Holiday Nostalgia

Our Team’s Favorite Food Traditions

While there are innumerable reasons to think fondly of the holidays, it’s fair to say the edible side of the season plays a big part. Sweet, savory and in-between, our Fox Cities Magazine team shares the special food items we look forward to during the holidays:

Pecan Pie

The holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without Pecan Pie on the table. It is special to me because ever since I was a little girl I can remember having it every year. I now have my own family and it has been a tradition of ours as well. I also really enjoy making it as it makes the whole house smell like Christmas.
To make it simple, I buy a frozen pie crust, but you can choose to make your own if you would like. —Kim Belling, Administrative Assistant

Pecan Pie
2 ½ cups pecans
3 large eggs
1 cup dark corn syrup
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup unsalted butter melted (slightly cooled)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 2-quart bowl, whisk together eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla extract and melted butter. Next, add your desired amount of pecans to your mixture. Then spread a layer of pecans on the bottom of the thawed pie shell. Pour mixture into pie shell and bake for 1 hour or until firm. Serve with Cool Whip if desired.

Overnight Cutout Cookies

The holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without Mom’s cutout cookies. This is my mom’s great grandmother’s recipe, so it goes back four generations. Back then there were no refrigerators and they were baked in a wood stove oven.
Growing up, mom would bake these for most holidays: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving. She doesn’t bake them as often nowadays, mostly just at Christmastime, which makes them even more of a treat. She packages them up for each of us, making sure to divvy them up equally to avoid any “problems.” —Lisa Erickson, Art Director

Overnight Cut-out Cookies

¾ cup sugar
¾ cup lard (I use ½ cup shortening and ¼ cup butter)
2 well-beaten eggs
¼ cup milk
3 cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup butter (softened)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2+ tablespoons milk
Food coloring, optional

Let dough sit overnight at room temperature. In the morning, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dust rolling pin and countertop with flour. Roll out dough to about ⅛ inch thickness. Dip cookie cutters into flour first, and then cut out your shapes. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool before frosting and decorating.
For frosting: Beat softened butter until creamy. Gradually add and beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons milk, adding additional milk as needed for desired consistency.

Spinach & Artichoke Hearts

Our Christmas Eve dinner is served buffet style with ham as the main course. With that, of course, you have to have green bean casserole and potatoes au gratin; however, I’ve tried to shake up the veggie choices so I do a cumin-fried carrot and recently have added this recipe to the mix.
I got the recipe from my “gourmet group.” It’s unusual. It’s always hard to find a way of doing vegetables that’s different. —Ruth Ann Heeter, Publisher/Managing Editor

Spinach & Artichoke Hearts
2 packages (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup margarine
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts
¾ cup Parmesan cheese, divided
6 ounces low-fat sour cream
Garlic to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Warm spinach and drain thoroughly (I use a ricer to drain). Sauté onion in margarine. Add cut up artichoke hearts and spinach. Add sour cream and half of the cheese. Season with garlic. Put into an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes.

Refrigerator Cookies

For most of my life I would have said that the only tradition the Murphy family possessed was the lack of tradition. Of course, there existed a fair serving of naiveté in that assessment: We never missed church on Sunday.
Approaching our first Christmas together Ruth Ann asked me what traditions Christmas summoned to my mind. I was stumped. I couldn’t think of any. That didn’t pass muster with Ruth Ann, whose family had more traditions than the crowned families of Europe.
A little prodding had me remembering my mother’s world class baking skills. Her doughnuts, still hot from the home rendered pork fat, defied description and so was the feeling when she told us we should eat them up because they wouldn’t keep.
But, the only baking that qualifies as tradition is the cornucopia of cookies Ma’s oven put out at Christmas. Asked which was most special, this cookie took honors. —Marvin Murphy, Publisher

Refrigerator Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
3½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs and blend in the rest of the ingredients. Shape in three rolls, wrap and chill overnight. Cut into ¼ inch slices. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Black Steer Chocolate Mint Pie

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Chocolate Mint Pie. It’s an untraditional choice for the holiday, but it’s something we’ve had at our extended family celebrations since I can remember.
My grandmother and grandfather first tasted the pie at the Black Steer Supper Club in the 1960s and loved it so much they called to get the recipe when they found out the restaurant was closing. It is extremely rich, and a little slice goes a long way!
(Because of the uncooked eggs, some years—namely while my sister was pregnant—we replaced the eggs with cream cheese. It added a different flavor that was delicious, but we all prefer the original.) —Grace Olson, Senior Editor

Black Steer Chocolate Mint Pie
1½ cups finely crushed graham crackers
⅓ cup white sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter

½ cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 pasteurized eggs
2 squares bitter chocolate
¼ teaspoon mint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Andes Chocolate Mints, optional

For crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 7 minutes. Cool before filling.
For filling: Beat the butter, add sugar and beat again. Add eggs, beat; add melted chocolate, mint and vanilla extract. Put in graham cracker crust and chill. Add chopped Andes Chocolates Mints to top as garnish. *Pro tip: just keep beating! It takes a while to achieve the smooth, velvety texture that makes this pie so indulgent.


The holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without my mom’s Snickerdoodle cookies. My kids and I make them every Christmas. We share them with family and friends and always get comments that they are “the best snickerdoodles they have ever had!” Last year we even got that comment from a chef!
My grandma started this tradition when I was young. I remember rolling the dough into little balls and dipping them in the cinnamon sugar with my siblings. We would watch them bake carefully through the oven door until they were just right. Too short and they were doughy and too long they were overly crispy. They had to be baked just the right amount to be chewy. In the past few years, we have brought in my kids’ friends and played music and danced while making the cookies. I’m sure there is a tik tok out there somewhere! —Kiersten Stout, Account Executive


1 cup soft shortening
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2 ¾ cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix shortening, sugar and eggs until fluffy. Sift together flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Stir into above mixture. Form dough into balls about the size of walnuts. Roll in mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Store in a covered container.

Bookmark this post.
Food & Dining

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.