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Readers' holiday sweet treat recipes for 2011

Whatcom County readers once again share their holiday recipes and traditions with us. Dig in!

PEANUT BUTTER PIE

Rebecca Jones of Bellingham says her Peanut Butter Pie has has quickly become her family's favorite holiday dessert. "Everyone looks forward to having it at Thanksgiving and Christmas," she said.

Ingredients

1 whole 8-inch chocolate graham cracker pie crust

8 ounces, organic cream cheese

1 cup organic peanut butter

1/2 cup organic sugar

1 teaspoon organic vanilla

8 ounces, homemade whipped cream

Chocolate sauce (for drizzling)

Directions

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Blend in peanut butter and vanilla. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon mixture into the prepared pie crust.

Refrigerate for at least four hours, or until firm.

When ready to serve, drizzle individual slices with a good chocolate sauce.



SPRITZ COOKIES

Jessica Shoemaker of Bellingham shares her recipe for spritz cookies, which are part of her blog at shoekast.com. "They're nothing fancy, but are definitely a holiday tradition for my family. Traditions like this are important to me when living so far away from my family at home," she said. Be sure you have a good cookie press for this cookie. Shoemaker said she is a fan of the metal ones, which she finds more durable and don't "eat up batteries like the plastic ones."

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup shortening

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla or orange extract

2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Food coloring (optional)

Cookie decorations (optional)

Directions

Place butter and shortening in large mixing bowl. Cream together on medium speed.

Add sugar gradually, beat until light and fluffy, about five minutes.

Add egg and vanilla; mix well using medium speed. If using orange extract, grate in a bit of orange rind.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl. Add to butter/sugar mixture in three additions; mixing well after each addition. Dough will be stiff. (Add desired amount of food coloring at this point.)

Assemble cookie press and fill with dough, using desired disc.

Press cookies on un-greased cookie sheet. Decorate.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Do not overbake.



OLD-FASHIONED BREAD PUDDING WITH SAUCE

Carolyn Blakeway of Lynden shares her sister's recipe for Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding that she said is a tradition for family holidays.

Pudding ingredients

1 loaf (16 ounces) stale French bread, cubed

2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk

1 cup water

6 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

1 large peeled apple, grated

1 1/2 cups sugar

5 tablespoons vanilla

1/4 cup butter, softened

Sauce ingredients

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons bourbon

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Pudding directions

Combine bread cubes, milk and water. Stir in eggs and blend.

Add pineapple, grated apple, sugar and vanilla.

Add butter and blend.

Pour mixture in greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Serve with sauce.

Best served warm.

Sauce directions

Melt butter, add flour and cook five minutes on medium-to-low heat, taking care that you don't scorch the sauce.

Stir in sugar and whipping cream and cook three minutes.

Stir in bourbon, vanilla and nutmeg and simmer five minutes.



CREAM CHEESE BROWNIES

Darrell Schoen and his wife Donna Gustin of Bellingham are health coaches and lead healthy lifestyles classes. They shared this recipe for Cream Cheese Brownies from TrinityHealthWeightLoss.com. They are made with garbanzo beans so they are low-glycemic. The couple's website is HeartsAndHandsForHealth.com.

Ingredients

8 ounces non-fat cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature (not melted)

8 ounces vanilla Greek yogurt

1 cup xylitol or stevia ("cup for cup" baking-style sugar substitute)

1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

4 eggs

3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce (optional, but it makes them more moist)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

Blend together cream cheese, butter, yogurt and 1/4 cup xylitol or stevia and refrigerate until brownies are ready to serve.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Generously spray a 9 x 9 baking pan with Pam.

Melt chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for about two minutes, stirring every 20 seconds after the first minute, until chocolate is melted and smooth.

In an electric blender, combine beans, eggs, applesauce, baking powder and 3/4 cup xylitol or stevia. Process until smooth.

Pour the warm, melted chocolate in the blender and blend until smooth, scraping down the corners to make sure chocolate is completely mixed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool to room temperature.

Frost with cream cheese mix just before serving.

Must be kept refrigerated at all times. Makes 16 two-inch square brownies.



PUMPKIN PIE

Jim Schmotzer of Bellingham shares this Pumpkin Pie recipe from his grandfather Sherman Goodson, who grew up in the rural southwest and left school early to care for younger siblings. Schmotzer said his grandfather "eventually made his way to Portland working as cook/chef in a variety of restaurants. His pumpkin pie was always a favorite part of our family holiday gatherings. He died in 1979, but had written the recipe for my wife. I have taken on the role of pie baker and stick to his recipe."

Ingredients

3 cups canned pumpkin

3 eggs

3 cups canned milk or half and half

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3 tablespoons flour

2 nine-inch pie shells

Directions

Mix pumpkin, eggs and milk in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients.

Add mixed dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Pour into two nine-inch pie shells.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until done.

Melt one tablespoon butter on top of each pie.

Cool.



SWEET POTATO, CORN CASSEROLES

Carol Robertson of Bellingham offers her Little Rock, Ark., cousin's recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole. She said it's a true Southern favorite that's "delicious and oh so easy." The Corn Custard Scallop is an old-time recipe, she said, that "pairs well with baked ham."

Sweet Potato Casserole ingredients

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 sticks butter

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped nuts

3/4 cup crushed corn flakes

Sweet Potato Casserole directions

Steam sweet potatoes until tender, drain and mash.

Add sugar, eggs, milk, cinnamon, 3/4 stick of butter and nutmeg, mix well.

Pour into buttered casserole, bake in 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.

Make topping by melting 3/4 stick of butter, combine with crushed corn flakes, nuts and brown sugar.

Spread evenly over sweet potatoes.

Return to oven for 10 minutes.

Corn Custard Scallop ingredients

2 slices bacon, diced

1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

1 tablespoon chopped onion

1 15- or 16-ounce can cream-style corn

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup evaporated milk or whole milk

1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

PaprikaCorn Custard Scallop directions

Fry bacon in skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towel.

Saute green pepper and onion in bacon drippings, until tender.

Mix together all ingredients except paprika.

Pour into 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with paprika.

Place in pan containing one inch of hot water.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.



LELA'S SPECIAL MINCE PIE

Donna Starr of Blaine said Lela's Special Mince Pie was a specialty of her mother-in-law. "What makes this pie so great is that it combines the tart of mince with the sweet-cutting pecan-raisin pie. I bake it with a lattice top for a festive finish," Starr said.

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup margarine

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup mince meat

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 prepared pie crust

Directions

Combine sugar, salt, corn syrup and margarine, bringing to a boil and cool.

Combine eggs, raisins, mince meat, walnuts, pecans, vanilla, orange and lemon juice and slowly pour in the syrup, mix well.

Pour into uncooked crust, cover with plain or lattice top.

Bake at 425 degrees for 30-35 minutes.



YULEKAKE

Meredith Ann Murray of Bellingham wrote down her grandmother Dagmar Olaison Murray's recipe for Yulekake as they baked together in the early '70s. Murray said her grandmother, who died in 1989, was born in 1900 and came from Norway through Ellis Island in New York City as a 16-year-old immigrant speaking no English. "She worked her way up from scullery maid in the private kitchens of New York to the head chef for the wealthy Rockefeller family 30 years later," Murray said. She said her family likes Yulekake best sliced and toasted with butter on it, their Christmas-morning tradition.

Ingredients

5 cups unbleached white flour (organic if possible), plus more for kneading

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

2 packages powdered yeast

1 cup whole or two-percent milk, plus a dash for topping

1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 stick butter

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups citrin fruit

1 1/2 cups organic raisins

Maple syrup

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine two cups flour, salt, cardamom and yeast.

In a small saucepan, heat milk and water until bubbles form at the edge of the pan. Stir often to scald milk.

Add sugar, stir.

Cool until tepid.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs until fluffy.

Melt one stick of butter slowly, stirring to keep creamy. (Or, I microwave it, being careful not to overheat and explode all over the oven - Grammy didn't have a microwave.)

Once the sugar and milk mixture is tepid (don't let it get too cool as the yeast needs moisture and warmth to activate), add it to the dry ingredients.

Add two cups more white flour, plus the eggs and butter, beating rapidly by hand until it will fall off the spoon.

Add about one more cup flour until mixture is of kneading consistency.

Mix in citrin fruit and raisins.

Put mixture on a floured breadboard, fold over with a spatula, cover with a clean dish towel and let rest for 10 minutes or so.

Knead gently.

Put dough in a large, greased bowl and cover with a clean dishtowel and put it in a warm place. (I momentarily turn my oven on low to take off the chill, then turn it off.)

Allow to rise until it doubles in bulk or until you can insert your finger in the dough and the dough will not close around it.

Cut in half - knead a bit, then round out and put in two greased, round cake pans.

Cover with clean dish towel and allow to rise again until doubled, in a warm place (about one hour).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 30 minutes.

Remove to cooling racks.

While warm, put waxed paper under racks and brush the loaves with a mixture of maple syrup with a dash of milk (to thin it a bit.)

Makes two large, round loaves.



EGG NOG TRES LECHES CAKE

Andy Nguyen of Bellingham share his recipe for Egg Nog Tres Leches Cake. Growing up with pumpkin pies and pecan pies, he said he really just wanted a soft, moist cake. "I love Tres Leches cake and decided to do a twist on a holiday version," he said. He serves this cake with a Hot Butter Rum Chantilly Cream and Raspberry Coulis.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

5 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla bean

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 cups egg nog

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup milk or evaporated milk

Directions

In a mixer, cream the butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy.

One at a time, add eggs, making sure each one is incorporated before you add the next.

Slowly add flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, nutmeg and 3 teaspoons cinnamon in small increments, letting it mix throughly, scraping sides of bowl if needed.

Spread batter evenly in a buttered-and-floured baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees, about 20 minutes depending on your pan.

Once cake is baked, poke holes throughout the cake with a toothpick.

Mix egg nog, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon together and pour over the cake, cool before serving.

Serves 6-8.



PARFAITS, SQUARES AND BROWNIES

Adele Lloyd of Bellingham offers up a trio of holiday treats: Pineapple Pistachio Parfaits, Razzle Dazzle Squares and Peppermint Patty Brownies.

Pineapple Pistachio Parfaits ingredients

2 3.4-ounce packages pistachio pudding

1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks

1/2 cup pistachio nuts, shelled, toasted and crushed

Whipped cream, for garnish

Pineapple Pistachio Parfaits directions

Prepare pudding according to package directions, and chill for 30 minutes.

Drain pineapple chunks.

Layer parfait glasses with pistachio pudding, pineapple chunks and ending with another layer of pistachio pudding.

Garnish each serving with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of pistachio nuts.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Razzle Dazzle Squares ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter

1/2 cup raspberry jam

4 eggs, beaten

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups flaked coconut

Razzle Dazzle Squares directions

Sift together two cups flour and powdered sugar. In a food processor, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.

Press mixture into a 13- by 9-inch glass baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Spread the raspberry jam over the baked crust.

Beat together eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon peel.

Sift together 1/4 cup flour and baking powder. Stir into the egg mixture and add flaked coconut.

Pour egg mixture over baked crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Cool, cut into squares.

Makes 15-20 squares.

Peppermint Patty Brownies ingredients

1 1/2 cups butter, melted

3 cups sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

5 eggs

2 cups flour

1 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

24 small (1 1/2-inch) peppermint patties

Peppermint Patty Brownies directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 13- by 9-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, and vanilla.

Add eggs, and mix until well-blended.

Stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; blend well.

Reserve two cups of batter and set aside.

Spread remaining batter into prepared pan.

Unwrap peppermint patties and arrange in a single layer over the batter, about 1/2 inch apart.

Spread the reserved two cups of batter over the patties.

Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Cool completely in pan; cut into squares.

Makes about 24 brownies.



LEMON DATE BARS

Robert E. Lundquist of Bellingham shares Mrs. Bowman's Lemon Date Bars. "As a child growing up in Ocean Beach, a suburb of San Diego," Lundquist said, "one of my very fond memories is an older neighbor lady named Mrs. Bowman. She lived alone in a modest house on a nice piece of property that had lemon and orange trees. As far as I know she did not have any children, but she mothered all the neighborhood kids, including me, often giving us homemade cookies. She was so kind and had such a loving twinkle in her eyes. She gave us love and respect and all of us in return respected her property and never once raided her trees for an orange. My wife found this recipe and made it, not knowing this story. When I smelled them baking I was transported back to Ocean Beach and my childhood. I'm sure this is her recipe, or very very close to it." He added that this recipe doubles very well.

Ingredients

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted flour

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 medium eggs until slightly beaten

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup chopped dates

1 cup shredded coconut

Directions

Blend one cup flour, butter and brown sugar until smooth.

Pat into a buttered, 8-inch square pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until light golden brown.

Meanwhile, mix together eggs, sugar, lemon juice, salt, two tablespoons flour, baking powder, dates and coconut.

Spread topping on top of the shortbread as soon as it is out of the oven.

Return it to the oven and bake 30 minutes longer.

Cut into squares when cool.

Roll in powdered sugar.



CHERRY COCONUT BARS

Patricia Lundquist of Bellingham recalls her neighbor's Cherry Coconut Bars. "In 1993 we had a wonderful neighbor named James McGinnis," she recalled. "We got in the delightful habit of supping together a couple of times a week. It was very impromptu and rather improvisatory. It began when James called one cold December night and said he'd made a rather large pot of soup and would we like to share. He brought it over and after enjoying the soup with some homemade rolls I had made the day before, we gathered around the piano and James and my husband sang while my husband played through old songs from the '30s and '40s. On a different night, when we had made soup, he came over with these luscious cherry bars warm from the oven. I still have the recipe he wrote down for me on a piece of line stenographer's paper." She said these are very festive and delicious, perfect for the holidays!

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups sifted flour

1/2 cup butter

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 medium eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup coconut flakes

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped

Directions

Blend 1 cup flour, butter and powdered sugar until smooth.

Pat into a buttered, 8-inch square pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until light golden brown.

Meanwhile, mix eggs, sugar, 1/4 cup flour, salt, baking powder, vanilla, pecans, coconut and cherries.

Spread topping on shortbread as soon as it is out of the oven.

Return it to the oven and bake 25 minutes longer.

Cut into squares when cool.



CINNAMON BREAD

Elicia Fowler of Bellingham shares her mother's Cinnamon Bread recipe. "This has been a family favorite for years around Christmas time," she said.

Ingredients

2 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons cinnamon

Directions

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in small bowl.

Beat butter in medium bowl until smooth.

Gradually beat in one cup sugar and beat until fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time.

Then, alternate buttermilk and flour mixture until combined.

Stir in vanilla.

Place parchment paper or waxed paper on bottom of loaf pan.

Mix one-third cup sugar and two tablespoons cinnamon.

Pour two-thirds of the batter into the loaf pan, then sprinkle heavily with cinnamon-sugar mix.

Add the remainder of batter to pan.

Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon-sugar mix on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.

Check with wooden toothpick.

Cool completely in pan on wire rack.



GLUTEN-FREE TREATS

Pete and Julie Sheldrup of Bellingham offer gluten-free holiday treats, Little St. Nicks and Candied Nuts, from their website, mealplanner101.com. Julie Sheldrup said Little Saint Nicks are bite-sized open-faced ice cream nibblets "that are nice as an after dinner treat or compliment to a cup of coffee." The candied nuts are great in a salad, with yogurt and fresh fruit, in your breakfast oatmeal or tied in a little cellophane bag tied with a ribbon for a hostess gift.

Little Saint Nicks ingredients

Gluten-free ginger snaps (they like MiDel)

Peppermint ice cream (they like Dreyer's)

Candy canes or dark chocolate pieces

Little Saint Nicks directions

Place cookies on plate.

Top each cookie with about a tablespoon of ice cream.

Top with broken candy can or dark chocolate pieces.

Serve right away, or cover and freeze.

Candied Nuts ingredients

3 to 4 cups of raw, unsalted nuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews or a mix

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup brown or granulated sugar

Dash of salt

Candied Nuts directions

Melt the butter with the sugar and a dash of salt on the stove in a large pan. Stir until the sugar is well-dissolved.

Stir in 3-4 cups of your favorite nuts.

Once the nuts are well-coated with the butter-sugar mixture, transfer them to a 9- by 13-inch glass baking dish.

Bake at 250 degrees for several hours, stirring every 30 minutes, until they reach desired crispiness.

Transfer nuts to waxed paper for several hours to allow them to fully cool and dry.

Store in air-tight containers.

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