Christmas Writing Challenge #6: An Overdue Thank-You Letter
Christmas Writing Challenge #8: on Christmas Day in the Morning

Christmas Writing Challenge #7: Holiday Treats

The Prompt: Write about the foods you had during the holidays, growing up. You can also include recipes if you want!

The foods we make and serve during the holidays give us a visceral connection, in both senses of the word. The pulling-out of recipes we only use at Christmas is an activity that can draw us backward into memories while it pulls us forward in anticipation to the moment we finally get to sink our teeth in. Because they’re only used on special days, holiday foods are integral to making the holiday feel like the holiday.

This afternoon, a neighbor dropped off a bag of chocolate-dipped pretzels; last night, a different neighbor brought us a scrumptious cheese ball (I am so going to get the recipe). There’s a half-finished bag of caramel popcorn in the pantry and a cute package of s’mores fixin’s on the counter (the card attached reads "wish we had s’more friends like you!" how cute is that?). And even though the sharing of goodies between neighbors wasn’t something we did much of growing up, all of these treats and snacks have left me thinking about the snacks and treats my mom made sure to include in our holidays. There were only a few things that we always had, but there was always something special during Christmas.

I can confess to being one of those strange, few people who actually like fruitcake. I have a vague memory of my grandma’s fruitcake, but the clearest impression was made by our next-door neighbor, Jean’s fruitcake. I loved the rich, dense, buttery cake and the bits of chewy fruit, the fragrant spices. Sometimes she’ll still drop off a cake or two just before Christmas, and the few times I’ve tasted it again I’ve been instantly transported back to sneaking a bite or two as a girl.

We also usually had cookies. My favorites were the candy cane cookies and the peanut butter ones. The candy cane cookies were made with a batch of dough, half colored pink, the other half left dough-colored (it’s not exactly white, right?). I clearly remember rolling out pink ropes of dough, then wrapping them around the white ropes and forming a cane shape. Somewhere along the line, my mom has misplaced the recipe. I’ve tried a few variations, but none of them have been the candy-cane cookie recipe. I look nearly ever year for one. (If you have a good one, please share!) The magic of the peanut-butter cookie came in the hands-on approach you took with the dough. There was something so fun in pressing the balls of dough with a fork, two times crossways to form a grid pattern, but the best part was sinking the Hershey’s kiss into the center of the just-baked cookie. Writing about these, I am realizing that my memories don’t really focus on the eating of the cookies—instead, they’re devoted to the making of them.

Of course, there were years of random treats. One year, my mom learned how to make home made suckers. That year, she built a tree out of square dowels, arranged in a concentric pattern to make the "tree" shape, drilled down the length with holes. Then she filled the holes in with suckers. There must have been two dozen or more homemade suckers. (If you look very closely, you can see the very edge of the sucker tree in that photo of us in our nightgowns a few posts further down.) And of course, who could forget the year of the gingerbread house? After Christmas it stayed downstairs, getting staler and staler in the basement, nibbled on every once in awhile by a child desperate for some kind of candy, even eight-months-old M&Ms.

But the thread that runs through all of our holiday treats is made of two things: caramel and fudge. Every year, they would be there, as much a part of Christmas as the tree or Santa Claus. Sometimes my mom would fill a tiered plate with hunks of them. I remember one year, she made the caramel too soft, so we dipped it in chocolate—even better! I’m not going to share the caramel recipe, because even though it makes a delicious caramel, it’s one of those tetchy recipes, the kind that require you to "cook until done" and you don’t know what "done" looks like until you’ve cooked it five or six times, and I wouldn’t want to add to any holiday frustration you might be feeling. But I will share the recipe for PERFECT fudge. It is creamy and rich and never grainy. Just smooth and delicious. If you make it, be sure to post!

Perfect Fudge

1 can evaporated milk
4 cups sugar
24 ounces chocolate (a mix of dark and milk is best)
2 squares very soft (but not melted) butter (1 cup)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds) (optional)

Pour the evaporated milk into a large sauce pan; add the sugar and stir till dissolved. Bring to a gentle boil, then boil for exactly 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a large bowl, break the chocolate into pieces. Cut the butter into chunks, and put into the bowl with the chocolate. When the milk/sugar combo has boiled for ten minutes, pour it over the chocolate and butter. Working quickly, stir until smooth, adding the vanilla once the chocolate is melted. Pour into a buttered 8x11" pan. Allow to cool completely before serving. If using nuts, you can either stir them in just before pouring the fudge in the pan, or sprinkle over the top after the fudge is in the pan.



MMmmmmm, fudge. I haven't made any in a couple of years! I should try it again (mine doesn't set up as hard as mom's & don't know why!).

Love your Christmas challenges! I'll try to do some more before it's Christmas. That letter one is a hard one for me...


LOL ... my perfect fudge recipe is NO STRESS!! And it only takes about 5 minutes to mix up, 1 hour to harden.

Microwave Fudge

1 lb Confectioners Sugar
1/2 cup Cocoa
1/4 cup Milk
1/4 lb Butter or Margarine
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 cup nuts (optional of coure)
Mix Conf. Sugar and Cocoa to combine. Add milk and butter, don't mix. Microwave uncovered 2 minutes. Stir in Vanilla and Nuts. Pour in container (I suggest you butter it) let harden in refrigerator for 1 hour.



After the busy holidays, I'm finally getting caught up on reading all my favorite blogs. I've loved your Christmas memories! Just confessing that I was a "sucker tree" mom as well! I had all the melted disc (fake chocolates) molds...reindeer, santas, boots, wreaths. I don't think anyone loved it as much as me. I love all the food goodies. We save them and eat them all at our traditional Christmas Eve "snickie-snack" dinner.


I wrote a post on holiday treats. I didn't include recipes, because I don't have them yet. I'm going to get them, though.

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