Let’s see. My obsession with collecting heritage recipes and cookbooks began in earnest in 2000, when I opened my first restaurant and featured my own family’s dishes. Since that time, I have cooked from and collected hundreds of cookbooks, ranging from family heirloom recipe collections and church fundraising cookbooks to publications produced by food manufacturers hoping to give the home cook suggestions on how to use their products. Some cookbooks go into unbelievable detail about a family’s genealogy or a church or civic organization’s fundraising activities. Then, there are the books that say nothing on the cover and nothing on the inside pages. They are simply hand-written and bound recipes. It was one of these non-descript cookbooks in which found this scrumptious recipe for Brown Sugar Nut Bars. The cookbook simply said “VAVS Volunteer Cookbook.” (I’m assuming VAVS is the acronym for Veterans Administration Volunteer Services, or Veteran’s Affairs Voluntary Services.) In any case I have no one to thank for pages and pages of delightful recipes like this one. The Brown Sugar Nut Bars have a light and delicate shortbread base, and you can use any nut you like, although this recipe suggests slivered almonds. It’s a terrific treat to make ahead and freeze, and it can easily be transported to a party or pot luck without worrying about it falling apart. If you’ve got some leftover walnuts, pecans or almonds, just mix them together and blend them in the bath of butter, brown sugar and pure vanilla. The sweet and salty result is the perfect paring for the shortbread base below!
It’s just so sweet. Not as in sugary sweet, but as in adorable.
This recipe for Bundles of Joy is now a time-honored tradition created by my sister-in-law Nadine Tisdell, combining her joy of baking and her love of this past Christmas season. Here’s Nadine’s story.
“It was a few weeks before Christmas, and I had just finished putting up our holiday decorations. The tree was decorated, the stockings were hung, and I was arranging our nativity. I began to seriously contemplate what I was teaching my children about Christmas. I love tradition. We always set everything up the same way; we always bake the same cookies with the same recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. What was I passing on? What traditions will my children hold dear? I looked at the nativity and decided that the tradition I wanted to pass on to my children the most was the true meaning of Christmas. A few days later, I was going through some of my recipes and a thought came to me. That thought turned into a simple treat that has become a Christmas morning tradition and just a little reminder of why we are celebrating this holiday.”
Well, the holiday season has come and gone, but my family enjoys Nadine’s Bundles of Joy all year long, especially for breakfast, and I think you will too!
Watch my How To Video for Bundles of Joy here!
After Halloween, when our carved-out pumpkin jack-o-lanterns start to shrivel, we usually toss them into the trash or compost pile and then head to the pantry for the canned pumpkin puree to make our holiday pies, cakes and cookies. But in the Early New England settlements, colonists considered the pumpkin a staple and culinary treasure:
“For pottage and puddings and custards and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon;
If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon.”
Now that trick-or-treating is over, all things pumpkin leads the way to Thanksgiving and our holiday baked goodies. Here to kick things off is a deliciously moist and delicate fall favorite, The Pumpkin Roll. This tasty spice cake rolled around a sweet cream cheese filling is a lovely way to not only satisfy our sweet tooth, but to pay tribute to the pumpkin, one of the first wild plants cultivated for human consumption in America.