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Cooks' Exchange: Time to get serious about holidays

Cooks' Exchange: Time to get serious about holidays

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Believe it or not, it’s time to get serious about another holiday season approaching when thoughtful gifts are exchanged from lists that seem to grow by the hour. Many lists usually begin with family, what they want or need, toys for the little ones, can’t-live-without-items youngsters and teens drop hints about on a daily basis, clever ideas about those who seem to have everything in life, and old timers who claim they don’t need one more thing in life except good health. Last, but not least, my list begins by making a donation to the Empty Stocking Club in memory of Mother and Daddy.

Edibles are also important, especially sweet tooth favorites that seem to disappear overnight. And due to being on a good friend’s homemade fruit cake list, it relieves me from preparing my own ahead of time to be wrapped for weeks on end in liqueur-soaked cheese cloth before the big day arrives. Fruit cake will forever remain a seasonal treat for me since I was a youngster and discovered where Mother hid the Jane Parker fruit cake she brought home from a nearby A&P grocery store. Years later, when it disappeared from markets everywhere, I was forced to move on to fruitcakes baked by other companies and somehow survived. The good news this year is that Jane Parker fruitcakes have returned as a holiday favorite and in the meantime I’ll devour every inch of the fruitcake my friend treated me to, again, with a smile and from the bottom of his heart.

For more information or to order Jane Parker fruitcakes, go to

And so, with more holiday parties in mind, here is one of my own favorite appetizers to enjoy while waiting for your own holiday favorites to arrive.

Marinated Brussels sprouts

2 10-ounce packages frozen Brussels sprouts

½ cup tarragon vinegar

½ cup cooking oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Dash hot pepper sauce, optional

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

Cook sprouts according to directions on package and drain. Combine remaining ingredients and toss together. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight, stirring often. Drain and serve with toothpicks.

This recipe is from a “faithful Middleton reader” who clipped it from a Wausau paper many years ago, and now claims it to be a favorite supper for her grandchildren.

Tasty little meatballs

1 ½ pounds ground chuck

¾ cup quick cooking oatmeal

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons chopped onions

1 cup milk


1 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

½ cup water (can make extra sauce if desired)

Mix together meatball ingredients and form into small balls. Place close together in a 9x13-inch pan. Mix together sauce ingredients. Pour sauce over top. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 1 hour. Baste with extra sauce after ½ hour. Serve with mashed potatoes or noodles.

Many longtime readers already know that I grew up on Talmadge Street on the East Side of Madison. It was a great neighborhood with many kids, one being Jim Von Eschen who lived across the street from the McCormicks and recently sent an envelope filled with pictures removed from a 1940s family photo album. Snapped during the heat of summer while others captured snow piles with us enjoying what winter offers, another surprise was a gift of Zorba Paster’s “Tasty Heart-Healthy Recipes” cookbook published by the Wisconsin Public Radio Association in 1998. Thank you Jim and Happy Holidays!

Zorba Paster’s easy rice pudding for two

1 cup cooked rice

2 tablespoons honey

½ cup raisins

1 ½ cups milk

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

Nutmeg, grated

In the top of double boiler, combine rice, honey, raisins, milk, cinnamon, salt and vanilla. Place over water at low boil, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes to half an hour. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

With the East Side in mind, local historians Ann Waidelich and Sarah White have recently updated “An East Side Album,” their exceptional local history book previously published in 2008 that happens to contain three recipes, two of which have appeared in this column. Published by the Goodman Community Center, and available there on Waubesa Street and a few East Side gift shops, you might want to add this wonderful book to your gift lists for the history buffs in your family and circle of good friends.

Until other holiday favorites arrive, I reach for a reliable collection of holiday recipes from the “Holidays and Parties” cookbook compiled by professional home economists in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. This pork entrée was shared by the National Pork Board to serve with a spinach salad, mashed potatoes and warm bread.

Roast tenderloin with cherry cranberry glaze

16-ounce can unsweetened tart cherries

Cherry flavored juice

4 teaspoons cornstarch

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup dried cranberries

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

2 whole pork tenderloins, a total of about 1 ½ to 2 pounds

Salt and pepper to taste

Drain cherries, reserving juice. Add enough cherry flavored juice to make one cup. In a small bowl, stir cornstarch into 2 tablespoons juice. In small saucepan, combine cornstarch mixture with remaining juice, cherries, brown sugar and cranberries. Cook, stirring until mixture boils and thickens; stir in mustard. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Season pork tenderloin with salt and pepper; roast in shallow pan for 20-30 minutes, until internal temperature reads 155-160 degrees. Pour glaze evenly over tenderloins during last 10 minutes of roasting time. Serve sliced.

Serves 4-6

Especially during the holidays, there’s always room for more cookie recipes to fill tins with Christmas favorites to share with family, friends, neighbors, and others. Here is one submitted by Joyce Grohmann from Los Amigo High School in Fountain Valley, Calif. and described as being a “favorite with everyone in Foods classes!”

Banana oatmeal chocolate cookies

1 ½ cups oats

1 ½ cups flour

1 cup sugar

2 bananas, mashed

2/3 cup shortening

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup baking chocolate chips

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together all ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes.

Cindy Word at Joe Walker Middle School in Quartz Hill, Calif., makes this every Christmas because it’s “always a big hit!”

Cappuccino fudge

7-ounce jar marshmallow crème

½ cup sugar

2/3 cup whipping or heavy cream

¼ cup butter

1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

12 ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup hazelnuts or pecans, toasted

Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil; set aside. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine marshmallow creme, sugar, cream, butter, coffee powder, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips until smooth. Stir in nuts. Pour into prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Using foil, lift fudge onto cutting board. Cut into 36-pieces. Note: You can dust the finished fudge with unsweetened baking chocolate.

From Riverside, Calif., here is a “scrumptious” microwave recipe that Norte Vista High School teacher Marlene Meola makes during the holidays to serve a crowd.

Candied walnuts

½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 cups walnut halves

Melt butter in microwave 1 minute on HIGH using a 1 ½ quart casserole dish. Pour brown sugar and cinnamon into butter. Microwave on HIGH 2 minutes; mix. Add walnuts to mixture, stirring well. Microwave 3 to 5 minutes on HIGH. Spread onto waxed paper; cool. Serve hot or cold.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at


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