I once spent the grand sum of $5 on Christmas presents. That was a lot of money to an eight- or nine-year-old in the 1960s. I remember feeling rich, and heading “uptown” to Hillman’s Hardware and Lawrence’s Solo Store in Newdale, to search for gifts for my family and friends.
Five bucks covered it. I don’t remember what I bought, but everyone got something. I do remember giving my dad a package of gum and my sister a comb. Ever tried wrapping a comb?
What stands out in your own memories of other Christmases? My own are of how simple the Christmases of my parents’ era seemed. Most of our presents were ordered from the catalogue. We had a few decorations — a tree, outdoor lights strung under the eavestrough, cards strung across doorways, a plastic wreath around the kitchen clock. There was a Christmas concert to go to, with a fat, snow-dusted Santa jingling at the back of the hall, and a church service, with candles softly illuminating the familiar faces. We watched TV Christmas Eve. I remember the thrill of CKX weatherman Ron Thompson interrupting his forecast to say radar had just detected an object moving down from the North Pole.
Christmas was gathering and visiting time, and special treat time. There were sugar cookies and shortbread, and my grandmother’s Christmas pudding with dimes and nickels tucked into it. We had Coca Cola in the fridge once a year and this was it. A Christmas orange really was a Christmas orange, because they weren’t available any other time of year.
Our fondest food memories originate at Christmas. Mine is Mom’s minced meat slice, baked on cookie sheets. I was baking one just like hers when the scent of mince brought to mind that $5 shopping spree.
Food reminds us of where we come from, who we were, and still are. Which is why we all keep coming back to Mom’s recipes at Christmas, when bought substitutes would probably do. We are stirring up memories along with all those puddings, cakes and Christmas cookies.
Here are a few recipes using honey as a main ingredient for cookies, candies and a nut mix.
Holiday honey ginger bread
- 7-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. baking soda
- 2 tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1-1/2 c. (3 sticks) butter
- 1-1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 3/4 c. Bee Maid liquid honey
- 3 eggs
Sift dry ingredients together; set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar and zest. Add honey in a steady stream and mix until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time; mix well. Add dry ingredients, a cup at a time; mix well. Divide dough in two, flatten into disks, and wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm enough to roll. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Makes 4 dozen 4-inch-large gingerbread men.
Honey-peanut butter protein energy balls
- 1-1/4 c. old-fashioned oats
- 3 tbsp. shredded coconut
- 1/2 c. sliced almonds, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. hemp seeds, shelled (optional)
- 1 scoop whey protein powder
- 1/2 c. honey
- 1/2 c. dried apricots, chopped
- 1/2 c. peanut butter
In a medium bowl add the oats, coconut, almonds, hemp seeds and protein powder. Stir until well distributed. Add the honey, apricots and peanut butter and stir well. Put mixing bowl into the refrigerator for about 20 to 30 minutes. Then roll into rounded balls. When chilled, they can last about 5 days.
Yield: 2 dozen. Preparation time: 50 minutes including chilling time
Holiday honey caramels
- 1 c. butter (no substitutions)
- 2 c. honey
- 2 c. whipping cream
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Finely chopped almonds, optional
Line bottom and sides of 9-inch square pan with plastic wrap; set aside. Melt butter in medium-size heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add honey, cream and brown sugar; mix well. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture comes to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and continue boiling, stirring frequently, until candy thermometer registers 250 F to 255 F, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla; pour into prepared pan. Let cool completely in refrigerator before cutting into individual caramels with very sharp knife. Roll in chopped nuts or coconut, if desired, and wrap each individually in clear plastic wrap. Store, tightly wrapped in refrigerator up to one month. Caramels will be soft at room temperature and firm if kept chilled.
Serving suggestion: Drop one into a cup of hot coffee or tea or enjoy this delicious treat on its own.
Yield: 30 caramels. Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 50 minutes.
Honey roasted bridge mix
- 1/2 c. honey
- 2 tbsp. butter or margarine
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
- 4 c. mixed nuts
- 2-1/2 tbsp. superfine sugar
Combine honey, butter and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in saucepan; bring mixture to boil and boil 2 minutes stirring constantly. Pour honey mixture over nuts and mix until nuts are coated. Spread on foil-lined cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake at 325 F for 10 to 15 minutes or until nuts are glazed and lightly browned. Do not allow nuts to burn. Cool 20 to 30 minutes; remove from foil. Combine sugar and remaining cinnamon; toss with glazed nuts to coat.
Yield: 4 cups.
For gift giving: Pack in airtight decorator tins.
Source: The National Honey Board.