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December 23, 2009 / Wendy Joan

Joan’s Taste: Famous Holiday Recipes I’ve Never Tasted

I have very distinct memories of spending time at my grandmother’s house.

Trips down to the creek—just the two of us—to roast hot dogs over an open fire and gather wild plants to dry and make into wreaths.

Pouring milk over my cereal out of a smiling, ceramic cow that lived over the cupboards.

My sister and I snuggled up under a white chenille comforter, listening to as many stories out of “The Giant Book” as my Grandma had energy to read (which was always much more than one or two).

And, even though her homemade recipes were known, loved and coveted beyond the family, my memories of Christmas cookies at my grandmother’s house are store-bought Kringles from a plastic sleeve. Crunchy topping on a spiced cake—I loved every bite of the manufactured goodness.

So, when I received a few of my grandmother’s ‘traditional Christmas recipes’ from my Mom, they were as new to me as they are to you. Let’s try them, shall we?

Cream Cheese Pastry

1 cup flour
½ cup butter, softened
½ 8oz. package cream cheese
1/8 t. salt
Apricot preserves
1 egg beaten for wash
Granulated sugar (regular or course)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil the baking sheet.

Cut flour, butter and salt into small pieces using two table knives or a pastry blender. Shape dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thick and use heart cookie cutter –cut as many hearts per roll out of dough. Place 1 t. apricot preserves in center of half.  Brush edges with beaten egg.  Top with another heart, crimp edges with a fork and brush with wash again. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Cool completely before storing in air tight container.

Note: This pastry dough can get too soft quickly, so you may want to try rolling out half the dough at a time.

Pumpkin Pie Squares

1 cup sifted flour
½ cup quick rolled oats
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter

Combine mix until crumbly, press into a 13 by 9 inch pan.  Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

1 pound canned pumpkin
1 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs
1 t. ground ginger
½ t. salt
¼ t. ground cloves

Blend and pour onto crust.  Bake 350 at degrees F for 20 minutes.

½ c. chopped pecans (or walnuts)
½ c. brown sugar
2 T. butter

Combine and sprinkle on filling.  Bake 15 minutes until set.  Cool slightly and cut into 2 inch squares.  Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Scotch Shortbread

4 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 pound butter

Mix ingredients thoroughly with hands.  Pat into a 13 by 9 inch pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cut into squares.

Place a small dollop of jam in the center of the square and bake an additional 10 minutes.

(Photo by Stephanie Jolly)



Leave a Comment
  1. Ellen / Dec 23 2009 2:06 pm

    Wendy, I sent this recipe to (great website by the way) and they accepted it and published it. Someone also reviewed it and and gave it the most Stars rating! I am truly encouraging you to try this website and make sure to make those yoummy, yummy cookies. However, your grandmother introduced me to another cookie that has become my favorite. It is the Hello Dolly cookie, and my memory of your grandmother is standing in her 1950’s kitchen eating a coconut, chocolate chip, and walnut gooey cookie after coming back into the house from skating on Gannon’s pond. We used to use the Getchell toboggan and go down a small steep and snowy incline in the woods toward the pond. Then we all would walk over to the icy pond, put on on our skates and Mitch the Golden Retriever would then pull us around the ice. Mr Gannon and your late Grandfather, in the very early years of the late 50’s and early 60’s would shovel off the ice for us,and skate with us! Even though many of the adults in Lake View had pretty chaotic and dysfunctional existences, the kids growing up there had a great time. We had the creek, the woods, and each other every single day to hang out with and enjoy discovering new things all the time. I have many old stories, many great memories, and many loving thoughts about everyone from the old neighborhood, but especially at this nostalgic time of year!

  2. Wendy Getchell / Dec 23 2009 8:33 pm

    I love that Ellen has some of my same great memories! Skating on the Gannon’s pond was magical. We had so much fun playing in the snow and skating, and the reward was usually hot chocolate and something sweet and freshly baked at Mom’s. As much as I love the warm weather in Florida, I miss the snow and crisp cold air of winter. The is something so special about a fresh layer of snow, so clean and pure. I am proud of you for keeping the memories alive Wendy – your’s and ours. Grandma would be proud and happy too.

  3. Pam Biddlecombe (aka Wendy's Mom) / Dec 24 2009 9:54 am

    I am so happy to share with you some of the many, many (boxes!) wonderful family recipes. Cooking and baking was a big part of my teenage life, and as you know, I was Grandma’s chief family dinner maker/younger sibling watcher when she left her traditional life of a homemaker and entered the work force. I always wanted you to pursue activites that took you out of 348 Okell, encourage you and expose you to opportunities that I did not have at your age. Somehow, I knew you would get into cooking and baking, if your heart was in it.
    I love, how now, you are sharing the family recipes thru your first love – writing! And, as you can tell by incoming comments to this blog, you have touched others who knew and loved Grandma.
    See you soon, Sweetie!

  4. Adrian Freber / Dec 28 2009 3:55 pm

    Great idea this. It is always difficult to thin of varied things to cook especially for a hungry family and some of the ideas here and elsewhere on your site have given me some great ideas so thak you!

  5. Amy Ignaczak / Jan 4 2010 10:26 am

    Gannon’s pond, ice skating and sledding! Then the beach in the summer…..laying on Mother’s Rock after a refreshing Lake Erie swim! Oh what a wonderful childhood we had!!! Ellen – you were more than a neighbor…just another kid in the bunch! Mom always welcomed another one! When I first started “Joan’s Taste” many years ago I worked with Mom on it. That woman certainly knew how to cook!

  6. Ellen / Jan 5 2010 8:47 pm

    As I said in a private email to Pam, Austrian cooking is the new HOT CUISINE! Mrs G (as she will always be known to me!) had a ton of german recipes, many from Alsace-Lorraine, but frankly many are probably Austrian too! I need her Rouladen recipe, and others!! Amy, you are correct–she sure could cook!! She didnt have any money, but man oh man, the food that came out of that kitchen was too die for!!!

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