When the holidays roll around, it’s the kitchen traditions that remind my next guest of fond memories with her mom and grandmother.  Having had a mom who made many kinds of Christmas cookies each holiday season, I can relate. Andrea pieced together a workable recipe for a favorite holiday cookie, her Grandma Wanda’s Kolaczki, using a few rough notes, her happy memories and the baking skills she’s acquired over the years. I hope you enjoy her family favorite as much as my family did!

Andrea Lange is an avid baker when she’s not working at her job as web site editor at a medical association. I’ve had the pleasure of being gifted with her delicious baked treats during the holiday season. Lucky me! This recipe marks Andrea’s third contribution to Weekly Greens. She has previously shared a delectable recipe for cranberry-apple crumb pie and the very popular chocolate chip skillet cookie.

What three items are in your refrigerator at all times?

Skim milk, butter and eggs. The milk is for my morning cereal and coffee, and the butter and eggs are the foundation of most baking recipes. As long as I’ve got butter and eggs, I can probably make something.

What is your favorite weeknight meal?

I love to make Sloppy Joes – or as my mom used to call them, Sloppy Andreas. They are quick, delicious comfort food.

Where do you get your inspiration in the kitchen?

I like to look at food blogs for inspiration – Joy the Baker, Smitten Kitchen, David Lebovitz are some of my favorites. Seeing what other people are making, or what techniques they are using, gives me great ideas. I also love browsing stores/catalogs like Sur La Table and King Arthur Flour. They always seem to have some cool new ingredient that I have to try! It often feels like those things become the “secret ingredient” that takes a dish from good to really special.

What are your favorite holiday food memories from your childhood?

I remember making and decorating sugar cookies with my mom at Christmas time. We had special “My Little Pony” cookie cutters which we loved, even though they had nothing to do with the holidays! And I have fond memories of my Grandma Wanda making great feasts during the holidays, with lots of sausage and pierogies. Learning to make traditional polish dishes with her, like kolaczki, was a great way to bond with her.

Do you make kitchen gifts during the holiday season?

I do – it’s a lot of fun for me! I love to give coworkers, neighbors, friends some kind of sweet treat. I have a couple of standbys: chocolate gingerbread, peppermint bark, and lots of cookies. Cinnamon sugar, white-chocolate cranberry, and iced sugar cookies are usually in the mix, but I like to try something different every year.

What do you like to have cooked for you?

I love seafood, but I’m a bit of a wimp about preparing it for myself. All the bones and shells and whatnot intimidate me, and I worry I won’t know when it’s done. So when I go out to eat, I often order things like salmon and scallops.

What is your most reliable recipe source?

Cook’s Illustrated magazine and their associated PBS cooking shows are great. The editors of that magazine are precision, perfection experts. When they set out to make “the best” version of something, they test every possible solution until they know exactly what works best. The final recipe might be finicky and time consuming, but it will always work. On the total opposite end of the spectrum, I also love Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks. She is a free spirit in the kitchen. Her recipes are not very precise or exacting, but they are easy and fun! I’ve watched her on TV, and I’m not even sure she owns proper measuring cups, but somehow it always works out.

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