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Holiday feasting

Posted November 26, 2013 in Pleasant Hill

The holidays are upon us and that means — no matter how much we insist we will eat healthier this year — it’s time to break out the recipes for our favorite sweet treats. Homemade breads, cookies and snacks are an integral part of the season. The scents filling the kitchen, the warm cake just out of the oven and all those once-a-year goodies take us back in time to holidays gone by, even as we are making new memories.

Whether it’s an old family recipe or something new, we sat down with several Pleasant Hill residents to get a taste of some of their favorites.

Recipes by Iris Swanson
“You’ll never guess what’s in them,” Iris Swanson insists. “Everybody thinks it’s pumpkin.”

And, indeed, her spicy and moist Surprise Bars instantly transport the taste buds to homemade pumpkin bread. However, there isn’t a drop of squash in her bars.

The recipe, which she got from her niece, got its name based on the two main ingredients, which are definitely a surprise: pork and beans and pineapple. Swanson says the recipe first appeared at a family reunion and the fun of making people guess what the ingredients were began.

Before tossing out this recipe, give it a try. These treats are absolutely amazing.

Surprise Bars
by Iris Swanson
10 oz. can pork and beans
8 oz. can crushed pineapple
2 cups flour
4 eggs
1 cups canola oil
3 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt

Blend the pork and beans and pineapple well. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, and put into a 17x12x1 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes.

Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Swanson also offered up her recipe for buttermilk pie. The best thing about this recipe according to Swanson? There’s no crust.

“Iris doesn’t do crust,” Swanson says.

This recipe came from a tearoom in Indianola. The tearoom is no longer open, but the owner was gracious in sharing her recipe with Swanson.

The pie smells, tastes and looks like custard. The consistency is thicker, but the spicy sweetness is still there.

Buttermilk pie
by Iris Swanson
6 Tbs. Oleo (margarine)
1 cup sugar
½ cup Bisquick (can use reduced fat)
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ tsp. vanilla

Put all into blender and blend very well. Pour into a lightly sprayed pie dish. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top. Back at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. It will make its own crust.

Peg and Bob Haag with a batch of their favorite cookies.

Peg and Bob Haag with a batch of their favorite cookies.

Recipes by Peg Haag
For Peg Haag, the holidays mean one thing — making batch after batch of her Melting Moments cookies. Haag says she got the recipe in the late 1960s from a co-worker but didn’t start the tradition of her sweet, melt-in-your-mouth treats until about a decade ago.

“I get calls from people who want me to make these for them for Christmas,” Haag says.

Nancy DeVinay-McNeley, a friend who makes the request every year, says, “They’re a little piece of heaven. They just melt in your mouth.”

The cookies are sweet, and they will definitely melt away. Just a few of these should go a long way to curbing anyone’s sweet tooth.

Melting Moments
by Peg Haag
1 cup butter
5 ½ Tbs. powdered sugar

Cream together, then mix in:
¾ cup cornstarch
1 cup flour
Roll into small balls, place on cookie sheets and press down in the center of each cookie slightly, to make an indent.

Back at 350 degrees 12 to 15 minutes. Cookies will not be browned.

Frosting that came with the recipe:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs. melted butter
1 Tbs. orange juice, plus a little rind.
Mix together and place in indention.
Peg’s Frosting
2 sticks butter
Powdered sugar to your own consistency

Almond flavoring to taste. Haag suggests using a small amount as the color can fade.

Haag has a warning for anyone trying this recipe: “You can’t double it. If you double it, it doesn’t work.”

This warning was echoed by Swanson, as well.

“One batch at a time: that’s all you can do,” Haag says.

Haag also wanted to share her Strawberry Bread because she thought it was the perfect holiday treat to share with friends and neighbors. It splits well into small loaves and makes a great gift.

Strawberry bread
by Peg Haag
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups oil
4 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
24 oz. thawed strawberries with juice

Cream sugar, oil and eggs. Mix in all but the berries. Dump in strawberries and mix with a mixer until light pink.

This makes two large loaves. Peg uses mini loaf pans.

For larger loaves bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.

For smaller pans, back down to 30 or 40 minutes.

Pat Felderman shares recipes that bring back lots of family memories, including Christmas dinner at her grandmother’s house. Date cake, spritz cookies and Dutch  letters are treats that are almost always available at her home during the holidays.

Pat Felderman shares recipes that bring back lots of family memories, including Christmas dinner at her grandmother’s house. Date cake, spritz cookies and Dutch
letters are treats that are almost always available at her home during the holidays.

Recipes by Pat Felderman
Sitting at her kitchen table, Pat Felderman flips through her mother’s handwritten cookbook. The yellowed pages, many splattered with spills from years gone by, are faded but hold many memories and family recipes.

Included in the recipes is the date cake her grandmother used to make when they would visit for Christmas.

“We always had it for dessert,” Felderman says.

Over time, the family’s favorite holiday treat became Felderman’s mother’s spritz cookies. Felderman says she used to have to hide a batch from her brother, otherwise there would be none to take to church events.

Even now, her family enjoys the fresh-baked cookies, but more than anything, the treat that they have come to expect every holiday is homemade Dutch letters. The recipe came from a friend in Pella, she says.

Dutch letters
by Pat Felderman
1 lb. butter
4 cups flour
¾ cup cold water
1 lb. almond paste
2 cups sugar
4 egg whites
1 whole egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract

For filling, mix almond paste in food processor. Add 4 cups flour and ¾ cup cold water. Mix until fluffy. Refrigerate for two hours.

For crust, blend cold butter into flour with pastry blender. Add cold water a little at a time, do not over mix. Flatten on cookie sheet to 8×12. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate two hours.

Cut crust into 28 pieces at about 4×1 inches. Roll out to about 1/8 inches thick. Spoon one to two tablespoons of filling along center of crust. Fold over long sides, seal with egg white. Fold over ends, seal with egg white. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush top with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Prick top with fork. You may need to prick again during baking.

Bake at 450 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Date cake
by Pat Felderman
For cake:
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 ½ cups pitted dates
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Pour water over dates, add soda and butter. Let stand until cool. Beat egg, salt, vanilla. Add sugar, flour, baking powder and date mixture. Beat until smooth. Top with date spread. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
For spread:
1 cup dates
¾ cup water
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs. butter
1/8 tsp. salt
½ cup chopped walnuts

Cook everything but the nuts until thick, about five minutes. Add nuts and spread on cake.

Spritz cookies
by Pat Felderman
1 lb. butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
4 cup flour
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
1 egg

Cream together butter and sugar. Add extracts and egg. Add sifted dry ingredients. Place dough in cookie press, squeeze onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for five to seven minutes. Makes 140 cookies.





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