By Chef Jill McCollum, CC

The holidays wouldn't be the same without our time-honored traditions, many of which start in the kitchen.
From irresistible Divinity to festive Christmas Wreath Cookies to cozy Candy Cane Cocoa, the food we make together brings us closer as a family. (See page 28 for recipes for the cookies and cocoa.)

Divinity

2 cups white sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup hot water
¼ teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy, 2 quart saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt. Cook and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Then cook to hard ball stage without stirring, 250 degrees F. Frequently wipe crystals forming on the sides of the pan, using a pastry brush dipped in water. Remove from heat.

Just as the syrup is reaching temperature, begin whipping egg whites. In a large glass or stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Pour hot syrup in a thin stream over beaten egg whites, beating constantly with the electric mixer at medium speed. Increase speed to high, and continue beating for about 5 minutes. Add vanilla; continue beating until the mixture becomes stiff and begins to lose its gloss. If it is too stiff, add a few drops of hot water.

Immediately drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let stand until set. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Christmas Wreath Cookies

½ cup butter
3 cups mini marshmallows
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon green food coloring
4 cups corn flakes
Red Hots or red M&M's

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract and food coloring, stirring until mixture is an even bright green. Gently stir in the cornflakes, being careful not to crush the flakes. Form into wreath shapes on a lightly greased baking dish-lightly buttering your hands first allows for easy shaping. Decorate the wreaths with Red Hots or M&M candies. Cool completely and store at room temperature in a tightly covered container.

Candy Cane Cocoa

4 cups milk
3 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 peppermint candy canes, crushed
1 cup whipped cream
4 small peppermint candy canes

In a saucepan, heat milk until hot, but not boiling. Whisk in the chocolate and the crushed peppermint candies until melted and smooth. Pour hot cocoa into four mugs, and garnish with whipped cream. Serve each with a candy cane stirring stick.