In Holiday Guide

Document those family recipes and pass 'em down.

Our favorite family, holiday recipes

The holidays are as much about traditions as they are about food, and when the two are mixed, it strikes a very merry perfection. Here are some classic familiar recipes from the editors and writers of OnMilwaukee.

Prime rib and ginger cookies – Lori Fredrich

I belong to a family who likes to change things up every year, so we have very few dishes that make it to the holiday table every single year. But there are two exceptions: prime rib with bacon porcini gravy and old fashioned ginger cookies.

Prime rib

I started hosting Christmas dinner about ten years ago. In an effort to make the meal memorable (and set it apart from all the other meals we eat all year long), I decided to serve standing rib roast. Over the years, I've perfected my recipe for the rib roast, which is rubbed with a combination of garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and roasted until the exterior is crisp and the interior is medium rare. What takes it over the top, however, is the porcini bacon gravy, which takes hours to prepare but is entirely worth the effort. Recipe for the gravy:
Ginger cookies
Seems everyone loves these delicious classic cookies, which come out of the oven with a beautiful, crackly, sugary crust. If you like the spiciness of a ginger snap combined with the chewiness of a classic molasses cookie, these old fashioned ginger cookies are for you. Redolent with cinnamon and plenty of ginger, they'll remind you of cookies your grandmother made. The recipe (which is mine):

Raspberry merengues

 – Matt Mueller

When it comes to the holiday season, my family doesn't have one particular recipe. More like recipes – cookie recipes, to be precise. A whole tray of probably about seven or eight types of cookies – some new experiments, others favorites passed along through the years. Everyone has their own particular cookie, with mine being a raspberry merengue that's crunchy, tart and just chocolatey enough with mini chocolate chips scattered inside each one. It's just not the holiday season in the Mueller household if I'm not knocking back a box of these like potato chips before it's even time to assemble the family cookie tray. Guess we'll have to make another batch then!

Here's Betty Crocker's version of this cookie – but consider my advice and add chocolate chips.

Grandpa Acerbi's Italian beef – Jeff Sherman

If I had my Grandma Sherman's sugar cookie recipe, I'd share it. They were amazing. On the other side of the family, my Grandpa Mario has been in heaven for many years now, but thankfully we got him to write down his Italian roast beef recipe before he left us. It has a special place – laminated on our refrigerator at home and, of course, always in our hearts. 

My grandpa, my mom's dad, was a butcher in Kenosha, so he knew his stuff. We do our best to follow and interpret his recipe, but it never quite tastes as good as his amazing beef did. He even paired it with homemade ravioli and, of course, the Christmas tradition of baccalà. I'll spare you the salt and garlic infused fish tale that is baccalà, but will share (if you can read his hand writing) Grandpa's Italian beef recipe here. Try it; he'll smile down on you for sure.

Grandma Dar's rolled Christmas cookies – Molly Snyder

These are a classic family recipe from my sons' grandmother. They are so easy to make and always turn out tasting exactly like my childhood.

2 cups margarine

3 cups confectioner's sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix margarine, sugar, eggs and flavorings. Blend in dry ingredients. Cover and chill for 2-3 hours. Roll out and cut into shapes on floured surface. Bake on greased cookie sheets for 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Frost or don't frost!

Seven-layer rainbow cookies – Bobby Tanzilo

For as long as I can remember, my mom has made seven-layer rainbow cookies – designed to look like the Italian tri-color flag, though with a layer of chocolate on top – around Christmas and I think my grandmother made them (or got them from the Italian bakery where she worked) before that. They're beautiful to look at and insanely delicious, and if she gives me a pound of them, I will eat an entire pound of them – though hopefully not all in one sitting. But I'm not making any guarantees. There are plenty of recipes for these dolcini tricolori, which have almond paste and apricot jam – two common Italian tastes. Here is one of them.


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