From our houses to yours: I asked several of my colleagues to share favorite holiday recipes. From a child-friendly breakfast casserole to an adults-only eggnog, here are some of our holiday memories and treats. Plus a bonus track: Betty Crutcher on making biscuits.
"Some of my best family memories are of making hardy candy and spiced pecans," says Keith Davis, who directs Randolph's Dining Services. "Everyone got to pick their favorite flavor of candy and pecans. What a great time; you just had to be careful to not burn your fingers cutting the candy. Fill up Mason jars to give as gifts and definitely stash a jar or two around the house to snack on."
You will need:
Heavy Reynolds foil wrap
Cookie sheet (with sides)
Heavy sauce pan (6 qt.)
3 cups sugar
1 cup light Karo syrup
1 cup water
Spread a large table with newspaper and cover with the foil.
Cook sugar, syrup and water to 300°F.
Add ½ to 1 tsp flavoring and food coloring.
Pour into buttered pan and cut as soon as possible.
Roll in powdered sugar to keep pieces from sticking together.
Note: DO NOT ever start this without two or more people who can cut candy with scissors. Have extra butter for your fingers as you cut the candy.
Christmas Roasted Pecans, three ways
Sweet and Spicy Toasted Pecans
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
4 cups pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter, sugar and maple syrup in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne. Pour over pecans, tossing well. Arrange pecan mixture in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 30 minutes; stir once during baking. Cool pecans on the prepared baking sheet. Store pecans in an airtight container.
1 pound pecan halves
4 cups boiling water
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Blanch the pecans in the boiling water in a bowl for 1 minute; drain. Toss the hot pecans with the sugar and oil in a bowl. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until the pecans are dry, stirring occasionally. Transfer the pecans to a bowl; sprinkle with the salt, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne. Let stand until cool. Store in an airtight container.
Roasted Spiced Pecans
3 cups pecan halves
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, or to taste
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 300°F. In a mixing bowl, combine melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, chili powder, curry powder and salt. Add the pecans to the mixture and stir until thoroughly coated. Spread pecans onto a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and lightly toasted. Serve warm. (The spicy pecans may be reheated in the oven or microwave.)
"I am the baby of four kids and during Christmas our families all gather at Mom’s house in Mississippi. Feeding everyone can be stressful for Mom, so each of us take a day and cook dinner for everyone. It’s a fun to work together as a family, help Mom and serve the whole family. If you are looking for something to do as a family during the Christmas break the kitchen is a great place to start."
Brussels Sprouts, two ways
My family loves Brussels sprouts. We have lots of recipes for them, but this is the first one to be requested when we plan a Thanksgiving or Christmas menu. It's “the one with the bacon." It's also the one with all the chopping, but when you are cooking at the holidays people will ask how they can help and then you can chop together. I started making this recipe when it was published in the print edition of the New York Times back in the 90s and it survives in their digital recipe box. Another dish I like to make, which I would do on Boxing Day when we lived in England, is jeweled rice. It is a colorful accompaniment to leftover turkey or roast beef.
My office mate, David Brown is also partial to sprouts and he recently discovered this recipe from Food52.
Spicy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1½ pounds Brussels sprouts
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup rice-wine vinegar
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons Sriracha, or more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Trim the base away from the Brussels sprouts and discard. Cut the sprouts in half.
In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with the vinegar, honey and Sriracha to combine. Add the Brussels sprouts and toss until they are fully coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spread the Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, cut sides down. Pour any extra olive oil mixture onto the pan and tilt the pan around to distribute it.
Roast until the sprouts are crispy on the outside and golden and caramelized on the cut sides, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Does anyone have a recipe for a breakfast casserole? "Yes!" says Head of School Jay Rainey (yep, that's him with his younger sisters in the photo above). “Every Christmas morning at my parents’ dining room table in Franklin, Virginia, we have the same breakfast we have had for as long as I can remember: sausage casserole, Moravian sugar cake from Dewey’s in Winston-Salem, and grapefruit. My father attended college and law school at Wake Forest University, and my mother went to Salem College nearby. Every fall they find an opportunity to return to central Carolina so that they can pick up several 8x8 cakes from Dewey’s. But the sausage casserole is really my favorite, probably because I only have it once a year. It’s really rich and substantial — a little goes a long way — but it’s also spongy in texture and holds together like cake. Needless to say, I tend to eat more of it than I should.”
(Makes six generous servings)
Use a 7x11 Pyrex dish. For 12–14 people, make a recipe + ½, which will fit in a 9x13.
2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
4 slices of bread cubed, without crust
1 lb. sausage cooked and drained well on paper towels
1 cup grated cheddar
Beat eggs. Add ground mustard by putting it in a fine strainer and pressing it through to remove lumps. Add salt and milk and beat again. Spray casserole dish and layer bread cubes and sausage. Pour egg mixture over and refrigerate overnight. Add grated cheese just before baking – enough to cover generously.
Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes, or a little more, until the center is hot and the casserole is golden brown. This can be made ahead because it freezes well. Thaw 24 hours in refrigerator adding cheese before baking.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Betty Crutcher, who manages Extended Day Services and the Drake dining hall, shared this recipe for sweet potato biscuits that she learned about six years ago. Everyone in her family likes them. If you are serving them to people who aren’t crazy about sweet potatoes, they probably won’t be able to tell because the taste is really subtle.
You will need: 4 cups of plain flour, 2 tablespoons of baking powder, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup of cooked, mashed sweet potato, and 3/4 cup buttermilk. But, I'll let her tell you the rest:
Cranberry Christmas Cake
Evie Wilson, Admissions Associate and a splendid baker, shares this cake recipe. "My mother found this recipe in our regional newspaper over 50 years ago. She made it on a whim and we loved it! It became part of our Christmas menu every year and, once I had my own home, it became part of mine. My children look forward to it as much as I do. Enjoy!"
3 teaspoons butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup milk
3 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups fresh cranberries (may use frozen, do not thaw first)
Beat together all ingredients except cranberries. Fold in berries. Spread batter evenly in a greased 8” square pan. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350⁰F. Serve warm with butter sauce. Serves 8-12. Recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9x13 pan, but increase baking time.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup butter (not margarine)
½ cup cream or evaporated milk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix flour and sugar. Place all ingredients except vanilla, in a saucepan. Heat over high heat until hot and bubbly, stirring constantly. Add vanilla and serve warm over cake. I usually double this recipe because we like a generous amount on each piece of cake. Sauce keeps well in refrigerator. Just heat and eat!
David Brown shares this recipe for Nana’s Nog: "My maternal grandmother made this nog. She was in charge of it every Christmas, though I never saw her set foot in a kitchen during my entire lifetime for any other reason. She said she learned it from her own maternal grandmother, whom she was convinced was the only member of her family who ever 'really' loved her, a conviction she carried to her grave. Well… ‘tis the season for family drama."
12 large eggs, separated, the whites at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla
2 ½ cups brandy (or Cognac or Armagnac)
1/3 cup dark rum
4 cups whole milk (all Jersey is great if you can find)
2 cups well-chilled heavy cream
Freshly-grated nutmeg to taste
With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks on medium speed until pale. About five minutes. Then add the sugar, a half cup at a time, incorporating each addition on slow speed. After all the sugar has been added, beat on medium speed until it thickens and gets glossy. Scrape into a large bowl.
Into the yolk mixture, whisk in the vanilla, the brandy, the rum, and the milk.
In a clean electric mixer bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of sugar until they hold SOFT peaks. (Overbeating will make them impossible to blend into the final product). Fold them into the yolk mixture gently, but thoroughly.
Place a clean electric mixer bowl with its metal beaters in the freezer for a few minutes to chill thoroughly, then beat the cream in it until it also holds SOFT peaks. Fold into the mixture.
Chill the nog for at least three hours before serving and up to five. Before serving, whisk vigorously and sprinkle with freshly-grated nutmeg to taste. The recipe makes about 16 cups.
Have a recipe you love? Post it in the comments or share it with us on Pinterest.