Entertain friends and family with tasty recipes

Published 2:39 pm Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Editor’s note: It has become a Christmas Eve tradition for Tribune employees to share their holiday recipes with readers.


Cowboy Caviar

Light and healthy, this dip is refreshing any time of year. It’s perfect in summer with grilled food or during the holidays as an appetizer. I got this recipe from a friend years ago, and it has

Cowboy Caviar

Cowboy Caviar –Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

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become a staple for the holidays. I adjust the recipe a little depending on what it is being served with, more beans sometimes, more peppers others. It has been a big hit with family and friends. Enjoy. — Kathy Johnson



1 can pinto beans

1 can black beans

1 can of corn

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

1 orange pepper

1 red onion

1 cup celery

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

1 cup oil

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper


Mix vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a saucepan over heat until the sugar is dissolved. Do not boil. Cool mixture. Rinse pinto beans, black beans and corn. Chop peppers, onions and celery. Mix them all together.

Pour cooled liquid over mix and let soak for two to three hours then drain liquid. Serve with Fritos Scoops or tortilla chips.


Peanut Butter Fudge

This recipe has become a staple in our home during the Christmas season. My husband, Jason, found the recipe last year when we were looking for some new treats to make to give to friends and family. It’s been a huge hit! — Sarah Stultz

Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge –Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune



2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 1/4 cup peanut butter

1 t. vanilla

1/2 cup powdered sugar



Combine granulated sugar and milk in pot over stove. Bring to a boil while stirring occasionally. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter, vanilla and powdered sugar. Then put into well-oiled 8-by-8-inch glass pan to cool. Cut into squares.


No-Bake Mini Cheesecake

Nothing is better than homemade cheesecake. When it’s not chocolate that I’m craving this is the treat for me. I found my recipe on JoyofBaking.com. I tweaked the recipe from being an entire pie to being snack size. — Brandi Hagen


Makes about 20 mini cheesecakes or entire pie serves six to eight people

No-Bake Mini Cheesecake

No-Bake Mini Cheesecake –Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune




1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons granulated white sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted



1 8-ounce cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup heaving whipping cream



1 can cherry pie filling or frozen fruit of your choice.




In a large bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. With a spoon pack mini cupcake liners half full. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill while you make the filling.



In the bowl of an electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla extract.

In a clean bowl, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Gradually fold or beat the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Pour the filling over the chilled graham cracker crust and smooth the top. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about an hour, or until set. Spoon cherry filling over the top of each cheesecake or put in place frozen fruit of choice.


Caramel Pizza Bars

My mother has been making these for as long as I can remember. They are definitely my favorite holiday treat. They’re really good for any occasion and, by simply changing the colors of the M&Ms, can be a festive dessert for any holiday meal, including Christmas, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. The mixture of the caramel, chocolate and almond bark make these bars so good. — Drew Claussen

Carmel Pizza Bars

Carmel Pizza Bars –Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune



1 cup brown sugar

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cup quick oatmeal

30 caramels

1 cup M&Ms

1 cup chocolate chips

2 squares from a bar of almond bark

1 tablespoon Crisco shortening


Cream together sugar and butter. Sift flour, salt and soda and add to creamed mixture. Stir in oatmeal. Spread on greased brownie-sized pan (15 x 10 inch). Bake 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until light brown. Cool for five minutes.

Melt 30 caramels with 2 tablespoons of water. Spread on crust. Sprinkle with 1 cup of M&Ms and 1 cup of chocolate chips.

Melt 2 squares of vanilla almond bark with 1 tablespoon of Crisco shortening. Drizzle on top.

Cool and cut.


Crescent Roll

Wreath Appetizer

It’s always fun to try new recipes, especially seasonal ones. Scrolling through Pinterest, I couldn’t resist trying this fun Christmas wreath. It was easy to make and tasty too. — Kristin Overland

Crescent Roll Wreath Appetizer

Crescent Roll Wreath Appetizer — Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune


16 servings



2 8-ounce refrigerated crescent rolls

1 8-ounce package softened cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon dill week

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh broccoli florets

1 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper and sliced red pepper for bow

5 or 6 large cherry tomatoes



Remove crescent dough from packaging. Do not unroll. Cut each tube into eight slices. Arrange in an 11-inch circle on an ungreased 14-inch pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for give minutes before carefully moving to a serving platter. Cool completely.

In a small mixing bowl beat the cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder until smooth. Spread over wreath. Top with broccoli, celery, tomatoes and red pepper. Form a bow garnish with celery leaves.


Dixie’s Calhoun Butternut Squash Soup

Soup or stew is a common tradition for the Christmas Eve meal. Many families enjoy oyster stew, but I like it when my mother or my wife makes squash soup. Soon after Dixie of Dixie’s on Grand in St. Paul opened a restaurant near Calhoun Beach in Minneapolis, my mother ordered the squash soup. It was so yummy she asked for the recipe. The chef came out with a printout and it required 40 pounds of squash! Mom did the math for the version here. Dixie’s Calhoun closed in 2005, but the St. Paul location still serves great Southern food. — Tim Engstrom

Dixie’s Calhoun Butternut Squash Soup

Dixie’s Calhoun Butternut Squash Soup



1 squash

1 can creamed corn

32 ounces of chicken stock

1 pint cream

1 pound sausage

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper


Pork sausage spice:

(1 tablespoon per pound ground pork)

2 tablespoon ground sage

4 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoon ground fennel

1 tablespoon ground garlic

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon ground cumin



Cut squash crosswise, scoop out seeds. Place on greased pan cut side down. Bake in 350-degree oven for 1 hour or until squash is tender. Remove and let cool. Peel squash and hold warm.

Using hands, mix 1 tablespoon spice mix with 1 pound of spiced ground pork. Saute sausage until brown, break up as much as possible.

Take the squash and mash it up as much as possible with a large spoon, then add cream and chicken stock to the stock pot and use a handheld mixer to mash up the squash as much as possible. Add the corn and the drained sausage. Bring to a boil, then add spices and honey. Simmer 10 minutes.

(Freezes well if need to make in advance.)