well. Roll into 2½-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet 2-inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees until puffy and lightly brown, 10-12 minutes. 

Second Place: Crispy Lemon White Chocolate Cookies

Mary Grace Miller of Paint Rock found her winning recipe in a holiday cookbook several years ago and “I sort of tweaked it. Sometimes I’ll put powdered sugar in it before or after, and you can put pecans in it or cranberries,” she says. A member of North Alabama Electric Cooperative, she estimates she makes the cookies two or three times a year. “I love baking,” she adds, having operated her own café/snack bar at the Arab Livestock Market for 10 years. She didn’t make her cookies for the café, but her homemade chicken salad was a very popular item on the menu.

  • 1 box lemon cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix dry cake mix, eggs and oil. Add chocolate chips. Roll dough in balls and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes.

Third Place: Peanut Butter Blossoms

Gabrielle Russell of Andalusia found her recipe online, but it called for candy pumpkins placed in the middle of the cookie. She decided to replace the pumpkins with Hershey kisses, and now she makes the cookies every holiday season. “I don’t do anything special,” she says, adding that she unwraps all the kisses while the cookies are baking so she’s ready to pop them on top when they come out of the oven. She is a member of Covington Electric Cooperative. Interestingly, this recipe won the 1957 Pillsbury Bake-Off for Freda Smith of Gibsonburg, Ohio. 

  • ½ cup Crisco butter flavor shortening
  • ½ cup Jif creamy peanut butter
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¾ cup sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 48 Hershey kisses

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar and ½ cup sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Beat egg, milk and vanilla into mixture. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add gradually to creamed mixture, beating on low speed until blended. Shape into 1-inch balls, roll balls into remaining cup sugar. Make all 48 cookie balls to divide equally in size. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Top each cookie with a chocolate kiss immediately after removing from oven, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around the edge. Let cool completely. 

Lorelei Weston helped bake cookies for the contest.
Alabama Living Creative Director Mark Stephenson, left, and Sean Strickler, vice president of public affairs for Alabama Rural Electric Association, helped judge.

The Buttered Home

I don’t know about you, but I have been anxiously counting down the months until this month’s magazine! For lots of reasons, but seeing the winners of the Cookie Contest will be one of the highlights of the holidays for me and my girls. We started a tradition when they were very young cooking Christmas goodies to give to co-workers, family and friends. We look forward to trying all of the cookies in this very issue.

Another thing we like to do is make other goodies to have on Christmas Eve. One of our favorites is this Christmas Crunch. This holiday season, make a date and tradition with the ones you love to pull out this issue, have some fellowship with this Christmas Crunch, and bake some of these delicious cookies submitted by the best bakers in the world who just happen to be from Sweet Home Alabama!

Christmas Crunch

  • 8 cups Quaker Oatmeal 
  • Square Cereal
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large roasting or baking pan, mix cereal and chopped pecans. In a microwave safe bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Heat in the microwave 11/2 minutes. Carefully remove and stir to combine. Return to the microwave and heat in 30 second intervals, stirring after each time, until boiling. This usually takes about 3 intervals for me, about 11/2 minutes. While still boiling, carefully remove from microwave and add salt, vanilla and baking soda. Stir well. Mixture will sort of bubble up and change color. Pour over cereal and pecan mix and stir well to coat. Place in the oven and cook for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Pour onto a large sheet pan to cool. Snack mix will harden as it cools. Break apart and store in an airtight container. Enjoy!


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