The doors are always open at Grandma Madsen's house, but no time more than Christmas Eve. It's a time for gathering together with presents under the tree and crisp white envelopes tied to the stair rails holding Christmas treasures.
Grandma's kitchen is the first stop, and every year the spread is a feast for the senses. On one counter there are chips and dips, crackers and cheeseball, veggies and a seven-layer dip. Another table boasts pear salad, potato salad, cold cuts and enough olives for the fingers of all the grandchildren. The stove is topped with barbecue Lit'l Smokies and Hawaiian meatballs, with batch after batch of lovely chicken rolls stashed in the ovens to keep warm. Outside in the snow are gallon bottles of shrimp cocktail and bags of ice.
It's a lovely sight, but the best part is about half way through the night when the desserts come out. There is a Texas sheet cake, iced so that half has walnuts and the other half is nut free. English toffee abounds and just maybe, if we've been particularly good, some of my great-grandmother's white fudge will make the rounds.
However, the taste of Christmas for me lies in Grandma's Apple Cake and Amber Sauce. The spice cake is rich and moist and the sauce a decadent vanilla butter sauce, which I could eat by the spoonful, except that I would have to fight my relatives for the privilege! Eating warm cake and amber sauce, surrounded by family and home, is the magic moment when I know the waiting is over and Christmas is really here.
4 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1½ cups sugar
2 beaten eggs
½ cup oil
2 cups flour
1½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup nuts (optional)
Mix the apples and sugar and let stand for a while to let the sugar pull the juice from the apples. Then add eggs, oil, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, vanilla and nuts.
Mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 9-by-13 pan and cook at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and serve with ice cream and amber sauce.
— Joyce Madsen
1 cube of butter
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 can evaporated milk
dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon nutmeg
In a heavy frying pan combine butter and sugar.
Melt until just combined and, before it gets too hot, add 2 egg yolks and mix smooth (if the mixture is too hot, it will cook the yolks).
Add 1 can evaporated milk and bring to a boil, stirring all the time.
Boil for 3 minutes, then add a dash of salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon nutmeg.
Pour over apple cake, ice cream or lick off of fingers. Enjoy!
— Joyce Madsen
Jana Brown is a writer, wife and mother. She learned to cook from the best. She blogs at www.kitchenwitchesblog.com. Twitter: janastocks
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