Orange Cookies

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Growing up we had traditions. Boy, did we have traditions? Growing up Latino in a Mexican American household doubled any single tradition under our roof. We sang “Happy Birthday” and “Las Mañanitas” during birthday celebrations, has piñatas as well as cake, and not only popped champagne during New Year’s Eve but snacked on my grandmother’s delicious Bunuelos. I never realized that many of the food and musical traditions we practiced weren’t related but came from two separate cultures, and I remember the surprise when I realized my other friends’ families didn’t spend days in the kitchen making tamales during Christmas.

As soon as I was able to recognize the distinction between the two cultures in my life I became interested in how others celebrated, specifically with music and food. I’ve been blessed to join the table of friends, tasting everything from amazing Passover Seders to traditional Ethiopian meals and so much in between.

(hint: if you invite me to dinner I’ll answer with a yes before you can even finish the question!)

When I met my partner Adam I was interested in finding out what food traditions his family had. I learned about their big elaborate French toast breakfasts on Christmas morning, Pizza Nights on Fridays, and also about Granny’s Orange Cookies that she had made for years. When we moved into her house after she passed away I discovered the actual handwritten recipe and was pleased to learn that not only did she make these cookies during the holidays, but so did her daughter and grandson. It only took my first bite of these orange cookies to realize why they were so loved–they’re moist, cake-like, topped with a slightly bitter orange frosting that has a slight sour zing. Of course, having a huge orange tree in the backyard always helps, too.

We’ll make these orange cookies a few times a year, giving out batches to family members or just eating them all ourselves. And with every bite, I will always think about Granny Pat and wonder if she knows how much we still enjoy them.

Frosted Orange Cookies
Recipes for these orange frosted cookies can be found online, and I have yet to locate the exact origins. The original recipe calls for shortening which leads me to believe that it was created within the past 80 years or so. I’m not a fan of shortening (those pesky hydrogenated trans fats!) and this recipe can be made with butter if you wish. Makes 4 dozen

Cream together 1 1/4 cups sugar, 3/4 cup shortening, and 2 unbeaten eggs. Add 3 cups of sifted flour and 1 teaspoon salt.

Juice 1 orange and grate the rind. Fill 1 cup with juice and rind and enough milk to make one cup. Add 2 teaspoons baking powder to juice and then add to the flour mixture. Grease a cookie sheet or use parchment and bake 350 degrees for 10-14 minutes, depending on oven.

For the frosting, mix the zest of 1 orange, 2 tablespoons orange juice, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 3 cups of powdered sugar. Mix until it is a spreadable consistency. Adam says it’s not an exact science so add more or less juice and sugar to get the desired consistency. Spread on cooled cookies and enjoy.

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