Well, December has arrived. It is time to think about gifts and food.

Today I have some easy, delicious sweets for you to share and enjoy at home. As far as gift-buying goes, I am considerably ahead of the game. There is always one family story that is told every year about this time. I have heard it for the past 56 years of my life — the story of the Easy Bake Oven.

Being the only child of only child parents for the first 10 years of my life was quite rewarding. I knew both sets of grandparents well and visited them frequently. Yes, I was a bit doted on by both sets of grandparents.

At the age of 6, one of the most important things on my Christmas list was a bright yellow Easy Bake Oven. I suppose this was the beginning of my love of cooking. When my maternal grandmother, Mamaw, found this out she was thrilled. This was the gift she and my grandfather wanted to have for me under their Christmas tree. They couldn’t wait to see my face when I opened that much-wanted gift at their home on Christmas Day.

That Christmas morning, I ran into the living room to see what Santa had brought. As I looked around to see all my presents, my only reply was, “Where is my Easy Bake Oven?” My sweet mama was devastated at the thought of her only child not having her heart’s desire on Christmas morning. My parents knew I was getting what I wanted but had not thought about the timeline of the day’s activities. Mama has told me she cried all morning. Of course, I remember none of this, but have heard this story all of my life. So, if I don’t remember it, it must not have scarred me for life.

I tell you that to tell you this. When my son, also an only child, was 4 years old, he wanted a red tricycle and a green riding tractor. Steven talked about those two things for weeks. He never asked for anything, so I just assumed Santa would bring both. My husband, Steve, was bound and determined that he did not need two riding toys. I vehemently reminded him of the Easy Bake Oven story, but he wouldn’t budge — we went with the tricycle.

That Christmas morning, Steven ran into the living room, looked around and said, “Where is my green tractor? It must be around here somewhere?” If looks could kill, I would be a widow today. I think I may have said “I told you so” a few times.

That Easter, the Easter Bunny brought Steven not only a green tractor, but the trailer attached to the back full of Easter eggs and candy. His reply was, “Well, there’s my green tractor. I guess Santa told the Easter Bunny that he forgot it at Christmas.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

Mamaw was the best cook in the world, next to my Mama. She always had a side table full of sweets during the holidays. Mama and I still cook her favorites during the holidays, but they never taste as good as hers. There are no substitutions for a grandmother’s love. These recipes are easier versions of some of her best Christmas sweets recipes.

I hope you will give them a try. Thanks for reading.

CROCK-POT CHOCOLATE CANDY

1 (16-ounce) jar salted roasted peanuts

1 (16-ounce) jar unsalted roasted peanuts

1 (4-ounce) German chocolate bar

1 (12-ounce) milk chocolate bar or morsels

1 (14-ounce) package white almond bark

Layer all ingredients in Crock-Pot in the order given. Do not stir. Cook on low for two hours. Using a wooden spoon, stir well. Drop by teaspoons onto waxed paper.

• Mamaw’s chocolate peanut clusters were a favorite at Christmas. Waxed paper would be lined on her kitchen counters with her candy perfectly lined up like little soldiers. There was no such thing as a Crock-Pot in her kitchen. This is such an easy variation and makes great gifts for neighbors and co-workers.

SNICKER BAR FUDGE

3 cups sugar

¾ cup butter

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips

6 (2-ounce) Snickers candy bars, cut into pieces

1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter, sugar and milk in a heavy saucepan. Mix well, and cook until begins to boil. Cook for three minutes. Stir and cook another three minutes. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips and candy bars. Stir and mix until melted. Incorporate marshmallow cream in mixture, and add vanilla. Mix well, and pour into a buttered 9-by-13-inch. Let set before cutting into squares for serving.

• I remember sitting on the kitchen counter and watching Mamaw make her fudge. My favorite part was when she tested for the soft ball stage in a cup of cold water. She would let me have the “test” after each try. This is my easier version of a Christmas candy classic.

MICROWAVE PRALINES

1½ cups brown sugar

2/3 cup half and half

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped pecans

Mix the first four ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 10 minutes. Let set one minute. Add pecans and beat until creamy. This will take about 15 minutes. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper.

• I do love chocolate, but caramel is also a favorite. Mamaw made caramel fudge every year. It was like a little bite of heaven. These pralines remind me of her fudge — once again, easier. Mamaw wouldn’t have dreamed of making candy in a microwave. At the end of her recipes she wrote, “Beat it till your arms fall off!”

BOURBON BALLS

1 (12-ounce) box vanilla wafers, finely crushed

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 cup powdered sugar, divided

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup light Karo syrup

1/3 cup bourbon

Combine cookies, pecans and ½ cup powdered sugar; set aside. Melt chocolate chips and Karo. Add bourbon and stir. Pour over crumb mixture, and stir to combine. Shape into 1-inch balls, and roll in powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container with sheets of waxed paper between the bourbon balls. Wait at least three days before eating. This will store for two weeks.

• Mamaw didn’t allow alcohol in her house. Just before Christmas, however, she would get my grandfather to go to the package store and get a pint of bourbon for her fruit cake cookies and bourbon balls. She told him to be sure and tell the owner that it was for baking purposes only and to make it a quick trip so his car wouldn’t be seen in the parking lot of the store!

• Contact Lee Ann Flemming at lafkitchen@hughes.net.

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