Victoria's Vegetarian Victuals

The copper leaves are still drifted around our feet, and yesterday we didn't need jackets when we went out, but all the same, the season is moving along, and Christmas is not very far away.

I remember the first Christmas that I spent in this house, that of 1983.  The year before, I had been in foster care, many miles from here, and I had not yet met the woman who was to become my mother.  (She knew about me, but I had never heard of her.)  She and her mother had been buying and preparing for my arrival since the preceding August, but the judge in my home county adjourned the court for the Holiday Season, and I spent Christmas of 1982 in foster care. 

I didn't arrive here until February 20, 1983.  I was nine years old.  Everything was new to me, and much of it was terrifying.  I was expected to have opinions about things.  They actually asked me what I wanted, or what I thought.  At first, I didn't know what to do.  Then it dawned on me that they were actually, listening to me, and that what I thought and felt mattered to them.  I learned about options. 

As Christmas of 1983 approached, my mother learned that I had never been taken to see Santa.  Every child, she declared, had to be taken to see Santa, and have a picture taken.  So we went to the Monmouth Mall, and not only did I have my picture taken with Santa, but I saw the wonders of the Mall at Christmastime.  I go back every year with a camera.

I remember snowy nights when moonlight poured into my room, bright as day, and my mom would come in to check my blankets and make sure that I was comfortable.  I had new, roomy sleepers with feet in them, not some old tight ones where the feet had been cut off and my growing body was too big for the hand-me-down pajamas.  I was warm, now, and for many reasons.

It took Mom and Grandma two full days to wrap the presents that they had for me.  It took me nearly as long to open them all.  I actually had to stop from time to time in order to take a break, and eat something.

And the things that people ate during the Christmas Season!  Talk about visions of sugarplums!

Iced Chocolate Cookies

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened margarine
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg substitute
  • 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • Chocolate Icing (see below)
  • Candy sprinkles -- if you want them

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease cookie sheet.  Beat sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, egg substitute, and chocolate in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with a spoon.  Stir in flour, baking soda and salt.  Stir in nuts.

Drop dough by level 1/4 cupfuls or #16 cookie/ice cream scoop about 2" apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched in the center.  Cool 1 to 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.  Cool completely.  Spread on chocolate icing.  Mix this up while the cookies are baking.  Draw wavy lines through the icing with a fork to decorate.  Add sprinkles.  (I, of course, prefer chocolate sprinkles.)

  • Yields: about 18 cookies
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Chocolate Icing

  • 2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 tbsp. margarine
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp. hot water

Melt chocolate and margarine in a 2 quart saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently; remove from heat.  Stir in powdered sugar and hot water until smooth.  If icing is too thick, stir in additional hot water; if icing is too thin, stir in additional powdered sugar.

  • Yields: enough to ice the cookies
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Sugar and Spice Espresso Cookies

  • 1 1/2 tbsp. dry instant espresso
  • 1 tbsp. hot water
  • 1/2 cup softened margarine
  • 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg substitute
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 additional tsp. dry instant espresso
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Espresso coating (below)
  • Chocolate-covered espresso beans, if desired

Dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoons espresso in hot water in a large bowl.  Add margarine, shortening, sugars and egg substitute. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.  Beat in flour, baking powder, 1 tsp espresso cinnamon and salt, on low speed.

Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into a roll, 10 inches long.  Wrap each roll with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Prepare espresso coating on a large plate.  Roll each roll of dough (reserve any remaining coating).  Rewrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes longer.

Heat oven to 375F.  Cut each roll into 3/8" slices.  Place about 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with remaining coating.  Press beans in cookies.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes of until edges are light brown.  Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

  • Yields: 4 1/2 dozen cookies
  • Preparation Time: about 90 minutes

Espresso Coating

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. dry instant espresso

Mix ingredients.

  • Yields: enough for cookies
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Old Time Chocolate Fudge

  • 3 or 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 3 tbsp. margarine
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Combine chocolate and milk in a large, heavy skillet.  Cook over low heat, stirring until smooth and blended.  Stir in sugar, salt, and corn syrup; continue cooking without stirring until 236F registers on the candy thermometer, or until a small amount of the mixture when dropped into very cold water forms a soft ball. 

Remove from heat; add margarine, vanilla, and nuts.  Cool, without stirring, until lukewarm.  Beat thoroughly until mixture thickens and loses its gloss. 

Pour quickly into a greased 8" square pan.  Cut into squares and remove from pan.

  • Yields: about 2 lbs
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Peanut Brittle

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups peanuts

Combine sugars, corn syrup, and water in a saucepan.  Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved.   Continue to cook, without stirring, until a little of the mixture dropped into very cold water becomes very brittle.  Remove from heat.  Add salt, margarine, and baking soda, and stir to mix.  Add nuts and turn into a shallow greased pan.  Let stand for a minute or so, and then pull very thin.  When cold, break up.

  • Yields: about 1 1/2 lbs.
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

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