DISH: Nothing takes us back like holiday treats | Dish | Indy Week
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DISH: Nothing takes us back like holiday treats 

Few things evoke a sense of the holidays more than tempting aromas from the kitchen. Whether you're making treats to share with family or creating a special something for coworkers to dig into while on a break, food is an integral part of the celebratory season.

Desserts and sweets seem especially linked to the holidays. You never hear anyone waxing rhapsodically about the holiday meatball sub grandma used to make every year. You do hear people talk wistfully about cookies, cakes, pies and other diet-busting, insulin-challenging delectables.

Take, for example, the Bourbon Balls made by my colleague Leslie Land, who works in our advertising department. This may not be 100 percent accurate but I think when I began working here I knew about those Bourbon Balls before I knew her. People in the office start buzzing with anticipation weeks in advance when the rumor circulates that "Leslie said she may bring in bourbon balls in a couple of weeks!" Then, on the day they arrive, those of us who eat too many risk being buzzed, as they pack enough kick to turn up in the "Potent Potables" category on Jeopardy at any moment.

Many Southern families have a Bourbon Ball recipe. A lady who I worked with while doing a part-time stint in retail during high school used to bring a platter of them to work each December. (It was the only way to deal with the shopping hordes.) And the news desk at a previous paper would perk up on nights when a coworker brought in bourbon balls "made the way my mama used to make 'em." As Leslie talks about getting this particular recipe from her grandmother you can almost see in her eyes the scenes unspooling in her memory of her as a kid in the kitchen.

Try the recipe for yourself—just think twice about driving afterward.

My family not only didn't drink, they didn't even cook with alcohol. So neither the Snowballs recipe nor Fudge recipe presented here will alter your blood alcohol level in any way. I can't say the same for your blood sugar level, however.

Both recipes come from my mother. She would put aside a day or two early each December to make multiple batches of Snowballs, fudge, peanut brittle, cookies and, if the weather was right, divinity. Once everything was done she would fill Christmas tins and platters with an assortment of each. The mailman got one. Deacons in the church. The newspaper delivery person. Neighbors. Pretty much anyone considered a friend of the family would get something. Mom was the Oprah of sweets—You get a platter! And you get a platter! And you! Everyone gets a platter!

As a kid, what struck me most was the amount of work she put into it. Now, looking back, what stands out is the eagerness of the recipients and how they would talk afterward about how much they enjoyed it, telling exaggerated tales of fighting off greedy family members reaching for too big a share or spinning elaborate cloak and dagger stories of hiding pieces to make their favorites last.

You may have similar holiday-bound memories of foods. If you do, give yourself a present and do two things. First, find and record the recipe before it's lost. Second, make a batch.

If you don't have a traditional holiday treat, try these recipes. Who knows? One may become a lasting part of your holiday traditions.


6 oz. semisweet chips

1/3 cup evaporated milk

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

3 1/2 oz. coconut

Heat chocolate and milk until blended.

Add sugar and nuts. Chill, then form 1-inch balls and roll them in coconut. Makes about 30.

Balls of Bourbon

Two 12 oz. boxes of vanilla wafers, crushed

8 Tbsp. light corn syrup

2 cups cocoa powder (use the best you can get)

1 cup rum

1 cup bourbon

5 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 cup chopped nuts optional

Set aside 2 cups powdered sugar to roll the balls in. Combine all other ingredients and stir well. Let batter thicken for 10 minutes, then grease hands and roll into 1-inch balls. Roll in powdered sugar and place in a sealed container. Refrigerate for at least a week before serving. Re-roll in powdered sugar before serving.

Other coating options: Grated orange peel, cinnamon.


4 cups sugar

18 oz. semisweet chips

1 cup evaporated milk

1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème

1 1/2 sticks of butter

Pecans, chopped (amount based on personal preference)

Cook sugar and milk on medium-low for 12–15 minutes, stirring constantly until rolling boil.

Remove from heat, add chocolate, marshmallow crème and butter, then nuts. Mix well.

Turn out on foil-lined cookie sheet.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Thanks for the memories"


  • Bourbon balls, snowballs and fudge ... oh yeah!


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