Part of my family’s holiday traditions growing up was a fair amount of Christmas baking. Mom would start baking sometime after Thanksgiving, and by the end, we’d have six or seven varieties of cookie. We had several standards – cherry bars (which, I believe, Dad made…or at least he took over them at some point before I was out of high school), Russian Teacakes, Spritz, English Toffee, Fudge, and Toffee Bars.
One year, my family traveled to Florida for Christmas – we often called it the Christmas that didn’t happen, because even though we had a great time on our trip, it just didn’t seem like Christmas. While we were there, we visited some people my parents knew, and they had a new Christmas treat for us – No-Name Bars. The bars were chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and peanut butter melted together, then salted peanuts and mini-marshmallows added. Yum! These were soon added to our own Christmas rotation. The bars were called “no name” bars because whoever these people had gotten the recipe from had not put a name on the recipe card. Eventually, we decided to rename them “Nut Goodie Bars”, though often we still refer to them as “No Name”.
Another year, we attended a family Christmas night at our church. They had lots of various “classes” and we could choose a couple of them. One of the classes we took was on how to make corn flake wreaths. These cookies are a lot like Rice Crispie bars, but with a bit of green food coloring and Corn Flakes instead of Rice Crispies. When the mixture is still warm, we shaped spoonfuls into wreath shapes. Finally, we topped them off with cinnamon candies to look like berries on the wreath. I loved making these, so they were also added to our Christmas cookie repertoire.
A year or two after my Mom returned to work (she was a stay-at-home Mom for many years, and then returned to school when I was in kindergarten, and to work when I was in 6th grade), she did not feel up to making all of those Christmas cookies every year. As luck would have it, I was old enough to bake, and in need of some extra cash for Christmas presents, so she and I struck up a deal. I can’t remember what she paid me for the cookies, but I felt flush when I went off to do my Christmas shopping. After a few years, I didn’t ask Mom to pay me for making the cookies. I just did it because I liked the tradition.
Since I’ve left home, Mom has taken to buying cookies from bakeries or church cookie sales. While the cookies are good, it’s still not the same as having home-baked cookies. Also since I’ve left home, I’ve done some measure of baking myself. Once I moved into my own apartment, I started to develop my own repertoire of cookies. (Check out the tale of my first excursion into Christmas baking in my apartment here.)
Oh, and Dad does still make Cherry Bars every year – they’re his favorite.