Without a doubt the best part about the holiday season, for me, is the food.   In fact, I  feel sorry for people who don't love food as much as I do.  I am totally serious.  It's my #1 passion.  I'm happiest when I'm planning, shopping and cooking a meal for a whole bunch of people.  Todd and I are having 16 for Christmas dinner and I can hardly concentrate, I'm so excited.

A couple years ago I self-published "Val's Friends & Family Cookbook", primarily to get my family recipes in one place (instead of scattered through cookbooks on scraps of paper).   The book ended up to be 200 pages of my favorite recipes of all time.   It even has a 4 page spread on how to deep fry a turkey without burning down your neighborhood.  This, courtesy of my brother Bill, who is known for his wit, his cajun turkeys and his flatulence . . . in that order.

But I digress.

Here are a few holiday family recipes that we'll be serving on Christmas day. 

Baked Brie with Cranberries

8 oz Brie

1/3 crushed cranberry sauce

2 T. brown sugar

1/4 tsp. rum or orange extract

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

2 T. sliced almonds

Peel off top of Brie.  Mix canberries, brown sugar, extrat and nutmeg and pour over Brie.  Bake at 500 degrees for 5 minutes.  Top with sliced almonds.  I serve this beautiful appetizer at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Everyone loves it.

Hot Mulled Cider

1 qt. (4 cups) cider

3 sticks cinnamon

6 whole cloves

1/3 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. rum extract

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves.  Remove cloves and cinnamon sticks.  Serve hot.  Makes 1 qt.  You can use red wine too.  I wonder if it would be good with white wine... hmmm. 

Broccoli and Rice Casserole

1/4 c. butter

1 c. celery

1/2 c. onion

1/2 c. green pepper

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 lg pkg frozen broccoli, cooked slightly

2 c. cooked rice

1/2 c. milk

1 c. grated cheese

Melt butter; add celery, onion and peppers.  Saute until almost tener.  Blend in soups, broccoli, rice and milk.  Sprinle cheese on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  This is a staple at all of our holidays, along with green bean casserole, sauerkraut & tomato casserole and sweet potato casserole.  We love us some casserole in the midwest.

Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Cornbread Stuffing

1 1/2 c. cubed wheat bread

3 3/4 c. cubed cornbread

1 lb. ground turkey sausage

1 c. chopped onion

3/4 c. chooped celery

2 1/2 tsp. dried sage

1 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 Gold Delicious apple, corred and chopped

3/4 c. dried cranberries

1/3 c. minced fresh parsley

3/4 c. turkey stock

4 T. unsalted butter, melted

Makes 10 servings.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in the preheated oven, or until evenly toasted.  Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large bowl.  In a large skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned.  Add the celery, sage, rosemary and thyme;  cook, stirring for 2 minutes to blend flavors.  Pour sausage mixture over bread in bowl.  Mix in chopped apples, dried cranberries and parsley.  Drizzle with turkey stock and melted butter and mix lightly.  Spoon into turkey to loosely fill.

Fresh Cranberry Lemon Jello Salad

2 pkgs. fresh cranberries

5 lg. celery stalks

2 cans mandarin oranges, drained and mashed

2 c. sugar

3 pkgs. lemon Jell-O dissolved in 2 c. boiling water

Wash cranberries and celery.  Chop cranberries and celery in food processor with knife blade.  Let Jell-O mixture cool and add the rest of the ingredients and stir together.  This salad can be frozen to use at a later date.  It is one of my very favorite salad recipes.  There's something about the lemon and the cranberry taste, followed by the crunch of the celery.

German Apple Cake with Go-Over


2 c. sugar

1 c. shortening

2 eggs

2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. nutmeg

2 tsp. cinnamon

6 apples, finely chopped

1 c. raisins (ground)

1 c. chopped nuts


1 c. sugar

1 c. brown sugar

1 c. margarine

1 c. cream or half-and-half

Cream together sugar and shortening.  Add 2 eggs and beat well.  Use electric mixer.  Sift flour, soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon and add gradually to first mixture.  Add apples and blend. Add raisins and nuts.  dough will be VERY stiff.  Spread in a greased and floured 9x13 pan.  Bake for 75 minutes at 325 degrees (300 degrees if in a glass pan).  cut in squares and top with "go-over" sauce. 

Melt ingredients for go-over in a saucepan or microwave until hot.  Don't overheat, as sauce will sugar.  If sugared, add a little coffee creamer and blend.   This dense moist cake is a staple at family gatherings.

I am so hungry right now.

Please share a recipe or two of your own!  I'd love to try some new ones including cultural ones and non-Christmas holiday fare.