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Sharing Recipes for Comfort and Joy

By Barbara Rainey

First posted on

Food gives comfort and shared with others it brings joy.

There are recipes I make only in the month of December because they belong exclusively to Christmas. You too?

Perusing these collected possibilities brings joy as I remember the friend or family member who introduced the cookies or soup or casserole to our family. It’s an invisible thread keeping us tied together over years and miles and realms.

Here are some of my favorite recipes and the stories behind them. Starting with cookies because nothing says Christmas flavors like sugary confections.

Christmas Butter Cookies

As I grew up, it couldn’t be Christmas without a plate full of these sparkling red and green shapes. My mother made the batter and patiently helped me and my brothers cut out angels and bells and Santas. After they baked, we sprinkled colored sugars on the still-warm-from-the-oven cookies.

I’m sure we made a mess and I imagine she wasn’t always patient, but my memory tells me she was and that she loved this tradition as much as we did. I don’t know if the recipe was one she discovered in a cookbook or if someone gave it to her. Our family lived in a small neighborhood full of other young families who shared cookouts in the summer, backyard birthday parties, holiday gatherings, and recipes. Names I remember from those years are on some of the cards in my mom’s bulging yellow recipe box.

Pecan Tassies

These treats were introduced into my world during my first year out of college when I lived in South Carolina. Like tiny pecan pies, only better in my view, they were among a wide display of treats at a Christmas party I attended that year. It’s possible that my new friend Jane Alexander brought them. Somehow they seem connected to her in my memory, but I’ll let her verify since she and I remain friends. And that is another amazing story for another time.

Every year when I make these I remember that year of discovering a new place, South Carolina, of watching God speak through me, and knowing our work with students mattered for eternity.

Swedish Meatballs

Because we can’t live on sweets and families still have to eat three meals a day all month long, here is a yummy meatball recipe my family loves. It is easily doubled and will cover two meals.

This, too, came from my mom, though I don’t know the original source. Last year when I was with her for several days and we were talking recipes, for some reason she called these “Swedish meatballs.” It was new information but she did marry a Scandinavian man so perhaps these came from one of her in-laws. Warm, filling, and healthy, these meatballs always say “It’s good to be home” when it’s cold outside.