Heritage Recipes – Aunties, Sprinkles and the Santa-in-His-Cap Cookie Cutter

I’m blessed to have oodles of oft-used and much loved heritage recipes and cookbooks from the ladies in my family who came before me. But I’m not the only Lisa who does. I’ve invited my good friend Lisa Alzo to visit with you here on the Genealogy Gems blog.

Lisa is the author of Baba’s Kitchen and a well known genealogy lecturer.

She’s has also presented genealogy sessions at the Genealogy Gems booth at national genealogy conferences. 

In today’s post, Lisa Alzo is  generously sharing one of her mouthwatering holiday heritage recipes, and, most importantly, the loving genealogical story behind it.

So preheat your oven, pour a glass of eggnog, and spend some time with Lisa and her Aunties:heritage recipes cookbook

Reflecting on Family Traditions

“I’ve been thinking a lot about family traditions lately.  Perhaps it’s because I have been spending the majority of this year sorting and organizing family treasures, or maybe it is the approaching holiday season that makes me feel sentimental about food, family, and special times.

Each December, one of my favorite traditions is baking Christmas cut-out cookies, using this recipe that my dad’s sister Betty (“Auntie B” as I called her) passed down to me.  I have many fond memories of baking these cookies with another “Auntie”—my father’s other sister (Sister Camilla) when she came home for the holidays to Pittsburgh from the convent where she lived in Texas.

holiday heritage recipes : Lisa Alzo and Sr. Camilla Alzo making Christmas cookies in December 1972.

Lisa Alzo and Sr. Camilla Alzo making Christmas cookies in December 1972.

To be honest, my mom would do most of the hard work of preparing the dough and rolling it out into large ovals on the wood cutting board dusted with flour. Auntie and I were in charge of the frosting and decorating, which in my opinion, was the best part.  After all, Santa needed a big plate of these cookies when he dropped by.

The recipe has always been a favorite in our family because it is not just a plain sugar cookie, but has a hint of almond that provides extra special flavor.

For me, the holiday season is not complete until I make these cookies. So, every year I play holiday music, make the dough, use the Santa-in-his-cap cookie cutter (I still have the original), and sprinkle the red crystallized sugar on top of the powdered sugar icing on the freshly baked cookies. Inevitably, my mind always wanders back to the wonderful Christmas memories my aunts created with me.

Traditions are a part of our family history. This tradition stayed with me so much that I included the recipe for Auntie B’s Cookies in my book, Baba’s Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes & Traditions. I’m pleased to share it with Genealogy Gems readers.”
– Lisa A. Alzo

Thank you, Lisa! I’m definitely going to whip up a batch of these and I’m sure I can entice Davy and Joey to do the sugar sprinkling!  Happy baking and Merry Christmas.

More Holiday Heritage Recipes Inspiration

Heritage Cookbooks: Recipe for a Sweet Family History

Little House on the Prairie: A New Cookbook (and Old Documents)

Cooking Up More Family History

Check out my fun retro recipe video called Cooking with the Toastite below. It features my conversation with the author of From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes Gena Philibert Ortega. I interviewed her in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episodes #137 and #138.

Use Facebook for Family History: Gather Memories

Here’s an innovative way to use Facebook for family history. It comes from my downloadable video class, Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects.facebook family history crowdsource memories

Are you using Facebook to gather family history from your relatives? You can! It’s a version of “crowd-sourcing,” or using the internet to ask lots of people at a time for help. Here are two specific examples:

riser reunionI posted this first photo in my husband’s family reunion Facebook page, after being given a ton of photos from past reunions. I couldn’t identify anyone in the picture and I couldn’t tell what was happening, but it looked like something special. After I posted it, one person commented, “Boy that’s an old photo of me”–which identified someone in the picture! Then an aunt commented that this was a bridal shower held during the annual family reunion. Yay! The mystery photo was captioned.

grandpa on facebook (1)In this second example, I asked for more than just a photo caption. I posted a yearbook photo of my grandfather and two newspaper articles about him in our family Facebook group. In the accompanying post I asked, “Does anyone know anything about his time in the military? All I know is his entry/release dates, that he was in the Navy and a radar tech.” I tagged several close relatives so they would see it. (This was in our closed Facebook group. You can tag people by typing the @ sign and then their names in the post or in a comment below it.)

The response was fantastic. My aunt said grandpa served on a ship in the Atlantic and mentioned a rank she thinks he achieved. My uncle said he had some related papers and would send them to me (yay!). Even better, some younger family members commented how much a sibling or son looked like grandpa at that age. A cousin snagged what I’d posted for her daughter’s family history project. So even those younger relatives who couldn’t tell me about grandpa could benefit from the online conversation.

BONUS TIP: I get the best response when I post an image or video along with my questions. Pictures and videos will catch people’s interest, jog their memories and sometimes prompt additional comments. This is a good way to remind people of your interest in the family stories and to share what you already have.

This story collecting tip came from my video class: Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects.

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #9 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Countdown #9In our continuing series counting down the 10 most popular genealogy blog posts here at Genealogy Gems in the last year, we come to #9 that strives to answer the eternal question: “how are we related?”

I  love getting email and voicemail questions from Genealogy Gems readers and listeners. When you take the time to write, you represent all of the people who didn’t hit “Send.” Our genealogy blog is the perfect vehicle for answering your questions and getting the word about the tools we like best.

A while back Shirley in Austin Texas wrote in to say that she had determined that her great grandmother Caroline’s great grandfather Franz Joseph  was the also the grandfather of her great grandfather Eduard. She wondered if there is a way to easily identify their relationship in relative terms.Genealogy relationship cousin calculator

Genealogy post #9 in our countdown offered the answer. Read How are We Related? Use a Cousin Calculator  and discover a simple, easy online tool that I offered up.

Family History Reunion Ideas (or Weddings or BBQs…)

love_magnet_400_wht_12552Do you have a family reunion, wedding or another special family gathering coming up soon? I’ve been busy helping plan my youngest daughter’s wedding, and we are looking for ways to capture memories from our loved ones while they are all together.

Hannah and I aren’t the only ones looking to make the most of this exciting event. Genealogy Gems podcast listener Kirsty recently asked me how she could incorporate family history gathering at her upcoming wedding (Congratulations, Kirsty!) and here’s what I told her:

1. Search family reunion websites and other websites for ideas you can convert to a wedding reception. For example, Reunions Magazine has a page devoted to family history activity ideas for family reunions. A search of Google and Pinterest should help you find more ideas. Check out my Pinterest board called Incorporating Family History Into Your Wedding.

My Board: Incorporating Family History into Your Wedding

My Board: Incorporating Family History into Your Wedding

2. If you have  your guests seated at tables, that’s a great opportunity to provide an icebreaker that can double as a family history gathering opportunity. You could have a form at each place setting for them to fill out. If you are having a videographer, you could have a short list of questions at each table, and when he comes to their table he records them answering the questions. (What’s your earliest childhood memory?  Who’s the earliest ancestor you have a photograph of? What are three things you remember about great-grandmother? etc) Can you imagine how this Martha Stewart placecard on Pinterest (which I found by searching “family reunion history” at Pinterest) might be adapted this way?

3. If you they won’t be at tables, you could have a family history table (next to another table they are likely to visit such as guest book table) and have your activity there. Let them know that this is their gift to you. You could even have some sort of treat or little sticker they can wear that says “I shared the family history, have you?” (In the U.S. when you vote they often give you a little lapel sticker that says “I voted.”)  Or you could create the “Sweet Memories Candy Bars” that feature family history that I write about in my book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies.

I hope these ideas help inspire Kirsty and anyone who wants to gather their loved ones’ memories at their next family event!

Join Me on a Genealogy Cruise of the British Isles

It’s always a joy for me to get to get out and about and meet readers and listeners in person. In July 2014 there’s a wonderful opportunity for us to get together in person, talk genealogy and experience the joy of travel: the Unlock the Past Cruises for their 2014 British Isles Cruise!

Genealogy Cruise

I’ll be joining eight other incredible genealogists to bring cruisers an exciting assortment of family history classes aboard the beautiful Marco Polo ship (right).  Check out  the Presenters page

 

You’ll have around 40 topics to choose from, held mostly in the evening so there will be loads of time to explore the breathtaking landscape.

Itinerary: 

  • day 1 – depart Tilbury, London – 6pm (boarding from 12.30pm)
  • day 2 – at sea
  • day 3 – Invergordon, Scotland – 7.30am-10pm
  • day 4 – Kirkwall, Orkney Islands – 7am-6pm
  • day 5 – Stornoway, Outer Hebrides – 7.30am-10pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 6 – Tobermory, Isle of Mull – 7.30am-4pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 7 – Dublin, Ireland – 8am-5.45pm
  • day 8 – St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly – 9am-6pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 9 – St Peter Port, Guernsey – 7.30am-6pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 10 – Honfleur, France –  9am-5pm
  • day 11 – arrive Tilbury, London – 9am

My understanding is that this cruise is filling up very quickly so if you’re interested be sure and click here for more details.

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