One of the best parts of the Christmas season is the lights. Every tree seems to glow, because they're decked out in their finest. And we love going to visit them. We ended Chanukah, and began Christmas-ing with the always gorgeous tree in the Hotel Del.
After last year's fun, we went to Legoland to check out their lighted lego tree.
Along with all their other lights.
We discovered last year that they have a German-style market during the holiday season, and we love some giant pretzels.
Which we ate while watching some fun musical performances and waiting to see the tree light up.
We also made sure to visit a certain bearded someone while we were there.
Thatkid and I checked out some more festive trees when we went on our annual Nutcracker date.
And while they're not technically Christmas trees, we can't get through the holiday season without a trip to the Botanical Garden's Garden of Lights to see their lighted non-Christmas trees.
And we listened to music.
And got in some last-minute face time with Mr. Claus.
Of course we had to hit up our usual favorites - the trains,
And the sledding!
This year we decided to try something new - a horse drawn carriage ride through the lights!
Each one of these stops is a tradition that just makes our holiday. In truth, traditions are my favorite part of any holiday. Doing the same thing every year, gives me something to look forward to because we always enjoy these events as a family. This also holds true with some of the stuff I make year after year. These anise cookies are a household favorite. I think I first started making them before the kids were born, finding them in a cookbook my mother gave me. Anise has a very black-licorice flavor that can be off-putting, but in these cookies, it adds just the faintest flavor. Like a mellower version of gingerbread.
They're little and HIGHLY addictive. Which is one of the reason they keep coming back year after year.
Anise Seed Cookies (From Maida Heatter)
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
1 tsp anise seeds
4 oz butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups flour
1 egg white
- Place the almonds in a small pan over medium heat. Shake or stir until they are lightly colored.
- Crush the anise seeds.
- Beat the butter in an electric mixer until smooth.
- Add the vanilla and the sugar and beat until well mixed.
- Add the salt and eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, until incorporated.
- Add the anise seeds, and on low speed, gradually add the flour, scraping the bowl with a rupper spatula and beating only until mixed.
- Chill the dough in the freezer for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with silpat liners.
- Working with half of the dough at a time, flour a work surface, a rolling pin, and your hands. Knead the dough briefly, then form it into a ball. Flour the ball and flatten it into a disk with your hands. Roll it out with your rolling pin until it is 1/2 inch thick.
- Flour a 1 1/2 inch round cutter and cut rounds of the dough, cutting each cookie as close to the next as possible. Place them 1 inch apart on the lined cookie sheet.
- Repeat with second half of the dough.
- Beat the egg white until foamy. Brush it over the tops of the cookies with a pastry brush.
- Press an almond on it's flat side into the top of each cookie.
- Brush over the almond again with the egg white.
- Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake for 20-22 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool. Store them in an airtight at room temperature for a few days before serving.