If you're looking for some new dishes to try this holiday season, I invite you to celebrate with a few of my family's favorite recipes, made legendary by my grandmother.
My beloved grandmother was famous – well, almost famous – for her Southern-style pancakes. Most of the people in the valley where she lived in Arkansas, in the 1930s, knew of “Nannie’s" pancakes, because she made them for every church gathering, supper or breakfast, for 30 years. They were, without a doubt, everyone’s favorite breakfast dish, no matter the time of day.
Another favorite recipe from my grandma is Angel's Delight. I've never tasted anything that even closely resembles this delectable treat. It was a tradition in our family for her to make this concoction every Christmas, and her handwritten recipe card is yellowed and stained from many years of keeping the tradition alive.
My grandmother also made sugar cookies for the holidays, and they were above and beyond delicious. When we were kids, my brother, sister, cousins, and I had a great – and messy – time decorating them. This recipe card is also old and faded, and barely decipherable, so it's a good thing I made a copy of it many years ago.
Nannie's Special Pancakes
It's important that all the ingredients are measured accurately – no rounding off or guessing. Plan to have everything ready ahead of the pancakes, which will cook quickly and need to be served while they're hot.
Before cooking the first pancake, test the griddle for the correct temperature. To test, sprinkle a little cold water on the griddle. If it sizzles, drop about a dime size amount of batter on the griddle. Wait one minute before turning it over to see if it's light brown. If it's not, increase the heat of the griddle and do another test. On the other hand, if the bottom is too brown, reduce the heat, wait a minute, and repeat the test.
Call everyone to the table just as you're ready to spoon the batter onto the hot griddle. One large wooden spoonful should be enough for one pancake. Put as many on the griddle as will fit, without them touching. This recipe makes about 8 saucer-sized pancakes. You'll more than likely want to double or triple the recipe.
Don’t be surprised to see eyes of all ages popping wide open when they see these thick, light, and luscious pancakes on their plates.
Serve hot with butter and syrup, or for even more flavor, sprinkle on some additional nuts, and garnish with sliced bananas or strawberries.
Bacon and/or sausage served to the side is a great option for a hungry group, and you can round it all out with a glass of orange juice or milk.
Now that's a perfect start to a spectacular holiday.
• 1 cup flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 3 tablespoons coarsely ground cornmeal
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 2 tablespoons cooking oil
• 2 drops pure vanilla extract (a little less than 1⁄4 teaspoon)
• 1⁄2 cup broken pecans
1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix with a fork to distribute all ingredients. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, beat egg with a fork. Whisk in buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Add, all at once, to flour mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until moistened. Batter will be thick and lumpy. Lightly fold in pecans.
3. Heat an ungreased griddle – or a large skillet that's been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray or a little additional oil – over medium-high heat. Test the temperature, and once the optimum temperature is reached, spoon the batter onto the griddle, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip and cook for another minute or two. Serve immediately.
This recipe is guaranteed to turn any day into a special day. Once you make and taste this, you'll find yourself wanting to make it for every special occasion – and for no occasion at all.
As is the case with so many old recipes, the ingredients and directions are a little vague. It doesn't give a specific kind of nuts, but I know my grandma always used pecans. The recipe also doesn't specify the pan size or cooking time, but I've had success using a 9-inch square cake pan and baking it for 25 to 30 minutes. Since all ovens are different, cooking times may vary, but you can test it for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. If it's done, the toothpick will come out clean. If the toothpick has batter bits on it, bake it a little longer.
The original recipe also says to bake it in a "buttered" pan. However, using nonstick cooking spray works just fine, if you prefer.
• 1 cup chopped dates
• 1 cup chopped nuts
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 heaping tablespoon flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 2 extra-large eggs
• Powdered sugar, optional
1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients, and mix to blend.
2. Bake in a slow oven, 325 F, in a buttered pan until done. (Caution: Take from the oven before it cooks dry.)
3. Cool on a wire rack, then cut into squares. If desired, cut the squares into rectangles, and roll in powdered sugar.
Buttermilk Sugar Cookies
No holiday is complete without homemade sugar cookies. These cookies are so delicious they don't need frosting. However, decorating sugar cookies is part of the holiday fun, and children gladly volunteer for this job.
There are two ways to decorate these cookies. You can sprinkle colored sugar on the dough after it's been rolled out and cut into shapes, before baking, or you can roll the dough out and cut out your shapes, bake the cookies and let them cool completely, and then decorate them with your favorite frosting.
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 sticks butter
• Pinch of salt
• 2 eggs
• 2 drops almond extract (a little less than 1⁄4 teaspoon)
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 51⁄2 cups flour (approximately)
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon nutmeg, optional
1. In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter until smooth. Stir in salt, eggs, and almond extract. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and buttermilk. Set aside and let baking soda dissolve.
3. In another large bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Sift in nutmeg, if using.
4. Add buttermilk mixture alternately with flour mixture to creamed mixture until dough is stiff enough to roll out with a rolling pin. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
5. Preheat oven to 350 F.
6. Roll dough out on a lightly floured board to about 3⁄8-inch thickness.
7. Cut dough with cookie cutters, and place on ungreased cookies sheets, about 1 inch apart.
8. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, watching them closely. They should be light in color.
9. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.