Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 13, 2012

Young adults phone home for recipes

Special to the Record-Eagle

— Emily Lelandais is living in Paris, France.

But even in that glamorous place, she can’t help longing for her mother’s peanut butter bars back home in Michigan.

“In a sense, the bars are a comfort food and remind me of family and being home,” she said. 

Like many other young adults away from home at the holidays, she obtained the recipe from her mother, Bryn Lynch of Traverse City. Peanut butter is scarce in Paris, but Lelandais has decided to splurge and whip up a batch.

“I always think of my mom and how she’d put the powdered sugar on the top of them before they’d completely cooled off and the sugar would just soak in instead of decoratively sitting on top,” she reminisced.

Lelandais has requested other family holiday recipes, too, including her grandma’s yeast rolls and spaghetti alla carbonara, their traditional Christmas Eve main dish.

“Since I haven’t been home to Michigan for Thanksgiving or Christmas in five years, I asked my mom for these recipes so that wherever I am, I can eat something from home around this time of year,” she said.

Lelandais also enjoys cooking for friends and sharing her family’s recipes. The spaghetti is perfect for large groups. She recalls trying to cook it for 15 guests one year and asking her mom, yet again, for help getting the recipe right.

This year she’s tackled cutout sugar cookies and they turned out better than expected, she said.

“I’m excited to have a batch of trees, bells and Santa Clauses ready for when my mom and sister come to visit for Christmas,” said Lelandais.

Lynch said that food has always been an important part of family celebrations and that they make the same recipes year after year.

“The spaghetti tradition started since we would celebrate with a couple of other families on our street and we were all going to Christmas Eve services and we needed something easy,” Lynch said.

Both Emily and her sister Alyson have called for the rolls recipe and Lynch said that her mom, at 87, is still making them. She turns the leftovers into cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning.

“We also make the Waldorf Astoria red velvet cake recipe on a regular basis for Christmas or sometimes birthdays,” added Lynch.

Katherine Baxter remembers when she was in college and called her favorite aunt for a baklava recipe.

“My aunt had married a man of Armenian descent and she had spent some time in Spain and when she cooked, her style was out of the ordinary,” said the Traverse City resident.

Her aunt happily gave her the recipe over the phone and then later gave Baxter a handwritten copy complete with her drawings of how to make the dessert, which Baxter still has today. She has been making it ever since for gatherings and during the holidays.

“Over the years, I’ve developed it into one of my signature dishes,” she said. When her sons were younger, they requested she make it for school functions and she eventually wound up showing her son Evan how to put together the sweet dessert made with layers of flaky phyllo dough.

Kathy Calcutt’s daughter, Carrie, recently asked for her mom’s traditional date pinwheel cookie recipe. That surprised the Traverse City mom, since her daughter doesn’t even like them very much.

“She asked for it when she and her friends were doing a cookie exchange,” Calcutt said. “It was my mother’s recipe and I still have her handwritten recipe card.”

The recipe calls for rolling out a sweet dough and spreading it with a mixture of cooked dates and pecans. Then it’s rolled up, refrigerated, sliced and baked.

Both Carrie and her sister, Abby, have also asked for their mom’s peanut butter blossoms recipe — a peanut butter cookie topped with a chocolate kiss, as well as her sugar cookie recipe.

This Christmas, Calcutt will likely be baking her cut-out sugar cookies in the rented Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment where she and her husband will stay while visiting their kids. Carrie and son Will both live in Brooklyn; Abby will head down from Boston.

Calcutt looks forward to stirring up some frosting with them and carrying on their family tradition.

Peanut Butter Bars

1/3 c. Crisco

1/2 c. peanut butter

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla

1 t. baking powder

1 c. flour

1/2 t. salt

Beat Crisco and peanut butter at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in sugar, vanilla and eggs. In separate bowl, mix baking powder and salt with flour. Combine dry mixture with Crisco mixture until blended. Press into square baking dish prepared with no-stick spray.  Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes.

—Bryn Lynch

Date Pinwheels

1 c. shortening

2 c. light brown sugar

3 eggs, well beaten

4 c. flour

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. baking soda

Date filling:

2 1/4 c. chopped dates

1 c. sugar

1 c. water

1 c. chopped pecans

Cream shortening and gradually beat in the brown sugar. Stir in beaten eggs.

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda. Add dry ingredients to first mixture. Mix well. Chill. Divide into 3 parts.

To make filling, mix chopped dates with sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook 10 minutes until thick. Add chopped pecans and cool to room temperature.

Line rolling surface with parchment paper. Roll out each dough section into 1/4-inch thick oblongs. Spread with date filling and roll up in to a log, rolling the dough off the parchment paper. Wrap logs in parchment paper and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut logs into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange on cookie sheet and bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Makes 60 or more.

—Kathryn Calcutt

Peanut Butter Blossoms

1 c. sugar

1 c. brown sugar

1 c. peanut butter

1 c. butter

2 eggs

1/4 c. milk

2 t. vanilla

3 1/2 c. flour

2 t. baking soda

1 t. salt

2 10-oz. packages Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped

Cream sugars, butter and peanut butter. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla. Add flour, soda and salt. Shape into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375° for 10-12 minutes. Press kisses into top of cookies.

—Kathryn Calcutt

Frosted Christmas

Cut-Out Cookies

1 c. margarine

1 c. white sugar

3 eggs

1 T. vanilla

1 T. almond extract

4 c. flour

1 T. baking powder

1 t. salt

Combine margarine, sugar, eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Beat until creamy. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Leave to sit, covered, 1-2 hours.

On a floured surface, roll out half of the dough into 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Arrange on baking sheet. Bake 6-10 minutes; do not brown. Makes 50 3-inch cookies.


4-5 c. confectioners sugar

2 1/4 T. Just Whites (dried egg whites powder)

6 T. water

Whisk water into dry ingredients until thick and smooth.

Divide into very small bowls. Add food coloring to each to achieve desired hue. Spread with knives or pipe onto cookies, adding sprinkles or other decorations. Let dry.

Wrap unused frosting with clear wrap and refrigerate. Stir thoroughly before using. Add water to thin if necessary.

—Kathryn Calcutt

Bubbo’s Butter Horn Roll Recipe

1 ½ package dry yeast

1 c. warm water

3 eggs

½ c. sugar (3/4 c. for sweet rolls)

1 t. salt

1 stick melted oleo or butter

5 c. flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Beat eggs and add sugar and salt to eggs, then add melted butter and yeast mixture. Stir well and add 1 cup of flour at a time to mix well. Set aside in greased bowl overnight in the refrigerator, covered with a tea towel. 

Four hours before baking, divide dough in 3 parts on floured surface. When taking from fridge, wait 30 minutes before rolling out the dough. Roll each third out like a pie shape but not thin.

Butter and cut each into 8 pie-shaped pieces. Roll up. Put in greased pan 1 inch apart. Bake at 375° for about 15-20 minutes.

—Bryn Lynch

Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake

1/2 c. shortening

1 1/2 c. sugar

2 eggs

2 oz. red food coloring

2 T. cocoa (heaping)

1 c. buttermilk

2 1/4 c. cake flour

1 t. salt

1 t. vanilla

1 t. baking soda

1 t. vinegar


3 T. flour

1 c. milk

1 c. sugar

1 t. vanilla

1 c. butter (must be butter)

Cream shortening, sugar and eggs. Make a paste of food coloring and cocoa and add to creamed mixture. Add buttermilk, alternating with flour and salt. Add vanilla.

In separate bowl, add soda to vinegar, then blend into the batter. Pour batter into 3 or 4 greased and floured 8-inch cake pans.

Bake at 350° for 24-30 minutes. Split layers, fill and frost.

To make frosting: Add milk to flour slowly, avoiding lumps. Cook flour and milk until very thick, stirring constantly. Cool completely.

Cream sugar, butter and vanilla until fluffy. Add to cooked mixture.

Beat at high speed until very fluffy. Frosting looks and tastes like whipped cream.