'Tis the Season for Family Recipes

Season's Greetings! During December we invite you to submit your holiday recipes and memories to our 'Family Recipe Book' by commenting on our Facebook post and using the hashtags #EpiscopalEats and #FamilyRecipe. We can't wait to see what yummy recipes you share.

To kick us off, in this blog Esther Cohen, our Chief Operating Officer, shares some of her favorites. Enjoy!

It’s time to haul out the holly and the flour, sugar and the red and green sprinkles. And, in my house, if it’s time to bake Christmas cookies, it’s time to haul out one of my dearest possessions—my very first cookbook.

I still have it, Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book, found under the Christmas tree in (ahem) 1968 and signed “Love to Esther from Mom.” 


I’ve spent a lot of time with this book and it definitely shows its age. The binding is ripped, the pages frayed and stained. I learned how to make much more than cookies from this book. In fact, I still regularly use its recipes for meatloaf, pancakes and waffles. When I can’t remember how long to roast a turkey or how many tablespoons are in a cup, Betty Crocker is my reliable source.

The cookbook also holds old family recipes written on blank pages and stuffed into the book on index cards. My grandmother’s biscuits, my neighbor’s cookies, my sister-in-law’s meringues... my mother’s handwriting as she doubled some recipes for her hungry family. There is so much more than food in this book.


And then, there are the Christmas cookies, the ones we’ll make again this year, just as I have since (ahem) 1968. The best sugar cookie recipe in the world (hint: it uses confectioners sugar). And the Russian Teacakes, which my husband calls Mexican Teacakes (I suspect they are neither Russian nor Mexican, and I’ve never seen anyone drink tea with them, but they are pretty tasty). I’ll pull out the recipe cards with my mother-in-law’s bourbon balls, which we’ll make, and her fruitcake, which we won’t. 


We’ll bake cookies for home and cookies for the cookie swap at church, cookies for the office and despite having no small children anymore—cookies for Santa. 

And Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book will have a few more stains and a few more frays. And a few more memories.

Recipes From Esther's Cookbook 

Mary's Sugar Cookies


1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar, 1 cup butter, 1 egg, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 tsp. almond flavoring, 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. soda, 1 tsp. cream of tartar

Cream sugar and butter. Mix in egg and flavorings. Measure flour by dip-level-pour method or by sifting. Blend dry ingredients; stir in. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hrs. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Divide dough in half and roll our on lightly floured pastry cloth to 3/16 inches thick. Cut as shown above. Sprinkle with sugar. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 7 to 8 minutes, or until delicately golden. Makes five dozen 2 to 2 1/2 inch cookies.

Russian Teacakes 


 1 cup soft butter, 1/2 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 1/4 cups flour, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 cup finely chopped nuts

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla thoroughly. Measure flour by dip-level pour method or by sifting. Blend flour and salt, stir in. Mix in nuts. Chill. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. While still warm, roll in confectioners' sugar. Cool. Roll in sugar again. Makes about four dozen 1 inch cookies.

Date-Oatmeal Cookies


3/4 cup soft shortening (half butter), 1 cup brown sugar (packed), 2 eggs, 3 tsp milk, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 cups flour, 3/4 tsp. soda, 1 tsp. salt, 2 cups cut-up dates, 3/4 cup chopped nuts

Mix shortening, brown sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla thoroughly. Measure flour by dip-level-pour method or by sifting. Blend flour, soda and salt; stir in. Mix in rolled oats, dates and nuts. Chill. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll into balls size of large walnuts. Place 3 inches apart on lightly greases baking sheet. Flatten to 1/4 inches thick with bottom of glass dipped in flour. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Makes about four dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies.


Esther Cohen is the Chief Operating Officer at Episcopal Relief & Development

Images: Esther's cookbook accompanied by some of her favorite recipes; Middle 1 — Esther's first cookbook is signed "Love to Esther from Mom. Christmas, 1968"; Middle 2 — Esther's grandmother's handwritten biscuit recipe and her neighbor Jane's peanut butter blossom recipe; Middle 3 — Esther as a child with her mother and two cats Mittens and Tiger.

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