Machanka soup

This soup is one for the tongue, rather than in front of the camera or nose.

A lot has been canceled in 2020 and while there's plenty to lament about, one silver lining — whether welcomed or not — is there's more time to rest and connect with those near us. 

For many of us, there's newfound time to pick up the hobby we always wondered about, spend more time with loved ones or experiment in the kitchen with new recipes (remember when it seemed everyone was making sourdough bread?). 

Some of us may find ourselves picking up the spatula or plugging in the electric mixer for the first time now that many holiday gatherings are canceled. 

The staff at Southwest News Media has compiled a list of our favorite recipes often enjoyed throughout the holiday season. From holiday cookies to traditional dishes from other parts of the world and even a flavorful cocktail to warm you up, we hope you'll find these dishes as comforting as we have over the years. 

If you make one of our dishes, please send us a note and a photo to holidays2020@swpub.com — we'd love to know how you liked it! 

Explore the recipes below: 

Baba's Machanka 

I know what you’re thinking (and smelling) as you follow this recipe’s first instruction: Soak dried mushrooms in room-temperature water overnight. Mmmmm.

Does it look appetizing? Does it delight your nose with agreeability? Perhaps not immediately. But the final product — invigorating fermented nutriment — is one that’s come to the table year after year, and for good reason.

It’s our Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Christmas tradition, and one that started with Baba’s under-the-tree mushroom hunts in Isanti. Every early January (except for this year), family and friends gathered around three tables pushed together and started the meal off with some machanka, cheesy bread and pierogies — all meatless because of Advent.

I'm not usually one for religious traditions, but ones that include sour mushroom soup? Count me in. This one's for you, Great Grammy Ann.

Start to finish: Around 10 hours (30 minutes active)

Servings: 2

-Amy Felegy, afelegy@swpub.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 packs dried porcini mushrooms
  • 14 ounces sauerkraut juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Dried minced onion, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Vinegar, optional

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. The night before, combine 4 cups of water with the mushrooms. Let soak unrefrigerated and covered overnight.
  2. In the morning, use a cheesecloth to drain the mushrooms. Cut the mushrooms into small pieces and set aside the mushroom-infused water.
  3. In a large soup pot, combine 4 cups of water, the mushroom water, sauerkraut juice, cut mushrooms, garlic, and spices. Bring to a boil.
  4. In a skillet, combine the flour and butter until it browns to make a roux. Do not overcook.
  5. Add the roux to the boiling mixture. Let simmer and thicken.
  6. Serve with a spoonful of vinegar if desired. Няй вам смакує!

Homemade charcuterie board 

My family has two food-related Christmas Day traditions: serving a big dinner around 6 p.m., and trying to stop my brothers and I from ruining our appetites until then. In an attempt to tide us over, my dad puts out whatever cheese, crackers and meat happens to be in our fridge that day as a mini-lunch. This year, I’m one-upping his presentation: who needs a boring plate (sorry Dad) when you can have a charcuterie board?

While the technical definition of charcuterie is cured meats or smoked meats, the typical board (or in my case, oval platter) adds cheeses, fruits and vegetables, dips, spreads and garnishes. The ingredients are basically the same as my dad’s lunchtime snack, but arranged in a more aesthetically pleasing way. Charcuterie boards can seem daunting, but I put this one together in around 45 minutes with what I already had in my kitchen — the most “difficult” part was deseeding the peppers and rearranging some fruit. It’s quick, easy, creative, customizable and Instagrammable: the perfect holiday treat.

There’s no real recipe but I’ll walk you through how I created this board. Note: these are best for small gatherings.

-Audrey Kennedy, akennedy@swpub.com

Ingredients

  • Charcuterie (any cured meat, like salami or prosciutto)
  • Cheese (The more, the better! I used a sharp Swiss, a Parmesan cheddar blend and blueberry vanilla goat cheese)
  • Fruits and vegetables (I suggest crunchy veggies to pair with dips and colorful fruit for presentation)
  • Crackers and Bread (I only had Triscuits and Wheat Thins on hand, but grab a variety, including a crusty baguette)
  • Dips and spreads (jams, preserves, mustards, dips, or in my case, hot honey)
  • Extras (Some people add nuts, others try chocolate, or if you’re feeling fancy, put a fresh flower or a sprig of rosemary for a garnish.)

Instructions

  1. After you’ve chosen your ingredients, place your bowls with dips and spreads. They’ll act as the “groundwork” for your board. Add any veggies that pair with the aforementioned dips — I leaned my baby bell peppers against the spinach artichoke bowl.
  2. Arrange your meat and cheese. I kept the cheese simple, but made salami roses for an extra point on presentation (and because it’s the only meat I have on the board).
  3. Place your crackers and bread next to the meat and cheese it pairs the best with. (For example, a more neutral cracker with the sweet goat cheese, and the rosemary olive oil Triscuits beside the salami.) If you plan on refrigerating the board overnight like me, keep the crackers on the edge — you’ll need to temporarily remove them so they don’t get soggy.
  4. Finally, fill in the gaps with fruit and garnishes. This is where you can really get colorful and creative, so don’t hold back! I used lots of blueberries to pair with the goat cheese, apple for the Swiss and pomegranate seeds just because. Add the finishing touches, snap a picture and dig in!

Soft and chewy molasses cookies 

Molasses cookies

Rolling the cookies in sugar before baking creates a deliciously crispy exterior.

I'm not sure exactly when I became the designated holiday cookie-baker for my family, but I think it was around the time I discovered this recipe. Although I usually won't touch a cookie unless it has chocolate chips in it, these are the one exception. 

These cookies are soft and chewy and best served fresh from the oven. In fact, at least in my household, they usually don't last much longer than that. The combination of spices including ginger, cinnamon and cloves is cozy and warm, making them the perfect festive addition to whatever indoor holiday activities you're up to this year. If you don't want to face demands for making these multiple times a week throughout the month of December, I wouldn't recommend making these. Bake at your own risk.  

The recipe was originally created by House of Nash Eats

-Jaimee Hood, jhood@swpub.com

Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (20 minutes active)

Servings: 24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup of molasses
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, for rolling

Instructions

  1. In the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed for 1 minute until creamy. Add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  2. Add molasses, egg and vanilla and beat well, scraping the sides of the bowl.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl, then add to the butter and molasses mixture on low speed, mixing until combined. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll the dough into balls, about 1 1/2-inch in diameter, then roll in extra sugar and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. 
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, just until the cookies begin to crack slightly on top. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire racks. Sprinkle with additional sugar if desired. 

Cornbread stuffing 

Cornbread stuffing

Cornbread stuffing makes for great leftovers.

During the busy holiday season, a great holiday recipe is something that makes great leftovers.

Cornbread stuffing is staple of our holiday meals. The recipe we enjoy is a perfect balance of salty and sweet, and makes for a great deconstructed holiday meal panini the next day. 

-Christine Schuster, cschuster@swpub.com

Ingredients 

  • Two boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix or make your own 
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup whole milk

To add honey butter to corn muffins, mix one-quarter cup of salted butter with two Tablespoons honey. 

For the stuffing: 

  • 1 pound mild Italian or breakfast sausage
  • 1 cup diced white onion 
  • 1 cup diced celery  
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 3 Tablespoons salted butter 
  • 3 cloves garlic 
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary) 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 1 cup whole milk 
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • Pepper, to taste

Instructions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set over rack to middle position. 
  2. Grease 12-count muffin tin with butter or non-stick spray. 
  3. In a large bowl, prepare Jiffy corn muffin mix per instructions on the box and transfer batter to muffin tin. 
  4. Bake until golden brown (approximately 15-18 minutes). 
  5. Spread honey butter over top of muffins. Reduce oven to 200 degrees and continue warming for ten minutes. Remove muffins and set aside for cooling. 
  6. Place sausage in large, non-stick pan over medium-high heat. 
  7. Cook stirring often and break apart with wooden spoon until sausage is crispy (15-20 minutes). Reduce heat to medium. 
  8. Add chopped onions, celery and carrots and 3 Tablespoons butter. 
  9. Cook until vegetables are softened (10-12 minutes). 
  10. Turn off heat and mix-in chopped herbs. 
  11. Whisk eggs, milk and chicken broth in a separate bowl. 
  12. Break cornbread muffins into smaller pieces and fold into sausage mixture. Pour egg mixture over top and stir until stuffing is coated. 
  13. Let mixture sit until cornbread is saturated (about 10 minutes). 
  14. Transfer stuffing mixture into a greased baking dish and evenly distribute. 
  15. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and crisp. 
  16. For extra savory flavor, top with chicken gravy.
  17. Serve warm & enjoy!

Italian beef sliders 

Slow Cooker Italian Beef

Add a little spice or a little sweet with different peppers on your slow-cooked Italian beef sliders.

Every year, it's the same discussion as the calendar flips to December. Since we had turkey on Thanksgiving, what are we serving on Christmas?

Sure, there's the traditional ham, but there's no wow factor like there is with a cooked bird. Some have tried meatloaf. One year we did roast beef. Maybe even a Turducken.

Last year we settled on slow cooked Italian beef sliders. A few years back, at a friend's Christmas party, it was the hit of the dinner plate. The best part — besides the deliciousness — it's super easy!

Cook: 10-12 hours

Servings: 10

 - Eric Kraushar, ekraushar@swpub.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
  • 1 (5-pound) rump roast

NOTE: My wife, Janelle, said feel free to use a chuck roast. She also uses beef broth instead of water.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine everything but the meat in a saucepan. Stir well, and bring to a boil.
  2. Place roast in slow cooker, and pour dressing from saucepan over the meat.
  3. Cover, and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours, or on high for 4 to 5 hours. When done, remove the bay leaf, and shred meat with a fork.
  4. Enjoy in crusty rolls with roasted sweet or hot peppers, if desired.

Homemade cinnamon rolls 

Homemade cinnamon rolls

My family bakes these homemade cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning.

Many families have traditional Christmas recipes they enjoy each year, with the same dishes only so-and-so knows how to make. My family’s tradition is trying out new dessert recipes, a heritage spearheaded by my sister, who experiment-bakes so often she almost always has flour on her clothes.

This recipe is one of the few that stuck — my family eats these gooey rolls every Christmas morning. As they bake, the cinnamon fragrance fills my home with a reel of holiday memories: cousins pushing folding chairs on ice skates and my dad calling out Santa Bingo numbers through a karaoke microphone. This year, the holidays will look a lot different, but at least the fragrance of these cinnamon rolls will fill the homes of the people I love the most, connecting us by the stickiest of means.

Here’s the recipe I use, borrowed from Allrecipes.

-Maddie DeBilzan, mdebilzan@swpub.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour or regular flour (bread flour makes for a lighter cinnamon roll)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 package yeast (1/4 ounce, not instant yeast)

Filling:

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

Icing:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk in a large bowl. Add sugar, butter, salt, eggs and flour. Mix well.
  2. Knead dough into a large ball. Put in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
  3. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle flour on large table or counter. Roll dough into a 16x21-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.
  4. Spread dough with 1/3 cup softened butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  5. Roll up dough starting with the longer side and cut it into 1.5-inch-thick rolls (I use dental floss to slice through the dough smoothly).
  6. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x13 inch glass baking dish (you may need two dishes if you make smaller ones). Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30-60 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.
  8. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread half the frosting on them while they are still warm so that the frosting melts into the roll; spread the other half after they've sat for a couple of minutes. Makes 12-18 rolls.

Pepper pot

Pepper pot

This stew from Guyana is a traditional holiday meal.

Krumkake, korv, lefse, lutefisk … these are a few of the Swedish dishes I grew up with during the holidays. (Admittedly, I avoided lutefisk as much as possible.) When I met my wife, Vanessa, she introduced me to a totally new tradition — pepper pot.

Pepper pot is a traditional stew from Guyana, a small South American country. It originated with Amerindians and is typically enjoyed during the holidays. I now promote the dish and as much as possible, along with the Nordic stalwarts of my childhood. It’s a warm, rich and flavorful reminder of my wife’s homeland, and our family and friends who live there.

-Mark Olson, molson@swpub.com

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds beef (or pork or chicken)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 ounces brown sugar
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/2 ounce habanero pepper
  • 6 ounces cassareep
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 pints chicken or beef broth
  • 1 ounce vegetable oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 stick cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Cut meat into 1-1/2-inch cubes, wash, drain, set aside. 
  2. In frying pan, heat oil above medium and brown meat. Set aside.
  3. In stewing pot, add meat, sugar, salt, onions, garlic and thyme. Cook until meat is glazed.
  4. Combine broth, cassareep and whole hot pepper.
  5. Add whole black peppercorns, cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon stick.
  6. Cook at rolling boil for five minutes, reduce heat to low, cover pot, simmer for 1-1/2 hours.
  7. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with bread.

Brandy old fashioned

Brandy old fashioned (darker)

A brandy old fashioned.

A traditionally Wisconsin bend on a classic cocktail, the brandy old fashioned makes the most out of seasonal fruits, while the warm flush of brandy makes it easier to weather cold winter nights.

The old fashioned dates back to the 1800s and is traditionally crafted with whiskey. But like most cocktails consumed in Wisconsin, the whiskey is commonly replaced by brandy. This regional curiosity is usually attributed to the state's heavy population of German immigrants, who remained loyal to their favorite spirit from the old country. 

Outside of the pandemic, this drink can be purchased at any bar — where it runs the risk of being watered down, too sweet and reliant on fruit that's been drying out and soda from a soda gun that runs six other concoctions through its hose.

So now is the perfect time to prepare this drink with the attention and care it deserves — starting with the fruit. The quality of the orange is paramount, as its juice and oils offset the harsher notes of alcohol. Don't skimp on the fruit. A wooden muddler or the blunt end of a barspoon are best used to muddle the fruit, but a regular spoon should work in a pinch.

Remember to muddle, not mash — an old fashioned shouldn't look like extra pulp orange juice. Release the juice, but try to keep the fruit in tact and flatten the peel. For a slightly sweeter and extra bougie cocktail, sprinkle sugar on the orange to help abrade the peel and better release oils while muddling.

In my experience, the drink is best enjoyed with family and friends, with a book beside the fireplace, or in preparation for the swarm of relatives set to arrive on Christmas Eve.

-Michael Strasburg, mstrasburg@swpub.com 

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. brandy
  • 1-3 oz. lemon-lime soda
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 half wheel orange (quarter-inch thick)
  • 1 maraschino cherry

Instructions

  1. Muddle orange, maraschino and bitters in a flat-bottomed rocks glass.
  2. Add brandy and fill with ice. Stir.
  3. Top with lemon-lime soda, to taste (usually 1-3 ounces) and stir briefly.
  4. If desired, garnish with an additional cherry and the other half of the orange wheel.
  5. Bottoms up!

Chocolate-covered cranberries 

Chocolate-covered cranberries

Chocolate-covered cranberries are the oh-so-easy snack to serve this holiday season.

One autumn weekend morning a few years ago, I was strolling through a farmer's market with some family members. Someone purchased a large bag of fresh cranberries from one of the vendors and we spent the rest of the afternoon meticulously dipping the berries in melted dark chocolate — because why not. 

The process was new to me, but I was hooked. When you bite down on one of these berries, they explode in your mouth, releasing a tangy juice that makes your lips pucker. Paired with the richness of the chocolate, you can't go wrong (plus, antioxidants!). Perfect for dessert, a semi-healthy snack or adding to your holiday charcuterie boards. This informal recipe is fun to make with kids or, if you're like me, a perfect task to work on mindlessly while listening to an audio book. 

-Rachel Minske, rminske@swpub.com

Ingredients 

  • Fresh cranberries, however many you'd like.  
  • Chocolate to melt. Dark chocolate chips preferred, but any sort of melting chocolate will do. 

Instructions 

  1. Rinse fresh cranberries with water and allow to dry. 
  2. Prepare a long strip of parchment paper and lay on flat surface. 
  3. Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave. Start with 30 seconds, pausing to stir chocolate. Microwave at 15-second intervals, stopping to stir each time, until chocolate is completely melted. 
  4. Dip cranberries in chocolate using a spoon, place on parchment paper to dry. Feel free to get creative with white chocolate drizzle or sprinkles. 
  5. Store in the freezer in-between enjoying them. 

Two-ingredient Thin Mints 

Thin mints

These thin mints are simple to make and the perfect combination of salty and sweet.

My favorite holiday tradition takes place in the kitchen. In my house, Christmas baking was a two- to three-day affair that always left me covered in flour, melted chocolate and sprinkles.

My mother and I would get up early and make dozens of Russian tea cakes, chocolate covered pretzels, peanut butter balls, magic cookie bars, fudge and more. Our Christmas baking concluded only when we had enough decorative tins stacked with sweets to give away to, I swear, every person she's ever met — the mail lady, her favorite gas station clerk and bank teller, my bus driver, teachers, neighbors and the owners of the nail salon. 

A few years ago we tried out a new cookie recipe and it quickly became one of our favorites. These homemade thin mints are almost as good as the real thing, the perfect combination of salty and sweet and super easy to make. 

-Trinity Carey, tcarey@swpub.com 

Cook time: From start to finish about 30 to 40 minutes (15 minutes active).

Servings: Makes just over two dozen cookies.

Ingredients

  • Half of a 10-ounce bag of Andes Mint Baking Chips 
  • About 30 Original Ritz Crackers

Instructions 

  1. Using a double broiler bring a pot of water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Place the broiler on top of the simmering water and pour in half of the Andes baking chips. Let melt while stirring occasionally. 
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  3. Once the baking chips have completely melted, place the broiler on top of a hot pad on your countertop. Keep the water on low heat, so you can reheat the chocolate if it begins to solidify during dipping. 
  4. Drop in Ritz and coat in chocolate completely. Use a fork to remove the cracker from the chocolate. Gently shake the fork and tap it lightly on the edge of broiler to remove excess chocolate.
  5. Place on parchment paper and let cool. Once the chocolate has hardened, approximately 20 minutes, enjoy! 
  6. Keep extra thin mints fresh in an air tight container or freeze them.

Substitutions

  • Instead of a Ritz cracker use Oreo Thins cookies or dip just the chocolate cookie portion of a regular Oreo. 
  • If you can't find Andes Baking Chips, just unwrap a box of Andes Creme de Menthe chocolates. 

Berry Nut Bars 

Berry Nut Bars

Berry Nut Bars are a guilt-free alternative to holiday sweets.

With a family history of heart disease, the best recipes for me to eat around the holidays, and all year round, are heart-healthy ones. The American Heart Association is a great resource for those, including holiday snacks.

My wife works for the AHA and we've incorporated some heart-healthy meals into our diet, including Berry Nut Bars. Granola bars can easily found at your local grocery stores, but they are also easy to make.

Here’s the recipe from the AHA. 

-Tom Schardin, tschardin@swpub.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried, unsweetened cranberries
  • 1 cup dried, unsweetened cranberries
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats, divided
  • 1/2 cup sliced, unsalted almonds
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat peanut butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish by lining by it with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add cranberries; process until the cranberries are chopped a bit, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 1 cup of oats; continue to puree until oats are a flour-like consistency. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
  3. Into the bowl, add remaining 1 cup oats, almonds, flax seeds, and salt. Stir together to combine.
  4. In a heatproof container, add oil, maple syrup, and nut butter. Warm in the microwave until the nut butter is soft and pliable, around 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir mixture together with a spoon until smooth.
  5. Pour nut butter mixture over oat mixture. Use a spatula to thoroughly combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Wet your hands and press down on the mixture to help it stick together.
  6. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly. Press down on mixture again to stick together. Cover the top with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator at least a few hours (or preferably overnight) to harden.
  7. Lift parchment paper from baking dish. Use a serrated knife and cut the granola bars into 12 pieces. Serve or transfer to an airtight container for 1 week.

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