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Crevolyn Wiley: Recipes bring back warm memories of Christmases past
Crevolyn Wiley columnist

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. As we celebrate the birth of our savior during this Christmas season, I’m reminded of the faithfulness and provision of God in my life.

As one gets older, the rear-view mirror of our life seems to get wider. We see things that we thought were disappointments turn into opportunities. We see growth in ourselves through trials and tragedy.

God doesn’t waste a single minute of our story to further his story. We don’t always see at the time, but in retrospect, he is weaving an extensive pattern of good.

Someone once told me that our life is a tapestry; beautiful and intricate on the front side but full of knots and frays on the back. To get to the beauty we must endure the ashes.

As you might have guessed, I’m nostalgic this Christmas. One of my favorite traditions during the season is to open up the ornament boxes and reminisce on the journey of our family. Our Christmas tree is a hodgepodge of ornaments collected through the years. Some are hand-crafted works of art made by the children during their school years (thank you, precious teachers); some serve as a reminder of the places we’ve traveled; some are loving gifts from dear friends and family; and honestly, some are a little nontraditional.

Each year, I tie on one of my mother’s black lace-up shoes she had as a child, a cherished gift from her before dementia set in. I stick between the branches one of my daughter’s rag dolls, a reminder of her childhood, as well as a “Welcome Christmas” sign in 7-year-old Garrett’s handwriting made from construction paper. An authentic cow bell from our trip to Switzerland makes an appearance between shells from beach trips. I even have plastic silver bells that were on the wedding gift my grandmother gave us 33 years ago.

Every year I tell the same old stories about these things that might be meaningless to someone else but are treasures to us.

So keeping with my theme, here are two recipes that remind me of Christmases past. Every year my mother made Cranberry Meatballs for my dad. He could eat all of them practically by himself.

Each year, I prepare Christmas brunch. This Overnight French Toast recipe is an annual favorite in our house.

Cranberry Meatballs


  • 1 14-ounce can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 12-ounce bottle chili sauce
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 32-ounce package frozen fully cooked meatballs, thawed


In a large saucepan, over medium heat, combine the six ingredients. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add meatballs and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Overnight French Toast


  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 12 slices French bread, sliced thin
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • Garnish: syrup, powdered sugar, fresh blueberries and strawberries


Mix butter, brown sugar and cinnamon together and pour in the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch pan. Add two thicknesses of bread over mixture. Beat eggs, salt and milk together. Pour over the bread. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, covered with foil. Bake uncovered for the last 10 minutes. Invert on serving platter immediately.

Crevolyn Wiley is a Gainesville resident with her first published cookbook “Cooking with Crevolyn” available at J&J Foods. She can be contacted at
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