Christmas traditions evolve as time passes–holiday films are remade, classic songs are remixed, and children grow up. Family dynamics shift each year as successive generations take the place of those before them, and each year brings newness to the old way things were done.
Twenty-three year old Alexandra Wilmot has not always been the cook she is today. Unlike her grandmother Joanna, Alexandra did not grow up finding her place in the kitchen. In Joanna’s day, women were expected to always have food on the table when their husbands came home from work. While men took on the business world, women were responsible for keeping house and raising children. With that time came ease in the kitchen for Joanna that Alexandra spent years learning to replicate.
Joanna was the kind of cook that did not need a recipe. She would glide around the kitchen with grace and pose, never hesitating with measurements or baking times. She created and cooked based on what she had on hand, and when she did not have something, she improvised without a blink. With her age came experience that was hard to teach, and difficult to imitate.
Alexandra spent many holidays watching her grandma prepare Christmas dinners and desserts, awed by Joanna’s ability to whip up Peanut Brittle and Almond Roca at the drop of a hat.
“It was always so hard to cook with her, because she never used a recipe!” Alexandra remembers with a laugh. “She was the one that would go into the kitchen and throw everything together so effortlessly. I don’t know how she did it!”
Even Joanna’s daughter–Alexandra’s mother–had a hard time trying to keep up with her mom in the kitchen. Sometimes, it was easier to just let Joanna work than try to help her. The kitchen was her boardroom and she was the CEO.
With Joanna’s passing a few years ago, Alexandra has taken it upon herself to try to maintain her grandmother’s legacy. She did not know it at the time, but the skills Alexandra learned from watching Joanna became more even important when she learned she had an allergy to gluten. Then, cooking meals turned from a holiday activity an integral component of Alexandra’s daily life. The tips she learned about adapting recipes became crucial as she manipulated meals to become gluten-free.
Today, Alexandra’s skillfulness in the kitchen would make Joanna proud. As she prepares her meals for the week, Alexandra now moves around the kitchen with precision and confidence. And Although Alexandra misses her grandmother very much, she honors Joanna’s memory every time she sets foot in the kitchen.
This year, one of Alexandra’s new favorite holiday recipes is a Gluten-free pumpkin cookies. She found the recipe online and then adapted it to fit her dietary needs. She also channeled Joanna’s resourcefulness by dabbling with the pumpkin and cinnamon to give the cookies some extra holiday zest. From Alexandra’s home to yours, have a Merry Christmas!
Gluten Free Sugar Cookies
Serving Size: 36
Active Prep Time: 15 minutes (not including 2 hours for dough to chill)
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 t vanilla extract
3 c gluten free baking mix
1/3 c milk
1 15 oz can pumpkin purée
¼ t cinnamon
¼ t pumpkin spice
Beat together softened butter and sugar until creamy in a large mixing bowl. Add vanilla and egg and mix together thoroughly combined. After, add the can of pumpkin purée.
Then, alternate between adding baking mix and milk until the dough begins to thicken and form. This will take between 2.75 and 3.25 cups, depending on the type of flour and baking mixes you chose to use. After, cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours (or overnight, preferably)
Preheat oven to 375 F and place 1 T size balls of dough on greased cookie sheet approximately 2 inches apart. Then, sprinkle with cinnamon and pumpkin spice.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until slightly golden brown around edges and no longer wet. They will look fluffy, but not have a lot of color.
Let cool on a rack, and then, if you chose, cover with a simple frosting (2 c of powdered sugar 1 T melted butter and 1 to 2 T milk)
Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum Magazine.