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Christmas past, present, future

Story and photo by Angie Sutton


I get a bit nostalgic during the holidays. It’s little things that jar a memory from long ago like the fragrant smell of Wassail percolating or the bubble lights that adorn the Christmas tree with their blurp, blurp rhythm. My birthday also happens to be a few days before Christmas. I prefer not to acknowledge it quite as heartily now as I did when I was 7 or 8 years old but the event conjures happy memories of cake and ice cream from many happy years.

This year is the last year my eldest will be home as a “permanent resident” before she heads to college and into whatever adventure her life may bring. I find myself sitting quietly in front of the brightly lit tree at night with my cup of hot tea. I look at our collection of ornaments and ponder what occasion spurred the purchase or whom we may have received it from. It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating Casey’s first Christmas and now we’re celebrating her graduation from high school. I imagine one day she will be standing in front of a similar tree as an adult with her own family and think back to beautiful memories of her childhood holidays.

Like most families, I’m thinking our best memories pretty much have something to do with food. We’re either making it, eating it or cleaning up after both. Sometimes the food is so amazing it leaves a permanent marker on memory lane. Sometimes it happens to be a well-that-didn’t-turn-out-so-good situation like the ham one year. Sorry Debbie, had to bring that one up! (Thankfully my mom-in-law is a good sport.)

Holiday recipes seem to hold a place in history. Ask me what I got for my 23rd birthday and I can tell you I have no recollection. I can, however, tell you what my grandma made every year for Christmas. I can tell you what my mom’s house smelled like during cookie-baking season. I can tell you how much cookie dough I’ve allowed my kiddos to eat the past 17 years. While I have one child leaving the nest, I can look forward to spoiling the rest until the year 2030. No doubt I’ll get the chance to add grandkids into that mix as well!

I was talking to a friend about this very thing. Sarah Schmidt, Geary County, described her Grandma Davis’ Potato Casserole in such great detail I was pretty sure I could taste it. Her grandma always had this at holiday gatherings. She talked about her favorite memory of Grandpa Davis dressing up as Santa to deliver the presents to the grandkids. She told how he would mysteriously disappear around a certain time and then coincidentally Santa would come. Grandma of course would come up with a story that he had to run to the store or help a neighbor. She said the kids would sometimes catch on and on those years Grandpa’s friend Art would fill in as Santa. Age didn’t matter and the tradition continued even when the kids had grown into adulthood. The Davis elders claimed it was for the great-grandkids but all the kids still took a turn on Santa’s lap. Sarah said they no longer host the Davis Family Christmas, but they gave her a very special box containing a very special suit for use in the future.

I appreciated Sarah sharing this memory and Grandma Davis’ recipe, which you will find in this column. I’d love to hear about your favorite family tradition and a recipe that means a lot to you. Stop by and post on the website or send me an email at mothersapronstrings@gmail.com.

I hope your family has a very Merry Christmas and a New Year full of blessings. I’ve enjoyed sharing about my family this year and I’ve heard from many readers about their families too! I look forward to sitting with you in your kitchen and sharing a hot cup of coffee each week as we share recipes, tips and life happenings!

Grandma Davis’ Potato Casserole

Source: Sarah Schmidt, Geary County, Kansas.

2 lbs. frozen Southern hashbrowns
1/2 c. chopped onions
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup or cream of chicken soup
1 c. sour cream with chives
10 oz. process block cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 c. cornflakes, crushed

Mix hashbrowns, onion, salt, pepper, cream of mushroom soup or cream of chicken soup, sour cream and cheese together and pour into a greased casserole dish. Melt 1/4 c. butter and 1 c. crushed cornflakes and sprinkle evenly on top. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for one hour.

Barb’s Annual Sandies

Source: Barb Fenstermacher, Marshall County, Kansas.

1 c. unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. tap water
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. pecans, finely chopped
1 c. powdered sugar, sifted

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 30 seconds. Add sugar, water and vanilla and continue to beat about another minute. Add flour about a 1/4 cup at a time and continue to beat. Turn mixer down to stir function and add pecans. Shape into 1-inch balls and place about an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or just until bottoms are lightly browned. Let cool on pan for a couple minutes and remove to wire rack until completely cool. Put powdered sugar in a resealable plastic bag and gently shake a few at a time until evenly covered.

Grandma’s Punch

Source: Kelly Rader, Reno County and Marshall County, Kansas.

1 can frozen pineapple juice
1 juice can of water
Scant cup of granulated sugar
1 pkg. cherry drink mix
2 bottles of ginger ale

Mix together juice, water, sugar and drink mix in a large bowl. Slowly add ginger ale. Mix well and transfer to a pitcher to chill before serving.

Grandma Wise’s Raw Apple Cake

Source: Michelle Reinhart, Marshall County, Kansas.

4 c. apples, finely chopped
2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 1/2 c. sifted flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. raisins
1 c. nuts, chopped

Stir apples and sugar together and let stand 1 to 2 hours. Combine eggs and oil and add to apple mixture. Stir in dry ingredients. Add raisins and nuts. Pour into a greased 9- by 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. (Batter is very thick and makes a large cake.)

Grandma Ruby’s White Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake

Source: Austyn Carson

1 1/2 c. graham crackers, crushed
1/2 c. toasted pecans
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. unsalted butter
1 pkg. (6 oz.) white chocolate squares
3 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. vanilla, divided
4 eggs
1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Mix graham crackers, pecans, sugar and butter together for a crust. Press into a 10-inch springform pan and sit it in a larger pan filled 3/4 with water. Melt five chocolate squares (1 oz. each). Beat cream cheese and then add milk, melted chocolate and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well. Add eggs to the mixture. Pour over crust and bake for one hour or until nearly set. Run a knife around rim of pan and refrigerate four hours. Mix 1 teaspoon vanilla with cherry pie filling and spread over cheesecake. Melt the remaining 1 oz. of chocolate and drizzle over cherries.

Dorothy’s Mashed Potato Casserole

Source: My grandma Dorothy

5 1/2 c. mashed potatoes (4 lbs. uncooked)
1/2 c. milk
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 c. sour cream
2 tsp. parsley flakes
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 c. Cheddar cheese 1 c. crisply cooked crumbled bacon

Place all ingredients, except cheese and bacon, in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until potatoes are smooth and creamy. Lightly grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Spoon mixture evenly into dish and sprinkle the top with bacon and then cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Makes 12 servings.

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