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Christmas Sides and Sweets • Cooking with Catholic Kids

Resident Peanut Butter & Grace chefs Theresa Wilson and Ryan Langr pair up to help your family share in the joy of Jesus’ birth by making these simple Christmas sides and sweets with your kids.


by Theresa Wilson and Ryan Langr


Solemn Wassail

by Ryan Langr

Christmas is a solemnity, a time for celebration and rejoicing! This extremely tasty drink is a great way to bring some joy to the season, and reminds us that even in the darkest, shortest (and for some of us coldest) days of the year, there is joy and light to be found in Christ. 



1/2 gallon apple cider

46 oz pineapple juice

12 oz apricot nectar (substitute with peach nectar or apple juice)

4 cups water

1 cup sugar

6 ounces thawed frozen orange juice concentrate

6 ounces thawed frozen lemonade concentrate

10 whole star anise

5 cinnamon sticks



Yield: about 5 quarts

Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can use a large soup pot. Bring to a boil. Cover with lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer one hour.

Remove from heat and strain. Throw away anise and cinnamon.

Serve hot. Can last refrigerated for two weeks.


Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip

by Theresa Wilson

This delicious appetizer is a great starting dish for any family gathering. Serve it with veggie sticks, multigrain crackers or toasted slices of baguette.



1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1/4 cup green onion, sliced thin

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp hot sauce

1 lb fresh lump crab meat

1/2 tsp salt



Preheat over to 325 degrees.

In a bowl combine the mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, artichokes and onions.

In a separate bowl, gently mix the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and lump crab meat, careful to not break the crab meat up too much.

Fold the crab mixture into the artichoke mixture and place into an oven safe dish.

Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling.


Christmas Meatballs

by Ryan Langr

While I usually try to stay away from recipes with specific ingredients like “onion soup mix” or things that can be made exclusively in the microwave, these meatballs were just too good to pass up. While not a traditional Christmas main dish, they are perfect for an appetizer course.





2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 envelope onion soup mix

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef (90% lean)



1 can (14 ounces) whole-berry cranberry sauce

3/4 cup ketchup

1/2 cup beef broth

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons finely chopped onion

2 teaspoons cider vinegar



Combine the first five ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the beef and mix lightly but consistently. Shape into balls roughly 1 inch in diameter.

Place a third of the meatballs on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with waxed paper; microwave on high until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes (depending on your microwave wattage).

Drain on paper towels. Repeat twice with remaining meatballs.

In a microwave-safe dish, mix sauce ingredients. Microwave, covered, on high until heated through, two minutes. Stir again, and cook for two more minutes. Gently stir in meatballs. Microwave, covered and on high until heated through, approximately 2 minutes.


Pizzelle Cookies

by Theresa Wilson

Pizzelles are a traditional Italian cookie made in with an iron to make beautifully patterned wafers. Depending on the preferred style and ingredients, they can be thin and crisp or thicker and soft. While still warm and right out of the iron you can roll or mold them into bowl shapes or cones, or you can let them cool on a flat surface. Pizzelles are only slightly sweet, making them perfect as an anytime snack or treat. This recipe makes thin, crispy cookies. 

Different irons may cook in varied ways. You can use a waffle iron, although the final cookie will be different than if you use a special pizzelle iron. I use an electric pizzelle iron that makes two cookies at a time. Over the past 30 years since my grandmother had first given it to me, my iron has become seasoned and doesn’t require and cooking spray to prevent the pizzelle from sticking. It also only takes a few seconds for the cookies to turn golden. Once you’ve used your pizzelle iron once or twice, you’ll get to know just how it cooks.



Yield: 3 dozen

6 eggs

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

3 tbsp anise seeds

Pizzelle iron or waffle iron



In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and oil with a hand mixer or paddle attachment of an electric mixer.

Slowly incorporate the baking powder, flour and anise seeds and continue to mix until the batter is smooth and free of lumps.

While making the batter, preheat the pizzelle iron.

Spoon one heaping teaspoon onto each pattern and cook until golden.

Once cooked, remove the cookie and let cook on a flat surface until crisp.


Nativity Manger Biscotti

by Ryan Langr

When I first saw these cookies, they reminded me of a manger. So if you can make a complete Nativity out of baked goods, not only am I visiting you for Christmas to get some baking tips, but you can use these for the manger part of your dessert! But if you’re like the rest of us, you can just make these, enjoy them, and talk to your kids about the Nativity.



Yield: 4 dozen

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3⁄4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons orange zest

2 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1 cup dried cranberries

2⁄3 cup raw pistachio nut



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a large baking sheet, at least 14 inches long. You may choose to use parchment paper, instead.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest until blended.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cloves and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat vigorously until blended.

Stir in cranberries and pistachios.

Divide the dough in half.

Form each piece of dough into a large log. It should be about 1/2 inch high, 1 1/2 inches wide and 14 inches long. Space them at least 2 inches apart.

Bake the logs for 25-30 minutes or until set and light brown.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool 6-8 minutes.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the logs in the diagonal (on the bias) into slices 3/8 inch thick.


Ryan Langr is a former faith formation coordinator, youth minister and music minister. Currently, he is a full-time stay-at-home dad to a preschooler. He has a wife, two cats, and growing little girl. He enjoys reading, writing, games of all kinds, spending time with his family, and cooking. He primarily contributes to Cooking with Catholic Kids. Occasionally, he blogs about parenting at Caffeine and Grace.

Theresa Wilson is an alumnus of Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. After pursuing her passion for all things food, she quickly rose the ranks in fine dining cuisine as a professional chef, and as a chef instructor and assistant director at a culinary institute. She is now a busy stay-at-home mom and short order cook to her amazing, energetic young daughter and son.

Follow Jerry Windley-Daoust:

Publisher, Gracewatch Media

Jerry Windley-Daoust is a writer, editor, and father of five. He writes essays and stories at Windhovering and is the show-runner for Gracewatch Media, a small Catholic publisher. You can follow his latest publishing projects at gracewatch.org.

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