The holidays can be a season of bittersweet memories. It’s a time of joy and happiness — a time to count our blessings and to be thankful for all that we have, and for the people we have in our lives. But there are moments when we reflect on all the people we’ve lost, and who are no longer with us to share in the traditions as they once had.

It’s impossible for me not to think of my mother when I’m making hundreds of Greek cookies, using the recipes she passed down to me. It’s as though it were yesterday when she was correcting my technique on how to shape the cookies in just the way she wanted them, or showing me how to know when they were ready to come out of the oven.

Tradition is what keeps our loved ones alive. Through the generations, we pass down their words, advice, customs and recipes.

I don’t remember my late mother-in-law to be a big baker. My sister-in-law, Donna, is the baker in my husband’s family. But I do remember that she made a cookie that I loved, and I had asked her for the recipe. I still have the original handwritten one she gave me, although now, splattered with vanilla, flour and butter. She called these cookies Pecan Balls. They are the quickest and easiest of cookies to make, and since people seemed to love them, I added them to my Christmas cookie platters.

So, I’d later learned that the cookie was actually a traditional Italian cookie, which made sense, since my husband’s mother was Sicilian. Even though she referred to them as Pecan Balls, I knew they had to have an Italian name. I searched the Internet and I could not find one. However, every site with a similar recipe called them Italian Wedding Cookies.

So as my dad likes to say, “That’s the story.”

Pecan Balls or Italian Wedding Cookies


1 pound unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups finely ground pecans

4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 300º

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla, nuts and flour. Shape into a mini meatball size. Bake for 30 minute on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Yields approximately 90 cookies


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