Saturday, December 05, 2020

Kitchen gifts remembered


This started with a post I wrote years ago (2007) on my Christmas blog, when I'd been doing some thinking about gifts from the kitchen: how they come from the giver's heart and also from the heart of the home. When I was growing up, our family always gave away lots of cookies, fudge, and yeast breads at Christmas time: My mother made pans and pans of her maple fudge, but she also made lots of Christmas cookies,  and loaves of cinnamon swirled bread which she topped with a thin white icing plus sliced almonds and a few candied cherries.  We were also the recipients of some kitchen gifts, so I'm going to share a few of those memories and recipes this morning.

Great-aunt Bessie always made large batches of Chex Mix and gave tins of it to everyone on her list.
I've done a bit of research to try and find the recipe Bessie would have used. It's somewhat different from the Chex Mix of today. I seem to recall that there were short, thin pretzel sticks in it, peanuts, and Cheerios. I definitely remember fighting with my siblings over the Cheerios. These seemed to absorb the butter and seasonings better than anything else, and were really tasty. Somewhere I can picture the recipe, written in Bessie's handwriting on Ralston Purina letterhead (her late husband had worked for Ralston, and they were also the company Chex cereal was originally made by, so this was quite meaningful) but I haven't been able to find that paper. Bessie would pack the mix in recycled cans which she covered with Con-Tact™ paper.  This is the best I've been able to do as far as finding a recipe for it: Bessie's Mix.

I don't recall my grandmother giving kitchen gifts in my childhood,  but in later years, she also had a traditional homemade gift that she would give -- large jars of creamy hot chocolate mix. She would stir all the ingredients up in a gigantic bowl and then transfer the mix to jars for giving. It made a very rich-tasting cup of hot chocolate, so we kids were always happy to see that jar!  Here's her recipe: Gram's Hot Chocolate Mix.

 Gram also traditionally made a special kind of fudge. I think it was basically the "Five-Minute Fudge" and that she used to use both chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in it, maybe in equal quantities.

Neighbors also shared kitchen gifts with our family. There was a German family who always brought an assortment of delectable homemade cookies. Another neighbor traditionally made a pear quick bread. And another delivered her gift on New Year's Day -- a dessert called Pumpkin Snow (made from her own pumpkins) with an accompanying jar of custard sauce.

What fun it all was! When my hubby and I got married over four decades ago, we decided to share Christmas cookies with our neighbors.  Some reciprocated with jars of salsa or loaves of homemade bread.  Not sure where the neighbor gifts will be going this year amid coronavirus fears, but we will be giving plenty of kitchen gifts to our family.  So happy to keep these memories going.


  1. So wonderful that people still do that. I love the Chex mix, and I will check out your Aunt Bessie's recipe. I used to make a "Russian Tea" mix, which used Tang and Lemonade mix and Instant Tea mix and spices. Put it in little jars w/instructions for how much for a cup of tea. It was good, but now I'm not so sure about all those instant mixes being all that good for us! But it really was good. I've done the hot cocoa mix before too, and that was always good. Maybe I'll do that again for those who like it. I prefer hot Ovaltine myself! I'm not a big fudge fan, but we have a friend (who was from NH/Maine, btw) who always makes peanut butter fudge. I think the maple fudge would be good...especially coming from real maple syrup from NH! I like to make some nut breads, like cranberry/orange... and my MIL always made fruit cake. Hers was very good with lots of nuts. You are "stirring up" some good ideas for me to think upon. Thank you.

  2. Recently received Chex mix that had a bit of heat at the end...some jalapeño pepper flavor. One family member makes hers very mild because her children won't eat it otherwise. My mother's recipe included Worcestershire sauce, which I like a lot. Now off to see what your Auntie's recipe had.

  3. Thanks for sharing! I will be trying them all!💖

  4. Christmas gifts from the kitchen are wonderful. Last year one little granddaughter prepared Chocolate Mug Cakes for the adults, with a hand-written (and photocopied) recipe, and cute tags. Chex Mix is on my list to make and share with family this year since we won't be munching it together.


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