Advent Star Sugar Cookies

Christmas cookies
For those of us who are baking impaired, simply buy a roll of pre-made sugar cookie dough and plop it on a baking sheet. Kids love the decorating part more anyway!

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll dough out on a cutting board until flat, and using star cookie cutters, cut into large and small stars. Place star cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet 2 minutes before removing to cool on wire racks. Decorate with white frosting and Advent colored sprinkles (purple or dark blue).

Peanut Soup - Kenya

  • 4 beef (or chicken) bouillon cubes
  • 1 qt. water
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 or 3 green onions with tops, chopped
  • 1/4 c. rice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
  • 1 c. raw peanuts, ground into a fine powder*

Place all ingredients in a heavy 2-3 qt. saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 30 minutes until rice is tender. Add water if soup becomes too thick.

Yield: Serves 4.

*I grind peanuts in a coffee grinder; a blender will do fine.

Aigo Boujilido (Boiling Water)- France

  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 c. water

Boil all ingredients except eggs for about 15 minutes. Break the eggs into a soup tureen and pour the boiling water over them. Beat for a few moments with a wooden spoon.

Yield: Serves 4.

Obe Didin (Fried Stew) - Nigeria

  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse ground pepper
  • 1 sm. onion, sliced
  • 2 lbs. meat
  • oil to fry meat

Combine tomato paste, sauce, onion, pepper, oil, and simmer.

In Nigeria, the stew is made of fresh goat or ram. (It is still delicious with beef substituted for the goat.) The intestines are cleaned and boiled, then fried in oil. The meat is cut into chunks and fried in oil to sear and brown the outside. The partially cooked meat is then put into the tomato-pepper sauce and cooked, covered, over low heat until done, about 30 minutes. Stir to prevent scorching. The meat is taken out of the sauce and put on a plate to served. The sauce is put in a separate dish, for use as a gravy.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Pirohy (Polish: Pirógi) (Egg Dumplings)

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 egg
  • 4 Tbs. water
  • cheese, potato, or sauerkraut filling

Mix flour and egg with enough water to make a soft dough. Knead well. Roll out on floured board until thin. Cut into three-inch squares. Place one tsp. filling on each square. Fold in half, making a triangle. Pinch edges well to keep filling inside. Drop into boiling salted water and cook until dumplings rise to surface. Cook five minutes longer. Rinse in colander with hot water. Drain. Pour melted butter over dumplings and serve.

Pirohy Fillings

Cheese Filling:

  • 1/2 c. dry cottage cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • pinch salt

Sauerkraut Filling:

  • small can sauerkraut
  • small onion, diced

Potato Filling:

  • 1 large potato, cooked and mashed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • grated cheese to taste

Drain and rinse sauerkraut in cold water. Brown diced onion in margarine and add to sauerkraut. Cook for a few minutes.

Marzipan (Almond Paste)

  • 2 3/4 c. ground almonds
  • rose water, orange juice, or lemon juice
  • 2 c. confectioners’ sugar

Work the almonds and sugar into a firm paste with just enough liquid to make it pliable. Put the paste in a small saucepan and stir it over a low heat until it no longer sticks to the sides of the pan. Turn onto a sugar-dusted board. Shape into figures for candy. These may be left lightly covered in a warm place to dry a little.

Yield: 1 pound.

This is the traditional way to make marzipan. Your grocery store may have it packaged ready-made in the section devoted to baking.

Leche Flan (Caramel Custard)

  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 c. milk
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg

Scald the milk. Beat eggs and sugar together and gradually beat in the milk. Add the lemon rind and nutmeg and mix thoroughly.

Dissolve the brown sugar in 1/4 c. water in a small saucepan over low heat, then boil the syrup briskly until it caramelizes. Do not let the caramel become too dark or it will be bitter. Pour the caramel into a shallow, well-buttered ovenproof dish or into several small custard cups.

Pour the custard over the caramel. Stand the dish in a larger baking tray and pour water into the outer container until it comes about halfway up the sides of the custard dish. Bake in preheated over at low heat (275 degrees) for about an hour, or until the custard has set.

Cool the custard before turning it out of the mold, caramel side up. Lucky coins wrapped in aluminum foil can be pressed into the cold custard before unmolding.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Boiled Custard

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. (rounded) flour
  • 1 qt. cold milk
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 pt. whipping cream, whipped

Sift together first three ingredients. Pour one qt. cold milk gradually into dry ingredients, stirring well. Beat egg yolks and stir into mixture. Put on low heat and cook, stirring constantly until thick. Beat egg whites until stiff. Pour hot custard over whites and beat together. Add vanilla. Before serving, fold in whipping cream. Serve alone or over mince or apple pie.

Yield: 1 quart.


  • 2 qts. apple cider
  • 2 c. pineapple juice
  • 1 1/2 c. orange juice
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 sticks whole cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves

Combine ingredients and bring to a boil. Serve hot. Garnish with cinnamon sticks if desired.

Wassail is one of those things that good cooks argue about the traditional components of. Our version is simple and quick. Check entries in a number of cookbooks for interesting variations. 

Yield: Serves 6 to 10

Cauliflower Relish

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 or 2 small hot peppers
  • 1 tsp. dill seed, or fresh dill
  • vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt

Boil head of cauliflower until just tender. Separate into flowerlets, reserving water. Pack into a clean glass jar. Add 1 tsp. dill seed or, preferably, several fresh heads of dill, 1 tsp. salt, and one or two small fresh red chilis or other hot peppers, cut into fourths and with seeds removed. Fill jar 2/3 full with plain white vinegar, and complete with the water reserved from boiling the cauliflower. Seal and store in refrigerator at least a week prior to eating.

— adapted from a recipe from the 1600s


  • 1 c. honey
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 c. Scotch whiskey

Heat honey over low heat and when it thins, stir in the cream. Remove from heat and slowly stir in the whiskey. Serve hot in mugs.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Lamb’s Wool

  • 1 bottle sweet white wine
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 pints ale
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 6 apples
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 42 whole cloves

Stick the cloves in the apples and bake until minutes at 350 degrees. Scoop out the pulp and the sugar, nutmeg, and butter. Pour the wine ~ and heat just to boiling. Float apple mixture on top and serve in toddy glasses.

Yield: Serves 10 to 12.

Sweet Potatoes

  • 6 medium sweet potatoes
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. grated orange rind
  • pineapple slices, maraschino cherries, and tiny marshmallows to garnish

Bake or microwave potatoes until soft. Peel. Put cooked sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Mash with margarine. Add dry ingredients. Add milk, beating by hand or with electric mixer. Put into buttered one-and-one-half-quart casserole. Sprinkle tiny marshmallows on top and garnish with pineapple slices and maraschino cherries. Bake at 325 degrees until heated through and marshmallows are melted.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Brennan’s Butternuts

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 tsp. butter or margarine
  • honey
  • ground cinnamon to taste

Cut butternut in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and stringy matter. With a fork, pierce the outer skin in several places.

Bake, cut side down, on a cookie sheet covered with foil in a 350-degree oven until squash feels tender when squeezed slightly — 20 to 30 minutes, usually, depending on size of squash. (If you have a microwave, you can cook the squash, cut side down, three minutes at a time, turning after each cooking. Again, depending on the size of the squash, this usually takes less than ten minutes.)

Turn squash, cut side up. Place a tsp. of butter or margarine on each half to melt. Drizzle with honey. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

Yield: Serves 2

Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 c. fresh or frozen cranberries

Combine water and sugar in saucepan and stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil and add cranberries, reducing heat to medium low. Cook until skins pop. Cool at room temperature. Refrigerate till firm.

Yield: Two and one-half cups.

Cranberry-Orange Relish

  • 1 C. water
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 3 C. fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 C chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 3 large oranges

Boil the water and sugar. Add cranberries and cook over low heat until the skins pop. Remove from heat. Add pecans. Peel and section oranges and cut into small pieces. Add to cranberry mixture. Refrigerate.

Yield: About three cups.

Squash Bake

  • 3 pkgs. frozen yellow squash, cooked according to directions
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 c. Ritz cracker crumbs
  • 4 tbsp. margarine, melted
  • 1 c. grated cheese
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

With a potato masher, mash squash and add well-beaten eggs. Cream mixture well. Add cracker crumbs, margarine, part of the cheese, Italian seasoning, onion, pepper, salt, and garlic powder. Pour into a lightly greased baking dish. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese. Bake at 325 degrees about 20 to 30 minutes.

Yield: Serves six to eight.

Springerle (Aniseed Cookies) - Germany

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. powdered aniseed
  • 4 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until fluffy and then beat in the sugar, a little at a time. Continue beating until the mixture falls back on itself in a slowly melting ribbon. Beat in the aniseed.

Mix the dry ingredients and beat them into the egg mixture a little at a time to form a firm dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth and pliable, working in a little more flour if it is too sticky. Chill for about two hours.

On a well-floured surface, roll the dough about 1/2 inch thick. In Germany, the cookies are patterned with a patterned board or rolling pin. If you do not have such a pin, use floured decorative cookie cutters or stamps to make a design on the cookies and cut into 1 1/2" squares. Arrange on cookie sheets lined with baking parchment. Set the prepared cookies aside to dry at room temperature for a day before baking them in a slow oven, 300 degrees, for 30 minutes. They are cooked when the tops whiten and the bottoms are slightly golden. Cool on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container.

Yield: About 40 small cookies.

Recipes from Catholic Traditions in Cooking by Ann Ball, copyright © 1993 by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. All rights reserved. This book is out of print.