A Practical Guide To Healthy Living
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Walnut Snowball Cookies

Back on the butter train, folks . . . if you’d like to find vegan cookie recipes with whole wheat pastry flour or flax meal . . . please point your browser elsewhere today.  ‘Cause for me, the real culinary spirit of Christmas is in a wide array of buttery, sugary treats.  But what do I always say?  Moderation in everything . . . so during this indulgent season, pick your battles.  Don’t eat a sweet roll for breakfast, a heavy mayo-laden sammie for lunch and a rich prime-rib dinner, OK?  If you’ve got a gathering in the evening, balance the apps, dinner and cookies with a light, fruit- and veggie-rich breakfast, a high fiber lunch that contains a bit of protein (think big green salad with some chicken, tofu or beans on top) and then have whatever you like later.  Consider, however, having only what really looks super delicious and special to you – blindly grazing on all the options is a bigger deal fat- and calorie-wise.  But here’s the thing – this is a once-a-year thing and you should ENJOY yourself, too . . . so if that means that if you really love indulging here and there, then I say, have at it.  Life is waaay too short to deny yourself all that pleasure.

Today’s recipe evokes warm memories in me.  My Grandma Helen’s walnut snowballs are a riff off Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian/Swedish Tea Cakes, and a Lebanese cookie called mamoul.   And while I’ve tweaked her recipe a bit over the years, no one can touch my Grandma in the cookie-baking department.  Every Christmas, Grandma whipped up about 8 different kinds of cookies, placing them neatly in between sheets of waxed paper in Currier & Ives tins that she’d collected.  Before guests came over, or after a meal, we’d haul out the various tins of goodies and pick and choose our favorites.  Going to her house at Christmastime and eating all those different cookies is one of my top-ten childhood memories.

This recipe is my favorite of the lot.  Rich and crumbly and not over-the-top sweet, with a great toasty walnut flavor.  Best ever is that they also happen to be L.’s favorite Christmas cookie.  So the traditions of my Swedish-American grandmother, who married my Lebanese-American grandfather, are living on through her Chinese-American great-granddaughter.  Life is good.

Helen’s Walnut Snowballs

 1 c. (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
2 c. powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped


Beat the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add 1/2 c. powdered sugar and the vanilla; beat until well blended.  Beat in the flour, then the walnuts.  Divide dough in half; form each half into a ball.  Wrap each ball separately in plastic wrap and chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the remaining 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar into a pie plate.  Set aside.

Working with half of the chilled dough, roll the dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls.  Arrange the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment, about 1/2-inch apart.  Bake until golden brown on the bottom and just pale golden on the top, about 18 minutes.  Cool cookies 5 minutes on the sheet.  Gently toss each warm cookie in the powdered sugar to coat completely.  Transfer the coated cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat the same procedure with the other half of the dough.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Here’s a little tip – did you know that most Christmas cookies can be baked and then frozen?  It’s true!  So if you’re a compulsive over-achiever planning type like me, you can start cranking out the goods weeks in advance, then layer them in air-tight containers (parchment or waxed paper in between layers, please) and pop ‘em in there for later.  Cookies make welcome gifts and you’ll always have some on hand for company.

© 2009, Sarah. All rights reserved.

  • http://www.supportstrays.com Patsy

    I make a similar cookie that is called a “Cacoon.” The recipe I use is over 40 years old so I don’t know where it came from. The difference in my cookies is there is no sugar in the actual cookie and I use a couple of tbl. of ice water to mix. You have to mix mine by hand, no spoons will get it done. Then after they are baked they are rolled in powdered sugar.

    • http://www.semisweetonline.com Semi-Sweet Sarah

      Oh Patsy, those sound delicious, too! I love a cookie that’s not too sweet.

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  • http://www.fixmeasnack.com Cindy

    I made these yesterday with my preschooler and they are splendid. It took a good ten minutes for them to cool enough to be rolled in sugar. After 5 minutes they crumbled in the sugar and we just had to eat them immediately. It was tragic. :)

    • Semi-Sweet Sarah

      Glad you like ‘em! It’s interesting about the timing – I find ours are solid & cool in 5 min. – we’ve even pushed it to 3. Never had them break – the hazard of them being too hot, in my experience, is that the sugar melts on them so there’s not the desired snowball effect . . . happy you got it to work for you!

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  • http://thought4food.us Faith

    These are gorgeous and so delicious! My mom makes a version of these cookies too. I’m not sure where she got her recipe, but she calls hers Butterballs. (A fitting name, I suppose! :) )

  • Semi-Sweet Sarah

    I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, Megan! Let me know how they turn out if you whip ‘em up. And yes, this is the time of year when I start buying butter by the armful at Costco. Really!

  • http://tomatotots.blogspot.com megan carroll

    Hmmm… cookies it must be in the air…. I have just recently started my holiday baking and may have to add these sweet morsels to that repertoire…. I am going to need a lot more butter!