Staff recipes for the holidays

This recipe is from my   grandmother Betsy Jean Kendrick.  She was known for having huge, unruly dogs—the last two dogs she owned were a Samoyed and a Newfoundland. So while she liked her real dogs big, hairy and slobbery, she liked her dog cookies delicate and delicious.

Chocolate Dogs

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Cream butter and sugar with egg; add milk and flour sifted with salt.  Mix in the cooled chocolate.  Fill cookie press with dog shape in it. Form cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes at 375 F.

Holidays can be stressful, especially this one (and this year). What would help deal with those knuckle-draggers across the aisle? Alcohol. My recipe for a successful Xmas is liberal consumption of the “Holy Christ That’s a Good Martini,” martini, a drink which has been passed down through the generations, ever since my ancestors fled a disastrous holiday dinner in Czechoslovakia in 1862. Like all family secrets, it’s dirty.

Put glasses in freezer to chill.
Pour equal measures of gin (never vodka) and dry vermouth over ice cube in shaker.
Let these sit for several minutes. (This smooths the gin.)
Remove glasses from freezer. Put a dash of olive juice in the bottom, with olives.
Reshake very briefly and pour.
Stop caring.

Ever since I can remember, my father cooked us black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. In the South, eating black-eyed peas is thought to bring prosperity in the new year. They are often paired with collard greens that are said to symbolize paper money while the black-eyed peas represent coins.
There are several legends as to the origin of this custom.
Two popular explanations for the South’s association with peas and good luck dates back to the Civil War. The first is associated with Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union Army’s March to the Sea, during which they pillaged the food supplies of the Confederates. Stories say peas and salted pork were left untouched because of the belief that they were animal food and not fit for human consumption. Southerners considered themselves lucky to be left with some supplies to help them survive the winter, and black-eyed peas evolved into a representation of good luck.
It was also a symbol of emancipation for African Americans who had previously been enslaved before the civil war and became free officially on New Year’s Day. Like many other dishes of African inspiration, black-eyed peas made their way from the slave cabin to the master’s table; the 1824 edition of “The Virginia Housewife” by Mary Randolph includes a recipe for field peas. Randolph suggests shelling, boiling and draining the “young and newly gathered” peas, then mashing them into a cake and frying until lightly browned. The black-eyed pea cakes are served with a garnish of “thin bits of fried bacon.”
Sephardic Jews around the world also consider them good luck and eat them on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. In the Antebellum South, there were large Jewish communities in Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.

We call these Low German, deep-fried New Year’s delicacies “cookies,” but they are actually fritters. When I was growing up in southern Minnesota my grandmother made them every New Year’s Day out at my uncle’s farm. I made them one New Year’s Day, maybe in 2010. They were delicious.


1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
6 eggs, well beaten
3 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups milk
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 cups plumped raisins (I soaked mine in orange juice for a couple of hours)
Cooking oil
1 Tbsp vinegar (white or cider)

Combine yeast, water and sugar. Stir briskly and allow to bubble. Add salt and beaten eggs to the yeast mixture. Beat well. Add cinnamon.
Then add milk and gradually add the flour. Mix well. Add raisins. Do not knead. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.
Add 1 Tbsp vinegar to the COLD oil. Heat to 350 F. Take dough from the side of the bowl rather than from the middle. Try not to disturb the risen dough. An ice cream scoop (about the size of two walnuts, not too big) is ideal for scooping out the dough. They should not be too big, so they will finish through. Turn when golden brown.
Drain on paper towels. While still warm, roll in granulated or powdered sugar. Serve warm. Fritters may be frozen and reheated and re-sugared. (Recipe comes from Adeline Becker Karber in “Mennonite Foods and Folkways from South Russia.”)

Christmas Salmon

1 salmon, gutted and de-scaled
1-3 cups wild rice (depending on size of party and size of salmon)
1 – 3 Tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
1 – 3 Tbsp olive oil
1 – 3 Tbsp butter
3-9 shallots
1 medium yellow onion
1 or 2 leafy stalks celery
1 lb. brown closed-cap (chestnut) mushrooms
1/2 – 1 cup pecan halves
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon

Rinse the wild rice; place it in a large saucepan and cover it with three times the measure of cold water. Bring it to a hard boil, add the bouillon powder and turn it down to a simmer. Cook for about half an hour (it will not be quite cooked yet, but will have approximately doubled in size and be semi-soft).
Pour the olive oil into a roasting tin large enough to hold the salmon. You may cut the head and/or tail off of the salmon if you choose (and use them to make stock). Slice and dice the shallots, onions and celery. Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the shallots, onions and celery until soft but not browned. Add the mushrooms, halved or sliced, and fry for 3 minutes. Add all the shallot mixture and all the pecans to the wild rice and blend thoroughly. Place about half the wild rice mixture in the bottom of the roasting tin. Wash the salmon thoroughly and rest it on the bed of wild rice. Stuff the rest of the wild rice into the cavity of the salmon and season the whole pan to taste. Slice the lemon and place some slices in the cavity and some around the side. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 F. until the salmon flesh is pink but not dry and the skin is crispy but not blackening. It is recommended that you test the salmon by making a deep cut near the centre and look at the inner flesh; if it appears quite dark and moist, it is not quite done. However, be aware that fish cooks much more quickly than other meats, so the total will be as little as 20 minutes for a smallish salmon and perhaps 45 minutes for a very large one. Finally, if you do have a very large salmon, you can cover the dish with foil for the first half hour of cooking so that the outer parts don’t get too dry before the inner bits are cooked.

German Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes is a childhood favorite  that my grandmother would make for all of us grandkids. She would freeze them and every year at Christmas, we would all sneak a few out of her freezer. She always made sure there was enough made for us.

German Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcakes

1 pkg. German chocolate cake mix prepared according to the directions on the box.

8 oz cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
Dash of salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Fill cupcakes half full with cake mix, then 1 tsp of cream cheese mixture on top. Then put more of the cake mix on top.
Bake at 350 F. for 15 to 20 minutes.

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