Making Memories: Favorite Holiday Recipes from Friends and Family

Chocolate Fudge, Pistachio Christmas Salad, Gumdrop Cookies, Classic Sugar Cookies and Simple Cookie Frosting

I’m a cookbook collector with at least two-dozen books dedicated to Christmas recipes.

But given the choice between a recipe from a cookbook and a recipe given to me from a friend, I’ll make the latter every time.

Baking is about measuring and mixing, leveling the flour and pulling the cookies out of the oven at the right second. But it’s also about doing all those things for and with people you love. It’s about standing on a stepstool at your grandma’s house, stirring the sugar until it becomes buttery toffee. Or eating slices of warm cake under the kitchen table, laughing with your sister and hoping not to be caught. The experience and memories associated with baking are every bit as important as a recipe.

Many of us have passed down recipes we make during the holidays. Even if that recipe doesn’t fall in line with food trends, make it anyway. Make the creamed corn or the Jello salad or the sliced apples seasoned with Red Hots candy. Make whatever it is that gives you warm memories of loved ones or special times around the table. There’s room on the charcuterie board for a little nostalgia.

Blair, Grace and Marion Ohman

Christmastime at Ashley and Trent Ohman’s house is as magical and fun as you would expect in a house with three little girls. Daughters Blair and Grace are both in the Tulsa Ballet’s The Nutcracker this year, and little sister Marion may follow her sisters as a baby clown or mouse one day. Ballet shoes and visions of sugarplums are very much part of this family’s Christmas. As is Ashley’s wonderful recipe for fudge. The fudge makes a nice gift for friends, neighbors or teachers.

Fabulous Chocolate Fudge

Makes 100 small squares

  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 large can evaporated milk
  • 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
  1. Combine sugar, cornstarch and milk in a large, heavy saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil. Let boil for 6 minutes, stirring frequently during the entire cooking process.
  2. Remove from stove, and add chocolate chips and butter. Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  3. Quickly spread mixture in a greased 9-by-13-inch pan, and let cool. After it has cooled, cut into small squares.

Southerners and Midwesterners tend to use the word “salad” loosely. But no worries, picky kids, there’s not a leafy green in sight in this recipe. It comes from Ureka Williams and is a favorite of her kids, Claire and Gentry, at Christmastime.

Claire making her mother’s Pistachio Christmas Salad

Pistachio Christmas Salad

  • 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple
  • 1 package Jello instant pistachio pudding and pie filling mix
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 regular-size tub Cool Whip
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  1. Mix together all ingredients until completely combined. Chill for a few hours or overnight.

This makes such a pretty cookie – perfect for a cookie exchange or for gift giving.

Gumdrop Cookies

Makes 4-5 dozen

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup gumdrops, finely chopped
  1. Blend together butter and sugars. Beat in milk and vanilla. Set aside.
  2. Stir together the flour and baking powder; blend into butter mixture. Stir in gumdrops.
  3. Shape dough into 2 (14-inch) rolls. Wrap in plastic wrap, chill at least 1 hour.
  4. Cut into ¼-inch slices, and arrange on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Classic Sugar Cookies

Makes 7 dozen

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Beat butter and sugar until fluffy; set aside. Stir together sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well and set aside.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add flour mixture alternately with egg mixture to the butter mixture; blend well. Chill 2 hours.
  3. Roll out dough – a softball-size amount at a time – on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut using your favorite cookie cutters.
  4. Arrange cookies on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 9 to 10 minutes or until just golden on bottoms. Cool completely on wire racks. Frost and decorate.

Royal icing is preferred by many for decorating Christmas cookies. But if you don’t want to worry about raw eggs or finding meringue powder, this easy recipe for buttercream comes together quickly and tastes delicious.

Simple Cookie Frosting

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  1. In a medium bowl, mix powdered sugar and butter with spoon or electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk.
  2. Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar. Stir in food coloring, if desired.

Natalie MiklesNatalie Mikles is a mom of three. She writes about food, sharing recipes for busy families and picky eaters. She has been recognized for her food columns as well as features on families and issues affecting local children. She loves pizza and movie nights with her family.

Categories: Food