When my house burned down in the summer of 1986, the one thing that I realized was irreplaceable was the old Woman’s Day magazine that Lillian Hector had given to me. In it was a delightful recipe for crème de menthe bars, a three-layer holiday bar consisting of dense chocolate cake, mint frosting and a thick glaze of chocolate on top.
When I first met Claude and Lillian, they lived above the print shop in the Delaware Publications building, the original newspaper building in Narrowsburg, where the River Reporter now has its office. Lillian was a retired kindergarten teacher, and Claude ran the print shop, having sold the letterpress paper, the Delaware Valley News, in 1974. Upon selling the building and the businesses to the next owner, George and Gloria Krause, Claude and Lillian retired to a home in Beach Lake, PA. I was there on a Saturday morning when Lillian gave me the magazine and a clump of lamb’s ear flowers to plant in my front flowerbed.
When my house burned, the recipe and that magazine were gone. I had only made it once or twice, and I hadn’t committed it, in any way, to memory. It was truly lost.
Until, in 1996, I went to a caroling party at my friend Karen MacIntyre‘s house in Yulan. We would traditionally gather there, have a few snacks and go caroling on River Road in Barryville.
Following the spreading of good cheer and returning to the house for more snacks and cookies, I was delighted to see a plate of crème de menthe bars on the buffet. Mary Greene had that same recipe somehow. The recipe came back to me. It had been lost for 10 years.
Since then, those bars have been a large part of my Christmas baking.
Another one-of-a-kind recipe that I lost to the fire was for oatmeal chocolate-chip cake. I acquired it following a very odd and disconcerting time hiking with a male companion over Easter vacation when I was in college. We were hiking in numerous western national parks. Durango, Arches. Halfway through, there had been a misunderstanding, and we both couldn’t get back to Denver fast enough. On the day before I was to leave, finally ending this horrendous trip, a party was held and this cake was served. I had never tasted such an amazingly dense, moist cake, interspersed with chocolate chips, with more chips and nuts on the top.
I made that cake a lot and brought it often to potlucks and served it to friends.
It was so popular that when Jill Padua was designing her menu for the Chatterbox Cafe on Main Street in the 1990s, she wanted to include it, and asked for the recipe. When the house burned down, that recipe was not lost, because I had given it to Jill.
The holiday season is about giving.
The holiday season is about connecting with others.
The holiday season is all about sharing the stories of our lives and absolutely wonderful sweets that are impressive, tasty and amazingly simple.
Yay for a good recipe!
Mix ingredients together. Spread in greased or parchment-lined 9”x13” baking pan. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool completely.
Cream butter, add sugar and crème de menthe. Beat until light and fluffy.
Melt and mix chocolate and butter. Cool in fridge 10-20 minutes.
Spread on top of mint layer.
Cool completely. Cut in small squares and transfer to cookie tin. (These are very rich!) Store cookie tin in fridge.
Place oatmeal and butter in large mixing bowl. Pour boiling water into bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Add brown sugar, white sugar and eggs.
Sift flour, soda, salt and cocoa. Add flour to oatmeal mixture and stir well.
Add about half the chocolate chips to the batter. Pour into greased and floured 9” x 13” pan. Sprinkle walnuts and remaining chips on top. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes.
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