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Holiday treats equal good eats

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2007 is almost over. We are making the last of the holiday cookies, and we have given our presents, sent our cards and cooked our traditional meals. The New Year is upon us, and 2008 promises to be something pretty special. It’s a time to reflect and make those New Year’s resolutions.

My New Year’s resolution for 2008 is to spend time teaching family members how to make easy and healthy meals, be it weekdays or holidays. Cooking together makes memories and creates traditions.

Recently, I checked with Islander Alana Morrison and asked her how she creates family traditions. She told me that she collects Radko ornaments to decorate her tree every year. “We also put a holiday train around the Christmas tree,” she said.

I was impressed when I found out that Alana teaches her children about giving to needy youths. Each year she has her children pick a name from one of the retailers’ trees and buy a gift for a needy youth.

“Traditions began on Christmas morning,” Alana told me. “I spent Christmas morning at my grandmother’s home after arriving on Christmas Eve. In the morning we would make Ollie Bollen, a Dutch recipe for breakfast. My mom would get up really early to make the dough because it had to rise and be punched down twice in an hour. She dropped the batter into a deep fat fryer and created balls like sugar donuts but with pieces of apples in them and no holes. She poured them onto a tray, and then we would shake them in powdered sugar. We all ate at least six of them and then couldn’t move the rest of the day!”

Alana’s mother also loved to buy round frozen rolls and form them into a Christmas tree on a cookie sheet. After cooking them, she lightly drizzled them with frosting, green sprinkles for a tree and blobs of red sprinkles for ornaments. “She also started the tradition of making Cranberry Fluff as a side dish,” said Alana.

Alana has started some of her own memories with her children, Antje, grade 10, and Isak, grade 7. Each year they help to make Candy Cane cookies and her Dutch grandma Antje Van Slageren’s Almond Butter Cookies.

It’s a joy to learn about other people’s holiday traditions, and it’s a wonderful time to reflect on how we all used to spend the holidays when we were young.

MY DUTCH GRANDMA ANTJE VAN SLAGEREN’S ALMOND BUTTER COOKIES

1 cup butter

1 egg yolk

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour (sifted)

Pinch of baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

Cream butter, egg yolk and sugar together in a Mixmaster. Mix in the dry ingredients. Roll mixture out onto a pastry cloth into a rectangle to fit a cookie sheet. Place on a lightly floured cookie sheet. Brush lightly with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sliced almonds, pressing in slightly. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool a few minutes before cutting into squares.

ALANA KOETJE MORRIS’ CANDY CANE COOKIES

1 cup shortening

1 cup butter

2 cups sifted confectioners sugar

2 eggs

3 tsp. almond extract

2 tsp. vanilla

5 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

Red food coloring (approximately 3 tsp. or more)

Mix shortening, butter, eggs and flavorings thoroughly. Add flour and salt to shortening mixture. Divide dough in half. Blend red food coloring into one half. Chill both bowls of dough.

When ready to cook, heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll a 4-inch strip using approximately 1 to 2 tsp. dough from each color. For smooth, even strips, roll them back and forth in between your hands or on a lightly floured board. Place strips side by side, press lightly together and twist like a rope. For best results, complete cookies one at time. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Curve top to form a handle of the cane. Hint: use chilled dough to roll. Bake about 9 minutes until lightly browned.

CRANBERRY FLUFF SALAD

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce

3 cups miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup seedless grapes

1/2 cup walnuts, broken

2 cups tart apples, diced, unpared

1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Combine ingredients. Fold in whipped cream and chill.

NANA’S GINGERBREAD

Serves 12.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 cup molasses, blackstrap or dark molasses

8 TBS. (1 stick) unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces, softened

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup boiling water

Adjust an oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan. Whisk the flour, sugar, ginger, allspice and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir the molasses, butter and eggs together in a medium bowl (some pieces of butter will remain).

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the molasses mixture to the well and stir until well blended. Stir the baking soda and boiling water together in a medium liquid measuring cup, pour over the batter and stir until the butter is completely melted. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, at least 1 hour. Serve. This cake can be stored at room temperature for up to four days.

OLLIE BOLLEN (Dutch Doughnuts)

The exact amount may vary, depending on cook time and temperature, ingredient density and the specific type of oil used. Make sure the oil is hot!

1 (.6 oz.) cake compressed fresh yeast

1 cup lukewarm milk

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. salt

1 egg

3/4 cup dried currants

3/4 cup raisins

1 Granny Smith apple-peeled, cored and finely chopped

1 quart vegetable oil for deep-frying

1 cup confectioners sugar for dusting

Break up the compressed yeast and stir into the warm milk. Let it stand for a few minutes to dissolve. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir the yeast mixture and egg into the flour and mix into a smooth batter. Stir in the currants, raisins and apple. Cover the bowl, and leave the batter in a warm place to rise until double in size. This will take an hour.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or heavy deep pan to 375 degrees. Use two metal spoons to shape the scoops into balls and drop them carefully into the hot oil. Fry the balls until golden brown, about 8 minutes. The doughnuts should be soft and not greasy. If the oil is not hot enough, the outside will be tough and the insides greasy. Drain finished doughnuts on paper towels and dust with confectioners sugar. Serve them piled on a dish with more confectioners sugar dusted over them. Eat them hot if possible. Can make them in two batches, so as to not overload the fryer.

SANDRA BENEZRA’S IRISH CReME FRENCH TOAST

Sandra is a marvelous cook and everything she makes is utterly delicious. She shared this brunch recipe, and I will make it for New Year’s morning. Double or triple ingredients to serve more people.

Use 1 large loaf of Como Bread or a firm crusted rustic bread, using 2 large slices per person and the following ingredients. Increase measurements for more servings.

2 large eggs

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 TBS. Irish Cr

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