I blinked once and the Christmas season was here; I blinked twice and now it’s almost over. I’m considering holding my eyes open with toothpicks à la Odysseus so I won’t blink again. Not really, but maybe I should because it would be a shame for Christmas to pass without sharing at least a few more Christmas recipes with you. (Read about Christmas Lollipop Cookies.)
The Christmas treats I’m sharing today are some of my favorites for many reasons:
I should warn you though. They also have an identity crisis, and I’m afraid it confuses the children. After eating these, my kids have been known to say some pretty odd things. Check these doozies out.
“Daddy, I’m thirsty. But I’m not. But I am.” — Robyn
“I want corn flakes for breakfast! But I don’t. But I do. Can I have biscuits?” — Maggie
“You’re silly, Daddy. But I am. But you’re not. But I’m not. But I am!” — Robyn
“I’m tired (closes eyes). But I’m not (opens eyes). I’m tired (closes eyes). But I’m not (opens eyes)!” — Robyn
And my personal favorite, which has happened more than once…
Robyn runs up to me doing the potty dance, “DADDY! I have to go bathroom! But I don’t. But I do! But I don’t.” She’s still doing the dance, when she starts to scream bloody murder (no exaggeration) “AHHHHHH!!!! BUT I DO!” And this is when all heck breaks loose.
From my observations they have similar effects on adults, “I want another. No I don’t. But I do. But I shouldn’t. But I’m going to.” This too is when all heck breaks loose, though the effects aren’t noticeable until a couple of days later.
Now that you’ve been warned, let me explain. Apparently someone decided it would be sinful to only eat these during Christmas, and because it’s bad mojo to make Christmas treats in July, they were renamed for the off-season. Therefore, during the November/December holiday stretch these delicious treats are called Holiday Squares, but they’re not. But they are. When they’re made at any other time of the year (January through October), they’re called Sunshine Bars. But they’re not. But seriously, they are.
If they become a favorite at your house, both they and I insist that you call them by their proper name during the proper time.
Note: I’m not sure from where this recipe originates, but the original does not call for orange zest, orange juice, or nutmeg; those are my additions. And maybe I’m a little biased, but I think their addition is a must.
Another note: Burned out kitchen lights + late night + old school camera = yellow tinted pictures. Your batter, though orange in hue, will not be as yellow as these pictures look.
You must first make a very important (and potentially life-changing) decision: Are you making Holiday Squares or Sunshine Bars? (Not that it’s any different.) Then gather all your ingredients and preheat your oven to 350°F. It would also be helpful to spray a cookie sheet now so you don’t forget to do it later.
Add your sugar to a large mixing bowl and zest your orange into the sugar. I use the entire zest of a medium-sized orange, which gives me anywhere from .30 oz – .60 oz, depending on the orange’s freshness.
With your fingers, massage the zest into the sugar until it turns bright orange. It takes about 3 minutes. I love this part because I love using my hands and it smells so good! If you’re in a hurry, go to the next step. If you’re not, then take a five-minute break to stop and take in the lovely aroma.
Add in your margarine and cream it together with the sugar.
Add in your eggs and vanilla. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice from one of the halves in. Wish I had a picture for you of me squeezing the orange, but I started eating the other half and forgot to take a picture. I can’t resist good fruit. Mix it all together. Your mixture will be runny, but very tasty.
In a separate bowl, mix together your flour and nutmeg, then add it to the other mixture to form your batter.
Mix it all together until it’s uniformly distributed. At this point it will be relatively thick and sticky.
Scrape your batter into your sprayed cookie sheet. (You did spray it at the beginning, right?) Evenly spread the batter. The batter can be a bit stubborn, so sometimes I pick it up and shake it around to flatten it out.
Divide it into 20 equal squares.
Drop a tablespoon of cherry pie filling into the center of each square. It gives you three to four cherries and some syrup in each one.
Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar for a nice finishing touch. I have also made a light vanilla glaze to drizzle of the tops of these, which adds a nice touch. Cut into squares and serve warm! (I actually made this batch for a work Christmas social, so there are no pictures of it all cut up and arranged into individual servings, but I’m sure you can handle it.)
And that’s it! I hope you enjoy this recipe, it’s been one of my family’s favorites for years.
Holiday Squares Recipe (Sunshine Bars) (PDF, 2 pages, 897 KB, includes pictures)