Cheese Cookies and Christmas Memories

I was in a cab at 5:15 AM this morning, heading to LaGuardia Airport to catch a plane back to my old Alabama home for Christmas. I grew up in a small town in the southeastern corner of Alabama, where peanuts are not only monuments around town but also a reason to celebrate. I encourage all of you to experience the National Peanut Festival towards the end of October at some point in your life.

One of my first family Christmas responsibilities is to make my family’s world-famous cheese cookies.

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My grandmother, whom we all called “Sweet Mama,” made these cookies every Christmas, and ever since she passed away my dad and I have carried on the tradition with her old recipe from 1975, the year I was born. But after Santa Claus gave me diabetes four years ago, I must say that I now roll up my sleeves a little slower and eat a lot fewer cookies than I used to.

However, the cookies aren’t really about “the cookies.” It’s more about memories of Sweet Mama and “Sweet Daddy” and 16 or 17 wonderful Christmases at their house—the aunts, uncles, and cousins gathering around a very 1980’s Christmas tree with wonderfully weird liquid lights, and Sweet Daddy in the middle playing Santa Claus, cackling as he passed out gifts to his children and grandchildren.

I remember eating cheese cookies Sweet Mama had baked and how spicy they were. She put a healthy amount of red pepper and Tabasco in her recipe. I can remember the smell of champagne in Sweet Mama’s glass as she pronounced my older brother’s name as only a woman from Greenville, Alabama, could. The adults in the family would clink their champagne flutes while the kids and cousins scurried around with their new toys.

I look forward to making this year’s batch of cheese cookies and watching everyone eat and enjoy them. As they comment on the spicy red pepper, Tabasco, or Rice Krispie crunch, I know that somewhere in the backs of their heads they’ll also be thinking a little about Sweet Mama and Sweet Daddy and all the wonderful memories.

This will be my first Christmas with my wife and I also look forward to starting new traditions with her. I hope somewhere down the road we have kids and grandkids, and one day my grandson ends up writing about his “Sweet Mama” and “Sweet Daddy.” Only I’m thinking steamed broccoli and roasted bell peppers is a little less of a memorable snack than the world-famous cheese cookies.

Only time will tell. Until then, I’ll be elbow-deep in cheese cookie dough.

  • Ephrenia

    Desserts are an integral part of our family celebrations. What I have done, so that I can participate without guilt, is to modify an old family recipe (Fresh Apple Cake) into one that has lower carbs. Now I CAN have my cake and eat it too.

    I switched Bob’s Red Mill Low-Carb Baking Mix for the white flour, use canola oil and a mix of 3/4 Splenda with 1/4 sugar (so it will brown properly) in place of the sugar. This does change the texture and makes it more like “banana bread” texture instead of purely cake, but it works and tastes great.

  • Margret

    I’ve always enjoyed baking and cooking, so when I was diagnosed with diabetes, it really knocked me for a loop. At first, I would eat only processed/prepackaged items, because I knew how many carbs were in a serving and what that serving size was, thanks to the handy-dandy nutrition labels. Once I felt like I was getting things under control, I began tweaking favorite recipes. Cookbooks that give the nutritional breakdown helped. I also rely heavily on a website for nutrient data.

    Finding healthier ingredient substitutes, playing with old recipes (why in the world does anyone need to add 2 c of sugar to 3 lb of cabbage to make cole slaw??) and searching out new has become something of a hobby for me – and it can very rewarding at times. Especially when my endeavors yield results that not only are appealing to me, but to my non-insulin-challenged friends as well.

    I’m curious – would you consider sharing your cheese cookie recipe? I’ll trade my pancake recipe for it.

  • Margret

    Wow. Rice Krispies and sharp cheddar. Together. Interesting…

    Here’s my pancake recipe:
    Not-Your-Traditional-Pancakes
    1 egg, beaten (or equiv egg subs)
    2 T canola oil
    3/4 c skim milk with 1/4 c lemon juice added (let sit til curdled) [9 g C]
    1/2 c whole wheat flour [36 g C, 6 g F]
    1/2 c almond meal [10 g C, 6 g F]
    1/2 t baking soda
    1/2 t salt
    1/2 c + 2 T quick oats (or slow, whatever) [30 g C, 5 g F]
    ~1/4 c soy flour (or part wheat germ or oat bran) [8 g C, 3 g F]
    1 c blueberries (the smaller the better) [18 g C, 2 g F]
    Combine egg, oil and lemon-milk in medium bowl. Combine flour, almond meal, baking soda, salt, and soy flour in small bowl. Add dry to wet. Stir in oats. Stir in blueberries. Pour by 1/3 cupfuls onto lightly greased hot skillet. Flip when tops start to bubble. Yield = 8-10 pancakes. No syrup necessary.
    For 8 pancakes, you have ~14 g carb and almost 3 g fiber per pancake.
    I usually ad-lib a bit if the batter seems runny or needs more berries.

  • Stuckey

    Cheese cookie recipe

    8 oz sharp cheddar grated
    2 cups flour
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
    1 tsp tabasco
    1 tsp Worstershire sauce
    2 sticks butter melted
    2 cups Rice Krispies

    Combine all ingredients EXCEPT RICE KRISPIES in a large bowl and add melted butter and mix with your hands to form the dough. Add the Rice Krispies and mix again with your hands. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten them with a fork to get lines on the tops of the cookies. Bake at 350° for 14–16 minutes depending on your oven. Let cool on a paper bag or paper towels.
    Add more red pepper if you like hot cookies.

  • thecatlady

    I am looking for a “cheese cookie” recipe. I’ve lost Mother’s recipe.

    I know this is several years since your post but I hope you are still out there.

    By the way, I’m in south west Alabama!

    Merry Christmas!