‘Tis the season of togetherness, a time to celebrate family traditions, and make memories. What better place to share holiday customs than in the kitchen?

As children, my sister Marissa and I counted the days until our mom started making Christmas cookies. She’d arrange an assortment of treats on a festive holiday plate to take to the annual neighborhood cookie exchange, only to return with a different array of scrumptious goodies to sample, including our favorite: peanut blossoms.

These cookies with chocolate kisses in the center were like reverse peanut butter cups, and most delicious as soon as they came out of the oven — when the chocolate was nice and melty.


The best part of the whole cookie baking experience in our house was awarded to whomever got to chop the nuts for the Russian balls — buttery bites of heaven sprinkled in sweetness. Mom was big on antiques and had an old-time nut grinder/chopper she got for $2 in upstate New York.

Marissa and I would take turns holding the honor of being nut chopper; A little thing, but it brought such joy to the children we were and remains a happy thought to this day for both of us. The grinder now sits on my sister’s kitchen shelf in New Mexico, a long way from our Jersey childhood, yet only a memory away. It brings the same sparkle to the eyes of my niece, who echoes the childhood version of her mother when she declares, “I’ll chop the nuts!”

Russian Balls


1 cup butter

½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting

2 ¼ cups flour

¼ tsp salt

¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream butter and ½ cup confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Add in flour

and salt. Knead dough, then add vanilla and nuts. Continue to knead until combined. Form dough into 1-inch balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 14–17 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar while warm, not hot. Makes about 2 dozen.

Peanut Blossoms


½ cup butter

½ cup creamy peanut butter

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

1 ½ cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 bag of chocolate kisses


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream together butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and egg. Add remaining ingredients. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven; gently press an unwrapped kiss on each cookie. Bake 2 to 3 minutes longer. Yields two dozen.


  • Juliana Demarest

    Juliana Demarest is a Jersey girl with ink in her blood. She fell in love with print journalism at a young age in the '80s when her Uncle Tony would take her to "work" at his weekly paper. In 1997, she co-founded a weekly newspaper in North Jersey. One day, she went to photograph a local farmer for a news story. She ended up marrying him and leaving journalism to become a farmer's wife. In 2010, they packed up their two children and headed to Truckee in pursuit of the outdoor life. She didn't realize just how much she missed journalism until she joined Moonshine in 2018 after taking time off to be mom. Connect with Juliana juliana@moonshineink.com

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