I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

Dec 3, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Food Fun

by Carolyn M. Tellers

There are several Christmas recipes at the end of this post.

The year of 1977 was a magical year for me. It was filled with fun family times, foods, and celebrations, including my seventh birthday on July 7. From what I remember, the weather was pretty mild that autumn through December, and Lake Erie hadn’t frozen over. What that meant was that when a cold north wind blew over the lake, it often brought Lake Effect snow.

On Friday, December 23, 1977, I remember seeing grass and wondering if it was going to be a green Christmas. I hoped it would snow. Grandma, my maternal grandmother, had made delicious nut rolls. She and Grandpa had picked up my brother, Pete, to spend the night with them at their home which was in the country. It was a family tradition that they would come over for Christmas Eve dinner. It started snowing, and snowing, and snowing.

carolyn tellers

Carolyn and her siblings Christmas 1977

A massive blizzard hit the area. On Christmas Eve morning, my mother trudged through the snow to the store about five blocks away to get lentils for German Lentil Soup. She made it home safely and started getting ready for dinner. As the afternoon passed, more snow kept falling. I helped set the table and watched the snow fall from the large dining room window. Sarah, my almost two year old sister, and I dressed up in emerald green velvety dresses. Thankfully my grandparents and brother arrived safely.

We had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner that year. For hors d’oeuvres we had shrimp with cocktail sauce and crackers and cheese. My grandparents brought blessed wafers, and we prayed before having Mom’s wonderful lentil soup. Grandma had made a Slovak side dish called bolbalky, which basically is a ball made from the nut roll dough, rolled in honey, and dipped in poppy seeds. We also had breaded shrimp, green beans, and other sides. For dessert we had homemade cookies, nut roll, and ice cream.


Carolyn & her brother at the same Christmas

Grandma took Pete, Sarah, and me into one of the bedrooms to read us a story. Shortly after, we heard a hearty “Ho, ho, ho”. We raced to the living room, but Santa had already left. The room was dim, lit only by the Christmas tree lights. Surrounding the tree were piles of wrapped gifts for everyone. Grandpa and Grandma took us to their home, and we sang carols as we rode in the car. The next day, the snow had slowed down, from what I remember. We had a ham dinner with plenty of side dishes, including scalloped potatoes. We played games and went sledding down the hill in the backyard.


Carolyn’s grandparents house that Christmas

For dinner, we went to my paternal grandparent’s house. Grandy made a fantastic turkey dinner with all of the fixings, including sweet potato casserole. For dessert, she made an old family recipe for Suet Pudding. There was also ice cream and cookies for those who preferred those. Presents were opened and then Papa, my grandfather, played the piano for a sing-a-long.


Carolyn Tellers

As I look back to that year and the other years of my childhood, I know how lucky I was to have such a wonderful family and relatives. Now that I am grown, the best holidays are the ones that my siblings are able to come home for. Although my grandparents have passed on and traditions have changed, but we still make many of the recipes from days of yore.

German Lentil Soup

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 smoked ham hocks (1-1/2 pounds)
8 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme

1. In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add carrots, celery, and onion; cook, stirring frequently, until carrots are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes.
3. Add lentils, ham hocks, water, bay leaf, salt and thyme; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes.
4. Transfer ham hocks to cutting board; discard skin and bones. Finely chop meat.
5. Return meat to soup. Heat through. Makes 11 cups or 6 main-dish servings.

Grandma’s Nut Rolls

Nut Fillings (for 5 rolls)

2-1/2 pounds ground nut meats (walnuts)
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp melted butter (mix with about 1 cup of warm milk)

Two Hour Nut Roll:
6 cups flour, sifted
1/2 cup warm milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 pound butter
3 Tbsp sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 cakes (or packages) yeast
1 cup sour cream or canned milk

1. Dissolve yeast in milk. Combine flour, butter, salt, sugar, eggs, and sour cream. Add yeast-milk mixture. Blend well.
2. Divide dough into four (or six) parts and roll out each part thin as for jelly roll.
3. Spread with nut mixture. Roll and place on ungreased pan, and allow to rise for one hour, or until doubled in bulk.
4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes at 350?F
5. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar, if desired.


Christmas dinner at Carolyn’s grandparents house in 1975


Use half of nut roll dough for bobalky. Knead and roll on floured board into a rope. Cut and roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place on floured pan, let rise 15 minutes.

Bake at 350?for 10 minutes or until just slightly brown. Then place in deep bowl, pour boiling water over them, just to soak a little. Drain in colander, then place in a serving dish. Heat honey with a little water, and pour over bobalky.

Mix 1/2 cup ground poppy seed and 1/4 cup sugar and then add to bobalky. Let stand for several hours in a cool place (or refrigerator) before serving.

Grandy’s Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (approximately 4 potatoes)
1/2 cup sugar (can use less, around 1/4 cup)
2/3 stick of melted butter
3 beaten eggs
1/2 tsp (each) of nutmeg and cinnamon

1. Mix together and put in a 9×13 casserole dish.

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 stick of melted butter

1. Mix together and spread over sweet potatoes.
2. Bake at 350? for 30-40 minutes. Do not cover while baking.

Grandy’s Suet Pudding

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup suet (available at meat counters usually)
1 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp soda
1-1/2 cups flour

1. Mix all ingredients and steam on stove top in a deep covered kettle over 1 inch of boiling water for approximately one hour or until set. Should be a moist cake-like consistency.
2. Serve with Hard sauce below.

Hard Sauce:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs, yolks separated from whites
1 tsp vanilla

1. Cream sugar, butter and egg yolks together until smooth.
2. Beat egg whites and fold them into to butter mixture; add vanilla.

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Carolyn Tellers has a Bachelor’s degree in English: Creative Writing and a minor in History from Penn State. She enjoys the company of her cockatiel and ginger colored polydactyl cat, who helped nurse her after a lumbar fusion surgery last year. She lives in Erie, PA, which is also the home of the beautiful Presque Isle State Park.


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