By Curt Oden - Exline correspondent
Even though they said on the news that Thanksgiving was early this year, it still seems like Christmas is fast approaching.
The recipe for this week is an old time favorite at Christmastime. I remember as a young child, helping my mom and grandmother on a Saturday as they made all kinds of good, homemade Christmas cookies. These were always one of the kinds that they made each year.
Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
1 bag (8 oz.) chocolate kisses
1/2 c. shortening
2 Tb. milk
3/4 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
A few additional spoonfuls of granulated sugar (you can also use red and green sugar to make them look more seasonal if you prefer.)
Heat oven to 375 F. Remove candy wrappers.
In large bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter until well blended. Add the 1/3 c. of granulated sugar and all of the brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.
Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to peanut butter mixture. Shape dough into one inch balls. Roll in the additional granulated sugar that you placed in a small sauce dish. Then place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately place chocolate kiss on top of each cookie, pressing down so cookie cracks around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
Did you every wonder how one of the most popular Christmas candies, candy canes, came into existence? It began about 350 years ago, when candy makers made hard sticks of sugar candy that was all white in color.
By the mid-1600s, Europeans began to use Christmas trees as part of their holiday celebration. As ornaments, cookies and stick candy were used to hang on the tree.
The first mention of a candy stick being made to resemble a candy cane occurred in 1670, when a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, took the stick candy as it was being made and bent it with a crook in it, to resemble a shepherd’s staff. These special new treats were given out to the children during the nativity church services.
This custom soon caught on and churches all over Europe were giving out these special candy canes, during their Christmas services. The custom eventually made its way to America by 1847. An migrant from Germany named August Ingard decorated his Christmas tree with candy canes in Wooster, Ohio.
Soon, the candy makers began to add sugar roses to decorate the candy and add some color to them.
Red and white stripes began to be made right into the candy as the new century began in the 1900s. Even Christmas cards from that era began to depict red striped candy canes on them.
It was also during that time that candy makers began to add the peppermint flavor to the candy canes. Over the years, other flavors were added to the holiday favorite.
By the 1950s a Catholic priest named Gregory Keller came up with an idea for a machine to make candy canes faster. He automated candy cane production and made the treats more readily available to everyone.
So, whether hung on a Christmas tree or given out by Santa Claus, the traditional candy cane is now an annual favorite, enjoyed by young and old alike each holiday.
Last Saturday, Denise and I attended an interesting event that was held in the lobby of the Continental Hotel. There, we got to join a nice gathering of people as we attended a book signing that was held there in the afternoon by Enfys McMurry.
Enfys is a very interesting and knowledgeable lady. She originally is from Wales and is a retired college professor.
Among her other many talents, she is also a very good public speaker and a local historian. She recently finished her book entitled “Centerville, A Mid-American Saga.” It is a story about the town, its history and its people, as told by Enfys that took her more than 10 years to research and write.
As everyone enjoyed the fire in the fireplace and hot brewed coffee that was complements of the hotel, we got to enjoy very interesting stories. Enfys told of interesting people and events she discovered during the research for her book, with her unique brogue, she brought the stories to life as she related them to everyone.
In case you did not notice, the Exline Old Country Store began its winter hours this week. The store will now close at 7 p.m. instead of at 8 p.m.
There are still 21 bricks that may be ordered and imprinted for the bell tower pedestal in Hero’s Park. The cost is $50 and they be purchased in memory of someone or for listing your family’s names on one. For further information, you may contact the project chairman, Mary Ann Hurley at (641) 658-2691.
The Exline Ramblers 4-H Club as a project, made a fleece tied blanket with bears on it to fit their theme of “Have a Beary Merry Christmas.” They donated that blanket and other gifts to a deserving local family for Christmas. The club delivered the presents to them on Sunday, Dec. 2. The 4-H Club has also invited the family to a pasta dinner.
On Monday, Dec. 10, The Royal Neighbors of America, Chapter 3000 will be wrapping Christmas gifts for children for the Women’s Crisis Center in Ottumwa. They still need some presents for children between the ages of 11 and 13. If anyone is interested in donating to this worthy cause, you may call (641) 658-2691.
On Saturday, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m. the Exline Recreation Committee is having a Christmas dinner at the community center. They will be serving meatloaf and brisket. Everyone is invited to attend and should bring a covered dish of food. Following the meal, the group will play bingo.
The annual cookie exchange is going to be held again this year at the Exline Old Country Store on Friday, Dec. 21 at 10 a.m. To participate, you need to bring two dozen cookies on a tray, all of one kind, decorated for the holidays.
You need to also bring along an empty container to take home the two dozen cookies that you select from the cookies that are available from the others that are participating in the exchange. So, make your holiday baking easier and attend the cookie exchange on Dec. 21.