Holiday Recipes Collection Special Edition Issue #2
Made Ahead Snacks and Appetizers

Holiday Holiday Everyone!

I bet your house is starting to look like festive and probably has the lingering smell of pine and cookies. I've been making cookies, candy and quick breads to give as gifts. Our tree is up and now I just have to finish shopping.

The smell of pine, cinnamon and fresh fruit refresh my past Christmas memories. Growing up in my grandmothers house I was surrounded by family who loved to gather and celebrate. I have aunts who, up until a few years ago, would get together and bake all day (for 2 or 3 days). The end result was dozens of cookies and candy to share with family and friends.

Plan a cookie swap with your friends and family. You end up with some every delicious cookies.

Try this Four-Sided-Cookie:

Pear Almond Squares

For the bottom layer:

  • 1 3/4 c. flour
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into pats
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten with 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • For the topping:

  • 2 firm-ripe pears (it's important to use pears that are not too ripe; firm so they don't give off to much juice during baking.)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9x9 baking pan.

To make the bottom layer:

Put flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and combine thoroughly. Add the butter and mix with a fork until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add the beaten egg yolks and mix well. With moistened fingers, pat the dough evenly into the prepared pan, pressing it about 1/4" up the sides.

to make the topping:

Peel, core and quarter the pears. Chop into small pieces. Put pears, sugar, almonds, vanilla, salt and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Cook until butter melts and coasts the pears. Let the topping cool until just warm. Spread it evenly over the unbaked dough in the pan.

Bake for 33 - 37 minutes or until the edges of the dough are browned. The pears will still be firm and topping will look rather juicy. allow the pan to cool completely on a wire rack. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan then cut into squares. Keep refrigerated until half an hour before serving.

Traditional Wassail Bowl

This is not a recipe for anyone who is squeamish about germs. Back in Jolly Olde England, the Christmas Eve tradition was for carolers to head off with a large bowl of sherry-laced cider, which they passed from person to person. Since sips were often accompanied by kisses, the bowl was also know as the "loving cup."

Roughly translated from the Old English, "Wassail!" means "To your health!". Holding aloft the mighty wassail bowl, the leader of the carolers would cry, "Wassail!" and his no-doubt groggy compatriots would respond, "All hail!" They would go from house to house, caroling in exchange for a refill of cider. Most household welcomed the sherry-soaked revelers, whose visit was considered good luck.

You may pass on the sharing from the bowl and serve in cups to your guests. And the party is on!

  • 2 quarts apple cider1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut in half
  • 1 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 liters dry sherry

In a large pot, warm the cider over high heat until steam just begins to rise from the surface, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the sugar, spices and the vanilla bean. Simmer for 30 minutes. Using a long handled strainer, remove the spices front the pot. Add fruit juices and sherry. Find a large bowl, eleven close friends and enjoy the warmth of this Wassail.

For more holiday recipes, click here.

Next week look forward to my recipe for Biscuit Frittata and Corn Chowder. They are soul warming foods to share with friends and family.