Sue Asp’s (Grandmother’s) Date-Filled Cookies: A Holiday Heritage Contest Recipe

The entry phase of our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest has come to a close, and it’s time to start narrowing down the selections. Tony and I will be spending the next 48 hours +/- reading through each contestant’s entry and story to choose our favorites and with almost 40 recipes entered we know that we have our work cut out for ourselves.

Add to that the hectic pace of the holiday season, especially in the restaurant world, and some days it’s a challenge just to remember my name. We received several new entries in the days/hours leading up to the deadline, and we will get those recipes and stories posted by the end of Saturday, at the latest. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate our way through the fluid waters of blogging and all that goes with it.

In the meantime, we will continue to feature recipes from our contestants here on the blog, and today the Contest Spotlight is shining on Sue Asp of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and her Grandmother’s recipe for Date-Filled Cookies.

Sue has a long-standing holiday tradition of baking with her sisters and her mother each season. While they bake a great variety of goodies each year, these date-filled cookies remain a constant family favorite, and Sue gives credit for this to an unusual source. You’ll have to read on to find out what that is but, as a baker who cherishes a good old-fashioned recipe, I totally get it, and hope you do too.

Thank you for sharing your special recipe and story with us, Sue, and GOOD LUCK!

Sue Asp’s (Grandmother’s) Date-Filled Cookies

The original recipe for these date-filled cookies must be at least 75 years old. The yellowed newspaper clipping, carefully taped to a 3×5 card, belonged to my grandma, Mathilda Alsop. There are notes, too, scrawled on the card beside the newsprint. Some in Grandma’s writing (12 min. @ 350=GOOD!), others in my mother’s (Use Betty Crocker Filling!). Grandma rolled the dough and chopped the dates by hand each Christmas until she was well in to her 80s, then passed the card and the tradition on to her daughter-in-law.

This year, my mother, who is approaching 90, will gather her three daughters for our 26th annual mother-daughter Christmas cookie bake. Grandma worked alone, but after more than two decades, we four have settled into a routine: Mom mixes the dough, I make the filling, Marilyn crimps each edge (she’s good with the putzy stuff), and Karen takes the cookies out of the oven when they’re perfectly golden brown.

We mix up a dozen varieties each year—from spritz to peanut butter blossoms—but the date-filleds have stood the test of time. Sure, they’re delicious, but I think the true draw lies in that old, yellowed card.


For the Dough:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter (may use margarine)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup soured cream*
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in the cream
1/2 teaspoon baking powder sifted into 2 1/2 cups white flour
2 1/2 cups ground oatmeal

*Sour cream by adding 1 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup cream

For Date Filling:
3 cups cut up dates
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 10 minutes). Cool.

Cream sugar and butter together with an electric mixer and add eggs. Combine flour mixture and oatmeal. Add dry ingredients and soured cream mixture alternately to creamed mixture. Mix to form dough.

Roll out cookie dough on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thick. Cut dough into circles with a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter. Place about 1 teaspoon of date filling onto dough and fold dough in half to cover the filling. Press the edges of the dough together with a fork to seal and prick the top with a fork to allow steam to escape.

Bake on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet for 12 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

Submitted by Sue Asp of Fergus Falls, MN

Elsa’s Spritz Cookies: A Holiday Heritage Recipe from 12-Year-Old Astrid Axtman

Twelve-year-old Astrid Axtman of Fargo, ND is sitting in the Contest Spotlight today, with her Great-Grandma’s recipe for Christmas Spritz Cookies. Astrid shares her recipe, story and photo with us, and now Giovanni is insisting that we buy a cookie press so we can try out Astrid’s (Grandma’s) recipe!

We loved reading about Astrid’s Swedish Great-Grandmother Elsa, and her creative method for learning English. Between all that sugar and comic books, Elsa must have been one fun and interesting woman to know – and we’re betting she was a pretty good baker, too. This tradition has been in Astrid’s family for at least four generations, and we know that Astrid will make sure Elsa’s spritz cookies are a Christmas favorite for generations to come.

Thank you for sharing your special recipe with us, Astrid, and GOOD LUCK!

If you have a special holiday recipe that has passed from one generation to another, we would love to have you share it with us!

Please send your recipe, along with a short story about its heritage to us via email to Photos are highly encouraged, but not required. Top Prize is a brand-new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer!

CLICK HERE to view the RECIPE ENTRIES for our Holiday Heritage Contest.

My Great Grandma Elsa immigrated to the United States (from Sweden) in 1920.   She taught herself English by reading the back of sugar sacks and comic books.  I’m fortunate that one ten pound sack of sugar has made an impact on the following generations. With that sack of sugar, my Great Grandma Elsa started a tradition of making spritz cookies, dying wreathed shaped cookies green, and garnishing them with red icing, or sometimes even sugar dyed red!

My Grandma Elvie remembers how these cookies were a staple around the holidays. As my grandmother shares, this was passed down and by the time she started making them, sprinkles had become popular thus the icing was replaced. My mother says they go back as far as she can remember; sometimes her mother would even shape them as trees.

Grandma continues to make them for us grandchildren, and that’s where I come into the picture. Even though I’m only 12, I have enjoyed learning family baking from my Grandmother. I would really enjoy making many batches of cookies with the KitchenAid® mixer and passing on this tradition!

Astrid Axtman’s (Great-Grandma Elsa’s) Spritz Cookie Recipe

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups sifted flour (all-purpose)
green food coloring
red sprinkles

In a stand mixer or large bowl; cream butter. Gradually add sugar; cream well. Add egg, salt, almond extract, and vanilla. Beat. Gradually add food coloring until it turns a nice green color. Blend in flour. Once it forms a dough put the dough through a cookie press.

Bake to a delicate brown at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Makes 6 to 7 dozen.

Submitted by Astrid Axtman (age 12) of Fargo, ND


Here Baker, Baker, Baker…

There are just THREE DAYS LEFT before the entry period of our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest closes, and we would LOVE to include your favorite generational sweet treat recipe in the mix. Take a look at the list of recipe entries below to see how you can help us round out the goodie platter!

We are looking for any and all recipes for holiday goodies, but they must have been passed from one generation to another. We don’t care whether that’s through family or friend, up or down the generations, cookie, bar, cake or pie…as long as it’s sweet and generational.

To enter, send us your favorite holiday sweets recipe, along with a short story about its heritage or tradition, and a photo, if available, by 11:59 PM on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, and you could win this brand-new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer! Send your entry via email to:

For more complete Contest Entry Guidelines,


  1. Brenda Gorseth’s (Grandmother’s) Molasses Cookies
  2. Jennie Weber’s (Great Uncle Eddie’s) Icelandic Pancakes (Pönnukökur)
  3. Lily Erlic’s (Mother-in-Law’s) Croatian Ustipke
  4. Judy A. Colosimo’s (Grandmother’s) Poor Man’s Cake
  5. Jocelyn Sloan’s Molasses Cookies Bars (inspired by two grandmothers’ recipes)
  6. Marlene Nielsen’s Bavarian Creme
  7. Cara Cody Braun’s (Grammy Muggli’s) Apricot Torte
  8. Suzanne LaPalm’s (Family’s) Belgian Lukken 
  9. Nancy Vargas’s (Mother’s) Apple Slices Pie
  10. Morgan Davy’s (Grandma’s) Soft Molasses Cookies
  11. Beverly Grimm’s Family Sandbukkels
  12. Donna Kelly’s (Family’s) Joy to the World Balls
  13. Rebecca Grothe’s (Mom’s) Sour Cream Twists
  14. Donna-Marie Ryan’s Heritage Yule Log
  15. Juliana Palmcook’s (Grandma’s) Polish Kruschiki (Angel Wings)
  16. Pamela Miller’s (Family’s) Texas Sheet Cake
  17. Sue Asp’s (Grandmother’s) Date-Filled Cookies
  18. Becky Aarestad’s (Mother-in-Law’s) Black Raspberry Turnovers
  19. Charity Slepcevic’s (Grandmother’s) Raspberry Cheesecake Crumble
  20. Anthony Analetto’s (Mother’s) Baklava
  21. Lorraine Fina Stevenski’s (Family’s) Italian Fig Cookies “Cucidati”
  22. Julie Orr’s (Emma’s) Fruitcake Cookies
  23. Esther Nordhougen’s (Mother-in-Law’s) Brown Buns
  24. Astrid Axtman’s (Grandma’s) Spritz Cookies
  25. Stephanie Rieff’s (Great-Grandma Meschke’s) Sugar Kuchen
  26. Marisa Raponi’s Triple Chocolate Cheesecake with Burnt Caramel
  27. Mary Marlowe Leverette’s (Mother’s) Gingerbread Pear Skillet Cake
  28. Susan Hanson’s (Mother’s) Old-Fashioned Soft Sugar Cookies
  29. Ronna Farley’s “Gingerman Boys” Cookies
  30. Liselotte Mas de Puy’s (Oldemor’s) Danish Kager

Holiday Heritage Contest Recipe: Donna Kelly’s (Family’s) Joy to the World Balls

Many of our readers have asked us to extend the entry deadline in our Holiday Heritage Recipe Conthelostitaliantest as the late Thanksgiving this year has set back the holiday baking schedule.

In the spirit of Christmas, we are extending our entry deadline to give you one more week to get your baking done and send us your recipes, stories and photos.

We will now accept contest submissions until 11:59 PM on Wednesday, December 11, 2013. We hope that this added time helps you complete your entry, and we look forward to reading your recipes and stories. Many thanks to all of you who have already sent us your entries – your stories are so wonderfully personal and touching, and full of holiday spirit.

Today we’re shining our Contest Spotlight on Donna Kelly of Provo, Utah, and her family’s recipe for Joy to the World Balls.

We’ll begin by saying that, as chocolate-lovers, Donna has all three of us already salivating at her picture of these decadent-looking Christmas candies. Nestled in cozily by the Christmas tree, who could resist taking one of these perfectly-shaped, glossy goodies?

We love that they can be made several weeks in advance and tucked away in the fridge until ready to serve. For that reason alone they may just make it to our Christmas Eve celebration, but then Donna goes on to tell us that they taste a little like an Almond Joy candy bar (one of Gio’s favorites). I think I’d better go buy some coconut oil, as I have everything else required already in our pantry…

Donna is clearly aware of the power of having a traditional holiday treat, as these special goodies fill us not only with sweetness, but also the warmth of wonderful memories, even from a distance.

Thank you for sharing your family’s special recipe with us, Donna, and GOOD LUCK!

If you have a special holiday recipe that has passed from one generation to another, we would love to have you share it with us!

Please send your recipe, along with a short story about its heritage to us via email to Photos are highly encouraged, but not required. Top Prize is a brand-new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer!

CLICK HERE to view the RECIPE ENTRIES for our Holiday Heritage Contest.


There are foods that bring a remembrance of Christmases past. Our “Joy to the World” Christmas candies do that for us.

My mom’s family created this recipe and now my children make these candies, a four generation tradition. If a child of mine is not with us for Christmas, I package them up and send them off and I picture my child opening the box, inhaling the sweet coconutty smell and then biting into a candy, flooding their taste buds with memories of their childhood. Kelly Family Christmas in a bite.

I added my own twist and changed the diced pecans to diced toasted, lightly salted almonds. We loved the change, and my son Jake renamed the candies “Joy to the World” balls, since they now have a little of the flavor of Almond Joy candy bars!

And another tweak added by my generation: I switched up the butter to coconut oil, so now these are *** Healthified*** Christmas Candy. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Christmas candy with healthy fat.


12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening
8 ounces sweetened coconut
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups diced toasted, lightly salted almonds
1 tablespoon vanilla

In a large bowl with a large sturdy spoon, stir together coconut, powdered sugar, coconut oil, condensed milk, almonds and vanilla. The mixture will be very thick! Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I once left this in my fridge for a week and it was just fine).

Remove coconut mixture from fridge and roll into balls about the size of a walnut.
In a double boiler, melt shortening over simmering water. Slowly stir in chocolate chips and keep over very low heat.

Using a sturdy toothpick, dip coconut balls into melted chocolate and set on a sheet of wax paper to cool. Dip tops of candies in chocolate to cover the toothpick hole. Refrigerate candies until ready to use – will keep up to one month.