When the fields were tucked under a blanket of snow, work slowed and Christmas came to the farm. And always my grandparents fitted the day with simple extravagance. At least that’s what it felt like as a kid. Grandma would enlist our help rolling out hundreds of buckeyes and stirring endless batches of candy and fudge. The huge roast sizzled in the oven alongside creamy casseroles, and the packages under the tree overtook the living room. Shiny, bright ornaments reflected the jolly. The wood crewel rested carefully near the family Bible as we gathered together on Christmas Eve to read Luke 2 and to discover anew the miracle of hope. Christmas magic found in abundance.
We stir up that same feeling these days as we celebrate together, four-generations living and working on the farm. With the help of our kids, we bake dozens of treats to share with neighbors. Bundled against the cold, we decorate a hay trailer with twinkle lights and blanket-covered straw bales. Grandpa’s old tractor pulls us down the dirt road while we carol, singing together above the din of the engine. It’s not a big production. We don’t always sing in key or remember the second verse to “Come All Ye Faithful”. We simply deliver offerings of sweets, wishing the good folks who live near us a very, merry Christmas. Under the stars of the Big Sky and in the shadow of our mountain, we make our way around the perimeter of the farm, by the woods to Grandma’s house where she has cups of hot chocolate and bowls of warm soup made, and where come Christmas Eve we will feast on a roast, read the Christmas story and remember once again the abundant miracle of hope.
Gingerbread & Peppermint Whoopie Pies – This recipe is my daughters’ favorite holiday treat. They love to bake and assemble the cookies with me, and insist the eater exclaims “whoopie” in praise. For the best flavor, avoid peppermint extract and use real, food grade oil instead. Be careful though – essential oil will be stronger than imitation flavors so don’t over do it. We love to use our farm-grown, Montana peppermint oil as it really does add the fresh taste we are looking for – our oil is available in limited quantities at www.montanaredbarn.com. This recipe is easy to modify for you wheat-eaters too simply replace flour with regular and use a large egg.
3 cups gluten-free flour blend (I use Namaste)
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup molasses
1 extra large egg
¼ cup organic sugar
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow cream
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. Pure, 100% PeppeMinT oil (or food-safe peppermint oil of choice)
1 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes
Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl, set aside. Beat ¾ cup of butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with a stand mixer on medium speed until light. Add molasses and egg, and whip it up baby! Reduce speed. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well mixed. Press dough into a thick disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Shape chilled dough into 1-inch balls (or smaller if desired). Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies start to brown. Remove to wire racks and cool completely.
Mix marshmallow cream, ¼ cup butter, and cream cheese until well blended. Add in powdered sugar until filling holds shape. Add PepperMinT oil adjusting amount as desired for flavor and mix well. Add about 1 Tbsp of filling on flat side of one cookie, pressing a second cookie on top gently. Roll edge of cookie in chopped candy and repeat. Cheerfully exclaim “whoopie”. Makes about 2.5 dozen.
Make it your own – roll cookies in mini chocolate chips or crushed nuts for a fun twist.
*This recipe was featured in Where Women Cook Holiday 2020.