Although I have one very large bookcase filled to overflowing with Christmas cookbooks, as well as the cookie and candy cookbooks—I don’t use all of them all the time. Then why keep them? you may ask. Good question.
I think first of all because it has become a collection within a collection. One year a girlfriend who lives in Northern California came to visit for a week and she set up a spread sheet for me. I managed, somehow, to get every Christmas cookbook onto the spread sheet. It took about 6 weeks (I STILL had other things to do!) and I discovered I have over 500 Christmas cookbooks. Well, that was in 2006 and I have acquired a bunch more Christmas cookbooks so the spread sheet is outdated (and it was such a JOB that I never attempted to put all the other cookbooks onto the spread sheet). I always harbored a dream that I would become a successful writer and be able to afford a secretary and SHE could get all the books logged onto the spreadsheet. And do my filing and put the books away that I keep taking off the shelves until they threaten to take over my small workspace. Well, that never happened and I’ve never had any success in persuading my granddaughter to do any secretarial work for me.
At any rate, since I began working on this Blog project for November, to post all of my articles about Christmas—and write new material as ideas inspire me—I took about 8 of my favorite Christmas cookbooks off the shelves so I can share them with you. I think most may be available on the internet, a few maybe not. Here’s the first one:
THE RUSH HOUR SUPERCHEF PRESENTS “IT’S CHRISTMAS” is subtitled “Easy and Festive Do-it-Ahead Menus and Recipes” by Dianne Stafford Mayes and Dorothy Davenport Stafford. This is a spiral-bound cookbook and it’s directed at women today, busy housewives, busy mothers, busy working full time at jobs to help make ends meet—does that describe women today? We try to do it all, don’t we? That was me for 27 years – actually much longer than twenty seven years but those were the years I worked full time, from 1977 to 2002, when I retired.
Under the table of contents you will find categories such as:
A MERRY CHRISTMAS TREE TRIMMING (features a do ahead buffet). This is followed by:
WELCOME! A HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE (Festive Food and Yuletide Cheer) (*We did open houses parties for more than thirty years—going back to the beginning of my marriage to Jim—probably closer to 50 years of open houses).
Then there is a chapter called ALL ABOARD! HERE COMES THE KINDERGARDEN BUNCH! (and we have done something similar to this since Savannah, my first grandchild, was two years ago. We began having a Christmas Cookie and Craft Project for the children—these are still going on).
Next chapter is ONCE AGAIN THE WONDROUS CHRISTMAS FEAST! Which is followed by six more chapters. There are SO many great recipes in It’s Christmas. I’ve become inspired, reading it again, to do a Tree Trimming Party again—we had such fun doing one of these years ago, when I was renting the house in Van Nuys. No little children by this time but everyone there enjoyed the project and I think it’s time to bring it back. Now there are two little girls in my life who would love helping Grammy hang ornaments.
And regarding a holiday open house – we had our first, I believe, in December of 1963 after returning to California and moving into an unfurnished apartment. (we planned to buy furniture after we got our tax return—which we did) – but our apartment in Toluca Lake did come with a stove and refrigerator and I had a Betty Crocker cookbook—so I made a lot of cookies and we invited friends over for coffee and cookies. We all sat on the floor!
At times I’ve thought fondly of that empty apartment; when we had our open house parties years later, the house would be overflowing with friends and relatives, who were all over the house and in the front yard. It took me years to discover that the best bet for having food to serve to guests at a party like this is – hors d’oeuvres. Hot tidbits, cold ones, it doesn’t matter. Guests at a party such as this will take a plate and fill it with what they want. If someone asks what they can bring, I usually said Oh, your favorite hors d’oeuvre or a bottle of wine, if you like. The offerings brought by guests usually rounded out the menu, for others would bring something I hadn’t thought of making.
And guests can return to the table and get refills if they like. (This would be a good topic to pursue in a future post. I have a lot of hors d’oeuvre cookbooks and recipes).
IT’S CHRISTMAS provides recipes for your open house such as a Christmas Antipasto Tray, Rolled Stuffed Salami (I would double the recipe—people love this appetizer), Deviled Eggs and Herb Cherry Tomatoes, Marinated Mushroom Buttons (another huge favorite) and many other great recipes.
And in the chapter dedicated to New Year’s Eve, there are more hors d’oeuvre recipes to add to your collection – such as Spicy Oyster Crackers and Frosted Braunschweiger Pate.
Amazon.com does not list any new copies of this book but they have pre-owned ones starting at one cent. You can’t beat that—add $3.99 for shipping & handling and you have a great cookbook.
Next on my stack of favorite Christmas cookbooks is TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS compiled by the Junior Women’s Group, Pioneer Museum and Haggin Galleries of Stockton, California, published in 1974. I think I must have bought this one from the group in 1974 because I have had it so long. “Twelve Days of Christmas” was introduced on December 8, 1974, during a gala holiday party staged by the Junior Women’s Group of Pioneer Museum and Haggin Galleries. This book contains many of the favorite recipes that were added to my repertoire, such as Mont Blanc Chicken Spread, Cheese Pine Cone, a Parsley tree with vegetables and a Creamy Braunschweiger Dip. There is “An Innocent Christmas Cup” that will satisfy everyone with a great combination of ingredients and a Green Chili dip that I used to make – kind of forgot about until now – and will have to re-introduce it to the family and a Stuffed French Roll recipe that is so simple – and would be so great for a light dinner, along with a cup or bowl of homemade soup. There are these and so many other recipes in TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS but what I really want to point out is a recipe called SPINACH DELIGHT that I have been making all these years. I served it to friends one time – the husband loves spinach, his wife hates it – but she came away liking this spinach recipe. It became one of my signature recipes – and I will post it for you at the end of this article. There are many great holiday recipes in this collection – I just rediscovered Turkey and Green Chili Casserole recipe too, another I will have to resurrect.
I regret to report that I was unable to find this cookbook on either Amazon or Alibris. But it’s worth searching for! It’s one of my favorites.
Another Christmas cookbook I am partial to is BUSY PEOPLE’S FUN, FAST, FESTIVE CHRISTMAS COOKBOK by Dawn Hall. This one was published in 2005 by Rutledge Hill Press. Under Menus at a Glance, Hall provides Italian Christmas Eve Dinner, Mexican Christmas Eve Dinner, Christmas eve appetizer and Dessert Buffet (my kind of party menu), and Christmas Eve Sweets, Treats and Hors d’oeuvre Buffet—to serve 16 . That’s just Chapter One!
Chapter Two is Breakfasts and Brunches – from Breakfast for One to Remembering Christmases Past to serve four – but it’s a simple menu that could easily be doubled or tripled.
You may find inspiration in Holiday Brunch, that serves 16 or the Traditional Christmas dinner that serves 12. This is just a sampling of menus.
What you may not know about Dawn Hall is that all of her recipes are healthy, low-cal, low fat, low sugar or no sugar – that provide inspiration for providing healthier dishes for your family and friends. Dawn has made a career out of proving it can be done.
This cookbook is available on Amazon.com for $2.97 and up, new, or for 12 cents pre-owned. Alibris.com has copies for 99c.
A Favorite Recipes Press cookbook that I have had for a while is MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT/HOLIDAY RECIPES & FAMILY FUN published in 1995. This ring-bound cookbook starts out with a collection of traditional Christmas carols and songs. There are stories, such as Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Fir tree and why Christmas greenery has been an integral part of our holiday decorations since the 4th century. Turn the book upside down and you find, in the introduction. The Legend of St. Nicholas and the Golden Bars – then come the recipes, starting with cookies. There are pages and pages of cookie recipes, some of which are made with my favorite ingredient, cake mixes; there are Almond Squares made with yellow cake mix and Caramel Squares made with a package of brownie mix, Devil’s Food Bars made from a package of devil’s food cake mix, and Easy Cheezy Lemon Bars made with lemon cake mix. I’ve been a strong advocate of cake mix cookies for quite some time but there are recipes here that even I didn’t know about.
The next chapter is dedicated to cakes and you will surely find something special from which to surprise and delight your family on Christmas Day. Recipes range from Ambrosia cake to Apricot Cream Cheese Cake, an easy to do Banana Butter Pecan Cake (made from a box of yellow cake mix!) to a Christmas Carrot Cake, a recipe I made one year some time ago. Or, you may want to surprise your family and friends with a Chocolate Raspberry torte or Chocolate Fruitcakes! Included under cakes are also recipes for Refrigerator Fruitcake (a recipe that has been around forever) that is made with graham cracker crumbs and goes into the refrigerator unbaked. There is also a recipe for Southern Fruitcake, as well as Spiced Chocolate Zucchini Cake—surely something for everyone.
The next chapter is CANDY with an assortment of recipes I haven’t seen elsewhere –most of these recipes appear to be simple ones that anyone can make and some don’t even require a candy thermometer. There is Baby Ruth Candy and Almond Clusters, Brown Sugar Candy (my favorite) and candy hash, made with Cap’ n Crunch’s Crunch Berries Cereal – there is Caramel Brittle (which does require a candy thermometer) and chocolate chip bonbons… and many others. Some of these are easy enough for a young child to help make. My grandson is looking forward to making Buckeye Balls again. We’ve scheduled it for Thanksgiving weekend. But getting back to MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT, there are recipes for different kinds of fudge – Orange Walnut Fudge and Easy Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudge, and there is a recipe for Creamy Pralines and Microwave Toffee. This is just a sampling of what you will find in MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT.
I found this book listed on Amazon.com for $9.99 new, or pre-owned starting at 1 cent.
One more Christmas collection isn’t a book – it’s a booklet from Pillsbury. The title of this booklet is BEST LOVE FOODS OF CHRISTMAS and there is a blue ribbon in the bottom corner of the cover, proclaiming it Best of the Bake Off. It contains 65 recipes and features 10 “best” butter cookie recipes. It originally sold for 25 cents! And you know, these are Pillsbury winning recipes so you know they are all good. Well, you probably won’t find it for 25 cents unless you find it at a friends’ of the library sale like I did—every so often someone donates dozens of these booklets to the sale. I go through them searching for any Christmas-theme cookbooklets. Sometimes I find some treasures and sometimes I don’t. You just never know what will be donated so I head for the section where cookbooks are displayed and go through everything. Sometimes I find a Christmas cookbook that I already have, and buy it anyway, to give to my sister or a daughter in law. Amazon.com does have some copies of this booklet. The lowest price I found was $2.65. Still, a good buy even if it’s a lot more than the original twenty five cents!! J
One more book I want to just mention before closing isn’t a Christmas cookbook but it’s perfect for the holidays. The book is 365 Snacks, Hors D’oeuvres & Appetizers by Lonnie Gandara and Peggy Fallon. It’s the perfect book to have if you are contemplating an Open House or any other kind of holiday party in which you want to stay focused on hors d’oeuvres—this book is packed with recipes. Amazon.com has it new for $6.20 or pre-owned starting at one cent.
Another favorite holiday cookbook is THE PEAR TREE from the Junior League of Knoxville, published in 1977. It had gone through four printings by the time I purchased my copy, and may have gone through many more since then. This holiday cookbook starts with Brunch recipes, including a Sausage-Wild Rice Casserole and a Hot asparagus dish that sounds divine. Other brunch recipes on the menus include a Heavenly Cheese Soufflé, Artichokes Benedict and Swiss Sausage Cloud.
There is a collection of luncheon recipes and a selection of Hors d’oeuvres, such as Cocktail Shrimp Quiche and Aunt Martha’s Original Cheese Squares, Steak Tidbits and Chinese Chicken Wings. Under Informal Dinners I found my quintessential Beef Burgundy and for another informal dinner, roast lamb or pork while for a more elegant dinner, Cornish Hens Stuffed with Wild Rice is on the menu. Christmas Dinner II offers Standing Rib Roast of Beef (and proclaims it’s a foolproof recipe) that you can serve with mushroom sauce and potato crabmeat, Asparagus with Lemon Butter and Sherry Cake.
These and other Christmas menus and recipes await you in THE PEAR TREE. Amazon.com has pre-owned copies starting at $3.94. I could not find it listed on Alibris.com.
Another long-time favorite of mine is VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS, a spiral bound cookbook published by the Parents’ Association of Charlotte Country Day School, in Charlotte, North Carolina, published in 1989 with the assistance of many contributors. I love the format of this cookbook which is larger in height and width than your average community cookbook—it easily opens flat and starts with a generous collection of Beverages, many of which I have never heard of before! There are punches and teas and eggnog and floats, mulled cider and spritzers—even old fashioned wassail. You are sure to find something you want to make in this collection. Next is a chapter called Munchies and Crunchies which translates to appetizers, dips and hors d’oeuvres. There is a lot from which to choose!
Next are cakes and holiday breads—followed by cookies and desserts, which includes Almost like Mrs. Field’s Cookies (which I have made – it’s a great recipe) and Chewy Cheesecake cookies, Best Gingerbread cookies and Kringle Sticks, Praline Squares and Old Fashioned Sugar cookies. The next chapter is Candies and Chocolates (I’m not sure why chocolate was listed separately from candies but there are a wide assortment of goodies to make. (or at least salivate over). I could not find this cookbook listed on either Amazon.com or Alibris.com—it doesn’t mean it isn’t out there; I just didn’t find it. You can request Alibris to look for a book for you.
And before I sign off, I want to share a couple of recipes with you from TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS:
2 pkgs frozen chopped spinach
½ pound cheddar cheese, diced or shredded (I always shredded it)
½ cup butter, diced
6 eggs, beaten (or you can use egg beaters)
2 cups cottage cheese (I use fat free)
¼ cup flour
Salt & pepper to taste
Cook the spinach (you can do this in a microwave) and drain thoroughly. (I squeeze it as much as I can to remove the liquid). Combine the spinach with the remaining ingredients, adding flour a little at a time. Stir just until mixed. Pour into a buttered 2-quart baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serves 8-10.
Another from Twelve days of Christmas that is perfect for after Christmas or New Year’s Eve or Day, when you have leftover turkey
TURKEY AND GREEN CHILI CASSEROLE
To prepare sauce, combine in a saucepan:
1 (10 oz) can Las Palmas enchilada sauce
2 cans stewed tomatoes (there is a Mexican flavor stewed tomatoes that would be good with this)
1 finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can golden mushroom soup
1 (13 ¾ oz) can chicken broth
Salt & pepper to taste
Simmer until onion is soft. Thicken with 2 TBSP cornstarch dissolved in a little chicken broth or water. Simmer a few minutes longer, set aside.
Ingredients for casserole:
1 package (1 dozen) corn tortillas cut in half
1 cube (one stick) butter or margarine
1 bunch fresh spinach or 1 pkg chopped frozen spinach, cooked and well drained
1 (4 oz) can green chili peppers (I buy the mild ones) seeded and chopped
1 pint sour cream
½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
½ pound Cheddar cheese, shredded
Desired amount of cooked chicken or turkey, cubed (for this recipe I would start with 4 cups of cubed turkey. Add more if you don’t feel like its enough.
Dip halves of tortillas in melted butter or margarine and line bottom and sides of a butter 9×15” baking pan. (Reserve enough halves for a second layer). Over these layer half the chicken or turkey, half the combined spinach and chili peppers, half the combined cheeses, half of the sour cream and half of the sauce. Repeat and add a final layer of cheese on top. Allow to stand overnight in the frig. (Casserole may be frozen at this point, if you don’t want to serve it immediately). Bake for 34 minutes to an hour in a 350 degree oven. (Thaw and bake longer if frozen and very cold). Serves 8-10.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS & MAY ALL YOUR RECIPES TURN OUT PERFECT!