New treats add sugar and spice to holiday traditions


 can’t type the word “home” without an “r” on the end of it. Our family has made Homer our home for more than 30 years and I am sure that is why. 

We are fortunate to have both our sons home for the holidays again this year. Since the Other Fisherman and I married 38 years ago and left Wisconsin, we have only been back to our childhood town for Christmas once, so this Alaska mom and dad consider themselves pretty darn lucky.

A big tradition at our house is baking special cookies and candies. When I asked family and friends what their favorite cookie was at this special time of year, they all answered with traditional, old-fashioned and tried and true favorites. Top vote getters are Russian tea cakes, sugar cookies (cut-outs), frosted and decorated snickerdoodles, and molasses ginger cookie cut-outs iced with a shiny confectioner’s glazed frosting.

Every year I try a new cookie or candy recipe just for fun, though I know it will probably not be asked for next year unless it is really good. I’ve shared many of our traditional holiday recipes with you over the years and so my challenge is finding a new, tasty recipe that you would like to try in your kitchen.


Date Balls 

Our dear friends Jim and Josie adopted our family while we lived in Adak, right before we all moved to Homer. We have been together enjoying our Homer life so long that we are unofficially family. Josie is from the south and has shared many of her southern rooted recipes with me. One confection we all enjoy from her kitchen are her date balls. I never asked her for the recipe, as she made them for us frequently. They are a special treat and I doubt mine would be as good as hers. I told her I needed her recipe for the column so you can enjoy them in case you don’t have a Josie in your life!

Measure 4 cups Rice Krispies cereal in large mixing bowl and set aside.

Combine the following in a medium sized saucepan and cook over medium heat 5-8 minutes until mixture is thick:

• 1 8-ounce package of chopped dates

• 1 cup sugar

• 2 sticks (1 cup) butter

Add date mixture to Rice Krispies in bowl and stir to combine. Be careful as date mixture will be hot.

Add about 2 cups confectioner’s sugar to a shallow bowl.

Form date and cereal mixture into balls about the size of a walnut in the shell and then roll in confectioner’s sugar. Set aside to dry and firm up.



Orange Sesame Honey Cookies

I love sesame seeds and anything with them in it. This is a tasty

cookie recipe that contains two wonderful flavors, orange and sesame. The drizzled topping adds another layer of orange and honey flavor.


•1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

• 1/2 cup brown sugar

• 1/2 cup butter, softened

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1 large egg

• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds

• 2 tablespoons honey

• 2 teaspoons grated orange rind

• In a separate shallow bowl, 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds

Frosting drizzle mixture

3 tablespoons orange juice

3 tablespoons honey


Preheat oven to 350°. Combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter and vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Add egg; beat just until blended. Beat in flour, baking soda and salt. Beat 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons honey and grated orange rind into cookie dough at medium speed to combine.

Place 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds in a separate bowl; scoop dough by tablespoonfuls and roll in sesame seeds.

Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined or lightly greased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Combine orange juice and honey in a bowl; drizzle mixture over cooled cookies.



Almond Bianchi

Chewy-crisp and intensely almond-y.

This light and sweet little confection is delicious with a cup of coffee or tea and reminds me of my trip to Italy many years ago.


• 10 ounces almond paste (in a small  can or tube in the baking aisle of the store)

• 1 cup sugar

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

• Confectioner’s sugar for topping


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets. Blend the almond paste, sugar and salt until the mixture becomes uniformly crumbly; this is best done in a stand mixer. Add the egg whites gradually, while mixing, to make a smooth paste. Stir in the flavorings. Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared pans. Sprinkle the cookies heavily with confectioners’ sugar using a sifter or mesh strainer, then use three fingers to press an indentation into the center of each cookie. Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven, and let them cool right on the pan. Makes 21 cookies.



Next week I’m looking forward to sharing appetizer and dinner recipes for you to try for your holiday get-togethers and Christmas dinner.

I hope you are enjoying special family traditions as much as I am this month, but I better run — I have so many cookies to make I could use an army of elves to help me in the kitchen!

Teri Robl, aka Mrs. Santa