Christmas Favorites Part 3

My mom, grandmother and aunt in upper photo. My mom and I in lower photo.

Holiday Treats

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a few delicious desserts, drinks or special meals. What are your holiday favorites? Do you cook them or look forward to a family member or friend bringing them to you? Do you give food gifts for Christmas? I’m listing some of my favorites linked to special memories, but they are in no way all of them. At close to sixty I’ve had a lot of Christmas treats and some are more about the person who is no longer with us than the food itself but remembering is a way of keeping them with us and when we eat or drink that special treat, we get to have them with us for just a little while, even if only in our thoughts.

My grandmother wasn’t a domesticated lady. In another time or situation, she’d have been a businesswoman, possibly a world traveler but instead she was the wife of a sharecropper. For any familiar with the term, you know they were poor. But in truth, I never realized they were poor. I knew grandma wore her house clothes until they were threadbare but when she went off, she dressed nice. I also enjoyed culinary delights that I couldn’t find anywhere else, when I was at my grandma’s house. She had homemade jam, sweet cream, biscuits and molasses. For Christmas she made sugar cookies, candy confections with pecans and coconut dipped in chocolate, peanut brittle that would yank all your fillings out and icebox fruitcake and applesauce cake.

I look forward to our local community holiday craft fair every Christmas because a local lady, Ms. Mary Jo makes peanut brittle even better than my grandmother’s. Sorry Granny. Hers melts on your tongue with just the right amount of sweetness.

When my children where little, I enjoyed baking sugar cookies with them using Granny’s recipe.

I still bake the applesauce cake every year because it’s not too sweet and it’s just the right amount of fruit and nuts and holiday spirit.

Grandma’s icebox fruit cake is another story. No one seems to be able to recreate hers exactly even using her recipe. Not sure what she did differently but ours are always too dry or too sticky, not enough raisins and pecans…something. Maybe we’re just lacking the love Granny put into everything she made.

Grandma told me once that she learned to do a lot of things not because she wanted to but because there was no other choice. As an adult raising six children, I came to understand that. We learned to do in order to make things better for those we love.

Grandma’s Ice Box Fruit Cake

1 box graham crackers crushed and pulverized

1 box raisins

2 cups pecans chopped

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Mix everything together if too dry add more milk, if too wet or sticky add more graham cracker crumbs.

Divide and roll into logs. Wrap in plastic and foil. Refrigerate until firm. Slice and eat.

I started using dried cranberries for a festive look and tart flavor.

Grandma’s Applesauce Cake

1 ½ cup self-rising flour

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon Allspice

½ teaspoon Cloves

½ teaspoon Ginger

2 eggs

1 can apple sauce

2 chopped apples

½ cup chopped pecans

1 stick of softened butter (if you use unsalted add a pinch of salt)

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease loaf pans.

Mix dry ingredients first. Flour, sugar and spices. You can add your pecans too if you’d like. Flouring them keeps them in place.

Add eggs, softened butter, apple sauce, apple and vanilla. 

Bake 25-30 minutes or until no longer wet in the middle when you insert a toothpick to test.

Remove from oven and let cool. Makes great gifts.

You can substitute cranberry sauce for the apple sauce for a holiday twist.

It is difficult to diet during December. Between holiday parties and food gifts, oh my. I look forward to the special treats some of my friends fix for the holidays. Ms. Peggy’s homemade heath bars, Tina’s drunken chocolate covered cherries, Robina’s pomegranate cupcakes, oh my. I think I gained five pounds just writing about it. I can’t forget Ms. Helen’s fudge and Ms. Hix’s cookie assortment and candied nuts. Now y’all understand why I’m fat. I haven’t even talked about the real food and the drinks.

I’d never had eggnog until my youngest son was a teenager. He insisted we try it. It’s good but a little too rich for my taste. Working at the ABC store, I decided to try the alcoholic version and it’s better but still way to sweet for me. I like one glass every two or three years or so.

I enjoy apple cider when I can find good cider. I buy the unpasteurized kind, add it to my crockpot with orange juice, ginger ale and cinnamon hard candies. It’s a family favorite. You could add a little apple ale to perk it up or a splash of cinnamon whiskey instead of the hard candies.

One of my favorite holiday treats is the peppermint mocha iced coffees. Forget your pumpkin spice, give me peppermint and chocolate. If you want to adult it, there’s a great already premixed just add cold coffee or hot if you prefer. You can also make your own with cream liquor, peppermint schnapps, chocolate liquor and coffee.

My daughters-in-law introduced me to chai tea and iced chai lattes. Oh my goodness, Christmas in a cup. It is so good and my new favorite holiday drink.

My traditional favorite for Christmas dinner is roasted turkey with all the trimmings. For Christmas morning we’ve done waffles and ice cream or left-over chicken. We’ve done monkey bread, all ooey gooey and loaded with cinnamon, but most recently we’ve started doing a French toast casserole because we have such a large crowd. It’s a very simple recipe and feeds the masses. We get bags of old bread crusts make an egg and milk custard with vanilla, sugar and cinnamon pour it over the bread and put it in a pan in a preheated oven at 350 for about 30 minutes, topped with butter.

My mother-in-law does something different every year for Christmas Eve. We’ve had Mexican with tamales, hand rolled and bought from a lovely Mexican lady. We’ve done assorted Italian dishes, soups and sandwiches, and even quiches.

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