A couple weeks ago, Julia and I headed off to New Jersey for a family reunion of sorts. My sisters and I threw a party for our Mom who is having a big birthday soon. I had the chance to see so many friends from my childhood and it was quite fun to hear what everyone is up to and to see the parents of my childhood friends that are still in my Mom's fantastic circle of friendship and family.
Life throws you many curveballs and life has not turned out the way my teenage friends and I ever thought it would. We all have our independent and family challenges and I think about them often as things happen in their lives (even if I never write, never call - ooohhh Kristin!). I think back to the innocent days of our teenage life and how we used to dream about everything that was before us. The beauty of youth - all the possibilities and none of the cares of adulthood - it is a wonderful thing, isn't it? I see my newly 16 year old Julia going through this now with everything possible. It is fun to watch her travel this journey, listen to her dreams, and wonder how it will all end up.
When my sisters and my friends were growing up, we were in a 4-H Club called The Tasty Basters. Mom was the intrepid leader. So much of my teenage life revolved around making things for 4-H to enter in the County 4-H Fair and then later at the State level. All summer, I would sew, quilt, and embroider to get things ready for entry (I did not knit back then). Now when I think back on it, it was a lovely way to spend a summer. I used to set my sewing machine up outside and sew in the shade of the dogwood tree so that I wouldn't waste my time and be productive while still enjoying the outdoors. Sounds a bit nutty now for a teenager to be doing that but I still love to sit outside and stitch or knit.
Food and baked goods always seemed to be part of our teenage good times equation. (We were the Tasty Basters - clever huh? - basting fabrics, basting threads, tasting everything.) I was talking with my friend Laura at the party and we were reminiscing about recipes we used to bake (there wasn't much cooking - it was mostly baking sweet treats). She said that most of the recipes her Mom and Grandmom used to cook and bake have disappeared sadly.
Because food is such a legacy to family life (at least ours and possibly to yours), I came home and dug out my old handwritten recipe loose leaf book to see if I could find some of those old favorites and maybe recover some of Laura's family's lost recipes.
Laura's Mom used to make Hermit Bars which were legendary. I can still remember the taste of these things - the softness of the bar with the spices and raisins and nuts adding to the baked goodness. The aroma when you walked into their home as a batch was coming out of the oven. This morning, I dug around and found a hand-written card with the recipe that Laura sent to me when I was living in Colorado going to grad school. It is the recipe which I am sharing here with you today.
Mrs. T's Spicy Hermit Bars
2 cups raisins
1/2 cup butter (we used margarine in the old days)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cover raisins with water and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift dry ingredients including spices together. Add to the creamed butter mixture. Add cooled raisins and chopped nuts. Fold in thoroughly. Pour into greased and floured 9 x 13" pan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan. Cut into squares. See how long they last. YUM.