Naperville Eats: Christmas Cheer luncheon — cookies, too

Lynn Trygstav, Mary Lou Miller and Angela Janusauskas gathered recently at Wesley United Methodist Church to decorate cookies in preparation for their upcoming cookie sale.  |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media
Trays of sample cookies surround the cookie book compiled a few years ago by bakers at Wesley United Methodist Church.  The cookie book contains around 50 recipes and will be available for purchase at the December 6 sale.  |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media

It is hard to imagine a time when Naperville didn’t have a huge selection of restaurants, but back in the early ’80s, there were far fewer places to gather for lunch.

To complement the annual Naperville Garden Club’s Cup of Cheer House Walk, the women of Wesley United Methodist Church offered a Christmas Cheer luncheon on the same day as the event. The luncheon was so popular they had to have two seatings with 150 people at each.

Today, there are many lunch options in Naperville, but the Wesley women hope residents still will choose to attend their annual Christmas Cheer luncheon and cookie sale Dec. 6.

Each year more than 2,000 cookies are displayed on banquet tables for the cookie sale. Customers fill a container with thick pieces of fudge, colorful Santa sugar cookies, almond rich crescents or any other of dozens of varieties.

“We sell the cookies for $8 a pound or $4 a half pound,” says Lynn Trygstav, of Naperville and a church member. “All of the money goes to missions, so buying cookies here is like getting twice as much for your money — a delicious box of cookies and a donation to local and international missions.”

The women at Wesley have been making cookies for almost 40 years.

“Certain people make the same things every year,” Trygstav says. “We always have candy canes made with two colors of dough that are twisted together and those soft lemon cookies.”

The cookies have become a way for both men and women in the church to connect as they appreciate each other’s cookies and share recipes.

“For weeks before, everyone is talking about who is making which cookie,” Trygstav says.

A few years ago, the women collected recipes into a book, which is available for purchase during the sale.

“Some of the people with recipes in the book have passed away, so seeing their recipe in the book is a special way to remember them,” she notes.

Age does not seem to be a factor in cookie-baking skills.

“We have people helping from the age of 25 to 92,” says Angela Janusauskas, of Lisle. “My kids even help sometimes, although they have a tendency to over sprinkle. The cookies are still good.”

Janusauskas has changed some of her family recipes to make them healthier.

“I have found that I can substitute coconut oil for shortening in some recipes,” she says. “It adds an interesting flavor to the cookie and is better for you. It is great for chocolate cookies because coconut oil doesn’t burn as quickly.”

The group is trying to find a few gluten-free and diabetic cookie recipes to include in future sales, too.

The experienced cookie bakers agree that making cookies takes time.

“You have to set aside time to do it without interruptions. Read the recipe before starting and follow it carefully,” Trygstav warns. “I often just bake cookies one sheet at a time to be sure all of the cookies bake evenly. It also makes it easier to watch them.”

Anyone can make awesome cookies with a little time and determination according to these cookie pros. They offer two simple recipes for beginners and an updated chocolate cookie to try this holiday season.

Pretzel M&M Cookies

50 pretzel rings

8-ounce package chocolate kisses

1/4 cup chocolate-coated candies

Place pretzels on greased baking sheet. Unwrap and place one kiss in the center of each ring. Bake at 275 degrees for 3 minutes or until chocolate is softened. Remove and press one candy in the middle of the chocolate so that the chocolate spreads and fills the ring. Cool in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Rolo Pretzel Rings

65 pretzel rings

13-ounce package of Rolo candy

65 pecan halves

Place pretzel rings on a greased baking sheets. Unwrap and place a Rolo candy in the center of each ring. Bake at 275 degrees for three minutes until candy is softened. Remove from oven. Place a pecan half in the center of each Rolo, pressing down slightly so the candy fills the ring. Refrigerate 10 minutes until candy is firm. Store at room temperature.

Cocoa Drops

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Cream oil and sugar. Add egg and mix. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa in a separate bowl. Alternate adding the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture with the buttermilk, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well. Cover dough and chill for an hour. Drop dough onto greased cookie sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 365 degrees until set. Cool. Frost and add sprinkles if desired.

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