The Old Tattered Flag

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas comfort food and memories.....

Does your kitchen look like mine right now?  Flour, sugar, vanilla and butter are the main ingredients in many kitchens during this time of year.  Why is it that we feel compelled to make all these sweet treats, cookies and candies as soon as the snow starts to fall?

I have always said this time of year is my favorite for so many reasons.  Probably first and foremost as we all know....I'm a foodie!  So, this is like.....well.....Christmas to me, lol!  Today I am in heaven because everyone is home.  Both boys, hubby, Mom and of course all the critters.  To me there is nothing better than a full house, add to that the fact that it is snowijng and we all may be housebound tomorrow!  So, I decided since some of us have the sniffles to make up a couple batches of soup.  Is there anything better when you have a cold than a hot bowl of soup?  I have made the copycat version of Olive Garden's Zappa Toscana soup by:
Cooking some sausage, you can use jimmy dean (1 package) or sweet italian sausage
1/2 onion, diced
4 strips of bacon, crumbled
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Chicken stock, I used two containers
Thinly sliced potatoes, about 3 medium
Simmer until the potatoes are fork tender
Add 2 cups heavy cream or half and half
Kale or Spinach, chopped, about 4 cups
Salt, pepper and parsley
I say "about" alot because when I'm cooking I don't usually use recipes all that often.  Just throw it in and hope for the best is my motto!

But why do we feel compelled to make these comfort foods and goodies?  I know for me, as with most of you, it is tradition.  
Baking has always been an important part of Christmas in our family...

When I was a young girl my Mother and my Sister and I would make several different kinds of cookies every year to give out to friends and neighbors.  We would make pecan snowballs, chocolate crinkles, peppermint spirals, peanut blossoms, sugar cookies, mint frosted brownies, the list goes on.  This was before there were craft stores.  We didn't have all these cute little boxes and tins to put cookies in as they do today.  So, we would line the bottom of a gift shirt box with aluminum foil.  We would then carefully arrange a selection of the cookies, usually 2 or 3 per box, or more depending on the size of the family to whom it was going.  We would then carefully wrap it with saran wrap and top it off with a bow.  We would give these cookie boxes to the mailman, the trash men, neighbors, co-workers.  It really is a very fond memory of mine and I carry it on to this day.  

We would also have dishes of candies and nuts around the house.......

And we would decorate our tree with candy canes.  The candy canes would be put on last, the finishing touch....after the silver tinsel.  I like to use candy canes as part of my kitchen decor now.  I toss a few in a jar surrounded by greenery as you see below.  

Jars of flour, oats and baking powder become part of my kitchen decor as well as they are frequently used during the month.  Pans of cookies and containers of puppy chow are usually front and center in our kitchen....

Puppy chow!  It is a staple in this house.  I mixed up the 6th batch today.  My youngest son lives on it during the month of December.  I made some for our Christmas open house and was so happy to see our guests walking around with a cup of it happily munching away.

So, yesterday when my husband asked me to make up a batch so he could bring some to work to put on his desk it made me happy.  It made me smile because the tradition continues.  I might not have the time to make the long list of cookies we made when I was a young girl but by just filling a few treat bags for my husband to give out to his co-workers, the spirit continues and that is really what it is all about.  I know more chex mix, peanut butter will go in my shopping cart the next time I go to the store as there will also be a batch going to the USO for soldiers who cannot get home for the holidays.  My son works at the USO so the tradition will continue with him as well.  

That's why we find comfort in these special foods.  It's about the feelings you have when you are baking that 8th batch of Christmas cookies, or frosting those sugar cookies with your children or grandchildren.  It's comfort, it's the feeling of home and nostalgia.

So, next time someone asks you to make those  special cookies or candy, I hope you know that you may be making a memory for someone or starting a tradition.
Until next time.....


PineNeedlePrimitives said...

Julie what a beautiful post, so enjoyed reading it. I too, enjoy baking for family and friends. Merry Christmas

acorn hollow said...

We have a lot of the same baking past. I am gearing up to bake again tonight for our local road crew. One year we had so many goodies I made a plate and dropped it off at the barn they said "no one ever drops goodies off here!" They work long hard nights here in central NH plowing and sanding so from that point on I have done it every year.
Merry Christmas

Lori from Notforgotten Farm said...

yum! wonderful & heartfelt traditions ~ memories in the making...

Miccosukee said...

Julie, I don't eat red meat but could probably enjoy some puppy chow. Any chance of getting the recipe? If it has peanut butter in it, poor Roxy can't have any.
Have a blessed holiday season!

Julie Thomas said...

Merry Christmas Nancy!

Julie Thomas said...

How nice! I'll have to keep that in mind, you are right, I bet those road crew guys are forgotten. Since my husband is/was military we will often bring some cookies to the guys who have to work the gates. It is appreciated! Merry Christmas Cathy!

Julie Thomas said...

Thanks Lori!

Julie Thomas said...

Of course, it's delicious but does have peanut butter.
Puppy chow ~ I always make a double batch
1 bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
1 stick of butter
melt above three in the microwave, usually for about 1 minute then stir until smooth.
Pour over 18 cups (family size box of rice chex mix) and gently stir until all pieces are covered with chocolate. I have a huge bowl I do this in. Then pour approx. 4 cups of powdered sugar and gently toss (I stick both hands in and toss until every piece is coated and nicely powdered white) You can also shake in a paper bag. Keep in a large tupperware container or divide into treat bags to grab on the go.

Merry Christmas!

imsteelefullofscrap said...

I make the Zappa Soup at least once a month has always been my favorite from Olive Garden wishing u and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Jocelyn Thurston said...

This is a great post. Love the soup you describe; I too make a lot of soups esp. during the winter. I have never heard of Puppy Chow so thanks for the recipe. Merry Christmas to you!

About Me

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my blog. I am married and just entering the second phase of my life as a Army retiree's wife. My husband and I did 25+ years in the Army. He is now officially a retired Colonel and has just entered the civilian workforce and I am happily settled in our 1830 Stone house. I (along with my Mom) operate www.theoldtatteredflag and currently we are building a small shop in the back part of the house. We live in Northern NY, right near the Canadian border. I have two handsome sons and 2 puggles. Life is busy for us, but I wouldn't have it any other way.