We’ve talked so much about how cooking and baking can really connect us with our past, our traditions, our families, and there’s no time we feel that more than right now, over the holiday season.
There’s something about rolling our sleeves up in the kitchen that just forces us to slow down, to be present, to be mindful of what gives us all joy. Especially if we’re cooking with our kids. (Yay for kids old enough to help out — and clean up!)
So we talked to our Cool Mom Picks team and asked them to share some of their own favorite holiday recipes that have become annual affairs, and how it connects them to all those good feelings. And wow, the variety of recipes and stories are just wonderful.
We’re pleased to bring you these recipe ideas on behalf of our sponsor Milk Life, who has a ton of recipes for additional holiday cooking inspiration on milklife.com. Whether you’re pouring eggnog, making homemade hot cocoa, or just setting out a glass of milk to go with freshly-baked treats out of the oven, it’s definitely a part of so many of our own traditions.
Traditional Southern Oyster Pie by Anne Wolfe Postic
Anne: Oyster Pie
As a southerner, our family Oyster Pie recipe just says holidays to me. My grandmother and my mother used to make this southern favorite (also called Oyster Dressing or Oyster Stuffing) every Thanksgiving, and when my mother passed I knew I wanted to make it for my own kids, to honor her memory. I couldn’t find the recipe…and panicked. Then I remembered an old cookbook in her kitchen called Putting on the Grits, published by the Junior League of Columbia in 1985, and found a recipe called “Fairey’s Oyster Pie” that I knew was where she drew her inspiration. I created my own adaptation of the recipe to make it my own, and now it’s become an important staple of our own holiday season.
Jane: Short Ribs
I live across the country from my family so holiday dinners can be bittersweet at times. I used to try and recreate a Christmas dinner that reminded me of them, but a few years ago I decided to start a new tradition for my own family, making a special Christmas dinner featuring the Cook’s Illustrated Boneless Beef Short Ribs recipe I found at Epicurious.
The rich scent of braising meat and wine fills the house with the most delicious aroma and the fact that I can prepare it ahead of time is an added bonus. But besides it being utterly delicious, I now look forward to making this because I know someday it might be a meal my own kids will want to make – for me, this time.
Homemade Southern Cornbread Dressing, Soul Food Style, from Divas Can Cook
Ibbiduni: Cornbread Dressing
For me, holidays are all about Cornbread Dressing! It’s our family favorite and some of my earliest memories are of helping my mom make it — my favorite part was always mixing it by hand. We only serve it at Thanksgiving and Christmas and I’m proud to say that making it is my responsibility. My mom helps me out a lot by doing most of the prep work, but I chop everything up and mix it all together. We try to make enough for two batches, but little holiday mice (so to speak) tend to get into the cornbread for “quality control purposes” and Mom always has to make a third batch of cornbread.
Ojikutu Cornbread Dressing truly is the most delicious food on the planet; but there’s no written recipe, and ingredient amounts change every year. I’d suggest trying this Homemade Southern Cornbread Dressing Recipe, Soul Food Style from Divas Can Cook which is similar to ours, and looks absolutely delicious, from the day-old cornbread to the diced peppers and onions, to the chicken. Then you can adapt it and make it your own too.
White chocolate dipped ginger cookies by Cooking Classy
Christina: Cookie Swap Cookies and Warm Milk with Honey
When I was little and couldn’t sleep because of the excitement over Santa’s arrival, my mom would make me warm milk with honey. Even now, when I’m having a hard time settling down for the night, I heat up a mug of milk, add honey, and I’m instantly soothed. And of course, milk and cookies go hand in hand so I’m always up for trying new cookie recipes for Christmas. A few years ago, a new neighbor moved in and started an annual cookie swap party each December. I love to go to socialize, have a few cocktails, and leave with a huge platter of cookies for my kids.
While I’ve tried a few recipes over the years, my very favorite come down to these delicious, chewy, Ginger Cookies Dipped in White Chocolate from Cooking Classy (above), and the too-easy-to-be-true Four-Ingredient Chocolate Cookies from Your Cup of Cake. It just doesn’t feel like the holidays for us without cookies filling up our kitchen, and those two are just amazing!
Some recipes from our sponsor
Whether you’re planning a party menu or just celebrating with a few friends or immediate family, you can find lots of festive recipe inspiration on milklife.com to help you start some new holiday food traditions.
Real milk is a wholesome, simple food that’s already the foundation of many family holiday moments, from warming up with hot cocoa to leaving milk for Santa. With 9 essential nutrients, including 8 grams of protein in every 8-ounce glass, it may be one of the better holiday treats of the season.
Liz: My Dad’s Peanut Brittle
I’m blessed to have two parents who are each outstanding cooks, and there are so many foods that have become holiday traditions for us. There’s my mom’s Hanukkah latkes (even if the kids do 15% of the work, she’s always sure to praise them for making the best latkes ever that year). There’s our annual Christmas cookie decorating contest — any recipe will do, because it’s more about the outrageous and irreverent decorations on top. But one favorite I really look forward to is my dad’s Perfect Peanut Brittle Recipe that I’ve shared here on Cool Mom Eats.
He’s carefully adapted it from ten different recipes over the course of more than 20 years, and the result is nothing short of spectacular. (And there’s a little more to the story that makes it extra special for us, if you want to click over to read about it.) I can always count on a gift tin of it each year — and if he ever forgets, he hears about it! Now my kids are starting to make it with him each year, which I’m hoping will be a new tradition for us.
Sausage and Chive Pinwheels recipe by Taste of Home
Kate: Sausage Pinwheels
We have so many family recipes that really feel like home, but the one that stands out to me isn’t about Christmas dinner at all — it’s about breakfast. Each year on Christmas morning, my kids look forward to sausage pinwheels for breakfast, almost as much as the gifts under the tree. The recipe is so simple — just your favorite biscuit mix rolled out flat, topped with a mix of hot and mild bulk sausage, then rolled up and sliced into pinwheels. If you’re more comfortable following a recipe, try this well-loved Sausage and Chive Pinwheels recipe from Taste of Home which uses refrigerated crescent roll dough. (For more good tips, follow the reader suggestions in comments.) No matter how many we make, we never have enough. And it definitely gives us all the energy we need to power through a day of unwrapping gifts and frantically searching for working AA batteries.
Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe by Abigail R. Ghering, via Parade
I always have loved it when my grandmother has baked something just for me, and when I think of a special grandmother treat, it has to be her peanut butter fudge. I don’t think she even uses a recipe, she’s been making it so long; but this peanut butter fudge recipe shared by Lori Lang on Parade, from Abigail R. Gehring’s Classic Candy cookbook for the modern kitchen, looks exactly right. Okay, so if I have to admit, I don’t think that anyone else in my family really likes it that much compared with all our other holiday desserts — which is in part how I know she’s making it just for me. And that is love, right there.