hing says Christmas more than a plate of homemade cookies. When I was little, we always made Butter Cookies, a not-too-sweet cutout cookie, Butternut Balls, full of chopped nuts and dusted with confectioner's sugar, and Cherry Winks, another vintage cookie rolled in crushed cornflakes and dotted with a maraschino cherry.
   Later on, when I became a mother, I added Spritz to the yearly baking tradition. Everyone has their favorites, and they're usually cookies that appear only at Christmas. If you haven't baked any cookies yet, there's still time. Since a lot of cookie dough needs to chill, you could mix the dough one night, chill it overnight, and bake the next night. Or start a new tradition of baking on Christmas Eve, and make a special cookie to leave Santa that night.
   I still have two of my mother's cookie cutters, a roly-poly Santa Claus and a fat Christmas tree. They're probably about 50 years old and a little dented here and there, but they're dear to my heart. Every time I use them I think of her, and then I think of all the Christmas cookies my son, Lee, helped me bake when he was a little boy, using those same cookie cutters.
   Christmas means so much more than presents. The best present in the world is love, and whenever I make Christmas cookies, I stir in a lot of love. Love for my mother and her memory, and love for my son and all the memories he's given me are key ingredients.
   Even though Mom passed away 35 years ago this Christmas Day, she'll be in the kitchen with me, in my heart, this week when I bake cookies. She'll be in Arkansas when Lee and Mary bake cookies for my grandsons, Jake and Sam.
   I'll share a Santa Claus cookie with my sweet husband, Ron, and I'll know that I've already received the best present in the world - all of their love.
   Merry Christmas to you all.
   Sharon Vail lives in Powell Butte, where every day is Christmas for her. Readers may contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. "Cooking from the heart of Oregon"
    Chocolate Kiss Cookies
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees
   1 cup butter, softened
   2/3 cup granulated sugar
   1 teaspoon vanilla extract
   2 cups all-purpose flour
   1/4 cup cocoa powder
   About 48 chocolate kisses, unwrapped (1 package should do it)
   Confectioner's sugar
   In a large bowl beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. In another bowl, stir together flour and cocoa, then gradually add to butter/sugar mixture, beating until blended.
   Mold a scant tablespoon of dough around each chocolate kiss, covering the kiss completely. Try not to eat too many kisses while you do this. Shape into balls. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes until set. Roll in confectioner's sugar to coat. Cool on a wire rack.
   Makes about 48 cookies
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