My week has been busy, as you can imagine. A couple of my friends came over and helped me get the tree out of the storage shed, set it up for me and put lights on it. You know how it goes; a pre-lit tree doesn’t always work like it’s supposed to, so lights were needed, my Christmas cards have been mailed and as far as I can tell, my gifts are all wrapped.
My Nativity set had to go into a different place this year, because there is now a flat-screen TV on top of the center that housed my TV before, so it’s not quite as spread out as I like it to be. I wanted to put moss down as I have in the past, but it started raining that afternoon, so that’s out! (It rained off and on almost all of Saturday night). I managed to get cookie dough mixed one day in the early part of the week and baked a couple of batches on Saturday, and still have a couple to go.
Most of my family will be in on the 23rd, and as far as I can tell, my shopping for that is finished. We will be having Mexican food and the only thing I have left to buy is the meat for the chili, which I will do on Wednesday most probably. We have a great meat market in town now and it is so great to be able to get good, fairly lean hamburger.
This week, I have duty at the gift shop on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and have to get my house ready for guests. At this point in time (early Sunday morning, before I go to church), I don’t have a clue as to how many will be overnight guests and how many won’t. Christmas Day I will travel to Devine to be with the rest of my family. My youngest daughter will be spending Christmas in Pennsylvania with her son and his family. They have not been together on Christmas in five years. She is so looking forward to being with her two little grandsons. And, of course, our U. S. Navy member and his family are in Japan and will not be with us. I will enjoy myself with all the ones I am able to be with and probably receive calls from the ones who can’t!
The Story of Cookies for Santa
Almost as much fun as the toys under the tree for a young boy and girl are the other signs that Santa Claus really did come to visit during the night—the glass of milk is empty and all the cookies are gone, nothing left but a few crumbs.
Nobody seems to know just who first came up with the idea of leaving a snack to keep Santa’s energy up during his whirlwind Christmas voyage. One researcher has traced the tradition as far back as 1908 to an article that appeared in a New York newspaper.
The story reported that children in one family left a meal of sandwiches, cake and coffee for Santa. To their delight, the next morning the food was gone and in its place was a note from Santa thanking them for their kindness.
It wasn’t unusual in the early 1900s for thoughtful children to remember Santa’s reindeer. Accounts of children leaving carrots for the team, and of rural youngsters, leaving piles of salt on their windowsills.
The reindeer probably have not fared so well in recent years, although Santa may be sharing some of his milk and cookies. It is a wonderfully whimsical food tradition, the stuff a child’s dreams are made of.
By now, you probably have all of your cookies finished. If you want to try your hand at candy, here are several great recipes to try. I haven’t made candy in several years, but may have to make a batch of pralines this year. This is my Mother’s recipe and she made them every year. Of course, it helped that she had pecan trees in the yard until she moved to Yoakum, but after that, she managed to buy the pecans and still made them.
1 jar marshmallow cream
1½ cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
¼ cup butter
¼ teaspoon salt
12-ounce package chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup chopped pecans
Combine marshmallow cream, sugar, milk, butter and salt in saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips, vanilla and pecans. Spread into 9-inch square pan. Chill until firm. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store in airtight container.
Margaret’s Pecan Pralines
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk or clabber
1 level teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans (can use halves or chopped)
Use a large pot and slowly boil to soft ball stage (240º to 250ºF), the sugar, buttermilk and baking soda. This mixture turns brown as it cooks and needs to be stirred constantly. Take off heat when it reaches soft ball stage and stir in vanilla and pecans. Stir and beat with a spoon (wooden is best) until it looks as if it is going to turn to sugar. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper or foil Cool completely. Store in airtight container.
Before you start making this, cover a cookie sheet with foil, butter well, and sprinkle with granulated sugar to coat. Set aside.
1 cup sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
2 cups shelled, raw peanuts
1 teaspoon baking soda
Combine sugar, peanuts and syrup. Cooking stirring constantly until it is light brown in color, about 16 to 20 minutes.
When mixture is light brown, remove from heat and stir in baking soda. This will cause mixture to foam up. Immediately pour onto prepared cookie sheet and spread to sides of pan. Allow to cool completely, break into pieces and store in airtight container.
1 cup sugar
2 cups raw peanuts
½ cup water
¼ teaspoon red food coloring (if desired)
2 to 3 drops cinnamon oil (if desired)
Mix all ingredients in iron skillet and boil until water is gone. (Stir frequently). Pour on cookie sheet; bake for 15 minutes at 300ºF. Pour out onto foil lined cookie sheet and allow to cool completely.
The following candy recipe is time consuming, but the results are well worth the effort.
Martha Washington Candy
1 stick butter
2 pounds, sifted powdered sugar
1 can coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
2 cups very finely chopped pecans
Melt butter, add condensed milk, and stir in powdered sugar, coconut and pecans. Mix together very well and shape into balls ½ to ¾-in. in diameter. Chill thoroughly, then dip into the following chocolate mixture.
Chocolate Dipping Mixture
1 package (12-ounces) chocolate chips
½ bar paraffin
Melt chocolate chips and paraffin over hot water. Stick toothpick into cold fondant balls, dip into chocolate mix and set onto waxed paper or foil to harden. This mixture can be kept liquid while you are working by keeping the bowl or pan over the hot water.
This Christmas cookie recipe is a very old one, but still very delicious, and great for dunking in a cup of coffee, which is what we used to do with them when I visited my grandma and aunt who made them each year.!
1 cup butter
1 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
5 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon hot water
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup cut up raisins (dip scissors in water to cut raisins)
Cream together butter, shortening, sugar and eggs. Add remaining ingredients, mix well, and drop off teaspoons onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400ºF for 10 to 15 minutes.
1 package yellow cake mix (reserve 2/3 cup dry mix)
1 stick melted margarine.
Mix remainder of cake mix with egg and margarine. Spread in a 9×13-inch pan and bake at 350ºF for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
1/3 cup dry cake mix
½ cup brown sugar
1½ cups dark corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 eggs, beaten
Pour over baked crust, top with:
1 to 1½ cups chopped pecans
Bake at 350ºF for 30 to 40 minutes or until set. Cut into bars or squares to serve.