Sweet smells of the holidays: Aromas from treats help recall the past, build new memories

By Catherine Godbey | Living 50 Plus

Pat Price remembers the smell of the old-fashioned Lane cake baking in her mother’s kitchen during the holidays. Now, Price is instilling those memories in her 10 grandchildren.

“Their favorite thing is what we call crack green beans, which are covered with a pound of cooked bacon and a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar and butter. The adults love the pumpkin bread and pecan pies. Those are always requested,” the 71-year-old Decatur woman said.

For many, holiday traditions and memories hearken back to the “heart of the home” — the kitchen. There, food and festivities intertwine, creating long-lasting memories passed down through generations in the form of dishes usually named for the person responsible for the recipe — Grandmother’s Bundt cake and Nana’s gingerbread cookies.

Typically found handwritten on tattered pieces of paper yellowed from age or in worn cookbooks with broken spines, the recipes are central to family gatherings.

For Price, her love of baking stems from watching her mother create rolls, cakes and breads at home.

“When I was a child, my mother was always baking. I love to make homemade rolls just like she did. She also always had a cake or pie or something sweet at home. Now, I don’t do that, but I will when company is coming over, especially for the holidays. I love to cook and bake for my family,” Price said.

Along with baking her family’s favorite treats, Price created a new holiday tradition for her grandchildren. Every Thanksgiving, the family makes something, such as a gingerbread house, for Christmas.

“It’s just wonderful spending time in the kitchen with them and making memories,” Price said.

The time people spend in the kitchen this holiday season is expected to increase as more families, compared to last year, are expected to gather together. According to the Coinstar Holiday Survey, 80% of Americans said they will start or increase their home baking this holiday season.

The holidays serve as an opportunity for individuals to show off family recipes or start new baking traditions. Some of Price’s creations include a chocolate chip mint ice cream Bundt cake, caramel pecan Bundt cake and Christmas cookie ice cream Bundt cake. Classic favorites include her pumpkin bread and her husband’s pecan pie.

For the past 20 years, Price has shared her creations, not only with her family, but also with the community through St. John’s Episcopal Church’s Simply Divine Bake Sale held every November. The bake sale supplies guests with sweet treats, casseroles and breads.

Try these holiday recipes from Price and other community residents.


By Pat Price

3 eggs

1 pound canned pumpkin

¾ cup vegetable oil

½ cup water

2½ cups sifted all-purpose flour

2¼ cups sugar

1½ teaspoons soda

1¼ teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoon nutmeg

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cups chopped walnuts

½ cup dried cranberries

In large mixing bowl, beat eggs, pumpkin, oil and water. Sift together flour, sugar, soda, salt and spices. Fold into pumpkin mixture, mixing well. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Bake in two greased 9-inch by 13-inch loaf pans at 325 degrees for an hour or until done.


For the cake

1 box super moist devil’s food cake mix

2 cups good quality mint chocolate chip ice cream melted

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 eggs, lightly whisked

For the chocolate glaze

6 tablespoons cocoa powder

5 tablespoons butter

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

¾ teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons hot water

Combine cake mix, ice cream, chocolate chips and eggs. Mix well by hand or in a mixer on low. Spray Bundt pan with non-stick spray and pour batter in. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until tests done. Allow to cool completely.

To make the glaze, melt cocoa and butter together in a small pan over low heat, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Stir in hot water one teaspoon at a time until glaze is thick and smooth. Pour glaze over the cake.


This recipe appeared in a cookbook Terri Wilson’s mother received as a gift when she got married in 1945.

“I love these cookies. They come out soft and moist. To keep them that way, store in a sealed container,” Wilson, from Hartselle, said.

¼ cup shortening

¾ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 well beaten egg

1¼ cups sifted flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

½ cup sour cream

2/3 cup chopped dates.

Combine the shortening, sugar and vanilla. Add egg and cream together. Sift together the dry ingredients. To the creamed mixture, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the sour cream, about one-third of each at a time. Stir in the dates. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Makes three dozen.


From Decatur’s First United Methodist

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups white flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

½ cup butter

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

1½ cups orange juice

2 eggs

2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

1 cup chopped nuts

2/3 cup raisins

Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine orange rind, orange juice and eggs. Add to dry ingredients, mixing just to moisten. Fold in berries, nuts and raisins. Turn into two greased and floured 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Slices better the next day.


“The green Tabasco is what makes these so delicious,” Kristen Propst, of Decatur, said, of the recipe in St. John’s Simply Divine Recipes cookbook.

1 heaping cup sharp cheddar cheese

1 pound hot sausage

2 cups Bisquick

Tabasco to taste

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Combine ingredients and shape into 1-inch balls. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. May be frozen before baking.


Another of Propst’s favorites from the St. John’s Simply Divine Recipes cookbook

3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

1 cup cheddar cheese, sharp, shredded

8 ounces dates, chopped

1 cup raisins

Toasted pecans

Combine cream cheese, blue cheese, cheddar cheese, dates and raisins. Divide into two balls and roll into toasted pecans. Surround with ginger snaps, apples and pears.


½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 can sweet condensed milk

3½ cups chocolate chips

2 drops peppermint oil (or 1 drop peppermint extract)

Pour heavy whipping cream and sweet condensed milk in a pot. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Place chocolate chips in a bowl. Pour the cream and milk mixture over the chips. Fold together to get a smooth and silky consistency. Add in the peppermint oil. Line a mini muffin tin with cups. Scoop a tablespoon of the chocolate mixture into each cup. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Freeze.

Gifting: Wrap each truffle in a plastic bag and place in a Christmas-themed coffee mug.

Tip: Peel off the paper and eat as is or add one truffle to 8 ounces of warm milk to make hot chocolate. Finish off with whipping cream and chocolate chips.

Ashley Smith, Hartselle


“I can’t even begin to tell you how many batches of Tiger Butter I’ve made over the years. This is the one candy my children request the most around Christmastime because they want to give it to all of their teachers and friends,” said Christy Jordan, a Huntsville resident and author of “Sweetness.”

1 package (24 ounces) white almond bark (see Note)

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (milk chocolate works fine, too)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper and set aside.

Break up the almond bark as best you can in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave at 30- to 45-second intervals, stirring after each, until the bark is melted and smooth. Stir in the peanut butter with a large spoon until melted and well blended. Spread the mixture evenly on the prepared pan. Place the chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 30- to 45-second intervals, stirring after each, until smooth and melted. Drop dollops of the melted chocolate onto the peanut butter mixture in the pan and swirl with a knife or a toothpick (a toothpick will create finer lines). Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator until the mixture hardens, or let it cool at room temperature until completely hardened. Break into pieces with your hands. Tiger Butter will keep, in an airtight container at room temperature, for two to three weeks.


Paula Laurita, of Athens, presented this recipe at a Jewish cooking class at the Athens-Limestone County Public Library.

1 egg

1 cup milk, any style

1 cup flour

1 pinch salt

1 8-ounce tub sour cream

1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling

Mix the egg and milk together in a blender. Add the flour and salt and blend. Place mixture in refrigerator. Let sit for an hour. For filling, fold the cherry pie filling into the sour cream and place in the refrigerator. Heat a skillet brushed with oil. Pour a thin coating of the batter on the skillet. When top of batter is dry, flip and cook other side. Oil the pan between each blintz. Take teaspoon to tablespoon of filling and spread on blintz. Roll them up.

Other suggested fillings include cream cheese and cocoa powder or cream cheese and orange marmalade with a sprinkle of cocoa powder. Blintzes can keep for six months in the freezer.