Oh, what a treat!

I’m so delighted to have Virginia Campbell here today!  She’s an absolutely lovely person and has a particular talent I envy. Of the culinary variety. You see, I’m not very good in the kitchen.  Passable at best.  When I saw Virginia’s recipes posted elsewhere, I was inspired and asked her if she’d be my guest here at A WRITER’S SALON. She has graciously agreed to share some of her wonderful recipes with us–and family holiday traditions, too!  Welcome, Virginia!

It’s time for good cheer—almost a new year! Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, not enough sugar and too much spice—let the fun in! Food should be a pleasure to prepare and to serve. Getting together with family and friends is for enjoyment and making happy memories. Food is a very large part of daily family life, and it is even more important during the festiveness of the holidays. The good eats and sweet treats you offer during the holidays can be simple and sensational, allowing you more time to participate in the celebration. I hope you enjoy my recipes for some delicious nibbles and bites!

I’d love to hear your favorite holiday traditions and funny stories! I absolutely adore Christmas music, even if some of it does make me cry! My mom and I both loved all-out, over-the-top, sing-your-heart-out Christmas music. We had a tradition of loading up our dogs in the car one night each holiday season to go see the Christmas lights throughout the area. Mom and I would sing holiday songs at the top of our voices, and the dogs were a captive audience. We always ended the evening with a trip to the ice cream store! Mom got eggnog ice cream; I got peppermint candy cane ice cream, and the dogs got vanilla! By the way, occasionally our singing did set the dogs off, and then there was howling and singing.

Candy Bar Brownies

1 box fudge brownie mix (for 13in x 9in baking pan)
1 box of thin mints or thin chocolate bars (like Andes candies), or larger flat candy bars (like Hershey’s) broken into pieces, or miniature chocolate bars (like Hershey’s miniatures)
if desired for topping, ready-made frosting and sprinkles or crushed hard candies

Prepare brownie mix per box directions. Pour half of batter into greased and floured baking pan. Place candy pieces evenly across batter. Top with remaining batter and bake per box directions. Allow to cool before cutting into squares. If desired, top with frosting and sprinkles or crushed hard candies or peppermints. So easy, so good and so pretty!

Spicy Cheddar Cheese Balls

3/4 cup flour
1 and 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Combine all ingredients together and mix well. Roll into balls one inch in diameter and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen.

Creamy Dessert Dip

1 pkg (8 oz) Cream Cheese
1 jar (7 oz) Marshmallow Crème
1 tsp orange marmalade or strawberry jam

Mix all ingredients until well-blended. Serve with graham crackers, vanilla wafers, ginger snaps and assorted cut-up fresh fruit.

Pizza Pasta Salad 

I box tri-color spiral pasta
1 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper (or red or yellow), chopped
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1 small can sliced black olives, drained
1 small pkg. sliced pepperoni, slices halved
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 large bottle favorite Italian dressing
Cook pasta in cups boiling water to al dente. Don’t overcook. Drain and rinse with cold water. Add to remaining ingredients in an extra large bowl, then toss with enough dressing to coat well. After salad has thoroughly chilled in refrigerator, may have to moisten with additional dressing. If desired, top with additional shredded mozzarella cheese before serving.
Brown Sugar Blondies
4 eggs
1 (1 lb) Box Brown Sugar
2 Cups Biscuit Mix
2 Cups Chopped Pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Mix above ingredients and pour into greased 13×9 pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Insert knife. If it comes out gooey, bake for another 10 minutes and check again. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Savory Onion Casserole

2 large white onions
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese
10 or more slices French bread (buttered)
2 T. butter
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Butter a 9 x 13 inch casserole pan. Chop onions. Slice mushrooms. Sauté onions and mushrooms in butter and pour into casserole. Top evenly with shredded cheese. Butter French bread on both sides. Place bread on shredded cheese. Mix soup, milk, soy sauce, salt and pepper; pour over bread. Make this a day ahead; refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serves 10-12 people.

Olde World Christmas Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses
1 egg
4 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda

Blend shortening, sugar, and molasses. Add beaten egg. Sift dry ingredients and combine. Mix well, roll out, and cut in shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. If desired, when cookies are completely cool, can decorate with frosting, sprinkles, colored sugar and chopped nuts.
Holiday White Wine Punch

2 bottles of white wine (Riesling, Albarino, Chablis, Gewurztraminer, Rioja, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc)
1 (64 oz) bottle of white cranberry juice or white grape juice
1 (2-liter) bottle ginger ale, chilled
1 small pkg frozen raspberries, unthawed
2 limes, washed and sliced into thin round slices

Allowing time for mixture to become well-chilled, combine wine and juice in a large punch bowl. Refrigerate. Just before serving, add chilled ginger ale to punch. Add frozen raspberries and gently stir to begin separating raspberries. Float lime slices on top.

Question:  As Virginia mentioned in her post, “I’d love to hear your favorite holiday traditions and funny stories!”

One lucky commenter will win a Cinderella Slipper Ornament (last chance to win one of these this year!)—signed by me….and well, since it is the holiday season, I have a small little gift to add to that as well.  *smiles*


  • that ordiment is awesome and those recipes sound yummy will have to save them later on great post Ihope you have a Merry Christmas

    mortalsinn @ yahoo

  • Happy Holidays to all : ) Lila, thank you so much for allowing me to share some recipes and holiday fun here today! Thank you also for your wonderful “Fiery Tales” which are a literary feast for the senses! Delicious, sensually romantic tales written with exquisite detail and wonderfully naughty characterizations ; )I devoured “Awakened by a Kiss”, and I have promised myself “The Princess in His Bed” and the upcoming “A Midnight Dance” as very much anticipated personal treats : ) I wish everyone a great New Year!

  • Hi Lila and Virginia! Olde World Christmas Cookies, Candy Bar Brownies – I will definitely have to try my hand at these. Can you tell I’m a dessert person?:) The other recipes sound lovely too, but it’s the chocolate and sweets that get me excited. Thank you for sharing these, Virginia. Christmas music- trees adorned with remembered ornaments – fairy lights – snow – and most important family and friends. My favourite Christmas things. And good books underneath the tree so if “A Midnight Dance” were already out, wouldn’t that be a wonderful present? Merry Christmas to everyone! Carolyn

  • SiNn & Carolyn, thank you so much for stopping by to visit! I wish you lots of good holiday reads : )

    Best of luck to everyone in the contest to win Lila’s beautiful Cinderella Slipper Ornament ; )

  • Yum! These sound delicious! We have a few traditions at our house over the holidays – some are old and some (started just this year) are new and some, really aren’t very traditional.

    A yearly cookie swap/movie night with my girlfriend and her two daughters. We love this tradition and have been doing it now for, about 4 or 5 years. Each year (when we stop talking long enough and remember) the girls make their version of chocolate bark. Easy and delicious.

    When my son was young, he had the idea to go out for Chinese food on Xmas Eve. We always have a traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas day but now, for about the past 6 or 7 years, we had to the Mandarin (my mother in tow) and pig out for a couple of hours and a huge, Chinese buffet. Then it’s home, Church (for my mom and I) and Xmas cookies and music.

    My last and newest tradition (I’m very excited about it) is to order all of my Christmas groceries from Grocery Gateway. I love to cook – I HATE to shop and at this time of the year, I really hate it. I can’t believe how easy it was to go online with my list, pick out everything I want, and schedule a delivery for December 23rd. It’s the perfect solution for me!

    Happy holidays everyone. Lila – a big hug to you and your whole family. All the best for 2011.

  • Delicious recipes, Virginia – the savoury onion casserole sounds particularly good. I always make a big English trifle to serve at teatime on Boxing Day- layers of sponge, fruit, custard and cream. One year I decided to add some sherry. Unfortunately I had a bad cold at the time. Annoyed that the trifle didn’t seem to smell of sherry, I kept adding more until it did. Oops…I had to serve it in very, very small portions, and only to adults who weren’t driving!:)

  • Hi, Kathy! Your Christmas Eve Chinese dinner sounds like a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing : )

    Hello, Christina! Thank you so much for visiting! Just the thought of a true English trifle makes my mouth water! Did your special trifle cure your cold? : )

    Best holiday wishes to you both!

  • Those recipse sounds great making me Hungry! Is there any chance you could come to my house and cook them for me????

  • Virginia, you amaze me! You are everywhere! And your recipes are to die for…that candybar brownie recipe is calling my name.

    So cool to see you here at Lila’s blog…I just met her in person a few weeks ago at a local booksigning in Lexington. Bought her Awakened by a Kiss book! She is a wonderful author.

  • Hi, Elizabeth! Thanks for checking out my recipes! Sorry that I can’t make it there in person, but I will send good cooking thoughts your way! Have a great holiday : )

  • Hey, Renee! I am delighted that you joined us here at Lila’s blog. You and Lila write such wonderful romantic reads, and you both have great new releases coming in the new year. I love to accompany a great book with coffee and chocolate. The candy bar brownies are so easy, and you can try different flavors of candy bars. If you are really bad, like me, you’ll frost those brownies! I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday : )

  • Carina Hawker

    Hi Virginia, thank you for sharing your delicious recipes. Like most of the other comments here, my favorites are the sweet ones. I will definitely have to make the Brownie one.

    In my home, it is not Christmas morning without Tiramisu while opening up gifts. This year my sons decided to give me a break and will be trying their hand at making Mom’s recipe. I cannot wait to try it!

    Lila, I have given copies of The Princess in His Bed to all my closest friends as stocking stuffers this year!

    Merry Christmas

  • Thanks Virginia. The same to you as well!
    Might have to experiment with those brownies….my favorite candy bar is Carmellos….oh I love them!

  • I have a Christmas Party on Sunday and I was wondering what I would bring this year. Now I have some new ideas to choose from!
    I get together with my friends for a cookie exchange every year. There’s lots of wine involved and ends very late. What’s better than cookies and wine?
    We also give our boys a new ornament every year so they will have something to decorate their own tree with. I still put my ornaments from when I was a girl on the tree!

  • Renee, Caramellos are great! Let me know how the brownies turn out : )

  • Carina! How terrific that your boys are cooking–and making Tiramisu on Christmas morning! Sounds like a fabulous Christmas present for Mom : )

    Cindy, I love the new ornament tradition. What could be better than looking at your beautiful tree full of wonderful memories? Enjoy your party : )

  • I sure will, Virginia!
    Stay warm!

  • I fell in love with Cinderella over 60 yrs ago and she is still my favorite. I would love a Cinderella Slipper Ornament for Christmas.
    Have not read any of your books yet but hope to get started soon.
    Thanks for the great giveaway.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  • *waves* at everyone! This is such a wonderful way to end the week. So glad to have you here, Virginia! Your recipes are great!! And your family traditions made me smile. :)

    Thank you for the lovely compliment on my Fiery Tales series. Happy Holidays!

  • @ SiNn–Thanks so much! Merry Christmas to you, too! :)

    @Carolyn–What a lovely thing to say! Thank you! I’m so excited about the release of A MIDNIGHT DANCE. Aug. 2011 can’t come fast enough. I’m a dessert person, too. ;)

  • @ Kathy—I love these traditions you got!! They’re fabulous! A hug back at you. :) Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and all the very best in 2011!

    @Christina—LOL..What a charming story! I have a cold right now…I can relate. :) Thanks for stopping in!

  • Renee, we had a nice snow yesterday in VA. I say nice because it ended by nightfall and the roads are passable here in town. The mountains have the “powdered sugar” look that I love, and they will stay that way for a while because of the cold, cold temperature. I have been “out in it” today. I had to refresh my eggnog supply. One of my friends is a fruitcake specialist, and she kindly brought me a beautiful fruitcake. One of my favorite holiday treats is a slice of old-fashioned dark fruitcake with a cup of eggnog. Works for me : ) The cats and I will stay warm together on the couch with our favorite old cotton quilt.

  • Oh that sounds so lovely….here we have about 5″ but lots of ice too…not fun.

    I never got into eggnog….but I’d certainly love to share a cup with you and see those “powdered sugar” mountains of VA.
    One day maybe…………

  • Hi, misskallie2000! Good luck & Happy Holidays!

    Lila, I am honored to be here with you and your great blog group! It’s very nice of you to offer your lovely ornament giveaway!

  • Happy Holidays everyone. Those recipes look yummy. I think I will definitely have to try them out. Every year on Christmas Eve my entire family, well everyone that lives in Florida gets together and we have a big buffet dinner. Everyone is responsible for at least one item and usually we try and bring something new every year. It’s fun because it is usually the one night a year everyone puts aside their differences and there is no fighting or any drama. Then when I get home I sit in front of the telly and watch 24 hours of A Christmas Story. Love, love, love that movie.

  • Speaking of powdered sugar, I have been thinking about how much fun my family use to have making canned biscuit donuts. Did y’all ever make those? Just regular canned biscuit dough, cut in quarters and lightly browned in a deep fryer (or a heavy saucepan about half-full of light cooking oil). Drain the cooked donuts on paper towels and then quickly roll them in powdered sugar or sift them with cinnamon & granulated sugar. You have to eat them while they are still warm–simple but good. So much fun, especially if everyone gets a powdered sugar mustache!

  • @Elizabeth–Wouldn’t that be lovely? Save me a spot, too. :)

    @Renee–So wonderful to see you here!! I’m so glad we got the chance to meet in person! Thanks so much for the lovely comment. Happy Holidays to you!

  • Danielle, it’s always great when families can break bread together and not break out into a fight! I love “A Christmas Story”, especially “the old man” as played by Darren McGavin. Have a peaceful family holiday : )

  • oh my gosh this post made me hungry. I’ll have to try a few of these out during my kids winter break. So many great recipies.

    Lisa B
    modokker at yahoo dot com

  • @ Carina–Thanks so much for sharing THE PRINCESS IN HIS BED with your friends! How lovely! By the way, I love Tiramisu. Merry Christmas!

    @Cindy—I love all your traditions. And you’re right. What’s better than wine and cookies!! :) Merry Christmas!

  • @misskallie–Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale, too! I’m so glad you stopped by. Happy Holidays to you and yours. :)

    @Virginia and Renee–I agree with Renee, it all sounds lovely! And I LOVE eggnog! Sadly, I’m the only one in our house who does. So when I purchase some, it’s all for me. We have about 2″ of snow here. Nothing terrible, thank goodness.

  • Happy Holidays, modokker! I hope you and the kids enjoy the recipes : )

    My grandmother, “the greatest cook ever”, used to make delicious snow ice cream. Fresh clean snow (yes, it was cleaner in the “good olde days”), whole milk or cream, sugar, and vanilla. For some reason, I crave ice cream in the Winter–maybe because of Gran’s “Snow Cream” : )

  • I use to do a lot of baking around the holidays, not so much any more (everyone trying to be healthy). There were always certain cookies that had to be made or there would be moaning or groaning galore ;) Of course, I always liked to try one or two new recipes each year. Now the best part of the holidays is just finding the time to get together with family and friends.

    Hope every one has a wonderful holiday.

  • Happy Holidays to you as well, Lila! It was such a pleasure meeting you and getting to talk to you about your books. All the best!

  • Anonymous

    The recipes look great! I will have to try some out.

    Our traditions are a mixture of German and English traditions. my hubby and I had to compromise a little but our kids get the best of both worlds…hehe!!!

    in Germany

  • Hi, gamistress66! Cookies are one of the most important of all Christmas traditions : ) In our house it was “Spritz” cookies, which my grandfather requested each year for the holidays.

    Hello, Valerie! German and English traditions are both wonderful, so a combination of the two would be divine : ) I enjoy making “Stollen”, and enjoy eating it even more!

  • One of my mother’s favorite holiday treats from her childhood was “boiled custard” (which you must not allow to boil). A rich, cooked drink similar to eggnog, boiled custard is actually a custard which is thin enough to drink from a cup. My grandmother used to make it and pour it into glass jars which she would set down outside in the snow to cool. Mom and her brother and sister would drink it outside straight from the jar and then get “switched” by Gran for stealing the family treat ; )

  • What wonderful stories everyone has shared! We have three food traditions only for the holidays— blackberry jam cake, eggnog ( with whiskey and thick cream) and bourbon balls (candy) Loved melting paraffin and chocolate squares, dipping the candy and letting them set up on waxpaper as a kid. Much easier now with chocolate that melts in the microwave!
    Virginia, your recipes are so fantastic that I am actually going to try my hand at them. I’m so glad you stopped in on Lila’s blog. Happy Holidays everyone!

  • Hi, Vickie! Happy Holidays & thank you : ) I love your food traditions! I’ll start with a few bourbons balls, then I’ll enjoy a generous serving of blackberry jam cake, and finally, I’ll sit back and sip my eggnog ; ) Santa may be jolly fellow…but I’ll be downright mellow!

  • Hi Lila and Virginia,
    Virginia, the Old World Christmas cookies are fantastic. Thank you. I’ll be adding them to my baking.
    Loved the singing on top of your lungs driving around. The biggest tradition we have is all 7 of my grown children and their families come here. We eat like hogs, listen to music and/or watch Holiday movies.
    It gets really loud but it’s with a lot of laughter and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Besides it’s only during the holidays this huge Italian family gets together. :)
    Lila, I just finished The Princess in His Bed. LOVED, LOVED it.A definite re-read for me. I loved Mathias. :)Happy Holidays everyone. Peace and Joy to all.
    Carol L

  • Hi, Carol L.! Be sure and leave some of those cookies for Santa : ) Wow, how I envy you your large family! Seven grown children and their own families. I am sure you share some wonderful Italian Christmas traditions and a lot of memories! Enjoy your great family holiday : )

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

  • librarypat said…
    Thank you for the wonderful recipes. Am adding them to my recipe binder.

    When I was much younger, my mother’s family would all meet at church for midnight mass then head over to my grandparent’s house for brunch. Always a big family gathering since my mom was one of 9 children and there were 50+ grandchildren, most of whom came. We would get home about 2 or 3 AM at which time we would open our Christmas presents (Santa had somehow managed to come while we were gone) then go to bed. The next afternoon, we would go to my other grandparents’ home for Christmas dinner. Always made for a wonderful holiday.
    Unfortunately, everyone is scattered today and the grandparents gone. The wonderful memories, however, will always be there.

    Hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday Season.

    December 18, 2010 12:31 PM

    Forgot to ;eave my email.
    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

  • Hey, librarypat! Thanks for commenting : ) Memories are the nicest gift of all, and they burn ever brighter in our hearts with each holiday year!

  • Lila, thank you so much! You have been a lovely and gracious hostess, allowing me to post my recipes and remembrances! Thank you commenters for sharing your own special memories and traditions : ) I wish you all the best of holidays!

  • What a great selection of recipes. I am most anxious to try them. Christmas is a great time to share good food and treats with friends and neighbors and I am always looking for new and different recipes. Love these!

  • Hi, GladysMP! You are a recipe lover–like me! There are so many new and tempting recipes available each holiday, and I always add a few of those to my favorite recipes file. Don’t you think food just tastes that much better during the holidays? : )