One of the things I most remember about Christmas as a child was the annual Christmas Eve Party my parents used to throw. It started as an after-Christmas Eve Mass get-together for our neighbors, all parents with young children, and eventually morphed into a formal cocktail party for families with college-aged young adults.
When I was a kid in the Northwest New Jersey, in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains, it always snowed in December. After church, our family would hurry home in the snow and get dinner on the table before our guests showed up. It was my job to light all the candles and put on the Christmas music while my sister lit the Christmas tree.
My parents served an enormous buffet of ham biscuits, heavy appetizers, and Christmas cookies. After dinner, the dads would go into the basement where my father had an enormous workshop. The exhausted moms would sit around the fire drinking eggnog or my dad's famous Bog Fog punch made with cranberry and vodka.
The kids, myself included, would play board games by the Christmas Tree and steal as many Christmas cookies (especially the Nanaimos!) as we could before our moms found out. Unbeknownst to the kids, our dads were in the basement putting together toys: bicycles, Hot Wheels, and Sonny and Cher Dream Stages. Anything that needed to be assembled was done down in that basement where my father always had a special bottle of Christmas scotch.
When the party was over, the moms would take the kids home and, much later, the dads would bring home the newly-assembled and wrapped larger gifts. Luckily, we all lived close enough that everyone could walk home.
This tradition went on for years, until I was in my twenties. As we grew, and the toys morphed into adult presents, the party changed as well. The dads no longer hid in the basement and the moms no longer sat by the fire. Now that we were older, we all dressed up and drank Bog Fog together. We talked and laughed and took tons of Polaroid photographs.
Even now, as an adult who has left New Jersey and now has college-aged kids, I'm still close with our neighbors. Our parents might be older now, but when we get together for weddings (and funerals) all anyone talks about is the Brennan Family Christmas Party. It was a magical tradition of good food and best friends and wonderful memories that we all still cherish.
Recipe for Nanaimos
One of those memories includes making my favorite three-layer cookie known as Nanaimos*. I've included the recipe below!
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
(1/2 cup of this butter should be brought to room temp)
¼ cup sugar
1 1-oz square unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup coconut, shredded
2 Tablespoons instant vanilla pudding
3 Tablespoons milk
2 cups confectioner's sugar
4 1-oz squares semi-sweet chocolate
Place ½ cup unsalted butter, sugar, unsweetened chocolate and vanilla in top of double boiler. Cook until melted and blended. Add the egg, beating it in with a fork. Cook 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in graham cracker crumbs, nuts, and coconut. Press into an 8” x 11” oblong glass pan. Cool and chill for 15 minutes.
15 minutes later, cream ½ cup butter (at room temp) until fluffy. Beat in pudding and milk. Gradually add confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth. Spread over graham cracker/chocolate layer. Chill for another 15 minutes.
15 minutes later, melt semi-sweet chocolate and remaining 1 Tablespoon butter in top of double boiler. Spread over second layer. Chill until firm. Cut into squares.
Makes approximately 24 cookies.
*Supposedly this is a 1950's Canadian recipe from Nanaimo, British Columbia. Legend says that a housewife from Nanaimo submitted this recipe to a local Christmas recipe contest and won.
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He's taking back his honor, his freedom, and the woman he loves.
Rafe Montfort was a decorated Green Beret, the best of the best, until a disastrous mission and an unforgivable betrayal destroyed his life. Now, this deadly soldier has returned to the sultry Georgia swamps to reunite with his brothers, and take back all he lost. But Juliet must never know the truth behind what he's done...or the dangerous secret that threatens to take him from her forever.
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Sharon is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes of novels of suspense, adventure, and love. A wife, mother of twins, and caretaker of Donut the one-eyed dog, she’s addicted to snapping photos and eating Oreos. She writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines retell Shakespeare’s greatest love stories.