Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

December 13, 2012

Young adults phone home for recipes

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.

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