Chapter 7 – Christmastime again

It seemed we were at Auntie & Uncle Clay’s for Christmas more often than not; sometimes our cousins closest in age, Kim, Julie and Lisa were there, too.  I am not sure whether being away from home may have made it easier for my dad to do the Santa trick.  He would go out to the back yard to smoke a pipe, and somehow Santa always dropped the presents off at the front porch while he was out. We may have figured out the game before we admitted it, but we wanted to keep believing in Santa. Diane even convinced me she saw Rudolph in the sky one year. I should add here that Auntie Margaret, for all her rigidity, did spoil us a little too, in a more practical way. She enjoyed choosing quality bed linens and dresses for us from her area in Malone’s. She also took time to read to me, despite dropping out of high school herself.  I was told it was because her social life was keeping her too busy!

1 year old me on Auntie's lap, my mother in the background
1 year old me on Auntie’s lap, my mother in the background

Auntie & Uncle Clay were not churchgoers, but we usually went to a Christmas mass with our parents, and my mother had a nativity scene that she had embellished.  We also had a Christmas tree, real for many years, but eventually we got an artificial one.  Neither of my parents enjoyed vacuuming up needles and unclogging the vacuum cleaner hose, which usually became necessary.  My mother also made many ornaments for the tree and the house, complex projects involving felt, velvet, gold braid and sequins.

It was one of these early  Christmases when I got my Easy Bake oven. It cooked things with a light bulb! We had a lot of fun stirring up the little mix packets, sliding them through the oven and eating the results, nearly instant gratification. However, it was not long before we graduated to the real oven. I think scrambled eggs was one of the first things I learned to cook by myself. Then we got the idea from our Brownie handbook that we should cook breakfast for our parents on Sat. morning since we were up first. The only problem with that was that we didn’t know how to work the coffee pot, so my dad still had to make his own.

Soon, around ages 8 and 9, Diane and I were trying our hand at real cake recipes, and were foolishly pleased when we could make it turn out “as good as a mix!” We also ordered the Peanuts Cook Book at one of the Scholastic book sales at school. The recipes were easy, but they were real cooking.  I still make my version of Lucy’s Applesauce Pie today, though I have changed several ingredients, and I don’t peel the apples anymore.

Applesauce Pie

adapted by Nicole Simonian Masika from the Peanuts Cook Book

6 servings

6 medium Apples; cored and sliced (I like to use Haralsons, entirely or mixed with other good pie apples)
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 pinch Nutmeg
1 dash Salt
1 cup Whole wheat pastry flour
7 tablespoon Butter ; softened ( use the remaining tablespoon in a stick to grease the pie plate)
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1 dash Cinnamon

Slice apples into medium saucepan. Add sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cook over medium heat ( covered and stirring frequently) until extra liquid is gone. Stir and mash until large lumps are gone. Turn apples into a pie plate and cover with topping.

Topping: Blend flour, soft butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon with fingertips and sprinkle over applesauce. Bake at 375 until top is brown and crusty, about 20 min.

Variation: I sometimes add 1/2 cup of quick oats to the crumb topping.

Applesauce Pie, oatmeal variation
Applesauce Pie, oatmeal variation

Since this is  a  chapter about Christmas, we need a Christmas cookie recipe, too.  I am sure Christmas dinners had many fine roasts and delicious potatoes, but as a kid, it was the cookies I remember most. These did not appear as often as Spritz, but are nearly as decadent. My mother’s handwritten copy  credits her mother.

Swedish Christmas Cookies

Recipe by Gladys Lutz Nelson

2 dozen

1 cup Butter; softened
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Cornstarch
1 1/2 cup All purpose flour
Almonds; as required, chopped fine
1 Egg white

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in cornstarch, then flour until well blended.

Chill 1 hour or more.

Roll out on floured board to 1/4″ thick. Cut in rounds and fold end over. Brush with egg white, sprinkle with nuts.

Bake 7-8 min. at 350. Let sit a minute or two after removing from oven, then remove carefully to cooling racks.

Swedish Christmas Cookies
Swedish Christmas Cookies

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Chapter 7 - Christmastime again by Nicole Marie Masika is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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