Seasonal Schizophrenia

This time of year I find myself channeling multiple personalities. The first quite Eloisa Scroogely in nature, grumpy and grumbling about the state of her world and all the holiday-related crap. The other pointy-eared, bell jingley and jolly, A 5’8” elf all the way down to her curly-shoed toes. I may wake up all bah humbugy, but quick as a flying reindeer my grumpy disposition and frozen jolly muscles melt at the sight of CGI-ed baby lambs singing, and I’m jingle belling along.



I know I can’t be the only one this happens to. Madison Avenue and its advertising minions are extremely adept at tapping into our collective December dementia. That big brother who shows up on the family doorstep drawn all the way from African humanitarian selflessness by the smell of coffee from a big plastic tub must have grandchildren by now. Yet every year he still comes home to surprise the folks, his baby sister (who is probably now 50) still pastes that red bow on her “favorite present” brother, and I’m still choked-up when mom and dad come down the stairs. I know what’s coming, don’t even like the coffee brand it’s hawking, but none of that matters. I’m a puddle anyway. And don’t get me started on those singing baby sheep. There is absolutely NO way to not smile and make stupid high-pitched  “they are SO cute” noises when baby sheep wearing wool scarves sing jiggle bells like 5-year-olds at a Christmas pageant. It’s just not playing fair! No self-respecting grinch could possibly handle it without singing along. Yes dear readers, it’s a plot to make an otherwise mature, sane adult turn into a blubbering jingle belly sentimental wimp who must watch Rudolph and his adenoid-inflected voice yell “she thinks I’m CUUUUUUUTE” every year. Play the first notes of “hark the heard”, and there’s no way to stop me from throwing back my head and singing “loo loos” along with Charlie, Lucy, Pigpen and the rest. It can’t be prevented, no matter what rotten mood I’m in. So even though the world and all it’s holly jolly buzzkill tendencies exist, I try to embrace my inner-elf whenever her pointy ears poke out. I figure there’s plenty of time for bah-humbuging the rest of the year, and a little ho-ho-hoing is far more fun….

When I find myself channeling elf-dom, I know Christmas cookies can’t be far behind. Chocolate Christmas Diamonds have been on Santa’s cookie plate in my house ever since I was a little girl. There’s two good reasons for that. They are REALLY good, and REALLY easy. They are also the kind of recipe that kids can help with, either by spreading the melted chocolate chips over the top of the hot shortbread, or by covering the top with holiday sprinkles. Make them once and I guarantee the elf inside you will be making them every time bells jingle in December.

Chocolate Shortbread Diamonds

Makes one 18” x 13” sided cookie sheet full. The number of diamonds you get will depend on how small you cut them.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter (I like to use salted butter for this recipe)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 oz. package)
  • colored sprinkles, chopped nuts or shredded unsweetened coconut for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Beat the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat until incorporated. Add the flour and salt and mix until a dough forms. Chill slightly – this will make pressing the dough into the sheet pan much easier.

Pat the chilled dough evenly into the pan, filling it. Bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot shortbread and let melt completely. Once the chocolate is melted, spread over the pan, covering completely. Sprinkle with nuts, jimmies (sprinkles to we New Yorkers) or shredded coconut. Cut the cookies** while they are hot or you won’t be able to get nice diamonds. Leave in pan and cool completely and set the chocolate. Once the cookies are cool and chocolate hard, use a sharp knife to cut again in the grooves you made and around the outside of the pan. Remove from pan and store in a cool place. Using a metal spatula helps get these out of the pan more easily.

** Cutting into diamond shape: (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this wrong and made chocolate Christmas squares.) With a sharp knife make diagonal slices about 1” wide across the pan lengthwise. Then make slices about the same width parallel to the short side of the pan.

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