The holidays are a special time for DanvilleSanRamon.com staff members as, like our readers, we decorate our homes, buy presents for loved ones and stoke up the ovens to prepare special treats.
To celebrate the season, we are sharing tried and true favorite recipes that mean it is the holidays in our homes.
Publisher Gina Channell, whose mother Linda Channell died only this year, found it emotionally tough to remember family holidays in happier times as she set out to share recipes, including "Mom's Sweet 'Taters" and "The Channells' Christmas Fantasy Fudge."
"There was no written recipe for my mom's sweet 'taters -- I've made them dozens of times and my memory was tested," Channell reported, noting the difficulty of translating a "dash of this" and "a bit of that."
The family recipe for fudge presented another difficulty -- it was written on an index card in her mother's handwriting, which started the tears flowing.
Mom's Candied Sweet 'Taters
5-6 large sweet potatoes
1/2 cup salted stick butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Parboil in boiling water until they are tender but still undercooked (about 5 minutes).
3. Place sweet potato wedges in a single layer in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.
4. Slice butter sticks into several pats over the potatoes.
5. Sprinkle evenly the brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and drizzle the vanilla over potatoes.
6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. (Check at 40 minutes to make sure the potatoes are very tender but not mushy. If not tender, re-cover and bake another 10 minutes.)
7. Remove pan from oven. Spoon the caramelized sugar mixture over the potatoes.
8. Place a layer of marshmallows on the potatoes and bake uncovered for 5 minutes or until the marshmallows are melted and slightly brown.
Tip: When you put the marshmallows on the potatoes, make sure there is plenty of space above the pan for the marshmallows to expand as they cook.
Channells' Christmas Fantasy Fudge
3/4 cup stick butter
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup evaporated mile (5 oz. can)
One 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
One 7 oz. jar Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Crème
1 cup chopped black walnuts (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with foil. (Extend the foil 4 to 5 inches on both ends.) Press the foil flat in the pan. (Use a smaller pan for thicker fudge.)
2. Combine sugar, butter and condensed milk in 2-1/2 quart saucepan. Bring to full boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring.
3. Work fast from here. Remove from heat and immediately stir in chocolate chips until melted.
4. Add marshmallow crème, vanilla and nuts. Beat until well-blended. Pour quickly into pan.
5. When cool, lift the fudge out of the pan with the ends of the foil. Cut into squares.
Editor Jeremy Walsh is sharing a favorite recipe for Spritz Holiday Cookies, courtesy of his mother-in-law, Christine Kearney.
Spritz holiday cookies
Equipment needed: Foodgun or cookie press
2 cookie sheets
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream 1 cup softened salted butter in large bowl.
Mix in 6 drops green food coloring.
Separate 3 egg yolks; add one by one to the butter.
Add 1 tsp vanilla
Add 2-1/4 cups flour
Use food gun or cookie press with the tree disc to press onto ungreased cookie sheet, 1 inch apart.
Add nonpareils or sprinkles before cooking.
Bake for 5 minutes or until just set but not brown. Remove to wire rack immediately.
Makes 4-5 dozen.
Tri-Valley Life editor Dolores Fox Ciardelli is sharing her recipe for Caprese Salad.
She said that six years ago her daughter decided to begin hosting an Italian feast for extended family each Christmas Eve, featuring a sitdown dinner with lasagnas and her wonderful baked meatballs. She asked her mother to contribute a salad.
"After considering the multitude of options, I decided the vibrant reds and greens of a Caprese Salad would best enhance the holiday spirit and the dinner's flavors," Ciardelli said.
Plan ahead to obtain fresh basil, she cautioned: Stores seem to sell it out by Dec. 23.
She also shares a recipe for Totos, an Italian cookie. Her mother-in-law baked dozens and dozens every year and gave tins to all family members. Now Dolores carries on the tradition, also using an index card with the recipe handwritten, by her mother-in-law, Juanita Ciardelli, who died in 2010.
1-1/2 lbs fresh large pearl or Campari tomatoes, sliced
Large bunch fresh basil, leaves separated
1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
Arrange on platter, alternating the three ingredients in attractive rows.
Olive oil can be used alone or balsamic vinegar can be added. Combine and dribble over the salad just before serving. Season generously with freshly ground salt and pepper.
Caprese can also be made on skewers using cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cut into cubes.
6 cups sifted flour
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup shortening or margarine
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Cream sugar and shortening. Add beaten eggs. Cream until fluffy.
Combine all dry ingredients. Gradually add to creamed mixture with 1 cup milk. Add chocolate chips and mix well. (It's easier to mix with hands after chocolate chips and nuts are added.) Roll into 1-inch balls on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Put cookies on waxed paper after baking; while still warm, apply glaze with brush or spoon. Let dry before storing. Makes 8-1/2 dozen.
1/2 box powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Milk to form a thick paste. (Needs very little milk.)
Staff reporter Ryan J. Degan is sharing his family's Cuban Turkey recipe. He recalled that when he was growing up, the family did the traditional roasted turkey dinner until one year his mother decided to mix it up by using a recipe from Uncle Julio, who lived in Massachusetts but was originally from Cuba.
"My mom made two turkeys that year, one traditional and one using my uncle's Cuban recipe and by the end of the meal the Cuban version was just about gone," Degan remembered. "The citrus flavor brings out a moistness in the turkey that can't be beat. It's our new family favorite tradition."
Uncle Julio's Cuban Turkey
One 20-pound turkey (any size will do)
12-15 lemons juiced (approximately 1-1/2 cups of lemon juice)
2 limes juiced (keep the rinds!)
2 oranges juiced (keep the rinds!)
1/2 bottle of white wine or champagne
Pepper to taste
1 to 2 tbsp of Adobo all-purpose seasoning (or to taste)
1 to 2 garlic cloves per pound, crushed
1. For marinade, combine lemon, lime and orange juice with wine, pepper, crushed garlic and Adobo.
2. Thaw turkey and rinse well in cold water; pat dry.
3. Place orange and lime peels in the turkey's cavity and salt lightly. Next, place the turkey in a common kitchen trash bag and add the marinade, tying off the bag. Double seal the turkey with a second trash bag and place it in the refrigerator.
4. Leave the turkey to marinade for four to five days, flipping every 12 hours. In a pinch the turkey can be marinated for only two days but five is best.
5. When ready to cook, add one coarsely chopped onion, one tablespoon of flour and two stalks of sliced celery inside of the turkey.
6. Brush turkey with oil or melted butter, season as desired and place into a Reynolds Kitchens Oven Bag. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and cook for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, or until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Staff reporter Julia Baum said there is nothing super fancy about this cranberry sauce recipe but it is how her mom has made it every year for Thanksgiving.
"You can get more creative and add a bit of pineapple or lime juice, or experiment with other spices like ground cloves or ginger," Baum noted.
12 oz. whole cranberries (rinsed and drained)
1 cup sugar (or Splenda)
15 oz. unsweetened mandarin oranges
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp citrus peel (optional)
1. Mix sugar and water in saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Add cranberries, cinnamon and citrus peel; return to boil. Reduce to medium-low; simmer 10 minutes or until cranberries burst and sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
2. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Contributing writer Cierra Bailey is sharing her recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Bread.
"It's delicious," she commented. "Highly recommend!"
Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Bread
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (room temp)
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas
1 tbsp milk (can substitute for almond milk or other dairy-free options)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 bag chopped walnuts
1 bag chocolate morsels
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter loaf pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl add sugar, butter, eggs, mashed bananas, milk, cinnamon, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Mix ingredients until batter forms a fluffy, creamy consistency.
4. Add walnuts and chocolate morsels to batter. (I don't measure these; just add to your liking.)
5. Pour batter into buttered loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes.
6. Let cool for 15-20 minutes, remove from pan, slice and serve.
Real estate advertising sales rep Carol Cano is sharing her recipe for Holiday Stuffed Potatoes.
"I grew up making these stuffed potatoes with my dad, and it's been a family favorite with us for many years," Cano said. "We always put on our holiday music and have fun making these together."
Holiday Stuffed Potatoes
8 large baking potatoes
2 sticks butter
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chopped bacon, or soft bacon bits
3/4 cup milk
6-8 chopped green onions
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1. Place clean, dry potatoes on a baking sheet: Rub lightly with melted butter, wrap in foil, poke with a knife, and place on a foil lined large cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour.
2. Let the potatoes cool for 20 minutes. Remove foil and slice in half horizontally with a sharp knife.
3. Scrape out the insides of the potato with a spoon and place in a large mixing bowl. Be careful to leave some potato around the edges so the shell won't break. Lay the empty potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and set aside.
4. To the bowl of potato, add the milk, 1 to 2 cubes of melted butter and sour cream to the potatoes. Stir with a large spoon so the potatoes are chopped up but not mashed.
5. Add bacon bits, green onions and cheese, leaving some for garnish. Test taste the potatoes and add more salt and pepper if needed.
6. You are ready to stuff your potatoes! Load them up to the top with your potato mix and garnish with more cheese and green onions.
7. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
Administrative associate Carolyn Chan is sharing her recipe for Pecan Pie. Not only is it a family favorite, but she would bring it into the office in years past for everyone to enjoy.
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup Karo Light or Dark Corn Syrup
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups pecans
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl beat eggs slightly. Add sugar, Karo syrup, butter and vanilla; stir until blended. Stir in pecans. Pour into pie crust.
Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.