Plain talk about food: Making a difference with cookies
Dec 10, 2013 | 1962 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
White Chrismas Dream cookies (top) and Coconut-cranberry chews. Courtesy of Colly Gruczelak
White Chrismas Dream cookies (top) and Coconut-cranberry chews. Courtesy of Colly Gruczelak

My hubby Norm returned home from a business trip on a December’s evening a few years ago, to a house filled with cookies.  I had spread the cookies out to cool on every flat surface available; bathrooms included.

The dog had been relegated to the garage and from the look on Norm’s face, he instinctively knew dinner was going to range from “Campbell’s um, um good,” to “take me out to the ballgame” fare for the next few days.

Having made the decision to decorate our Christmas tree with cookies shaped by my cookie cutters, this endeavor took days to complete, and just as Hubby Norm was ready to revolt, the last gingerbread man received his raisin eyes, thereby putting an end to my craziness.

With the cookie caper complete, it was time to find the tree.  That evening, eight feet of a blue spruce was delivered to my home by a gnarly-looking stocking-capped man in a smoke-belching truck. Struggling together, we set up the tree. Finished, we shook hands and admired our work. The tree was glorious!

The day after our party, Norm asked me what I planned to do with the tree. It was still a week before Christmas Eve. 

“Donate it,” I said. “This tree is going to the Cerebral Palsy house in Westlake Village. 

“And how are you going to get it there”?  Norm asked. 

“I’ll think about it,” I said. 

Remembering the gnarly-looking delivery man, I was off again to the tree farm where I posed my question.

“Sure, little lady, I guess I can do that,” he said, and once again the tree was back on that smoke-belching truck, on the way to its new home.

Once again the delivery man and I stood back admiring the tree, now in its new place of honor.  Thanking my helper while offering him money for his efforts, he declined; instead, he thanked me for giving him the opportunity to make those “poor folks’ Christmas a bit happier.”

While redecorating the tree, behind me, the room was filling with men and women of all ages in wheelchairs, many unable to speak, and unable to feed or dress themselves; all totally dependent on the home and their caregivers.   Many were without families nearby or whose families had passed on.

Quickly the residents became part of the decorating process, pointing to each cookie and where it should be hung.

As the last cookie was placed and I was leaving, a tug on my shirt by a young woman stopped me. Unable to speak and with hands bent and disfigured from palsy, Emily struggled to place a tiny box of raisins in my hand while mouthing a “thank you” to me.

I didn’t think much about anything on my way home that night; my mind was overwhelmed with what I had been a part of during those past hours.  Once home, I set the box of Emily’s raisins on my kitchen’s windowsill where they remained for several weeks.

It was in May the following year when I came across that little box of raisins I had been given months before. That day and several days following, my conscience bothered me, for I had promised to return to the Cerebral Palsy home to visit with the residents, a promise I had not kept.

A month later, determined to keep that promise, I returned, along with a group of my fellow Rotarians (an organization of men and women dedicated to making our world a better one).  Working together, we raised thousands of dollars and were able to make much needed repairs at the facility. Bathrooms were remodeled adding electric lifts; electric feeders that raise and lower a fork while turning the plate, were purchased.  Water therapy at the YMCA began; electric lifts to lower residents into and out of the pool were purchased.  Ministers began weekly church services and volunteer drivers began transporting the residents to community events.

With the holidays ahead, I find myself thinking back to that small box of raisins;  and as the “season of good will toward man” approaches, I am urging you to give a little of yourselves, in any way you can.  Like those Rotarians, help to make a difference in someone’s life. After all, isn’t that what the holiday season is all about?



(Makes 3 dozen)

Preheat oven 250 degrees

2 large egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter

½ teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

Beat until soft peaks form.  With mixer running, add

¾ cup granulated sugar.  Beat until stiff peaks form.  Fold in:

1/3 cup crushed peppermint candy canes

1 cup white chocolate chips

On parchment lined cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoons full.

Sprinkle an additional 1½ Tablespoons candy over top of cookies.

Bake 30 minutes. Rotate pans after 15 minutes. Do not brown.

Open oven, rest cookies 10 minutes before removing.



(Makes 6 dozen)

Preheat oven 350 degrees

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) of soft butter

2 cups granulated sugar

1 Tablespoons grated orange zest

2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix together until smooth.

In a medium bowl sift together

3¼ cups flour

1 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoons salt

Add flour mixture to butter mixture on low speed until mixture comes together, about 5 minutes. Dough will look dry in the beginning; if it is to crumbly to form into balls, continue mixing. Dough should form a homogeneous mass. Then add:

1 ½ cups dried cranberries

1 ½ cups sweetened flaked coconut

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on parchment-

lined cookie sheets.  Bake 10 minutes until cookie edges just begin to brown.   Longer baking time will yield a crisper cookie.


Happy Holidays!                            

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