7 delectable holiday treats

Published 10:36 am Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tribune staff members shared some of their favorite holiday treats in time for the holidays. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Tribune staff members shared some of their favorite holiday treats in time for the holidays. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Entertain family and friends with these delicious recipes

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


Thumbprint cookies

Thumbprint cookies – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Thumbprint cookies – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

This is a recipe from Land O’ Lakes butter that I have been making for a couple of years. It is one of my favorite cookies. — Renee Citsay




1 cup soft butter

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon raspberry jam per cookie



1 cup powdered sugar

2 to 3 teaspoons water

1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract



Combine butter, sugar, almond extract and flour. Chill for 30 minutes to one hour. Roll dough into small balls. Press thumb into each cookie and put 1/4 teaspoon raspberry jam inside each thumbprint. Bake 12 minutes in the oven at 325 degrees.

Mix glaze ingredients and put glaze over the cookies.


Gingerbread reindeer – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Gingerbread reindeer – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Gingerbread reindeer

I love gingerbread cookies and came across this idea that offers gingerbread cookies with a twist. You use traditional gingerbread man cookie cutters, but when you turn them upside down they make reindeer. The key is in the decoration. This recipe came from www.tasteofhome.com. — Sarah Stultz



3/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup molasses

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

Vanilla frosting of your choice

Red and green food coloring



Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until easy to handle.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with floured 2 1/2-inch cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool. Tint some of the frosting red and some green. Decorate cookies.

Serves: 5 dozen


Oreo candy cane cupcakes

Oreo candy cane cupcakes – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Oreo candy cane cupcakes – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

I like making cupcakes, and I love the combination of chocolate and peppermint. This recipe has been a holiday favorite of mine for the past few years. — Colleen Harrison




2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

32 Oreo cookies

2 tablespoons flour



8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

1 stick butter at room temperature

1 tablespoon peppermint extract

3-4 cups powdered sugar

5-6 crushed candy canes



In a heatproof bowl, combine the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the sugar, butter and water, stirring occasionally until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Pour the butter mixture over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.

Whisk the milk, egg, extra yolk and peppermint extract into the chocolate mixture until combined. In a separate bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until blended. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.

Let the batter sit at room temperature for one hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line cupcake pans to make 18 cupcakes. Twist apart 18 Oreos. Place the wafer with filling on it, filling side up, in the bottom of each paper liner. Cut other wafers in half. Save 18 halves to place in the frosting. Place the other halves in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of flour. Cut the remaining Oreo cookies into quarters with a sharp knife. Add to the bowl with Oreo halves and flour. Toss and set aside.

Gently stir Oreo/flour mixture into cupcake batter. Divide the batter among the cupcake cups. Bake for 30 minutes and then let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add peppermint extract. Slowly add powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Frost cooled cupcakes and then garnish with crushed candy canes and Oreo halves.

Serves: 1 1/2 dozen


Sweet and salty pecan crunch – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Sweet and salty pecan crunch – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Sweet and salty pecan crunch

I adapted this recipe from the Hy-Vee Seasons magazine a few years ago and it’s now a family favorite. — Crystal Miller



14.5 oz box of cinnamon flavor Quaker Oatmeal Squares

1 cup broken pretzel sticks

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup dry roasted peanuts

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt



Preheat oven to 250 F. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Combine cereal, pretzels, pecans and peanuts in a large bowl. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and corn syrup; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour over cereal mixture, stirring to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Bake 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Spread on waxed paper and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Allow to cool; break into pieces.


Ferocious IPA extract beer

Ferocious IPA extract beer – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Ferocious IPA extract beer – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

When I brew beer in Albert Lea, I get my ingredients at Collective Spirits, but I brewed this concoction with my younger brother, who resides in Minneapolis. He and I over Labor Day weekend bought a kit at Midwest Homebrewing Supplies in St. Louis Park to make a beer that tastes like Surly Brewing’s Furious. The results have been quite a treat.

Basically, you go to the store, buy the kit and follow the directions. But you need to have the home-brewing equipment, such as a big pot, tubes, a siphon and a carboy, all of which I bought a few years ago at Collective Spirits.  — Tim Engstrom



6 pounds of gold liquid malt extract

3.15 pounds of amber liquid malt extract

4 ounces of crystal malt 50-60L

1 ounces Warrior hops

2 ounces Amarillo hops

2 ounces Simply Select hop blend

1 ounces Ahtanum hops


Priming sugar

Grain bag



Steep crushed grains for 10-30 minutes at 155 degrees

Add malt extract while brew pot is off the burner

Bring to a boil and add 1 ounce Warrior bittering hops. (60 Minutes)

Blend 1 ounce Amarillo, 1 ounce Simcoe hops.

Add 1/5th of the 2-ounce hop blend at: 20, 15, 10, 5 and 0 minutes left in the boil.

Cool, top up to 5-gallon mark and add yeast.

Ferment and after 1 week dry hop with 3 ounces to 1 ounce Ahtanum, 1 ounce Amarillo, 1 ounce Simcoe in the sanitized muslin bag. (2 stage fermentation is recommended.)

Bottle. (2 stage fermentation is recommended)

Got all that? Well, like baking, brewing takes a bit of practice to get good at, in addition to simply understanding the directions. I don’t drink a lot, frankly, but what I do drink sure tastes great.


Pretzel birch trees – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Pretzel birch trees – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Pretzel birch trees

I needed a recipe to make a Christmas treat that fulfilled three objectives: It had to taste good, be easy to make and not require me to wash a mountain of dishes afterward. My mom’s birch trees fit the bill.

They’re pretzels covered in white almond bark and drizzled with chocolate for fans of the sweet and salty combination. — Micah Bader


1 bag pretzel sticks

1 package almond bark

1/4 cup chocolate chips



You’ll need two bowls, one for the almond bark and one for the chocolate chips. Melt both ingredients according to the instructions on each bag. Use a microwave to cut down on dishes.

Take a spoon and drizzle the almond bark over most of the pretzel, but leave the end bare so the person eating it has the equivalent of a popsicle stick to hold onto.

Set them on wax paper to dry. After a few minutes, melt the chocolate, dip a spoon in there and use a sweeping motion to get the birch tree effect.

Wait for the almond bark and chocolate to harden or put them in the refrigerator to speed up the process.


Snickerdoodle cupcakes with cinnamon swirl frosting

Snickerdoodle cupcakes with cinnamon swirl frosting – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Snickerdoodle cupcakes with cinnamon swirl frosting – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Snickerdoodles are my favorite holiday cookie. While the original is awesome, I like to get creative. I found this recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction for the most amazing snickerdoodle cupcakes. While they might seem difficult, these cupcakes are actually really easy to make and have a professional look. — Hannah Dillon




1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 large egg

1/4 cup regular yogurt, Greek yogurt or sour cream

3/4 cup milk (can be substituted with soy or almond milk)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon



1 cup butter, room temperature

3 to 4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream, half-and-half or milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

salt, to taste

Optional: miniature snickerdoodle cookies for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line or grease a 12-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter. Whisk in 1 cup of sugar (mixture should be gritty.) Stir in egg, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter should be thick.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon together. Set aside. Scoop 2 scant tablespoons of cupcake batter into each muffin tin well. Top with a teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Top with 1 heaping tablespoon of cupcake batter, until the wells are about 3/4 full. Top each cupcake with 1 teaspoon more of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake the cupcakes for 19-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric stand mixer. Beat for about three minutes until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla, beat until incorporated. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until it is all incorporated. Frosting should be very thick. Add cream/milk. If the frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar; if it is still too thick, add more cream/milk. Add a small amount of salt if the frosting is too sweet. Remove half of the frosting from the bowl and transfer it to a smaller bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon to one half of the frosting and beat until combined.

To swirl the frosting, take a gallon-size plastic zipper bag and fit it with a large star tip by cutting off one corner. Spoon the cinnamon frosting into one half of the bag, and the vanilla frosting into the other half. Pipe onto cupcakes in a swirling motion.

If desired, make a batch of miniature snickerdoodles as garnish. Each snickerdoodle should use about 2 teaspoons of dough and should be baked for 7 minutes. Garnish the cupcakes by pressing one cookie into the frosting, as pictured.

Serves: 1 dozen