When you grow up with tobacco-farm roots in a small North Carolina town, you know exactly what Aunt Carolyn’s going to bring to the family’s Christmas get-together.
Caramel cake. Best ever.
If you can prove me wrong, I’ll gladly take a slice. Or three.
Aunt Edith had dibs on the pineapple cake. We counted on Aunt Barbara for that super-smooth pound cake with white icing. (Cousin Sara, glad she handed that recipe down to you.)
Aunt Diane always brings about three cakes; I favor her coconut. My mama was known for her pecan pie tarts.
And then there’s Aunt Sonja, whose contribution isn’t likely to be a dessert. But corn pudding does leave a sweet taste.
The best of them all, you won’t be surprised to know, was my grandmother. I called her Keepmama because — well, that’s a long story for another time. But we were never without her chicken pastry, aapple jacks (turnovers), chocolate cake, biscuits and collards.
Of course, at the point you have in-laws, your pleasure is doubled. Just a week or so after that early December gathering for my own mother’s kin, we’d have to loosen our belts another notch.
I mean, you don’t want to hurt your mom-in-law’s feelings at Christmastime, do you?
Miss Ruby would make the best turkey dressing — deep-dish and hearty with boiled eggs, celery and a crispy crust. Seven-Layer Salad was another favorite. And her Orange Slice Cake was always a hit. Yes, I mean those orange slice candies that give the cake some tang. Dates, coconut and walnuts add depth.
CityView asked our readers about the foods that they look forward to for the holidays.
Linda Barton Tillman shared Hattie McFadyen’s Sweet Potato Pie.
Corbin Thorley sent Not “His Momma’s Mac and Cheese” handed down from her mother-in-law. She uses a pressure cooker, but don’t tell her husband. His momma might not approve.
Judith R. Cox always shipped Magic Cookie Bars to her husband when he was stationed overseas.
Our own Jennifer McFadyen Hammond shared one of her husband’s favorites, Christmas Morning Casserole.
And for Amy Navejas, there was no treat better than Mamaw’s Red Hot Cinnamon Apples, passed along by her grandmother.
So remember the good times, and celebrate the now times, because there’s nothing like good food and family chatter to remind us of what life’s all about.
Young’uns grow up too fast. Our parents leave too soon.
Thank you for sharing.
Orange Slice Cake
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
3½ cups plain flour
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pound dates, cut in small pieces
1 pound orange slice candy, cut in pieces
7 ounces angel flake coconut
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time. Add flour alternately with buttermilk. Add baking soda.
Roll dates, orange slices and nuts in flour. Mix with other ingredients. Add coconut.
Bake in bundt pan at 250 degrees for 2½ hours.
Mix 1 cup fresh orange juice and 2 cups confectioner’s sugar. Pour over cake when removed from oven.
Let cake stand overnight.
For the salad:
8 ounces center-cut bacon or real
4 large eggs
2/3 cup chopped red onion
8 cups chopped lettuce, romaine or iceberg
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
2/3 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
For the dressing:
11/4 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
¾ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Cook and crumble or chop bacon. Place red onion in small bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
Hard-boil eggs, then peel and slice.
Prepare the dressing: In medium bowl, stir together yogurt, parmesan cheese, honey, vinegar, salt and garlic powder. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Put lettuce in bottom of large, clear trifle bowl. You want to be able to see layers.
Build salad layers, spreading each evenly. Start with tomatoes and onion, then add peas and eggs.
Spread dressing evenly over top. Layer cheese, then bacon. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
For an eighth layer, add sliced cucumbers. Serve with long salad tongs to reach every layer.
“My husband is one of the pastors at First Presbyterian Church and an Army Reserve chaplain. In our humble beginnings during his pursuit of his master’s degree while I was serving in the Marine Corps, his favorite holiday recipe was Momma’s Mac and Cheese. While this to me was not a typical holiday staple on my table — I am from South Texas with German and Mexican roots — he swears it is a Southern tradition in his household. After attending several holiday functions, I know it is a dish that everyone looks forward to. I have altered this recipe ever so slightly to fit the schedule of a mother of young children by incorporating the Instant Pot. If this is an appliance that may be intimidating, I promise you it has been a game changer for this momma that finds herself pulled in every direction on occasion. And my husband cannot tell the difference!” — Corbin Thorley
Not “His Momma’s Mac and Cheese”
1 box large elbow macaroni (Rotini will work too.)
4 cups water
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
2/3 cup milk
4 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or a blend of cheddar
and Monterrey Jack)
Dump macaroni noodles and water into Instant Pot. Make sure your water covers most of the noodles.
Top with small cubes of butter.
Close and pressure-cook for 3 minutes. “Natural release” for 10 to finish noodles.
Release remaining pressure; open pot and stir in milk. Mix well to create roux for cheese.
Stir in half the cheese at a time until well blended.
Note: If you want to get fancy so the in-laws or your husband won’t know you took a shortcut, pour ingredients into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Top with more cheese and bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.
“Festive red and green peppers add a little something extra to my favorite breakfast casserole. Bonus? It can be made the day before and stored in the fridge. Come Christmas morning, you can pop it in the oven and it will cook while you enjoy presents and time with family.” — Jennifer McFadyen Hammond
Christmas Morning Casserole
1 pound sausage (I prefer mild Italian, but breakfast sausage works too.)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded cheese of your choice, divided (I like sharp cheddar, but try it with pepper jack for extra zing.)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Brown sausage over medium heat. Drain and set aside.
Sautee diced bell peppers until softened. Combine with sausage.
In separate mixing bowl, crack eggs and whisk. Add milk, 1 cup cheese, mustard, salt and pepper, and combine well.
Pour sausage and vegetable mixture into a greased 9-by-13-inch casserole dish; pour egg mixture on top. Top with remaining cup of shredded cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes or until eggs are firm and cheese is melted.
Note: If you’re mixing this the night before and refrigerating, it may take 30 to 35 minutes to fully cook.
“This recipe was a given at my grand-mother’s house during the holidays. My family continues to enjoy it, and it always brings back wonderful memories made with my parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins.” — Linda Barton Tillman
Hattie McFadyen’s Sweet Potato Pie
29-ounce can sweet potatoes, drained
1/3 stick butter, melted
¾ cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar plus extra for sprinkling on crust and pie
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 5-ounce can evaporated milk
2 regular depth, uncooked pie shells
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine ingredients and mix until very smooth with an electric mixer or in a food processor.
Sprinkle a little sugar over the pie shells and divide filling between them. Sprinkle a little more sugar over the filled pies. Cook 30 to 35 minutes. If crust begins to brown too much, tent with foil.
Note: The filling can be made in advance and frozen until you are ready to cook your pies.
“My grandmother always made this recipe. It is sweet and delicious and absolutely a favorite.”
— Amy Navejas
Mamaw’s Red Hot Cinnamon Apples
Winesap or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and halved
11/2 cups water
11/2 cups sugar
Red Hots candies
Frozen whipped topping
Heat water, sugar and Red Hots until sugar dissolves. Add apples and cook evenly, about 7 to 8 minutes per side.
Remove apples and place in baking dish with scooped side up. Leave liquid in pan. Boil until thick, then pour over apples and refrigerate.
Once chilled, add a spoonful of whipped topping and serve.
“I have been making these since the ’80s. When my husband, who was then my boyfriend, was stationed in Turkey, I used to make them and send to him. This is a very rich and sweet, but delicious. Careful not to eat too many at once.” — Judith R. Cox
Magic Cookie Bars
1 stick salted butter
1 to 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 can condensed milk
12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels
7-ounce bag flake coconut
1 bag pecan pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, melt butter in microwave or oven. Mix melted butter with graham cracker crumbs. Spread evenly in dish, pressing softly. (If you press too hard, the crumbs will become hard when baking.) Pour condensed milk over crumbs; spread evenly. Put semi-sweet chocolate morsels on top, spreading evenly. Put flake coconut on next, spreading evenly. Top with pecan pieces and use hands to press gently.
Place in 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until condensed milk is bubbly. Remove from oven and cool at room temperature or in refrigerator. Once cooled, cut into bars, making sure they are well settled before cutting.