Christmas

Rudolph’s Redemption

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” might be the deepest of all the Christmas Classics. It definitely is among the most animated ones. There can be no doubt. Maybe you think it’s sappy, or outdated, or just part of the stupid song. Not so. There is more, here, than meets the eye. There is substance beneath the veneer of stop-animation and the lyricism of Burl Ives. There is a truly valuable and timeless lesson therein. 

Rudolph is a treatise on acceptance. It is a very basic story about the fact that what makes us different, what often makes us hated, mistreated, ignored, or berated … those are the things worth having. Those are the things that define us. It’s not the 99.9% of genetic makeup that we share with monkeys that makes us special, is it? It’s that 0.1% … that last little bit. Rudolph couldn’t help his nose being red any more than Hermey could help loving teeth. Those toys … those misfit toys … they were MADE that way. All of the characters in this story find redemption, ironically, because of the very parts of their being that made them hated. This special teaches a fundamental character trait. It shows that one should value others, not judge them. It tells us to love one another, and not to mistreat our fellow beings.

Rudolph was driven away in shame, Hermey was belittled into quitting his job, and the toys were abandoned and ostracized for not conforming to what some idiot kids thought a “toy” was supposed to be. Well screw those kids, I’ll take a misfit toy over a regular one any day of the week. I want the nesting doll that ends in a mouse. I want a bird that swims. I want a water gun than shoots jelly. I want a polka dot elephant. I want a cowboy riding an ostrich. I want a sinking boat and a plane that can’t fly. I want a train with square wheels on its caboose. I want a damn Charlie in the Box! I want an elvish dentist and a radiant reindeer. I want uniqueness. I want different. Conformity is boring. No one remembers any of the other elves’ names or any of the other reindeer kids, either. If I didn’t watch the special every year, I wouldn’t even remember that they gave some of them names at all. They are uninteresting, unimportant, and banal. But the weirdos stick with you. The oddballs came through in the end, when no one else could.

Hermey de-toothed the bumble and made it tame. The toys were found by Santa and given to (presumably) less judgmental, more grateful children. And Rudolph …well, without him, there wouldn’t have been any presents at all that year. Despite all of their so-called flaws, these hated and undervalued people came right back to help those who persecuted them in the first place. If that isn’t a Christian ideal consistent with the very essence of this purportedly holy day, then I don’t know what is. I can’t think of a single other animated classic that has anything nearly as moving at its core, save perhaps “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer could be played at any time of year for people of any age and it would still ring true, however. That is somewhat unique among the holiday classics.

So, this year and all years hence, I ask you all to lift a glass of eggnog to the greatest, simplest, and purest of all Christmas messages! It is a toast to Rudolph, Hermey, and to all the Misfit Toys out there. It is a toast to our selves. It is a toast to redemption and a toast to acceptance. If you can’t do at least that much this holiday season, then you’re no friend of mine.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and a Joyous Whatever Else You Celebrate!

Italian Anise Cookies with Icing & Sprinkles

Anise Cookies


I’ve often heard these delicious holiday favorites referred to by a few different names (Christmas cookies, Italian Anisettes, etc). When it comes to the many things in this world that I truly love, these cookies are literally somewhere in my top ten. The anise really packs every bite with amazing flavor, and the dough’s cake-like consistency is a thing of beauty. 

Being Italian myself, and having been raised eating these every year for Christmas and Thanksgiving, baking them these days always has a way of exciting more than just my taste buds. I was very fortunate to have had an amazing mother that I just can’t seem to stop myself from loving more and more every single day. She worked so hard to provide for her three children, and yet she always made time to cook us a delicious dinner most every single night. I also can’t remember a time when we didn’t have fresh baked sweets around the house because of her. Brownies, chocolate cakes, pies, and every type of cookie imaginable. I loved watching her as she went back and forth in our kitchen, grabbing a little of this, and a sprinkle of that. Everything she made had a strange way of always coming out perfect, something that never ceased to amaze me. But nothing stands out in my mind quite like the happy memory of watching her bake these cookies each year for us on the holidays. To this day I am still inspired by how much she continues to do for everyone around her, and how effortlessly she always seems to pull it all off. She really is a special woman (as all mom’s are!). And if she should happen to read this particular post at some point, I hope she knows how much she is loved and appreciated, and how truly amazing someone out there in world thinks she is. Perhaps that’s what makes these cookies so amazing to me. The secret ingredient has always been love!

I know, totally corny right? Anyways, please enjoy this recipe and let me know what you think!


Ingredients 

Cookie

  • 1/2 cup butter , softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract (or almond extract)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (may need up to 3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 -3 tablespoons milk

Icing

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon anise extract
  • food coloring
  • decorative candy sprinkles

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. For cookies, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add anise extract.
  3. Blend flour and baking powder. Start by adding about 1/3 of these dry ingredients to the butter/sugar in your mixer, then add 1 Tbsp. milk. Add another third of the flour and another 1 Tbsp. milk. Finally, mix in enough of the remaining flour until your dough is like a brownie batter (it should be softer than a drop cookie dough).
  4. Use a 1 Tbsp. cookie scooper to make simple round drop-cookies – use wet fingers to pat any rough edges OR for an Easter-Egg look, roll 1 Tbsp. dough into an elongated ball.
  5. Bake cookies 10-12 minutes (they won’t be brown but the insides will be soft and cake-like).Anise Cookies
  6. For icing: mix sugar, milk and extract to make a sugar glaze. HINT: When I make the icing, I make it thick but then I microwave it for 10 seconds so it is thin enough for dipping. Also, I like to divide the mixture in thirds, and then add ONE DROP of food coloring to each batch (pink, green, yellow).
  7. Hold cookie in your hand and turn upside down so you can dip the top half in the glaze; turn over and immediately top with sprinkles so they will stick.
  8. Allow icing to harden overnight; then store in air-tight containers or freeze.

Quick-set option: If you do not have time to wait for the cookies to harden overnight, you can place them directly into the freezer for about 10-15 minutes after you add the icing and sprinkles. Once the icing has hardened, you are ready to serve and enjoy!

Rewarding yourself for a job well done! My brother and I always set aside the cookies in each batch that maybe aren’t as pretty as the others (remember, there is no such thing as an ugly cookie!). When we’ve finished our last batch, we take the remaining ones and roll them in the leftover icing until they are completely coated (wait, it gets better!). Once they’re covered in icing, we then give each one a quick toss into the sprinkles, because why not? And lastly, we take our cookie creations and throw them into the freezer for a couple of hours. Once completely frozen through, we grab a nice tall glass of milk and enjoy. Believe it or not, these cookies taste amazing frozen. Sounds weird, I know. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!