The kitchen table in my childhood home sat on a linoleum floor. It was pushed against the wall for projects and pulled out for meals.
During the holidays, it was not only against the wall, it was filled with confections and baked goods. My mother made treats that took few ingredients, but produced tastes that still linger in my memory.
The nut filled bon-bons bursting with coconut waited to be dipped in dark chocolate. As the treats hardened, we would sneak into the freezer because we couldn't wait for them to be finished.
Rows of peanut butter cookies with kisses melting into the centers lined a cooling rack. Some years there was braided bread topped with dried fruits that we took to the neighbors. We could always count on certain treats to be part of our celebration.
For some folks, it's sugar cookies with icing. Others hold their breath until they smell the first hint of pumpkin bread. As the years rolled by, different traditions, recipes and tastes became part of our celebrations. I grew older and discovered my own favorite “must have” treats!
In later years, Mom found the perfect caramel corn recipe that was so popular that a local doctor hired her to make large batches every year as gifts. For our home, Christmas morning wouldn't be complete without the smell of a buttery sausage casserole filling the air.
Food has a way of bringing us together. It brings us back to a place of comfort or cheer. Working alongside one another in the kitchen mixes harmony and chaos. Allowing our children to taste or mix brings them the sense of family as well.
We learn from each other to create, to enjoy, and to love.
As I smell, taste and relive the past, I find a familiarity and community even in those times we can't all be together; Reminders of love, joy and hopefully peace. Even during the lean years, we give thanks for provision, for health and for connection.
Mom has been gone almost five years now. The responsibility of “Christmas Quiche” (which is not only for Christmas and isn't a true quiche) has been handed down to my daughter. Rachel renamed this dish after having it for Christmas morning year after year. We put it in the oven when we first get up and it is ready to eat by the time the gifts are unwrapped.
The caramel corn is made mid-year to send to college students living away from home.
Time moves on. Life changes and we bring what we can into the present. When we create warmth in our homes, in our kitchens and around our tables – we enrich lives and hearts.
Mom's Caramel Corn
20 cups of popped popcorn
1/2 pound of butter
2 cups of brown sugar (unpacked)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Nuts (Seriously, unless you had an allergy, why would you leave them out?)
Combine first three items and cook over medium boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add cream of tartar and soda. Put popped corn into a larger roaster type pan adding nuts (optional).
Bake in a 250-degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until done. Keep stirring for about 5 minutes after taking from oven as it cools so hard chunks will not occur.
Store in airtight container or gift bags for sharing.
Chocolate Nut Bon Bons
1 cup softened butter
1 15 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 pounds powdered sugar
2 14 ounce package flaked coconut
1 pound walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
36 ounce chocolate chips
6 tablespoons shortening
Combine first five ingredients. Roll into small balls, about 150. Place on cookie sheet and chill.
Melt chocolate and shortening in double boiler (do not get ANY water in the chocolate). Dip balls in chocolate using toothpick. Replace on buttered cookie sheet or parchment paper for chocolate to harden. Refrigerate of freeze until ready to serve.
Christmas Quiche (aka Breakfast Casserole)
1 pound bulk sausage (I use hot, but regular works)
16 slices white bread, crust removed
½ pound cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cube butter
Brown sausage, drain fat & crumble. Use 9 X 13 pan and layer bread, cheese and sausage. Beat next 4 ingredients together, pour over bread layers.
Drizzle melted butter over all. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Alternate method: You can also brush the bottom of the pan and the bread with the melted butter on both sides.