In the Good Eater household, Christmas is our favorite holiday, and we really don’t understand why some people like to grouse about it so much. What’s not to like about a holiday that brightens the darkest month of the year? About a holiday that encourages generosity (gift giving), cooking (food), and eating (more food)? Then there are the movies, ranging from A Christmas Carol to Elf to A Christmas Story to A Child’s Christmas in Wales. We watch them all. In fact, we usually watch several versions of A Christmas Carol, and a little eggnog and cognac makes the viewing even more enjoyable.
It must be noted that we are not a religious household, but that doesn’t matter at all. While the practice of Christianity has often been ugly and violent, the Christmas ideal of “Peace on Earth” is not. Unfortunately, the divergence of practice and ideals is all too common, and Christianity is hardly the only belief system where this has happened. And if you are not moved by the story of the nativity—the plight of Mary and Joseph—then you should ask yourself why.
We are also not an affluent family, and at times we have been quite poor. But we have never let this interfere with giving presents, and we do it without going into debt. How do we do this? With creativity and prior planning. All through the year, we are on the lookout for sale items that might appeal to family and friends. Library book sales are a favorite place for us to shop for presents. We also like Daedalus Books, which has a broad range of remaindered books, DVDs, and CDs. Finally, we make presents—jewelry, cards, calendars, framed photos, and, of course, food.
We also like to host a big party, which we will be giving this Saturday, and I have begun making goodies for it. Yesterday, it was peanut butter balls, and I have a big tin of them in the kitchen. It’s a good thing I made a lot because resistance is futile, and I have been “nipping” a peanut butter ball from the tin from time to time. (If I’m not careful, I’ll have to make another batch.)
Today, I’ll be making pie knots. I’m also going to make a potato, ham, cheese, and tomato galette, which will be an experimental dish (no recipe), and if it comes out well, I’ll be making a couple for the party. In the next two days, I’ll be moving on to chili, cornbread, cheddar cheese soup, and several other dishes. Then after the party will come the cooking for Christmas itself—breads, tourtière, and ice cream pies, to name a few. Oh, the list is long and delicious, and I will be writing about what I make.
To sweeten the mood of Grinches and non-Grinches alike, here is my recipe for Peanut Butter Balls.
Peanut Butter Balls
Note: This recipe originally called for paraffin to be added to the chocolate, and in our innocent past, we blithely did this, not only with peanut butter balls but with Needhams and other candy as well. Nowadays, we know that ingesting paraffin is not exactly the thing to do, and we add a bit of Crisco to the chocolate. We also realize that Crisco is not high on the list of health foods, but we figure that it’s at least a little higher than paraffin, which has even been labeled as “evil” by one foodie. When you come right down to it, nobody would dream of putting peanut butter balls on a list of healthy food. But remember, Christmas comes but once a year, and really the best place to put those sweet, little peanut butter confections is right in your mouth.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
2 sticks melted butter
¾ cup of peanut butter
2 cups crushed graham crackers
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 pound of powdered sugar
Roll teaspoonful of mixture in small balls and place on cookie sheet lined with wax paper.
In double boiler, melt 2 tablespoons of Crisco with 2 cups of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. Be sure water simmers but does not boil.
With a fork (a long-handled one is best) and a looped candy dipper (use another fork if you don’t have one) roll the balls in the chocolate and then put them back on the wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, and then take them out. When they are hard, store in an airtight container. And remember, you want to save at least some of these for friends and family.