Holiday Recipe Share

Betty Lewis, 1950I always think of my mother, Betty Lewis, at this time of the year because she was such a traditional, old-fashioned cook, and I like using the recipes she handed down to me over the years.

One Christmas gift I cherish came from my sister-in-law who copied and framed one of my mom’s recipes in her own handwriting.  It’s a lovely idea and a special gift.

The holiday season is creeping up on us all too fast.  I’m not one of those who shops a little all year long, so at the last minute I have tons of crafts and gifts, decorations and food preparation.

One of the great treasures of this time of the year is sharing favorite recipes.  In remembrance of my mother and as a nod to my family, I’d like to share a few recipes from my files.

My husband’s mother was a meat-and-potatoes woman who overcooked everything, but no one could beat her in the homemade candy-making department.  Every Christmas she mailed us a package of her assorted candies:  fudge, divinity, caramels with nuts, and her famous penuche, Dr. Big’s favorite:


Butter an8x 8×2 inch pan.  Coarsely chop and set aside 3/4 cup pecans.  Mix together in a heavy  2 quart saucepan 3 cups firmly packed brown sugar, 1 cup plus 2 TB milk, 1/2 t. salt.

Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Increase heat and bring mixture to boiling, stirring frequently.  Put candy thermometer in place.  Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture reaches 234 degrees F. (soft ball stage — remove from heat while testing).  During cooking, wash crystals from sides of pan.  Remove from heat.  Set aside until just cool enough to hold pan on hand.  Do not jar pan or stir.

When cool, add 3 TB butter, 1 1/2 t. vanilla.  Beat vigorously until mixture loses its gloss.  With a few strokes stir in the chopped nuts.  Quickly candy #1turn into the buttered pan without scraping bottom and sides of saucepan and spread evenly.  Set aside to cool.

Note:  I love how Mabel gives these little added tips which are helpful for new candy-makers!  Also, I like a richer candy, so I use half and half or evaporated milk instead of regular milk.  I don’t think 1 and 2 percent milk was available back in the day.




  • 1 pkg frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 8-oz. carton sour cream
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 can cream of chicken souppotato casserole
  • 2 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 c. corn flakes

Mix all ingredients together, except 1/2 stick butter and corn flakes.  Pour into 9 by 13 pan.  Melt 1/2 stick butter with corn flakes and sprinkle on potato mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Note:  This is a great side-dish and super easy to make ahead.

cookiesWhat are your favorite, go-to recipes for the holiday season?  Any ideas of what to make with the left-over turkey or ham?  I need some additions to my recipe file, so please share!


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  • Jane says:

    Hello Jo,
    That cream cheese casserole looks so delicious. I get most of my recipes online. I always look for the simplest ones. If we made both ham and turkey for Thanksgiving we would have ham and egg sandwiches for breakfast and have turkey sandwiches for lunch.

  • Deanna says:

    I can’t say that we have any traditional recipes aside from the turkey and ham for Christmas lunch and even with those the recipes tend to vary as my mother likes to experiment. Each year, Christmas lunch is a surprise because aside from knowing that there will be some sort of turkey and ham on the table, we never know what mum feels like making.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I think that would be exciting, Deanna, to see what your mother comes up with every year. At least it’s sure to be different.

      What kind of dish was a surprise delight to your family?

  • Shannon says:

    This brought back memories of my Dad making fudge. He would bring all the ingredients together and then take the fudge out into the cold on the driveway, stirring until it set. Wish he was here to explain why he did it that way.

    As for turkey, I make up a tomato based curry. The level of spiciness varies according to who else is eating beside me.

    I was listening to the radio yesterday where a chef was suggesting a nice turkey pie with a white filling with vegetables like peas and corn. She waxed on about the richy flakey crust. I wish I knew how to make a good crust.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      A good crust has always been my downfall, Shannon. I think back in the day I could make a pretty decent flaky one, but I’ve lost the art over the years. I buy frozen pie crusts (hanging head in shame). For me the crust is the best part of the pie.

      I remember my mom making cinnamon squares from the left-over pie dough.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      LOL, Shannon. I’d like to know why your Dad took the fudge outside in the cold too. Anyone have any suggestions?

      Ooooh, I’d love the recipe for your curry. Can you share with us?

      • He took it out onto the driveway for the same reason you don’t make divinity on a rainy or humid day. The process of making a candy “sit up” is taking the moisture out of it. Heat sources and moisture sources are not helpful to the process. You want a brisk, dry day, preferably a cold one when you stir up candy to the “sitting up” stage. (This is NOT my wisdom. It is my Mom’s, who still makes the best divinity I’ve ever tasted and always makes it for the local fire and police departments every year at Christmas. Yep, if there is a call out to her house, the entire city police and fire departments WILL show up!)

        • Shannon says:

          He always picked a sunny winter day in Idaho when it was 10 degrees (or below) for the high. And there wasn’t a drip of humidity to speak of.

        • Jo Robertson says:

          Thanks for sharing that, Louisa. I knew about being careful with Divinity (mine is always awful), but I didn’t know it applied to fudge too.

      • Shannon says:

        The recipe depends on how you use left over turkey and who is eating. It is was shown to me as dumping in this and that. So assuming you’re not/not working from the carcass, it’s about 1-2 pounds of turkey, 2 c. of stock, 1 or 1-1/2 c. catchup, 1 or 2 green peppers chopped, 1 or 2 onions chopped, celery chopped (or celery seed if none is left over from the dressing), curry powder to taste (2-3 tablespoons), dash to 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Saute onion and peppers and celery. Mix saute with stock, chicken, and spices, usually into a dutch oven or similar pot/pan and cook for 1-2 hours at roughly 350. (Yes, I have dumped this into crockpot for 4 hours on low when needing to go somewhere else to decorate the house.) Feel free to adapt or adjust depending on how thick/thin/spicy/bland you want this. I have a nephew who won’t eat it with the green peppers. I have pureed the peppers/onions/celery in a food processor for other children who won’t eat vegetables. It never tastes exactly the same, but I usually get it so it’s good.

  • Minna says:

    Out of left-over turkey I would make open faced turkey sandwiches. I usually use chicken, but… The most simple recipe would be
    some slices of bread
    left-over turkey
    grated cheese (I prefer Emmental)

    If you like, you can mix an egg or two with the grated cheese and maybe add some spices, too.

    Heat the oven 200ºC/390ºF. Spread the ingredients on the breads and put them in the oven for about 20 minutes.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      I’ve never tried Emmental cheese, Minna. Does it have a sharp flavor.

      The recipe sounds delicious. I think I’ll try it with my leftover turkey, although I’ll have to use cheddar cheese instead.

      • Minna says:

        Sharp flavour? Well, I don’t think so, but it’s not bland either. The emmental I usually use has been matured for a minimum of six months.

      • Minna says:

        Oh, and pineapple in very small pieces is a good addition, too. Just remember to squeeze as much juice out of them as you can before spreading them on the pieces of bread.

      • Minna says:

        And the spices… though if you only have turkey and cheese, that’s ok too. I just like mine spicy. I had to check out the actual recipe for this. This amount is enough for 4 slices of turkey sandwiches:
        2 eggs
        2 cloves of garlic
        2 tbsp. mustard
        1/2 tsp paprika powder
        1/2 tsp Rosemary
        1/4 tsp black pepper
        5 oz grated cheese

        It seems I remembered the time and the heat of the oven wrong (for the spicy recipe, anyway): 250ºC/480ºF, 5-10 minutes.

      • Minna says:

        From left over ham I would make a pie. There seem to be quite a few recipes in the internet.

  • Becke says:

    AT one time I baked small loaves of zucchini, poppy seed, and banana bread for gifts. It was a family affair and lots of fun. One grandmother was a master at pie crusts and known for her pies. The other was a master at home made noodles and bread.

    One of my favorite recipes was my mother’s zucchini casserole made with crescent rolls. Need I say more?

  • Becke says:

    BTW my mother had that same dress!

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    It’s tradition that we make creamed turkey on toast with leftover turkey. So yummy!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Sounds yummy, Debbie. How do you make it?

      I’ve done creamed hamburger on toast. My dad called it SOS — same old stuff, although I’m guessing the “stuff” part was really another word, ha ha. He was a military man!

  • Sally Schmidt says:

    My mother and grandmother were both excellent cooks, although you wouldn’t know it listening to them talk about each other. My grandmother said my mother burned everything, my mother said who likes undercooked food. But both great cooks, everything from scratch. And marvelous bakers. Holiday meals were always traditional so no special recipes, but our versions were the best!

    My grandmother never used a recipe – still trying to duplicate the best custard pie I’ve ever tasted and the hot chocolate sauce. My mom clipped recipes and also wrote them on cards and in notebooks. I have many of them in her handwriting – treasures. And every year I say I will be brave enough to try and duplicate the apple slices and eclairs she made. Maybe this year.

    When all we are left with is turkey use it up this way: the soup that all year is hearty chicken with stuffed ravioli, tortellini, tomatoes, carrots, beans or peas . . . becomes a turkey version. Turkey tettrazini. Also something called Turkey Devonshire (who knows why?). A recipe I cut out of a magazine years ago has turned into something everybody wants. Layer toast, turkey slices, a kind of white sauce made with gravy, cream, Swiss cheese, and bacon. Sounds weird but everybody loves it.

    Love the picture of your mother – the hair, the dress and the pose remind me of my mom.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Just the combo of swiss, bacon and turkey sounds delish to me, Sally.

      I wish I had stood and looked over my mom’s shoulder when she was making her special dishes too. She had so many that she made from memory and I can’t quite seem to get them right!

  • catslady says:

    I make the same potatoes only I put crushed potato chips on the top – might as well go for more calories lol. I make a nice soup with the left over ham – no recipe but potatoes, ham, cabbage, stewed tomatoes are the main ingredients.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Sounds good, Catslady. I’ve never put cabbage in my soup, but I’ll try it this time. I’m making a cream-based turkey and rice (or potato) soup this year; I’ll had a little cheddar cheese for flavor and of course onion, celery, and green pepper.

  • EC Spurlock says:

    We have an interesting family in that both my parents were first generation immigrants but my husband’s family dates back to Jamestown. So we combine traditions. We always have my MIL’s sugar cookies and brown sugar fudge for Christmas, and in memory of my grandmother’s Schwate Wecher or Holy Supper, I make pierogies and butter beans on Orthodox Christmas Eve (January6).

    We do a lot of open-faced turkey sandwiches and turkey quesadillas with our leftovers, but here’s another popular recipe I came across a couple of years ago that we love: Cut about 3c cooked turkey into chunks or cubes. Put a small amount of oil in a large skillet, add 1 small onion (chopped) and1 small can of sliced mushrooms (or 1 cup fresh sliced) and cook until onions are translucent. Add turkey and 1/2 cup frozen peas or broccoli and sprinkle with 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp parsely and 1/2 tsp sage and 2 tbsp flour, tossing to coat. Gradually add 1 small can evaporated milk, stirring to get drippings off the bottom of the pan; as mixture thickens, add chicken broth to keep at a gravy-like consistency, will take about 1 cup. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until peas are cooked through and gravy is thickened. Serve over baked or mashed potatoes, noodles or rotini pasta. (The boys and I like noodles, DH prefers potatoes.) You can also make this recipe using chicken breast cooked beforehand, and I have made it as a camping recipe using canned chicken and instant potatoes.

  • Mozette says:

    I got my recipe from a diet book; perfected the fruit cake and changed it… 🙂

    Lynda’s Christmas Cake


    1 cup self-raising flour
    1 packet each of dried cranberries and blueberries
    3 egg whites
    1 cup of mashed pumpkin
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1/2 cup water
    1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
    sprinkle of mixed spice


    Preheat oven 180 degrees Celsius. Place fruit, sugar, spce and water into a saucepan and boil for 3 minutes. Add bi-carb soda and leave to cool. Boil or microwave pumpkin, drain and mash pumpkin and leave to cool. Mix pumpkin & fruit together, stir in egg whites well. Fold in flour. Pour mixture into a 19cm (8 inch) round tine coated with butter and bake for around 1hour.

    This mixture also goes into two Christmas tree cake moulds well too! 😀 You also have to bake them for an hour each too… 🙂 But keep an eye on them, just in case they need turning around.

    Yummo! 😀

  • Pissenlit says:

    Apple cake is my go-to baking for the holidays. I got the recipe from this website. It always turns out perfectly!

    I like leftover turkey and ham just fine without turning it into anything new…providing there’s gravy or ketchup. 🙂

  • Amy Conley says:

    A little late today, but a little 3 year old wore me out yesterday and I was asleep before him. And then my phone woke us all at 5am. So it’s been “one of those days”.

    My mother was an awful cook. She knew she was an awful cook, but she could never figure out why. Since I’m a pretty bad cook myself I think I know shy. CookingIis like gardening, you can do all the right things, use the right ingredients, and the plant will still die. Unfortunately, neither of us can keep a plant alive either.

    My mother-in-law had two things EVERYONE loved. I’ve tried making both things, but you’ve already read the first paragraph, nowhere close to hers. One thing was her Red Velvet Cake. My oldest son has her recipe, and can make it perfectly.

    One other thing about my mother. A few years ago we were going through a cedar chest at my grandmother’s. One of the things we found was a newspaper article about my mother…winning a Betty Crocker contest. Yes, we all cracked up. My grandmother was laughing as hard as the rest of us. She said the reason my mother won was because she didn’t have to actually cook anything, it was a written test, and just because it was a contest. She said my mother would do almost anything to win.