Christmas is the most joyful time of the year and sweet treats take center stage!

Chocolatey fudge, dreamy truffles, peppermint bark, nutty caramel popcorn munchies and my fave—buttery-rich homemade cookies in all flavors, sizes and shapes. Easy to bake. Much more fun to share and enjoy.

Jonathan Wong and Wesley Wong of San Francisco are marketing cuddly soft animal gear like this adorable bear hat and paws. (Courtesy of Head Panda)

Classic cookies continue to top the list during the holidays – cookie cutter sugars and gingerbread characters, Russian (or Mexican) tea cakes, lemon bars and snickerdoodles. Trendy variations come and go. Like red velvet sandwiches and flavor accents from chile-chocolate, jalapeño jellies, pine nuts and lavender.

Absolutely love the cinnamon sugar, crispy, sorta soft, buttery, crackled thing about snickerdoodles. They go way back in my family. A couple of the kids had food allergies, so they became the go-to cookie and still reign supreme.

Hot off the presses is the “100th Anniversary Maryknoll Cookbook” from the St. Francis Xavier Chapel Japanese Catholic Center Auxiliary Youth Group. This recipe is in there along with a treasure trove of others.

An interesting tidbit of info: Maryknoll’s Los Angeles parishioners celebrated their first Christmas mass with a Japanese family on Dec. 25, 1912 at the Settlement House on Jackson Street.

With 300,000 people living in the area, 10,000 were Japanese. In need of a Catholic mission to minister to the Japanese Catholics, St. Francis Xavier School was started in 1915, assisted by eight Japanese women from Nagasaki.

In 1921, the Maryknoll School at 226 S. Hewitt St. was dedicated. Father Hugh Lavery became the superior in 1935 and devoted 29 years to the Japanese community.

The new Maryknoll School building opened its doors in 1964 with an enrollment of 413 students. Over time, JAs moved out to the suburbs and the school was no longer needed. The Maryknoll Japanese Catholic Center was dedicated in 1995 for Japanese- and English-speaking Catholics. By 2005, the name became St. Francis Xavier Japanese Catholic Center.

In 2007, Fr. Richard Hoynes was named administrator and holds that position today. The Auxiliary Youth Group formed in 2009 and put out this centennial cookbook, perfect as a holiday gift. Only a limited quantity is available — go fast to

More gift ideas can be found on Saturday at Kimochi’s Silver Bells Arts and Crafts Faire in San Francisco with over 80 talented artisans. Check out the animal gear from the Wongs.

The Head Panda is the brainchild of two buddies, Wesley Wong and Jonathan Wong. Day jobs keep them both busy enough. But the thought of selling panda hats aimed at SF Giants fans at low prices brought on an adrenalin rush.

The story began on a cold, wintry day in front of the Beijing Forbidden Palace. Wesley was so cold that he bought a panda hat from a street vendor to keep warm. Ahah! Why not sell panda hats to Giants fans?

From one business-savvy friend to the other, Jon ordered a hundred hats to sell on Facebook. With a trial run in motion, 60 sold out in one week in March.

Long story short, they sold out of 170 panda hats at the Giants home opener game in April at AT&T Park. In less than two hours.

Now they’re going through a growth spurt. Charm someone on your list with one of these animal hats (tiger, lion, bear, husky, rabbit, fox, sheep) with paw mates (panda, husky, tiger, bear).

Last chance! Get moving to the finale of the winter arts and crafts boutique in the Southland. A Time for Sharing takes place in Gardena on Sunday at the Gardena Elks Lodge for those last-minute gifts with that Asian flair.

As the year draws to a close, may you and yours gather together with loved ones, family and friends in the coming weeks to appreciate the meaning of Christmas. It’s not about having the newest, the best, the first, the most expensive, the only … is it? It’s about spending time together, sharing laughter, a glass of wine, some chow and being thankful for today, and for the tomorrows to follow. Merriest of holidays to all!

Snickerdoodles (makes 5 dozen)

We may never know how snickerdoodles got its name, but we do know that they are simply divine morsels. (Courtesy of T. Miyasaki)

1-1/2 C sugar
2 cubes unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
2-3/4 C flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together sugar, butter and eggs. Mix together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Stir into butter and sugar mixture.

• Shape into 1-1/4” balls. Mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Roll cookies balls in mixture and place 2” apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

• NOTE: 1/2 cup shortening was called for in the original recipe, I substituted 1 cube of unsalted butter for shortening for use at room temp. Chilling dough for one hour makes it easier to work with. I use parchment paper placed on each cookie sheet. Set at 375 degrees for convection oven.

Saturday, Dec. 11, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Kimochi’s Silver Bells Arts & Crafts Faire
The Event Center at St. Mary’s Cathedral
1111 Gough St., San Francisco
(415) 931-2294, Steve Ishii

Sunday, Dec. 12, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
A Time for Sharing Holiday Boutique
Gardena Elks Lodge
1735 W. 162nd St., Gardena
(310) 329-5874, Stephanie Nakayama


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