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Varina Denman | Unexpectedly Sweet Christmas Memories

December 18, 2015

When I walked down the aisle and said “I do,” I married into the Christmas tradition of making roll-out cookies for Santa. My husband’s family has a to-die-for recipe that produces cookies with a tea cake texture that melts in your mouth. The secret ingredient is sour cream which makes them not too sweet … just right. And nobody can eat just one.

We’ve baked cookies almost every December since then, but my favorite memory is from Christmas 1999 … even though the evening did NOT start off well. At the time, I was suffering from a lingering case of post-partum depression, and I felt anything but jolly. I sat by the Christmas tree and watched the twinkle lights as I held my two-month-old daughter and tried to think happy thoughts.

My husband and three older children were making cookies in the adjacent kitchen where they were up to their elbows in flour. I knew how this would end; I’d seen it before. Waxed paper would be cemented to the counters, bits of dried dough would be sprinkled like gravel on every horizontal surface of the room, and tiny drops of red and green food coloring (invisible to the naked eye) would end up smeared across my favorite sweat pants two days out. Don’t even get me started on the kids. They would be covered in flour from head to toe.

As I watched, sugar and butter were measured, dough was mixed and tinted, and disagreements were initiated and solved. The four of them took turns with the rolling pin, fought over the cookie cutters, and sang Christmas carols with the old CD player. My husband told corny jokes, the kids giggled and squealed, and the oven door opened a dozen times as they determined if the cookies needed “just one more minute.”

And somewhere between the mixing and the rolling and the cutting and the baking, my family’s joy crept into the living room where I sat. It swirled through my new-momma emotions and outweighed my sadness… especially when my three small chefs proudly brought me the baked goodies. Some of the cookies were cracker-thin while others were as thick as Texas toast. Some were burned around the edges while others were doughy. Some were cut into perfect shapes while others were merely blobs.

But they were wonderful.

Those cookies (and the man and children who made them) reminded me that not every Christmas is picture perfect. Life has its ups and downs, but over the years, we had plenty of fun times and would have tons more in years to come. I hugged their sticky necks until I was covered with flour too, then we all ate cookies and milk until our stomachs ached.

Since then, we’ve made many more memories in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, but my favorite memory will always be the year the cookies cheered me up. Here’s the Denman Christmas cookie recipe. I hope you enjoy it with your family as much as I’ve enjoyed it with mine.

Denman Christmas Cookies

  • 1/2 cup shortening or softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Heat oven to 425°. Mix shortening, sugar, egg and vanilla. Blend in remaining ingredients. (You may want to chill the dough 10-15 minutes at this point, even overnight won’t hurt. Let it set out a few minutes for workable dough.) Divide dough into three parts. Roll each part 1/4 inch thick on well-floured board. (Lots of flour!) Cut into shapes. Bake 6-8 minutes. Cool. (Watch these closely, and remove from oven when the edges start to brown.) Decorate as desired. Makes about a dozen 2-inch cookies. (You can also tint half the dough with red food coloring and half with green. Then you don’t need to decorate!)

Simple Powdered Sugar Icing

Sift 1 cup powdered sugar. Add ½ teaspoon vanilla and 2-3 tablespoons water or milk. Add the liquid slowly, stopping when you reach desired consistency.

VDenman Xmas Cookie Pic


Tell us your favorite Christmas or holiday treat and what it means to you and one lucky commenter will receive a copy of JADED and JUSTIFIED, plus a Christmas surprise! 😉

About Varina Denman

Varina Denman

Varina Denman writes stories about the unique struggles women face. A native Texan who spent her high school years in a small Texas town, Varina now lives near Fort Worth with her husband and five mostly grown children. Her passion is helping others make peace with their life situations. Varina’s second novel, JUSTIFIED, is a compelling blend of women’s fiction and inspirational romance.

Series: Mended Hearts


A Little About JUSTIFIED


In a small Texas town ruled by gossip, Fawn Blaylock believes others are justified in condemning her untimely pregnancy. Stifled by guilt, she yearns for grace while the local football coach treats her with gentle respect.

JUSTIFIED perfectly captures the rhythm and romance of life in a small town, telling the unforgettable story of a woman searching for renewal, a man looking beyond what others see, and a community torn between judgment and love. It is the unforgettable story of broken dreams, second chances, and relentless hope.

Buy on: | Kindle | | Kobo | iTunes/iBooks | Google Play | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | Indiebound

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