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Old-fashioned family recipes are as much of our Christmas traditions as putting up the tree. Just the scent or the first bite of a certain food can take me right back to years and people past. One of my favorite things about the holidays is baking our favorite treats and remembering those who gave them to us.
I first found Ruthie on Instagram and she made me want to invite her over to decorate. She’s got true pioneer style and her photos are swoon worthy, plus, the girl knows how to bake! When she mentioned her favorite Christmas treat was an old family recipe, you guys know I lickety-split emailed her to ask if she’d share.
And she said yes! I’m excited to introduce you to another vintage loving gal~
For me, Christmastime is always filled with sweet memories of my big Italian Family. Back in the day on Christmas Eve my family and I, along with my Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins, would all gather at my Aunt Lucy’s home. The faces I loved gleamed around the long lace-covered table, as we enjoyed homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs…or “meat-a-balls” like my Sicilian Grandma and Grandpa would say! There would be lots of loud conversation and laughter which would probably seem like happy chaos if someone were to peek into the window!
After tummies were filled, us kids ran off into another room to play “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button”, while my mom, my aunts and Grandma would tie their aprons on to clear the table, wash the dishes and turn the electric Coffee Percolator on. Once the kitchen was tidy and the coffee was fresh and hot, a huge tray of Italian cookies was carried to the table. Biscotti, Gemelli, Anisette, Pizzelles, Nut Meringues, just to name a few of the variety these delicious, Southern Italy confections.
As soon as my cousins and I realized the cookies had been set out we rushed to the table to grab a handful. I would search through the mountain of sweet treats to find my favorite…Aunt Gen’s Italian Date~Nut Bars. Sweet, chewy with a bit of crunch. One bite and I was in Christmas heaven!
This Christmas Eve tradition also included a skit about the Birth of Jesus presented by my cousins and I, wearing bathrobes as costumes. Soon after, we all gathered around the piano as my mother played, to sing old time carols, Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem and Jingle Bells. My Uncle Joe, who was the life of the party and a talented singer, would grace us with a solo of such as Ava Maria.
When it was time to say our goodbyes, with hugs and kisses, we stepped out into the dark, chilly night to get into our cars for the drive home. My little girl heart was filled to the brim with treasures of comfort and joy, as I sleepily reflected upon all the crazy fun with my cousins and the scenes of my loved ones around the table where we feasted upon God’s goodness. These are the memories that have lasted me a lifetime.
Now, decades later as I bake a batch of Aunt Gen’s Italian Date~Nut Bars it takes me right back to that cozy and fun-filled gathering of my beloved big Italian family on Christmas Eve.
It’s my pleasure to share with you this very old and special recipe.
Resources for Old-Fashioned Italian Date Nut Bars
You guys, isn’t Ruthie’s kitchen swoon worthy. I love her flour tin. I found this tin (which has labels you can change out to say flour, sugar, cookies, or whatever your baking heart desires, and you can get it in 4 different colors! Click here–> Vintage Flour Canister
Another staple in any good pioneer or vintage kitchen is a nice set of flour sack towels. I use them from covering rising bread, on goodies as they cool, wiping hands dry, taking hot pans out of ovens (make sure to double up), and just plain looking cute hanging on the oven handle or nestled into bowls. Striped Flour Sack Towels–> 3 different colors
Family stories and recipes are two of my favorite things. I share both of my great-grandmother’s, and my husband’s grandmothers family recipes and more in The Made-From-Scratch Life.
Old-Fashioned Italian Date Nut Bars Recipe
1/8 teaspoon or a pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup minced dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
Powdered Sugar to sprinkle after baking
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients well. (I use my standing mixer).
Pour into a buttered 9 x 13 glass pan and spread evenly with rubber spatula.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes
Once cooled, cut into squares and sprinkle the top liberally with powdered sugar.
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.