Tick tock, tick tock. Christmas is getting nearer by the day. It’s time to start my holiday baking and candy making.
And I want to try something fun – a virtual cookie exchange. Each day I will post a different recipe for a holiday treat. I encourage all of you to either comment below or send me an email at the address provided in the upper right hand corner of my home page with a favorite holiday recipe. I will post them along with mine.
But first, I have a couple of stories.
It was a spectacular Saturday, despite the cold weather, simply because it was filled with family and friends. My Saturday began with an annual gathering of friends that has been taking place for over 12 years. Not only is this annual holiday event a chance to catch up on everyone’s life (since many of us don’t see each other but once a year), but the gathering goes beyond that. We come together in memory of a very dear friend who passed away almost 11 years ago at a much too young age, after a long illness. Our friend Paulette LOVED Christmas. She and I worked together for many years, and it was no secret that Christmas was her favorite time of year. She was in charge of decorating the Christmas tree in the lobby of our building, and I didn’t know a tree could hold so many lights. When I thought that another string of lights simply couldn’t fit on the tree, she would open another box. Needless to say, the trees were always spectacular.
Her friends and family gathered with her at Christmas while she was alive, and we continue the tradition in her memory. Her mother and sister are present, and this year her nieces also joined us. What a treat. Merry Christmas friends.
Later that evening, my son dropped off their two daughters for a sleepover at Nana and Papa’s house. I am trying to absorb all of their sweetness and funniness and love that I can before we leave for Arizona.
Yesterday morning, I asked the girls what they wanted for breakfast. Kaiya, the 5-year-old, thought carefully (as she is prone to do) and chose Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. Three-year-old Mylee didn’t have to think twice. Her answer, “A turkey sandwich.” Well, the look of disdain on her face when I admitted to her that I didn’t have any turkey meat in the house was sobering. “Cinnamon toast?” I asked. Nope. A turkey sandwich. “How about yogurt?” Nope. A turkey sandwich. She finally settled on pretzels. That’s one of the things I like best about being a grandmother. Pretzels can actually be a food group in Nanaworld when you’re desperate.
But here’s the thing. Later on I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients for my delicious Almond Roca that is featured below. I bought butter, almonds, and sugar. When I got home, I knew there wasn’t anything that was terribly perishable, and the Broncos were on TV, so I set the bags down until halftime.
When I began putting my ingredients away, what should I find in my bag but turkey lunch meat. I swear on a stack of bibles that I didn’t put that in my cart, but somehow, someway, Mylee saw to it that there will be turkey meat next time she’s here.
Yesterday I made my personal favorite Christmas treat, Almond Roca. It really is the only candy I ever make, and it is delicious.
1 lb. real butter (no substitutes)
3 c. granulated white sugar
1 lb. whole shelled almonds (unsalted)
1 giant Hershey milk chocolate bar
Place butter and sugar in large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven .Blend sugar and butter over medium heat, stirring continually. When mixture begins to bubble increase heat, time for 5 min., stir constantly. Mixture will begin to brown. Add whole almonds and continue cooking on high heat, stirring constantly for 7 to 10 min. Mixture should be smooth and resemble a brown, thick syrup. Quickly pour onto a large, sided cookie sheet. Mixture is extremely hot. Set aside to cool. Melt Hershey bar in a saucepan. Spread on one side of candy block. Allow to harden. Turn and frost other side of block. Break into small pieces.
Nana’s Notes: I never use a candy thermometer, but I think the mixture should reach 300 degrees. I have always cooked it the original 5 min., and then 7 minutes more, no longer. Keep stirring, or it will begin to separate. I have seen where some people pour out the mixture, and then lay the chocolate bars right onto the candy to melt. I use a double boiler. The candy mixture really is like molten lava, so I never do it when the kids are around.