Some Christmas recipe favourites are worth repeating

Holidays are fast approaching and as usual we are thinking about food.

Each year I make our favourite sweets and appetizers, and gatherings are just not complete if I don’t serve these recipes. Instead of fumbling through recipe cards, old columns and well used cookbooks, I decided to offer my holiday indulgences on two pages, for my own convenience and yours.

I am struck by how putting food together for my family and friends is an art, learned over many years. There have been great successes that have become tradition, and there have been failures that have taught some good lessons.

As my kids start asking me questions about how to prepare certain things, I reflected on my kitchen beginnings, first at home with family and then at school. I am so grateful that I grew up in a time that offered practical arts such as home economics or home ecology. So much of what I learned has stayed with me and guided me throughout my life. I use these practical lessons each and every day.

Does food preparation and my ability to provide nutrition affect the health and wellness of my family? Absolutely. Does the environment of our home affect how well we manage in the outside world? Of course. I rest my case.

Unfortunately, many kids do not have the opportunity to learn practical skills through their public education, and so many important life lessons are being missed. Often if these classes are offered, they are backed with a compulsory science or math, and students are not able to fit them into their schedules. There are no online or distance courses that compare to what we learned in home economics class. Push to make these courses accessible in your schools.

Enjoy some of my “holiday must haves,” which I have acquired over time from some very important people.

Gumdrop cookies

My Aunt Alma used to make these cookies. They were a hit because of the little candy fruit inside the batter. I remember helping her bake them, and I still love them, and all of the heart-warming memories that come with each sweet bite. Cooking together is such a treasured time.

  • 1/2 c. butter or margarine 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar 125 mL
  • 1 egg 1
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda 2 mL
  • pinch salt
  • 1 c. flour 250 mL
  • 1 c. rolled oats 250 mL
  • 3 / 4 c. baking fruit (available in the baking section of many grocery stores) 175 mL

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

In large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla.

Combine the baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour and oats in a separate bowl. Mix the dry ingredients with the butter mixture.

Gently stir in the gumdrops.

Shape the dough into one inch balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet an inch apart. Bake for 12 minutes. Makes 30 cookies.

Sugar cookies

Making these cookies have provided so many memories with my own kids: the rolling dough, the fun shapes and of course the wild decorations. To them, more is more. Looking back, I sometimes dreaded cookie day, but every minute was worth it. Did they get to eat some dough? Absolutely.

  • 1 c. butter, softened 250 mL
  • 1 c. sugar 250 mL
  • 1 egg 1
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 2 3/4 c. flour 675 mL
  • 2 tsp. baking powder 10 mL

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl combine the flour and baking powder and gradually add the dry mix to the creamed mix until very well combined. On a well floured surface, roll out to desired thickness (about 1/4 inch or .5 cm thick). Cut out shapes and gently lift and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for seven to 10 minutes. The cookie should be light in colour with slightly browned edges. Cool and decorate however you desire. Choose from sprinkles, candies and icing. Makes approximately 30 cookies, depending on the cutters that you use.

Cookie Icing:

In a bowl mix 2 c. (500 mL) of icing sugar, 3 tbsp. (45 mL) of milk or water and 1/4 tsp. (1 mL) of vanilla until smooth. Tint with food colouring of your choice.

Ginger snaps

This is a version of my mother-in-law’s ginger cookies. Every grandchild loved this sweet and so did Santa. These cookies are perfect for dipping, good with both a cool glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee or tea.

  • 3/4 c. butter 175 mL
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar 175 mL
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. molasses 60 mL
  • 2 c. flour 500 mL
  • 2 tsp. baking soda 10 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves 2 mL

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and molasses until well combined.

In a separate bowl, measure the flour, soda, salt and spices into a bowl and blend.

Stir into the creamed mixture and shape the dough into balls (approximately one inch/ 2.5 cm).

Roll the dough in white sugar and place about two inches( five cm) on a greased baking sheet. Bake for eight to 10 minutes. Cool and remove from the pan. Makes 30 cookies.

Whipped shortbread

This recipe is from my Division 4 home economics teacher, Avis Dahl. She claims that this is “the most melt in your mouth” cookie she has ever come across. She was such an inspiration, one of the reasons for me to build a career in the home economics field — my confidence builder. I used her knowledge when I was planning my new kitchen, the centre of our home. Because of her I knew exactly what I needed — efficiency, optimal function and of course beautiful aesthetics. I also thank her for sharing consumer skills and budgeting information. I still make a list from sales flyers. Thanks Ms. Dahl!

Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C) and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

  • 2 c. softened butter 500 mL
  • 1 c. icing sugar 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. cornstarch 125 mL
  • 3 c. sifted flour 750 mL

Place butter in electric mixing bowl and sift other ingredients over it.

Blend on low speed until mixed and then beat on high speed until it resembles whipping cream. Drop by spoon on cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

You can also slightly flatten the spoonfuls of dough on the sheet and add sprinkles or candied fruit.

Dough also works well in cookie press.

Coffee crisp square

Also from my mother-in-law’s recipe collection, this chewy square is the perfect mix of chocolate and peanut butter.

  • 3/4 c. brown sugar 175 mL
  • 3/4 c. corn syrup 175 mL
  • 1/4 c. butter 60 mL
  • 3/4 c. peanut butter 175 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 4 c. coarsely crushed corn flakes 1 L
  • 2 c. crushed rice crispies 500 mL

Icing:

  • 2 tbsp. cocoa 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. butter 30 mL
  • 1 c. icing sugar 250 mL
  • 3 tbsp. hot coffee 45 mL

Combine dry cereals in a bowl.

Heat and stir brown sugar, corn syrup and butter together until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to bubble all over the top. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Pour syrup over the cereal and mix well. Pack firmly into a greased nine X 13 inch (22 X 33 cm) baking pan.

Icing:

Once the cereal mix is cooled, combine the cocoa, butter, icing sugar and hot coffee. Spread over cereal mixture.

Note: The original recipe calls for 6 c. cornflakes, but my mother-in-law preferred the cereal combo. You can make it either way.

Amaretto fruit dip

My mother has made this as long as I can remember. We all request it for Christmas morning, and even with the same recipe I can never make it as tasty as hers. It is delicious served with strawberries, green and red grapes, pineapple and melons. So simple and so refreshing, it’s a great accompaniment to the many sweets that are offered at this time of year.

  • 1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix (4 serving) 1
  • 1/2 c. milk 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. Amaretto liqueur or fresh orange juice 60 mL
  • 1 container frozen whipped topping, thawed 500 mL

Note: I have also used whipped cream in equal amounts to the whipped topping. The results are just as tasty but not quite as firm.

In a medium bowl, mix together the vanilla pudding mix, milk and Amaretto. Beat in the thawed frozen whipped topping. Chill at least two hour in the refrigerator before serving to allow for thickening.

Festive fondue

This recipe is from my Division 3 home economics teacher, Raylene Formanek. I remember learning about safety, food preparation and presentation. We were so green in the kitchen, but with nerves of steel, she persevered with patience. I think of her often when I am setting the table. Little questions pop into my mind:

  • Are the dishes easily passed?
  • Does everyone have enough room to eat comfortably?
  • Are the utensils set properly?
  • Is the presentation attractive and the food nutritious?

In fact, I have always loved a table centre piece, but always something simple and low so that everyone can see each other. This little rule of mine is rooted from Mrs. Formanek.

  • 1 tbsp. butter 15 mL
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 c. white wine 250 mL
  • 1/3 c. dried cranberries 75 mL
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped rosemary (or 1 tsp./5 mL dried) 15 mL
  • 1/2 lb. Canadian gouda, shredded 225 g
  • 1/4 lb. Canadian cheddar, shredded 115 g
  • 1/4 lb. Canadian Swiss, shredded 115 g
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch 15 mL
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Preparation time is 20 minutes, as is the cooking time.

In a fondue pot over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the shallot and garlic for two to thee minutes. Add the wine, cranberries and rosemary. Simmer for about three to four minutes or until reduced to one-third. Add the shredded cheese and cornstarch. Let melt over low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Pepper generously. Serve at once with different breads, cured meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc. Serves four to six.

Tips: For a more kid friendly alternative, replace the white wine with chicken broth or unsweetened apple or white grape juice. This recipe can also be prepared in the microwave oven at low intensity. Cheese variations: for tasty alternatives, try this fondue with Canadian raclette, provolone or emmental.

The garlic and shallot need not be included if not desired. The same goes for the rosemary.

Dill pickle dip

For many Christmas Eve celebrations, my childhood friend, Pam, served this appetizer. After my first taste I insisted on the recipe. It is always a hit with all ages and once you start dipping you just cannot stop.

Serve with ripple chips or cut up vegetables.

  • 1 – 8 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened 250 g
  • 4 dill pickles, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt (I have made it with both) 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. pickle juice 60 mL
  • dash salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. fresh dill greens/no seeds 5 mL

Mix well by hand or in a small blender or bullet. Cool for an hour before serving.

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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