Every year around this time I think about my Grandma Nettie. It’s not that I don’t think of her at other times but… Christmas Eve was really her holiday. She was one of those Grandmas of Italian legend… She she cooked, she baked, she cleaned, she sewed, she entertained for 2 or for 20 and made it all seem effortless. Christmas Eve- known to Italians as the Feast of the 7 Fishes– was her special night to shine and in the years since she has been gone, it has never been quite the same.
The best we can do as people leave our lives is to celebrate the best memories we have of them. Every year around this time I bake a few batches of the cookie of my Grandmother’s that us little kids could not wait for every Christmas Eve… “The Santa Snack”. Much to our delight, Grandma Nettie and her sister, our Aunt Del, would bake them by the batches and the cookie platters would be overflowing.
The Santa Snack is a simple bar cookie, most likely at one time found as recipe on the back of a can or bag of one if it’s ingredients but to us it’s pure heaven… gooey, messy, melty, chocolate with coconut and graham crackers… They are also really easy to make which is especially great if you have 7 fish dishes to cook up!
Over the years, I’ve developed it a bit and this version stays together a little better (added more butter to the crust, added honey thanks to a similar cookie by Emeril) but still has that gooey taste of Holiday.
Recipe for Grandma Nettie’s Santa Snacks
• 18 full sized graham crackers
• 1 stick of butter, melted
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 2 tbsp honey
• 2 cups sweetened coconut
• 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or nuts like pecans (optional- can chips if preferred)
• 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
• parchment paper
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 9 x 13” baking dish with cooking spray and parchment paper. Set aside.
In a bowl, crush up graham crackers into crumbs. Melt butter and combine with vanilla and honey. Combine with graham cracker crumbs and mix well. Press graham cracker mixture into bottom of dish forming an even crust without gaps.
Pour coconut over crust forming an even layer. Add chocolate chips in an even layer. Pour sweetened condensed milk over the coconut and chips evenly, covering as much as possible.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes… the mixture should be set in the baking dish and the coconut should be toasted looking but not burnt. Let cool then chill in the fridge for 2 hours or so. Remove from fridge and cut into bars- yields 24 to 30 depending on cut size. Serve chilled or at room temperature. They keep best stored in the fridge.
As I plate up my Santa Snacks tomorrow I’ll think sweet thoughts of my Grandma Nettie and be proud of carrying on her delicious tradition for another sweet year. Recipes like this taste the very best after all, because they are made with extra love.
Don’t forget to leave a few out for Santa! Merry merry! Xo Dani