I have only ever spent one Christmas away from home. It was in the midst of my 9-month backpacking adventure and while I was lucky enough to be among old family friends in a beautiful little crescent of northern Norway, it just wasn’t quite the same. I had a lovely time in their Scandinavian cabin-like home, surrounded by dramatic icy waters and snow-laden mountains, lighting candles in the long dark hours and making the most of the 3-4 hours of sunlight. However, on Christmas day I couldn’t help but feel this homesick lump in my stomach. I wanted desperately to be back in Minneapolis, sitting around our oversized tree and cozying up with cats by the fire. I decided then and there that I would never spend another Christmas away from home. There is something about it that I just cannot seem to give up- it is that almost child-like feeling of holding on, holding things close.
There are generally phases in life when we become overly-defensive about the fact that we are no longer kids. In high school we want to be treated like adults, in college we want to be adults without responsibility, and when we are adults we want to be treated as even-more-mature adults who know what they are doing with their lives. Why do we so often treat being a child as something to run away from? In Morocco, saying someone is childlike is not always an insult, but more a way of saying that they have a kind of beautiful purity and joy about them. It is that same sort of youthfulness that can come alive during the holidays. Let's embrace our inner kids on Christmas, at the very least.
Coming home for Christmas is the one time of year when I fully embody that childlike joy and wonder. We repeat the same traditions we have held since before I can remember, waking up on Christmas morning with beaming smiles and a rush of excitement over wrapped boxes under a tree and dessert for breakfast. I am happy to be a daughter again among parents, not trying to be more mature, more grown-up, put on a more professional face. This season is when I melt with a sigh of contentment back into my original skin and just that feeling alone I wouldn’t trade for a fancy Christmas vacation anywhere else in the world.
The week leading up to the holiday is, of course, part of the whole package. It is when the Christmas music is in full swing and the oven seems to be on 80% of the time with something lovely smelling wafting around in the air. Cookie baking and decorating is treated as an art in the Smith-Stringer household, and while our usual sugar and gingerbread cookie cut-outs tend to take on the decorated abstractions and whims of four rather individual artists, in recent years I have started contributing my own tailored recipes to the cookie plate.
I developed these frosted eggnog cookies several years ago when my mom was still vegan and I was occasionally posting on my food and travel blog, Half Full. They were an instant favorite and have been requested with urgency every year since. I decided it was high time these beloved cookies got a little make-over, with a couple tweaks to the recipe (flax egg instead of that weird ener-g egg replacer) and brand new photos, all for this new and improved space.
I could be wrong here, but I am pretty sure even an eggnog skeptic could fall in love with these. The soft texture of the cookie itself just melts in your mouth, with a slight crisp to the outer edges, and the frosting is fluffy, buttery goodness that you are going to want to spread on everything (luckily this recipe usually makes a little bit extra). I highly recommend that these make an appearance on your cookie plate this year.
Just in case you are truly an eggnog hater (more than skeptical- I know those people exist), or you are looking for more than one variety of treats to try, here are some other cookie recipes that are tried and true around here:
Chocolate + Walnut Thumbprint Ghriba (gluten-free)
Moroccan Almond + Semolina Coconut Cookies
Maple Glazed Chai Biscotti with Candied Ginger
Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies with Pecans + Orange
Pumpkin, Date + Almond Butter Stuffed Moroccan Tea Cookies
Brown Butter and Roasted Cashew Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Fluffy Frosted Eggnog Cookies (vegan)
Makes 2 dozen medium cookies, adapted from my old blog Half Full, where I adapted them from Cooking Classy
Preheat your oven to 350º and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. We are going to make a double flax egg (recipe from Minimalist Baker), so pull out a small bowl and whisk together the flax meal and water and let sit until thick and congealed.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream together the earth balance/butter replacer and sugars with a fork until light and fluffy. Whisk in the vanilla and flax egg, then the eggnog. In the same bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt on top and then stir just until combined into a thick and slightly sticky dough.
Roll the dough into small 1-1.5 inch balls and place on the cookie sheet with some space in between each one. Flatten the tops slightly and bake for 12-15 minutes or until dry to touch on top, but still soft. Do not over-bake! They continue to bake after you pull them out and if you let them sit too long in the oven they will end up too hard. Let the cookies cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, combine the "butter," powdered sugar and 3 tbsp of eggnog in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add one or two more tablespoons of eggnog until it reaches the desired consistency- fluffy and easily spreadable. Once the cookies have cooled, generously frost them and add a small sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Eat, share, spread the childlike joy.
- 3/4 cup earth balance buttery spread (or other vegan butter replacement), softened
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated cane sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp ground flax seed
- 5 tbsp water
- 1/2 cup coconut milk eggnog (or other non-dairy eggnog)
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup earth balance butter spread (or euivalent), softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 3-5 tbsp eggnog (see instructions)