Family holiday traditions take on a greater resonance this year considering the pandemic and the opportunity for more family closeness than last year. MetroWest Master Association board members Stina D’Uva, Madeleine Francois and Julie Sanchez, MWMA General Manager, share some of their most beloved family traditions and a few wonderful recipes.
Cookie exchanges started my Christmas tradition. Decades ago, I was invited to a cookie exchange at the home of a fellow mother of twins just before Christmas. I thought it would be fun even though I’m not much of a baker and then I found out I had to have at least six dozen cookies to share. I knew I had to find a single recipe that made lots of cookies. That’s when I remembered my cousin Debbie’s cookies.
Debbie shared the recipe and now, at least in the Orlando area, the cookies are known as Stina’s cookies or Six Layered Cookies. Previously, they were known as Neapolitan cookies. Although my heritage is 100 percent Italian, my family does not originate from the Naples region. These cookies are delicious and festive, and you can change the colors for just about any occasion. Enjoy! Buon Natale and Merry Christmas!
Makes at least seven dozen cookies.
- 1 can Solo almond filling or 1 package Solo almond paste
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 4 egg yolks (5 if you are using the paste rather than filling)
- 4 egg whites (5 if you are using the paste rather than filling)
- Red food color
- Green food color
- Seedless raspberry jam
- Apricot preserves
- 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Mini-paper cups
- Mix egg yolks and sugar until creamy, add paste or filling. If using paste, break up into small pieces. Mix well to remove clumps. Add flour, small portions at a time.
- In another mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and fold into almond batter.
- Divide the batter into three even portions. Color one portion with red, another with green and leave the third portion in its original color. If you want to get fancy, you can make two portions green and one portion red, or vice versa.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three cookie sheets with edges with non-stick spray. Line each with wax or parchment paper and spray again. Take one portion of the batter and spread evenly on each cookie sheet. Bake until the edges turn a light brown. Cool slightly and remove paper from each.
- Using one of the cookie sheets, flip the green layer onto the cookie sheet so the top is now the first layer on the cookie sheet. Spread a thin layer of raspberry jam on this layer. Add the layer with no color on top of the raspberry and then spread with a thin layer of apricot preserve. Finally, add the red layer. Cover the layered cookie sheet with plastic wrap and another cookie sheet. Add something heavy to press the layers together and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight.
- Take out of the fridge and flip the five layers over so that the green layer is now on top.
- Melt chocolate chips and spread evenly over the top layer so that you now have six layers. Once the chocolate cools, slightly trim the uneven edges with a pizza cutter. Once you have a neat rectangle of the layers, cut into even squares and place in mini-cups to serve.
The holidays are always a special time for our family. Since we all live in different states, any time spent together is precious and filled with cherished traditions. A Thanksgiving tradition that started with my daughter and grandchildren consisted of collecting autumn leaves and using them to create place settings for the dinner table. My grandchildren would trace and cut out the leaves on orange, yellow and red construction paper. Then, they used a gold metallic marker to write the name of each family member who would be in attendance. When everyone arrived, they were asked to find their place at the table and inscribe the back of their leaf with four things that they were thankful for. After we finished our meal, we read aloud what each of us was thankful for. It always brought us closer together and kept us ever mindful what this time together really meant to all of us. Happy Thanksgiving!
Our family traditionally opens one gift on Christmas Eve before Santa visits that night as my family still believes in the miracles of giving, caring and the magic of Christmas. The holidays wouldn’t be the same without my grandmother’s famous homemade spaghetti and meatballs recipe – it is scrumdiddlyumptious! Total cooking time is 5-7 hours.
- 1 32-ounce bottle Campbell’s tomato juice
- 1 12-ounce can Hunt’s tomato paste
- 1 15-ounce can Hunt’s tomato sauce
- 1 24-ounce jar Ragu pasta sauce
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 10-12 bay leaves
Cook 3.5 hours before adding meatballs
- 1 ½ to 2 pounds hamburger
- 1 teaspoon garlic
- 2 eggs
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 cup smashed Saltine crackers
- ½ cup ketchup
- Mix all ingredients thoroughly and shape into balls. Brown the meatballs in a skillet until golden crispy brown; drain and blot with paper towel. Add to sauce after sauce has simmered on low for 3 ½ hours. Then cook for another 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours.
- Cook and drain 1-pound spaghetti to serve with the sauce. Also serve with toasted garlic bread and salad.