≡ Menu

Sharing Holiday Food and Recipes Brings Unexpected Joy

Here’s a heartwarmer for you, with a bit of background…

My husband and I were married in March 2014 by a lovely woman I’ll call “Lena” who runs a business for personalized wedding ceremonies. During the planning process, Lena and I bonded over a mutual knowledge of EHell, and her daughter was a devotee of your book and your website before her passing at a young age. We remained friends after the wedding, getting together for coffee or dinner.

In the time between our wedding and the holidays, Lena’s father passed away, leaving Lena as the eldest and executor, to clear out the house and handle the estate, as her mother had died some years before. Part of this also involved moving Lena’s brother, “Billy” into her home. Billy was born with certain mental disabilities; he’s a very sweet man and very polite, but cannot live on his own. Poor Lena had little help from her other two siblings, but did her best to accommodate Billy’s needs.

After Thanksgiving, but before Christmas, we once again had the opportunity to have dinner with Lena and Billy at Lena’s home. While we were at my parents’ home for Thanksgiving, my mother had given us several sticks of a nut roll pastry she called “kolachi,” which she makes every year for the holidays based on her Eastern European stepmother’s recipe. When attending the dinner, in addition to a bottle of wine for Lena, we brought some kolachi for them to enjoy. When we explained what the aluminum wrapped item was, Lena began to cry. It seems her mother, many years ago, made a nut roll pastry EXACTLY like this one, called “Kolach”. Unfortunately, since her death, no one could find the recipe. Lena and her siblings had not felt much like celebrating Christmas this year, due to the loss of their father, the reminders of both the loss of their mother and Lena’s daughter in prior years, and the stress of taking care of Billy. However, with our unexpected gift of Kolach, she called her sister the next day, and the two of them, with Billy, had a lovely Christmas morning of memories enjoying the pastry.

My mother has subsequently provided Lena with a copy of the recipe, and every time we see Lena and Billy (regardless of the time of year), my husband and I receive a hug from Billy coupled with a hopeful, “Did you bring more Kolach? Are you staying for Christmas?” It’s the unexpected ways we touch each others lives that really make the holidays special!   1008-15

Lovely.  It’s amazing how food plays such a crucial role in memories and relationships.  I really believe God orchestrates these little serendipity events because sometimes it’s the small things that can bring the biggest blessings.   I had a similar experience many years ago when, on a Usenet cooking group, a man asked if anyone had an old onion and sage stuffing recipe. His mother had died ten years earlier and taken the recipe in her head to the grave.  I had my mother’s recipe that I had fastidiously copied while she made it when I was 12 and emailed it to him.  He contacted me after Thanksgiving that year saying how he and his father had sat at the table with tears streaming down their faces tasting the exact same recipe they remembered but they had not had in over a decade.   Who would have guessed that sharing a recipe could bring such joy?

Anyone else have a story of sharing a recipe that brought joy to someone else?  Share that recipe here!

Jeanne’s Vintage Sage, Onion and Celery Stuffing Recipe

30-oz. or 16 cups unspiced bread crumbs
5 cups water with 1 cup butter-melt together
2 cups frozen chopped onions
5 stalks celery (2cups) chopped
6 bread slices ripped up
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 1/2 tsp. Marjoram
1/2 tsp. Sage
1/2 tsp. thyme
3 eggs

Do not stuff turkey the night before, stuff the day you are cooking turkey. Any stuffing left over from stuffing the turkey can be placed in loaf pans and baked with turkey. Later in the week, this leftover stuffing can be sliced and reheated in turkey gravy.

Can also be cooked in a crockpot: Butter sides of crockpot and put stuffing in. Cover and cook for one hour on high (300 degrees). Reduce the heat to low (200 degrees) and slow-cook until heated through, 3 to 4 hours.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • @just4kicks December 24, 2015, 6:03 am

    What a nice story, thank you for sharing!!!
    My whole family is looking forward to the tray of homemade goodies my mom brings every Christmas morning, including nut rolls, poppyseed rolls (my favorite) and her “snowball” cookies.
    They are my son’s favorite, and my mom the past few years has brought him his own private “stash” of them, so the rest of us actually get some!!!

    • abf December 24, 2015, 8:42 am

      Have her teach your and/or your son how to make these items. You’ll be blessed two ways, first will be the time spent together and second, you’ll always have that part of her with you.

      • @just4kicks December 25, 2015, 5:31 am

        What a lovely suggestion, thank you!
        I shall bring it up later when my folks come over…..And BEFORE my son hides them all! 🙂

        • tNostalgicGal January 1, 2016, 4:31 pm

          Years back on summer visit I asked my grandma how to make pie crust (my mom made shoe leather) and she was happy to show me how to weave a lattice crust even. (I baked one against mom’s RULE about no piecrust as ‘it was a waste of Crisco. Dad got in trouble for doing the scarf down heaven the ‘I hate to say this but this is really good’ halfways through piece #2 and piece #3 he went to groan on couch) I got elevated to family cook a few weeks later when school started, and I learned to cook. Dad drooled all winter over some stuff his grandma and mom used to make (he had no recipe) so the NEXT summer I said grandma, dad’s been drooling over (gave list). Some of these recipes were art, (scoop this much flour with your hand, use this much of (sprinkle of spice put across her hand before it went in). I did my best to translate and write these down. And learned about look, smell and taste (the art side of cooking). And came home and was able to make ALL that stuff. If it wasn’t exactly like his mom’s or grandmom’s it was close. I offered copies to some of my relatives and they all poohed it. So I guess I’m now the keeper of the recipes and I’m thinking of printing a few copies and combbinding them before something happens to me. Nobody else ever asked her about those recipes, not her daughter, not any of her other granddaughters.

          Share your food history!

          • tNostalgicGal January 1, 2016, 4:47 pm

            PS, some of my friends, if we’re cooking said I’m the only one who they’ve ever seen SMELL the food as I’m spicing it. I know how it’s supposed to smell, and that is how I get it to turn out. Thank you grandma for teaching me that one.

  • Miriam December 24, 2015, 6:32 am

    OP, you can’t tell us about the kolachi having such a wonderful effect and *not* give us the recipe – I’m sure this won’t be the first [or last] request for it! Please post it for us…

    Miss Jeanne, thanks so much for your sage & onion recipe – will definitely have to give that a go – and many thanks for posting all the uplifting Christmas stories; it’s great reading heartwarming tales.

    Merry Christmas to all eHellions out there, and a Happy New Year!

  • Chipmunky December 24, 2015, 7:00 am

    Update To the OP Story:

    Subsequent to my submission of the stort, we’ve had some updates. Lena and Billy are doing well, though Lena did not have a chance to make Kolachi this year. (It is an all day process for a single batch).

    My husband and I moved to a city about 5 hours away, but I have been back to the prior town (Lena and Billy still live there) since then for work purposes, the most recent being in early November. When we met for dinner, I had kolachi with me, and received a big hug, smile, and Thank you! from Billy.

    Despite the physical distance, Lena and I still call and email routinely, and try to get together when one of us is in the others city. Best of all, in May, she will become a grandma, as my husband and I are expecting, have adopted Lena into our family, and asked her if she would honor us so. She said yes!

    • TaterTot December 24, 2015, 12:17 pm

      That is a great update! And congratulations on the new additions to your family–a grandma and a baby!

    • Daniotra December 24, 2015, 12:23 pm

      What a wonderful update! Kids can never have too many loving grandparents or aunts & uncles, whether by blood or love alone.

    • another Laura December 25, 2015, 9:59 am

      What’s really a neat coincidence is that “kola?/kolach” is the Serbo-croatian word for cake (kola?i/kolachi is plural). So it could easily have happened that you and Lena may have meant two totally different desserts, but your families had a tradition centered around the exact same one. Serendipity indeed.

  • Willynilly December 24, 2015, 8:54 am

    My cousin and her husband and kids live in a home inherited from my grandparents, as do I. While both inheritances came with unique challenges we both realize we are extremely fortunate.

    This past summer my husband and kids went to spend the day with my cousin and her family. I made a crisp, using a recipe from one of our grandmother’s cookbooks, that still had my grandmother’s bookmark in her handwriting marking the recipe. It was of course super tasty!

    While there my cousin admired my baking dish, an expensive brand name piece way out of her budget. I got it as a gift (it is also out of my budget!)

    And few months ago, I a caught a sale and was able to get a similar dish but in the color of her kitchen, at an amazing price. This Christmas she will receive it as a gift, along with a photocopy of the crisp recipe and my grandmother’s handwritten bookmark.

    (I would post the recipe, but it’s from a commercial cookbook, not sure if that is allowed.)

    • Daniotra December 24, 2015, 12:25 pm

      If the book is still in print, I would just say which book and the recipe name. If it’s an older, out of print book, I would think it’s OK as long as you state the source.

  • Dyan December 24, 2015, 10:41 am

    thank you for sharing …such a cool story!
    it is funny how food can bring back so many great memories!
    mine is a cookie called peppernuts (I think that is what they are called) hahah my mom use to make them

    • Daniotra December 24, 2015, 2:35 pm

      Are you possibly thinking of Pfeffernusse? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pfeffernüsse The alternate Dutch name for them sounds even closer to peppernuts than Pfeffernusse!

      • Rachel December 24, 2015, 4:41 pm

        It could also be kruidnoten, which in Dutch are often called ‘pepernoten’ (translated literally into peppernuts). I am Dutch myself and we tend to eat these so much more than the actual pepernoten. The look of them is different, so you should be able to tell just by looking at them which one you wanted. (and if it is kruidnoten, might I also suggest ‘Speculaas’ which I think is the best thing in the world. Especially if you dip these in your coffee!)

  • Outdoor Girl December 24, 2015, 10:53 am

    OP, that is a lovely story. I’m finding it a bit dusty in my office…

    After my Mom died, I had a rather turbulent year. I changed jobs and moved 1.5 hours away from where I’d been, closer to my Dad and my brother. But I still made the time to type up many of my Mom’s favourite recipes and had a cookbook made up in time for the first anniversary of her death, including many of her ‘famous’ sayings and quips and stories with some of the recipes. My Dad funded the printing and we sold the books to raise money for a charitable cause near and dear to my mother.

    Many of her friends purchased the cookbook (we also gave quite a few as gifts to friends and family). I saw one of her friends a few months later and asked her if she’d made anything out of the cookbook yet. ‘No, but I’ve read it 4 times!’ That made me smile.

  • Coralreef December 24, 2015, 11:29 am

    My mother used to make a no-cook chocolate and coffee cake. As she grew older, she stopped making it but gave me the recipe. Last Christmas, I made it. One niece saw it, yelled to the people in the other room there was no-cook cake. There wasn’t much left after the family stampede.

    Mother passed away this year. I will make the cake that brings so many memories.

    • TeamBhakta December 24, 2015, 11:29 pm

      How do you make a no cook cake ? It sounds delicious : D

  • Daniotra December 24, 2015, 12:29 pm

    This holiday season I picked up a copy of the reprinted Betty Crocker Cooky book. I had a cookie making night with my girlfriends, and found that the recipe for thumbprint cookies in this book was exactly what I remembered making with my mom. Every bite took me back to happy times with my mother. My mom has been gone for 10 years at this point, but Christmas was her favorite holiday. It meant a lot to me to find this recipe and be able to share it with my own kids.

  • manybellsdown December 24, 2015, 12:46 pm

    I’ve never had any really old recipes to share, but the first year I figured out how to make gluten-free stuffing for my celiac husband AND my celiac father made them both pretty happy! Now, I can find GF croutons in stores like Whole Foods, but just a few years ago it wasn’t so easy.

    • NostalgicGal December 25, 2015, 2:33 am

      I have learned to make a good GF bread, and even though I have to eat it all that day (it turns more biscuity the next day, perfect for biscuits and GF gravy. Gluten Free isn’t fun or cheap to experiment with but. And second day is the limit with it too. Takes you back to the days when you had to check the bread dates and they were a few days not a week or more…

      If you’re NEAR a Whole Foods or such, you’re lucky. I mostly have to cook from scratch and eat up all of every meal I make. Something big to celebrate is a ‘leftover’ which was last meal but I can just nuke and eat.

      One other to experiment with is white corn tortillas (not the big soft lefse looking ones or the corn chip yellow corn ones. There are a lot of things where those will substitute for bread for celiac cooking (they will hit you with carb if you’re a diabetic though)

      • NostalgicGal December 25, 2015, 2:35 am

        I am really missing so many holiday classic foods this year because I’m on such a diet. FOOD makes a holiday and FOOD makes the memories!

  • stacey December 24, 2015, 4:10 pm

    What a lovely and heartwarming set of stories! Perhaps THESE are the real Christmas ornaments, after all. Their significance and artistry could not be outdone by Waterford, Pfaltzgraff or Faberge…

  • Brandi December 24, 2015, 6:44 pm

    About 40 years ago our local Rubbermaid plant put out an employee cookbook. My Granny contributed her fudge recipe. I can remember this cookbook from when I was really little. (My other Grandma had a copy too, orange drop cookies lol) As you can imagine these cookbooks became rather rare as the years went on.
    My Granny died in 1998 and I don’t know what happened to that cook book. My other Grandma has ruined her copy years before in a kitchen fire.
    A few years ago my sister started working in an assisted living facility. While with her patients she overheard a group of three men talking about the fudge their wives used to make.
    My sister asked me if I was going to be making fudge that year. I had memorized the recipe years before and told her yes 4 different kinds. Peanut butter, choco walnut, white choco Oreo, and Rocky Road. She asked me if I could ‘fail’ to add nuts to half my batch. Since walnuts are pricey and I was broke I agreed.
    I helped her make up a tray of plain fudge for her patients.
    When she gave the fudge to the guys and they started eating it they couldn’t stop thanking her. It tasted just like how their late wives made it. One man broke down in tears.
    My sister thought she was being nice just giving them some fudge, she had no idea she unintentionally gave them a batch of fudge that was the same recipe from the cookbook their wives had. I end up making these large batches of fudge for her to take in every year.

  • JesBelle December 26, 2015, 11:04 am

    Years ago I had a recipe for “Poinsettia Cookies” from an old Ideals cookbook. They are a coconut and butterscotch chip cookie with slices of candied cherries arranged on the top to look like a poinsettia. My mom loved them and she and my sisters would decorate over a hundred of them every year. (It was my job to mix, shape, and bake.) Then I lost the cookbook. We went many years without these cookies, and yes, I heard about it every year. Then along came the internet. It was still pretty early days (mid- to late- nineties) on the information superhighway, and no searches yielded my cookie, so I wrote to Ideals and got a reply with the recipe the very next day. Mom was so delighted when I showed up to the holidays with those cookies. I still make them every year. I cheat and put chopped candied cherries right in the dough since I don’t have three assistants with tiny nimble fingers to help out like I did when I was a teenager, but they still remind us of Mom, and they are still a favorite.

    You can find the recipe here — http://www.mrfood.com/Cookie-Recipes/Poinsettia-Cookies

    • NostalgicGal December 26, 2015, 6:02 pm

      I have always loved spritz cookies. My godmother had youngest and oldest as girls and 4 boys between. Youngest is getting married (she is six years older than I, in December. I assemble and start making spritz cookies for the reception. After 5 dozen mom tells me NO brown on the bottom at all. (Oh was I happy killing those off for a few days). The second oldest brother is supposed to be helping my dad doing some living room remodeling and had broken a leg but he came over anyways (they roped the oldest boy into helping.) So the sawdust is flying, the flour is everywhere and I am busting my tail making 300 dozen spritz cookies. My cousin sat there with a small bowl and put little silvery colored sugarballs (sprinkles) on them with tweezers. (the six blob wreathy looking ones) One on top of every wreathy bump, 6 to a cookie.
      I did crockpot and electric frypan cooking and spent the whole day making zillions of cookies. How my cousin didn’t go insane was a miracle. All day and until after midnight I cranked out cookies and my cousin put little decorations on them, and as I said sawdust flew in the living room.
      I wasn’t kidding about that number. I didn’t them all done that day but loaded the freezer. Next weekend, same crew same jobs, 3 weekends the living room was done, the sight of a spritz cookie made me twitch and my one cousin was well past sane. The cookies were perfect for the reception so we made her day.

  • Anonymous December 26, 2015, 12:23 pm

    What a nice story. Also, Jeanne, after seeing your homemade stuffing recipe, I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed, because I make stuffing from a box mix. I always make mashed potatoes the real way, but my stuffing is always instant.

  • Marozia December 27, 2015, 2:35 am

    Sweet story! It’s wonderful how your kolachi brought back such memories for your friend.
    Her brother Billy, sounds like a sweet guy too.

  • JGM1764 December 27, 2015, 4:21 pm

    Oh my, this story got me all choked up!

  • chipmunky December 28, 2015, 8:13 am

    For those interested in the Kolachi recipe for this story:

    It is a long recipe due to my mom’s various notes in it. To save space here, I have posted the recipe in it’s entirety, in the Recipe Requests Section of the Community page, noting that it is the Kolachi recipe that was the topic of this post.


    • Miriam December 30, 2015, 5:12 am

      Thanks, Chipmunky, heading over there now!

  • Cindy December 28, 2015, 10:26 am

    I have a similar story with a particular food that brings back memories. Ten years ago, my mother died in a house fire overnight on Christmas Eve/morning. I got the news around 2am and I hadn’t been to sleep long given I was up late wrapping presents. I had spent the better part of Christmas Eve day making a dessert my grandmother had taught me how to make just one year prior (she passed away a few days after Christmas the year before). I was a no-bake slice and serve cookie that had been passed down from my grandfather’s mother. Well, after spending most of the day making several batches of that recipe and feeling nostalgic (it was the last quality time I had spent with my grandmother before her passing), I was walking up the darkened stairs to bed and heard her voice. Talk about spooky. It was comforting though, even though I couldn’t make out what was said. I chalked it up to memories and went on to bed. Later, I found out that right about that time, the fire was taking my mom’s life, which had been my grandparents’ home. I truly believe that she was telling me things were gonna be ok. I don’t make it often anymore because it can be costly to make and time-consuming.

    For those interested, here is the recipe:

    Nut Roll:
    1 small can evaporated milk
    1 pound graham cracker crumbs (4 cups)
    1-16 oz pkg miniature marshmallows
    2 cups chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or mixture of both)
    2 cups raisins
    1 tsp vanilla

    In a large saucepan, heat milk and marshmallows, stirring constantly to keep from scorching. When marshmallows are melted, add vanilla, nuts, raisins and ½ of the graham cracker crumbs. Mix well. On a table, add mixture from stove top to remaining graham cracker crumbs and mix well with buttered hands. Divide into 2 or 3 parts and roll into rolls. To work well, keep hands buttered. Slice and serve. Keep refrigerated. Freezes well.

  • NostalgicGal December 28, 2015, 7:41 pm

    Food memories, we had moved into the house I grew up in, and that year we had butchered our own, stuffed freezer with beef, cured our own pork in a huge borrowed crock from grandparents, etc. Dad had gone down and gotten a chunk of bacon out of the crock and one of the rare times he cooked (he was the best cook between the three of us, period) a full breakfast with home cured bacon and eggs and fresh grated hashbrowns…..
    I wasn’t five yet. I picked up the fattiest gooiest chunk of bacon (no supercrisp here) and ate all the fat. Even ripping the bits holding the meat together and nibbling off just the fat. I was almost through with my fourth piece (nibbling through the meat bits) and my mom notices all the bacon ‘meat’ bits on my plate. “Aren’t you going to eat that?” she points. “Oh, no, I only want the fat.” I have just reached for piece #5 to sink teeth into the fatty end. Dad drops the turner on the floor and I look at him and he looks hit with a brick and pale white. His father’s mother was like that and she had never ever been mentioned in front of me before then. Found out later that that had been her crock too.

    One of the stranger food memories, nearly fifty years later I still swear that was one of the more unusual Sunday at home breakfasts I ever had…. (and if it wasn’t for diet I’d still be eating my bacon ‘cooked but still succulently bouncy’ fattiest end first.)