My late mom was an excellent cook. She made amazing lasagna, stuffed cabbage, spaghetti sauce, chili—the list goes on and on.
But the one treat she made each Christmas season, the one that everyone desired, was her creamy, rich chocolate fudge.
She would make tons and tons of fudge and give it out to the people she wanted to make happy—everyone from family and friends to receptionists at our doctor’s office and folks at her work.
So imagine my surprise when I asked her about the recipe one year. Where did she get it? Had it been passed down for generations and generations?
“No,” she replied. “I got it off the jar of marshmallow cream years ago.”
That wonderful fudgy goodness—one of the things that signified the Christmas season in our home—was from the outside of a jar?
While I was a bit disillusioned, I got over it. Because, you know, chocolate can cure just about anything.
This past Christmas, our friend, Jake, brought over these fantastic sugar cookies. They were so good. I asked him for his recipe.
“It’s easy,” he said. “Go to the grocery store. Buy a tube of sugar cookie dough. Cut it up, and bake it. Then sprinkle some sugary stuff on top. Ta da!”
I ate cookies from a tube? And I loved them? How was this possible?
I began to think back into my past to times when I complimented the host or hostess on a dish and found out that it was pre-made, processed, full of fat and sugar…
And absolutely wonderful!
About a decade ago, Brad and I were at a Christmas party (seems like the only time we eat is at Christmas!). This editor had a beautiful spread of tasty foods on her dining room table. We especially loved the fried chicken that had been arranged on a white, china platter.
“This chicken is so delicious!” I said to her. “Would you be willing to share the recipe?”
“Sure,” she replied. “Get in your car, and drive to Popeye’s.”
You know what? When you buy fast food chicken and put it out all nice on a fancy platter, it loses some of its fastfoodness. Seriously. It becomes a gourmet meal.
But I had to wonder: are the times of sharing family recipes gone? Have we become so used to our crazy, stressed lives that we are all opening cans and boxes, buying prepared foods from somewhere else, and serving it to unsuspecting friends and family? Would the madness ever end?
It wasn’t until years later when I had made my “famous” stuffed shells that I realized how I had joined the club, so to speak, of ones who unknowingly deceive people with excellent food.
My husband and I were having our annual Christmas party (see, I told you this only seems to happen at Christmas!), and I made stuffed shells. I’d been making them for years because they were easy. This particular year, though, a few folks asked for the recipe.
I agreed to share it with them. But, I stressed, they needed to keep it secret.
They leaned in, as I whispered the magical words. I’ll even share them with you now.
First, you go to BJ’s Wholesale Club. You buy a big bag of frozen, stuffed shells. Then, you go a few aisles away and buy a jar of Prego sauce. Finally, you buy a block of mozzarella cheese.
To prepare: dump shells in oven dish, pour Prego all over it, shred some cheese, and spread liberally over the top. Bake.
It tastes delicious. Feel free to use it next time you’re entertaining friends.
Just don’t tell them it came from me. That will be our little secret.
Michele Wojciechowski, when she’s not preparing every single meal in her kitchen from scratch, writes “Wojo’s World®” from Baltimore.