Heartwarming holiday story

Denise Heaven of North Lima holds the prize cookbook she found in a thrift store. It had belonged to her mother, and the cookie recipe for Chocolate Pixies has a notation that her mother wrote in the margin. (Submitted photo)

When it comes to the tradition of baking Christmas cookies, it’s not so much about the sweets as it is the memories of the people who handed down the recipes.

Sometimes, those reminiscences surface in unexpected ways, as Denise Heaven of North Lima discovered to her delight.

“We lost Mom about a year and a half ago to complications of dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Heaven said. “She was a great cook and baker. She always made so many different kinds of cookies for Christmas, including these Chocolate Pixies.

“Several years before Mom became ill, she and Dad had an auction to sell their home and contents to buy a motorhome and travel. Sold at this auction were some of her cookbooks that I didn’t get. Fast forward a few years to me shopping at a local thrift store. I always check out the cookbooks and this day, one caught my eye.

“I picked it up and started looking through it, knowing it looked familiar. And there in the margin for Chocolate Pixies was my mom’s handwriting for the substitution for squares of unsweetened chocolate called for in the recipe,” Heaven said.

“Needless to say, I shed a few happy tears right there in the thrift store. This cookbook now has a home in my kitchen in the little white hutch cupboard my dad built for me when I was 5 or 6.”

Mary Ann DiBiccaro of Champion has Chocolate Thumbprints recipe that cooks up happy memories.

“I got this recipe from a friend many years ago,” DiBiccaro said. “Don’t know where she is or even if she is still alive. Every time I make it, I think of her.”

Linda Kuhn of Leavittsburg shared a recipe for Pecan Cups.

“My mother-in-law, who passed away this July at age 95, used to make these delightful Pecan Cups every Christmas for many, many years,” Kuhn said. “She’d give them away in festive tins as gifts. I was fortunate enough to be on her list.”

For Joseph S. Krupa of Poland, the recipe for Date Bars from son-in-law Ted Ragan’s mother Rose was a winner — literally.

“I entered this cookie at the 2010 Canfield Fair for men’s baking and won a blue ribbon,” Krupa said. “This recipe is special to me because Rose Ragan was a wonderful lady and a good friend who recently passed away at the age of 95.”

Grandma Hofus’ Butterballs come with a warning — don’t mess with the butter.

“My grandmother would be 136 years old and this was one of her favorite recipes. It came out of a 1946 Women’s Day magazine,” Sally Smolek of Lake Milton said. “Many make them using oleo and powdered sugar in the recipe. They are called ‘BUTTERballs,’ NOT ‘OLEOballs.’ The granulated sugar creamed with the butter is what makes the big difference.”

Karen Mathews of Boardman said simply about the Rocky Mountain Sweeties that she bakes, “These cookies are special to me because my dear cousin’s wife shared it with me. She has since passed on and I miss her.”

Whether for the delicious confections or for the sweet memories — or both — holiday baking remains a popular tradition.

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Chocolate Pixies

1/4 cup margarine or butter

4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate (MOM’S NOTE: 3 level tablespoons of cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon butter or margarine equals 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate.)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

Powdered sugar

In a large saucepan, melt margarine and chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Stir in remaining ingredients except powdered sugar; blend well. Chill dough 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll them in powdered sugar (coat heavily). Places balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are set. Remove from cookie sheets immediately.

Makes 48 cookies.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked readers to submit their favorite Christmas cookies recipes. This is the third of three weeks of recipes we received from you. If you missed them, the last two Sunday newspapers are still available in the lobby of the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator offices, 240 E. Franklin St., Warren, 330-841-1600.

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