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Blogworld Cookie Exchange & Christmas Party - 2005 Edition

Welcome! Come on in! Can I take your coat? Would you like something to drink? Just make yourself comfortable while I put your coat on the bed with the others.

Sharkey Malarkey is one of the stops on today's blog cookie exchange, hosted by the lovely Susie at What Was I Thinking? Stop over and say hello, and then check out her commenters' sites for more yummy recipes, family traditions, and gift ideas.

Tradition, Tradition!
The only tradition that J.P. and I currently have is alternating where we spend Christmas every year. In odd-numbered years we stay home for Thanksgiving and go to Minnesota for Christmas. Our bi-annual Christmas trip begins this Friday, when we load the new car with Christmas gifts, Maggie, and all our crap and head out on the loooooooonng drive. It's the first time we've ever done the driving thing. Hopefully we (and our marriage) will all survive.

When I was in high school and college, my mom's side of the family had a fun tradition. We did a gift exchange with a creative twist. Each year it was a little bit different, but in addition to a price limit (usually $5) we always had a rule. For example, in various years the gifts had to:

  • Be made of wood.
  • Be orange and useful.
  • Match the person's birthdate in price (March 31, 1969 = 3 + 31 + 69 = $1.03).
  • Match the initials of the recipient's dream gift (My dream gift's initials were H.V.H. for Hawaiian Vacation Home. I received a Hand-lettered Viking Helmet.). The giver didn't know what the recipient's initials stood for until after the gift had been given.

Another very important rule: No food! That makes it too easy. In the "wood" year, I made a pair of earrings for my aunt out of old clarinet reeds. My sister took a scrap of 1" x 6", drilled two holes in it, strung some rope through it, and wrote the word NERD on it in big dark letters. It was a sign for my cousin to hang around his neck. Shortly after he put it on, he was reaching for something on the floor and tipped his chair into the Christmas tree. Of course, rather than helping him up, we all grabbed our cameras and started snapping away.

English Toffee Bars
Here's a recipe that J.P.'s Auntie J.J. gave us when we got married. Toffee bars are his favorite, and she wanted to be sure I knew how to make them. Before I give you the recipe, here's a preview of the frosting ingredients:

Six Hershey Bars - How can you go wrong?

Yep, that's right—the frosting consists of six Hershey bars! And chopped pecans, if you like. I love this recipe because it's easy (only four ingredients, plus the frosting) and because of the way J.J. wrote it. She was born in the U.S., but she grew up speaking Japanese, and the way she wrote the recipe always makes me smile. I'll reproduce it here just as it's written on the recipe card.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup of all-purpose flour

Top with:

  • 1/2 cup of chopped pecans - to make it attractive you could sprinkle more nuts
  • 6 bars Hershey plain chocolate bar

Direction (on back):

  1. Make the batter with first four ingredients.
  2. Spread on jelly roll pan about 1/4 of inch away from side of the pan.
  3. Bake 300 degrees for 45 minutes.
  4. Pull rack from oven. While the door is still opened place 6 bar of chocolate bar (break in section). Cover the entire tray and put back into oven for 10 seconds till chocolate melts. Spread on like frosting. Sprinkle chopped nuts.
  5. Place yard stick across top of pan and cut the cookies into bars. Must do it when the cookies is hot.
  6. I would not use good pan for this because the pan would have cutting marks left.

See what I mean about the writing? J.J. is known for the beautiful trays of Christmas cookies that she presents as gifts every year. They always have several different varieties, and she's very particular about how they look. Hence instruction #5. I have no doubt that she uses the yardstick to make sure each bar is of uniform size. Me? I wing it, but they taste just as good. Be sure to cut them while they're hot though—if you wait till they've cooled they'll crack and break apart.

Here's the batch I made last night. Merry Christmas!

The Finished Product
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