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For the Love of Food: Tried and True – Favorite Recipes from Holidays Past

By Aly Wagonseller

Few things evoke memories and a sense of belonging more than the food we enjoy during the holiday season.  Traditional family recipes that have been passed down for generations are as much a part of the festivities as the people who devour the end product at the dinner table. Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie; each family has  its own spin, with  home cooks everywhere risking sure-fire mutiny should they dare to make a change in the menu.


Still, mixing things up can be a good thing; a way to create unique, tasty traditions your family will look forward to in the years to come. New twists on turkey, appetizers, side dishes and desserts can add spice to the holidays without creating havoc for the purists in the group.  These are the kinds of recipes we’ve provided over the nine years we’ve been publishing this magazine. Recipes you’ve cut out, requested via email when they’ve been misplaced, and enthusiastically made a part of your holiday party and dinner repertoire. 


We’ve chosen some of our favorite tried and true recipes to share again with you this holiday season. Most are simple to prepare, yet scream “Wow!” without being ostentatious. A succulent prosciutto and hazelnut crusted turkey; sweet potato casserole with pecan strudel topping piped into orange shells for a stunning presentation; or pumpkin crème brulee are but a few delicious options.  They’ve become a tradition that my own family looks forward to, and I hope they make for many years of enjoyment on your own holiday table.  Happy Holidays!


Toasted Challah, Pecan and Cranberry Stuffing

Serves 12-14

8 cups , 1/2 inch pieces Challah egg bread or firm white bread                                                                                                                  ½  lb sage flavored pork sausage meat

¼  cup unsalted butter

2 onions, chopped

3 celery ribs, sliced ¼ inch thick

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 ½  cups chopped pecans (8 oz), toasted

1 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)

1 1/2  to 3 cups chicken broth


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toast bread in a large shallow baking pan in middle of oven until dry and pale golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Cook sausage in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up large lumps, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Add butter to fat remaining in skillet and cook onions, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add celery, apple, and garlic and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl with sausage and stir in bread, pecans, cranberries and salt and pepper to taste. Add just enough broth to hold the stuffing together, or to obtain desired moistness.

Pour the mixture into a buttered 3- to 4-quart shallow baking dish and cover with foil, baking stuffing on the center rack for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 20-25 minutes longer or until the bread is golden and stuffing is heated through. 


Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Strudel Topping

Serves 8 


4 Large Sweet Potatoes                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Stick Butter                                                                                                                                                                                                                       4 Tbl brown sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Tbl bourbon                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice                                                                                                                                                                                            Half and Half Cream


1 cup light brown sugar                                                                                                                                                                                               1/3 cup all-purpose flour                                                                                                                                                                                           1/3 cup melted butter                                                                                                                                                                                                      1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350.  Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Boil in salted water until fork tender.

In large mixer bowl, with wire whip attachment, whip potatoes with butter, brown sugar, bourbon and spices, adding enough half and half to produce a mixture that is light and fluffy, but still hold its shape. Pour into greased 13 X 9 casserole.

Combine topping ingredients, mixing until just moistened. Sprinkle over top of the casserole. Bake until potatoes are heated through and topping is crunchy, approx 35-40 minutes.


Cranberry Trifle

Serves 12

2 cups cranberry sauce                                                                                                                                                                                                     3/4 cup sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                                 1/2 tsp. vanilla                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 cup white chocolate chips                                                                                                                                                                                          2 cups heavy whipping cream                                                                                                                                                                                  1/4 cup powdered sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                 1 1/2 cups chopped semisweet chocolate chips                                                                                                                                                    1 angel food cake, cut into 2 inch cubes                                                                                                                                                                    1 cup chopped pecans, toasted                                                                                                                                                                                1/2 cup grated white chocolate

In medium saucepan, combine cranberry sauce, sugar and vanilla. Heat on low, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

In large, microwave safe bowl, combine white chocolate chips with 3/4 cup heavy cream. Microwave on low for 1 minute, then remove and stir. Microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Chill in the refrigerator until cold, about 45 minutes. Add remaining whipping cream and powdered sugar to the melted chip mixture; beat until stiff peaks form.

In a large trifle dish or glass bowl, layer cake, cranberry sauce, whipped cream mixture, chopped chocolate and pecans. Continue layering until all ingredients are used. Sprinkle grated white chocolate over all; cover and chill for at least 4 hours.


Raspberry Chocolate Roulade

Serves 12-14  

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1  1/2 tsp. vanilla extract                                                                                                                                                                                           1/2-3/4 cup raspberry jam                                                                                                                                                                                           1 – 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened                                                                                                                                                                  1 cup powdered sugar, sifted                                                                                                                                                                                         7 tbsp. butter, softened

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream                                                                                                                                                                                    2 tbsp. light corn syrup                                                                                                                                                                                                   9 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped                                                                                                                                                                  2 tbsp. Chambord (raspberry liqueur), if desired


Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray bottom and sides of 15x10x1-inch pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper. In small bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Beat egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla until blended, increasing speed and beating until mixture is pale yellow and thickened, about 4 minutes. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and gradually add remaining sugar, beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold yolk mixture into white mixture. Sift flour mixture over egg mixture and fold just until combined.

Spread batter in prepared pan and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until center of cake springs back when gently pressed. Immediately loosen edges of cake from pan and turn out onto a dishtowel sprinkled with confectioners” sugar. Gently pull off parchment paper. Starting at short end, roll up warm cake and towel together. Cool completely on wire rack.

Meanwhile, make filling by beating cream cheese, 6 tbsp. butter, and 1 tsp. vanilla until smooth. Unroll cooled cake.  Spread the inside with raspberry jam, topping with the cream cheese mixture. Reroll cake. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Just prior to glazing, unwrap cake and place on rack over a baking pan.

Make glaze by heating cream, corn syrup and 1 tbsp. butter until it comes to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds. Whisk gently until smooth, adding Chambord if desired. Cool until slightly thickened. Pour evenly down the center of the roulade, allowing glaze to cover entire cake. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.



Pumpkin Crème Brulee

Serves 6

1 1/4 cups whipping cream                                                                                                                                                                                          1/2 vanilla bean, split                                                                                                                                                                                                      5 large egg yolks                                                                                                                                                                                                                 6 tbsp. granulated sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 tsp. grated nutmeg                                                                                                                                                                                                     1/2 cup solid pack pumpkin, not pie filling                                                                                                                                                            2 tbsp. Cointreau or other orange liqueur                                                                                                                                                          1/4 cup packed brown sugar                                                                                                                                                                                     1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Bring cream to boil in heavy saucepan. Remove from heat.  Add vanilla bean. Let stand 20 minutes; discard vanilla bean.

Whisk together yolks, granulated sugar and nutmeg. Add pumpkin and orange liqueur and mix until smooth. Whisk in cream mixture. Divide custard amongst 6-1/2 cup ramekins. Arrange ramekins in heavy large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up the sides of ramekins. Bake until sides are set but centers move slightly when shaken, about 20 minutes.  Remove from water bath and cool. Refrigerate one hour.

Preheat broiler.  Sift brown sugar and cinnamon into small bowl. Sprinkle over custards.  Broil 8 inches from heat source until sugar begins to melt, watching carefully, about 30 seconds.  A kitchen torch may also be used. Serve immediately.


RoastedTurkeywith Prosciutto-Hazelnut Crust

Serves 12-15

Prosciutto Butter:

1  1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

6 Tbsp. chopped hazelnuts (Trader Joe’s stocks these)

1 1/2 tsp. Sherry wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

2 tsp. crushed black peppercorns

1 garlic clove, minced

3/4 tsp. salt

9 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped

3 green onions, chopped


1 16-18 lb. turkey

1 onion, quartered

3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

5 large fresh thyme sprigs

2 large fresh sprigs marjoram                                                                                                                                                                                       1 Tbsp. crushed black peppercorns                                                                                                                                                                         3-5 cups (about) low-salt chicken broth                                                                                                                                                                1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Make prosciutto butter by combining butter, hazelnuts, vinegar, thyme, crushed pepper, garlic, and salt. Mix in prosciutto and green onions.

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 325°F. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and breast, thigh and leg meat to loosen skin. Spread half of the prosciutto butter over turkey meat under skin. Spread the remaining half over outside of turkey. Sprinkle turkey inside and out with salt and pepper; place on rack set in large roasting pan. Place onion and next 4 ingredients in main turkey cavity. Tuck wing tips under; tie legs together loosely. Roast turkey uncovered 1 1/2 hours.

Tent turkey with foil; add 2 cups broth to pan. Roast until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, occasionally basting with pan drippings and adding more broth to pan, about 2 hours longer. Transfer to platter; tent with foil. Let stand 30 minutes (internal temperature will increase 5-10 degrees).

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com


 Curried Sweet Potato Latkes

Serves 6-8

1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. cumin

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup milk (approximately)

Peanut oil for frying

Grate the sweet potatoes coarsely. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, cayenne pepper, curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

Add the eggs and just enough milk to the dry ingredients to make a stiff batter. Add the potatoes and mix. The batter should be moist but not runny; if too stiff, add more milk.

Heat 1/4 inch of peanut oil in a frying pan until it is barely smoking. Drop in the batter using a 1/4 cup measure and then flatten the latkes with a spoon. Fry over medium-high heat several minutes on each side until golden. Drain on paper towels.  Serve with sour cream and cranberry apple chutney.

Recipe from Epicurious.com


Chili Nut Caramel Bars

Makes 2 Dozen

1 ½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened                                                                                                                                                                         ½ cup granulated sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                   1 egg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         1 tsp vanilla                                                                                                                                                                                                                           2 cups flour                                                                                                                                                                                                                         ¼ cup honey                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar                                                                                                                                                                  ¼ cup heavy cream                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 tsp chili powder (more to taste)                                                                                                                                                                                1 (12 oz) can salted mixed nuts

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 13 x 9-inch pan and set aside. Beat 2 sticks (1 cup) butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour until well mixed.  Press evenly into prepared pan and bake until edges are brown and center looks dry, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove to wire rack while preparing topping, keeping oven temperature at 350°F.

In heavy saucepan, melt remaining stick of butter with the honey.  Stir in brown sugar; bring to a boil.  Boil without stirring for exactly 2 minutes; remove from heat.  Stir in cream, chili powder and nuts and immediately pour over the crust, spreading evenly.  Bake until caramel bubbles, approximately 10-15 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Store covered at room temperature.


Gingerbread Truffles 

Makes about 2 Dozen

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp whipping cream                                                                                                                                                                      10 whole allspice (Tampico brand available at Vons)                                                                                                                                     10 whole cloves                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Tbsp light molasses                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 1/2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger                                                                                                                                                                      1/2 tsp ground cinnamon                                                                                                                                                                                                Pinch of salt                                                                                                                                                                                                                          7 oz plus 12 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped                                                                                                                      7 oz plus 12 oz high-quality white chocolate, chopped                                                                                                                        Decorative sugar and candied ginger for decorating

Bring first 7 ingredients just to boil in heavy medium saucepan; remove from heat and let steep 1 hour.  Reheat steeped cream just to a simmer. Meanwhile, combine 7 oz of the bittersweet and 7 oz of the white chocolate in a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water; stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Pour warmed cream mixture through a sieve or mesh strainer into chocolate; stir to blend. Spread into shallow pan and chill until firm, at least 3 hours.

Using a 1-inch melon baller, scoop filling and roll between palms to form balls. Place on a parchment lined sheet pan. Chill for at least 2 more hours.

Line another sheet pan with parchment. Melt 12 oz of bittersweet chocolate over simmering water, stirring until smooth. Cool chocolate until thermometer registers 115°F. Quickly submerge 1 truffle in chocolate. Using fork, lift out truffle and tap fork against side of bowl so excess coating drips off. Using knife, slide truffle off fork and onto prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining truffles. Chill until set.

Melt 12 oz white chocolate and cool until thermometer registers 100°F. Hold 1 truffle between thumb and index finger; dip halfway into white chocolate. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining truffles. Decorate as desired. Chill until firm and store in the refrigerator. 


Cranberry, Pecan and Rosemary Brie en Croute

Serves 12

1/3 cup cranberries                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 sheet Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry                                                                                                                                                                          1 egg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Tbsp. water                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans                                                                                                                                                                            1/4 cup honey                                                                                                                                                                                                                 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary                                                                                                                                                                                 1 (13.2 oz) round Brie cheese                                                                                                                                                                                  Serving crackers

Soften cranberries by mixing them with ½ cup hot water in a small bowl.  Let stand for 1 minute, drain and pat dry. Thaw the pastry sheet at room temperature for 40 minutes or until easy to handle. Heat the oven to 400°F. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 14-inch square. Transfer pastry to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Stir the cranberries, pecans, honey and rosemary in a small bowl. Spread the cranberry mixture into the center of the pastry square. Top with the cheese round. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg mixture. Fold two opposite sides of the pastry over the cheese. Trim the remaining two sides of the pastry square to 2-inches from the edge of the cheese. Fold the sides up onto the cheese and press the edges to seal. Place the pastry-wrapped cheese, seam-side down, onto the baking sheet. Decorate with pastry scraps if desired, then brush the pastry with the egg mixture.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is deep golden brown. Let stand for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve with the crackers.


Roast Beef, Arugula and Parmesan Potato Rounds with Lemon Aioli

Makes 30 pieces

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Zest of one lemon

½ tsp. Dijon mustard

10 frozen hash brown patties, slightly thawed                                                                                                                                                      1 Tbsp. freshly cracked pepper (optional)                                                                                                                                                              ¼ pound thinly sliced deli roast beef 

Arugula leaves

1/8 pound Parmesan cheese, thinly shaved                                                                                                                                                         Olive oil for frying


Combine mayonnaise, lemon zest and mustard with a whisk. Refrigerate.

With a 2 inch circular cookie cutter, cut three rounds from each hash brown patty. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy frying pan. Cook potato rounds until golden, approximately 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove from pan and blot slightly on a paper towel. While still hot, roll edges in freshly cracked pepper if desired. Place on paper towels and cool slightly.

Cut roast beef into 2 inch wide strips.  Place one or two arugula leaves and one or two slivers of shaved Parmesan cheese along the edge of the beef. Roll the roast beef around the filling, forming individual cylinders. 

Assemble by placing a dollop of the lemon, mayonnaise mixture in the center of each potato round.  Top with roast beef rolls.  Garnish with additional shaved Parmesan and cracked pepper if desired.

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