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Baked with love

Kamrar baker shares her favorite holiday traditions

Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Anne Blankenship Jennifer Espinoza slices into a pan of her Christmas Coffee Cake. The enthusiastic Kamrar baker often shares her baked goods with neighbors, church members and family.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the November 2020 Our Hometown Magazine.

As the holidays draw near, many are worried that are traditional family celebrations may have to be altered or revised. The pandemic may prevent some from traveling to be with family. Some may find themselves opening presents over Skype or Facetime. Despite the challenges, many are finding ways to continue those holiday traditions.

Jennifer Espinoza, of Kamrar, says baking is a big part of her family traditions. She’s known by family and friends for her delicious pies, cakes and other goodies.

“The last couple years with grown children hither and yon, it’s been hard to get everybody together. So, it’s been just my husband and me the past couple years … and the two cats,” she said.

With the pandemic still in play, that scene is likely to play out again this year, according to Espinoza.

Christmas Coffee Cake

“I’ll still have all the family favorites, there just won’t be as much, since it will probably be just the two of us,” she said. “We still need to carry on those traditions.”

Much of her baking skill she learned by her grandmothers’ side.

“They never really taught me to bake, but I learned by watching them,” she said.

When Espinoza was in about the fifth grade, she filled in as cook when her mother went to work.

“She worked some crazy hours,” said Espinoza. “It’s called feast or famine and we didn’t want the family to experience famine.”

So during that time, Espinoza and her sister helped prepare meals for the family.

“That’s when I found my love for baking,” she said. “It’s just what I do.”

Nowdays, her husband, David, is often the taste tester for new recipes.

“He’s not particular and he’s not picky,” she said. “He always says ‘oohh, this is a keeper!'” she said.

An egg nog pound cake recently got the thumbs up from her husband.

“He said, ‘This is really good. You’ll need to keep some,'” she said, chuckling. “He had another piece after breakfast today and said it was even better the second day.”

Most of what Espinoza bakes goes away. She frequently shares her creations with her neighbors and family. Her baked treats are also popular at her church and when she worked at Kendall Young Library, she often surprised co-workers with goodies to munch on.

As in most families, Espinosa’s holiday traditions are steeped in memories, laughter and of course, delicious food. Traditions have been carried down through the generations to share with her children and grandchildren.

“We always had Christmas Coffee Cake and scrambled eggs for breakfast on Christmas morning,” she said. “That’s something my mother started.”

“We always had to wait for presents until the coffee cake and eggs had been finished,” she said. The coffee cake, filled with cinnamon and brown sugar, was freshly baked early Christmas morning, she added.

Thanksgiving brings the traditional feast with turkey and all the family favorites. After dinner, the family settles in for an afternoon of football on television, she said.

A trip to the tree farm on the Saturday after Thanksgiving gets the Christmas holiday rolling for her family.

“We try to take the grandkids and chop down our own tree,” she said. “After a couple days or a week, the kids come back out to help decorate the tree.”

She likes to have her grandchildren help with making and decorating roll-out sugar cookies each year.

“They like to roll them out and cut them, then decorate the heck out of the cookies,” she said. “We usually ended up with sprinkles all over the table and floor.”

Worshipping on Christmas Eve with family and friends is another special memory, especially the candlelit service at 11 p.m.

“That was so special, because by the time it was over, it was Christmas morning,” she said. “That was just wonderful.”

Following the Christmas morning coffee cake and presents, her family would gather around the table for a ham dinner.

“Because we had turkey for Thanksgiving, we would always do ham for Christmas,” she said.

The family feast featured all the trimmings — mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, home-grown sweet corn, breads and rolls, and of course, scrumptious desserts.

Espinoza said that families don’t have to rely on cookies and pie to make wonderful holiday customs. Families looking to create new traditions can do so, even if they aren’t seasoned bakers.

“Memories are the best thing to make for the holidays,” she said. “It doesn’t take anything, it doesn’t cost anything. Memories are what I like to make the most.”

Christmas Coffee Cake

3 cups flour

¢ tsp. Salt

3 Tbsp. Baking powder

1 cup sugar

1 cup Crisco

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 tsp. Vanilla

Topping:

1 ¢ cup brown sugar

2 tsp. -plus cinnamon

1 cup chopped nuts

In a 9×13 inch sprayed pan, alternate in two layers.

Melt ¢ cup butter and drizzle over the top. Bake 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Brunch Pizza

1 pkg crescent rolls

¢ lb. Cheese, shredded

1 green pepper, chopped

™ tsp. Each salt, pepper and oregano

1 pkg. Sausage

4 eggs

™ cup milk

Spread rolls in a 9 x 13-inch pan. Top with cheese, ground sausage and green pepper. Mix spices with beaten eggs and milk. Pour over mixture. Bake or cover and store in refrigerator overnight. Bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Hawaiian Bread

1 cup pineapple juice

™ cup warm milk

™ cup butter, melted

1 egg

2 Tbsp. Sugar

1 tsp. Salt

1 envelope yeast

3-3 ¢ cup flour

Combine, knead and add flour as needed. Cover and raise one hour. Form a loaf and raise again. Bake in a greased loaf pan 350 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes.

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