Merry Christmas! As I was thinking of how to craft a message of encouragement and blessing for all our families gathering together this weekend, I instantly thought, “we must have cookies!” LOL! I suppose it is deep in a mama’s soul, the urge to sweeten relationships by making a spread of home-baked treats. Pistachio cookies combine a unique, nutty flavor with a Biblical story of family drama, making these sugar cookies a special “taste and see” moment for weekend celebrations.
Pistachios place us pointedly in Israel’s family saga, foraged for a gesture of hospitality. Israel (Jacob) father of 12 sons, called for the curiously green, mildly flavored nuts along with almonds, honey, spices, and balm to present to Pharaoh’s second-in-command in good will, hoping for successful exchange of grain and release of his sons Simeon and Benjamin.
“If it has to be, it has to be. But do this: stuff your packs with the finest products from the land you can find and take them to the man as gifts—some balm and honey, some spices and perfumes, some pistachios and almonds. And take plenty of money—pay back double what was returned to your sacks; that might have been a mistake. Take your brother and get going. Go back to the man. And may The Strong God give you grace in that man’s eyes so that he’ll send back your other brother along with Benjamin. For me, nothing’s left; I’ve lost everything.” Genesis 43:11-14 The Message
Israel’s discouragement is hard to miss. The death of his wife Rachel, the loss of their first son, Joseph, strife among the brothers, and famine in the land have all taken their toll on his heart by the time he assembles this gift of the best products from the countryside.
I have always chuckled at pistachios being on this list, the struggle to crack their shells patterning the struggles Israel (formerly Jacob) was named for. In a nutshell, his new name “Israel” meant “struggles with God and prevails” (Genesis 32:28), although the nuances of this Hebrew word, יִשְׂרָאֵל, alludes to much more than an elementary definition. Yet clearly Jacob-now-Israel’s encounter with God in which he wrestled his blessing was not a decree for a no-more-struggles life.
However, emerging from his mourning (Genesis 37:35) will be a great movement of God’s forgiveness, giving us all a spiritual heritage of healing in family dynamics. Turns out, Joseph, the lost son, prevailed as the second-in-command to Pharaoh, wow! Joseph overcame rejection by his brothers, slavery, false accusation, and imprisonment to secure a place of leadership in Egypt, divinely positioned to help his family in time of need, resolutely trusting God and empowered to forgive his family. Of course, the irony is that this nutty family is the lineage of Jesus! Our perfect Savior chose a struggle-full, imperfect family to belong to, and He is still among us, helping us to prevail in offense and hardships. Hallelujah!
Pistachio Cookies Recipe*
1 C butter plus 4 T, softened
3/4 C sugar
2 egg yolks
1 t vanilla
1/4 t almond extract
2 C flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 C (approx) pistachio nut “dust”
6 oz shelled pistachio nuts
4 T honey
1/2 – 1 t freshly-grated nutmeg
Sugar sprinkles and/or powered sugar for dusting
Put pistachios in Cuisinart and pulse for about 30 seconds, to get grain-sized nut chunks. Pour nuts through a large sieve into a small mixing bowl, separating the nut “dust” from nut chunks and set aside. In a mixer, blend butter and sugar together, then add egg yolks, extracts, and salt. Add flour in several intervals, then add pistachio nut “dust.” Once well mixed, pile dough onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or more.
To assemble cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out chilled dough on floured surface to approximately ¼ inch thick. Choose a cookie cutter shape, I used a star to remember Jospeh’s leadership dream (Genesis 37:9). Cut shapes from the dough and place them on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix pistachio nut topping by combining 4 T softened butter, 3 to 4 T honey, pistachio nut chunks, and grated nutmeg. Add a dollop of topping to the center of each cookie and sprinkle with decorative sugar if desired.
Bake for 10 minutes, do not overcook. Enjoy!
Words of Encouragement
The following Words of encouragement resound the story points of Israel’s struggles. May they help you in your family relationships and keep you close to the Lord and His healing and blessing.
Look at how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one! Psalm 133:1 CSB
In the womb, that heel, Jacob, got the best of his brother. When he grew up, he tried to get the best of God. But God would not be bested. God bested him. Brought to his knees, Jacob wept and prayed. God found him at Bethel. That’s where he spoke with him. God is God-of-the-Angel-Armies, God-Revealed, God-Known. What are you waiting for? Return to your God! Commit yourself in love, in justice! Wait for your God, and don’t give up on him—ever! Hosea 12:3-6 The Message
Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on his way to put things right and redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!” Isaiah 35:3-4 The Message
So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! …Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Hebrews 12:12, 14 The Message
Strengthen those who are discouraged. Energize those who feel defeated. Say to the anxious and fearful, “Be strong and never afraid. Look here comes your God! He is breaking through to give you victory. Isaiah 35:3-4 TPT
In the womb Jacob grasped his brother by the heel, and when he was a grown man, he struggled with God. He wrestled with the Angel and prevailed. He wept and sought his favor. Hosea 12:3-4 EHV
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14 NIV
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NLT
Watch over each other to make sure that no one misses the revelation of God’s grace. Hebrews 12:13 TPT
O Lord, how glad we are to celebrate your birth! Your first coming is all the more evidence of Your promise to come again. Yet in Your mysterious way, You are with us in the here and now. Help me to rest in Your Presence even as I struggle in life’s daily troubles. You will see to it that I breakthrough to victory. May Your love and joy fill my home and each of our hearts over the weekend of celebrating and all year long. You give us Your very best and Your hospitality is like no other.
God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets. Hebrews 13:16 The Message
M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S !
*Many thanks to Susan Branch, her recipe is my go-to for sugar cookies, from Christmas from the Heart of the Home (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1990), page 82
Do you love connecting God’s Word to your gardening work and the trees and plants around you? You will love my new book, My Father is the Gardener, Devotions in Botany and Gardening of the Bible, order at this link.
Read more about pistachios in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible in the Bearing Fruit devotions, beginning on page a-35.
Find pistachio trees in the Plant Guide, www.gardenindelight.com/plant-guide/pistachio/
Photo Credits: © Colour59 | Dreamstime.com – Plentiful Pistachios; © Almaamor | Dreamstime.com – Pistachio nuts ripening on branch; all pistachio cookies ©Shelley S. Cramm
CJB notes Scripture quotations taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.
CSB notes Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
EHV notes Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® , EHV®, © 2019 Wartburg Project, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
KJV denotes Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version published in 1611, authorized by King James I of England, which is public domain in the United States.
The Message denotes Scripture quotations taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.
NIV denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.®
NLT denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
TPT denotes Scripture quotations taken from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018, 2020 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ThePassionTranslation.com