Ribbon Layer Bars

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I first saw this recipe in a 1986 Family Circle Christmas Helps magazine.  I adapted the recipe somewhat and made them for Christmas that year and in 1988, they won a blue ribbon at the Hamilton County (Cincinnati) fair.They are not difficult to make and the dough is easy to handle, but they do take a bit of time especially if you don’t have three 9×9 pans for baking the three layers (which I don’t).  I used one pan, rinsed it out, re-greased and paper-lined it and used it again for the remaining two layers.  You could also use three round layer cake pans (which I do have but wanted this to be square).

They make a festive almond-flavored cookie bar with three layers of colors, the taste boost of your favorite jam or jelly and a thin chocolate topping.


4 oz almond paste (half of an 8-oz can)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
½ tsp. almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
Green, yellow and red food coloring
6 Tblsp. jam or jelly (I used some homemade blueberry jam)
½ cup chocolate chips (Ghiradelli milk chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Grease and then line with waxed paper 9-inch baking pans or layer cake pans.

In the large bowl of a mixer, place almond paste, sugar and butter.  Beat until creamy and smooth.

Add eggs and almond extract, beating to blend.  Add flour, beating just until flour is absorbed.

Dough will be soft.  Divide dough between three bowls.  This is one time I use paper bowls for easy clean-up.  To one bowl add 3 drops of yellow food coloring, and 3 drops of red and green to the other two bowls.  Mix each bowl to a pale color.

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Spoon the tinted dough into the three prepared pans and bake @ 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

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Using the waxed paper, lift each layer onto a cooling rack.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then remove the waxed paper and allow the layers to continue cooling.

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Place the green layer on an aluminum-foil-lined pan or plate and spread the top with 3 Tblsp. jam/jelly.

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Place the yellow layer on top of the green and spread 3 Tblsp. Jam/jelly on the top.

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Place the red layer on top of the yellow layer.  Cover with foil and weight with a large book.  Place in refrigerator overnight.

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The next morning, melt chocolate chips and spread over the top pink layer.

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Allow to set for 10-15 minutes and then cut into squares or bars.

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These keep well for several days.]

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Candied Cherry Cookies

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My daughters and I love fruitcake but don’t want to indulge too often in this rich treat (we’ve already enjoyed two good fruitcakes this season).  I adapted this recipe from one found on a candied cherry container label and we thought they were really good and not quite as bad as eating a slice of fruitcake.


  • Servings: Approx. 30 two-inch cookies
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½ cup butter or margarine, softened
¼ cup plus 2 Tblsp. granulated sugar
¼ cup plus 2 Tblsp. packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup plus 2 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
½ cup green candied cherries, halved
½ cup red candied cherries, halved
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Use two ungreased cookie sheets or line with parchment paper

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until creamy.  Add vanilla and egg and beat well.  Add soda and salt, blending well.  Add flour and mix just until flour is absorbed.  Slowly beat in cherries and pecans.

Drop by tablespoon onto cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.
Candied Cherry (1)

Bake @ 375 degrees F for 9 to 12 minutes until cookies are golden brown.  Remove to racks to cool.

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Yield:  30 medium-sized cookies (about 2 inches diameter)

Candied Cherry (5)
I took a bag with half of the cookies to my younger daughter’s house for lunch and later received an e-mail:  “Guess who liked the cookies?”

candied ch
I was surprised to learn that my 11-year-old granddaughter who doesn’t like anything had just about finished off the cookies.

Mt. Shasta Cookies

Back in the late 1980s when I was entering a lot of county and state fair contests, I subscribed to a publication called Blue Ribbon Gazette.  This was a collection of recipes submitted by prize winners from all over the country.  I found this recipe and made it for Christmas in 1988.  In my binder, I have a notation:  “Excellent – buttery and chewy.”

These are easy cookies to make – the dough and the meringue both handle nicely.


  • Servings: Approx. 60
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Cookie Dough:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp salt
½ cup softened margarine (used Imperial)
½ cup light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tblsp. milk
1 cup chopped nuts

1 egg white
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease cookie sheets.

  • Separate egg and set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix together flour and salt.

  • Cream margarine, brown sugar, egg yolk, vanilla and milk.  Add flour mixture, mix well.  Stir in nuts.

  • In a small bowl, whisk egg white until just frothy.  Stir in  ½ cup granulated sugar and 1 cup coconut.

  • Put about 1 tsp dough on lightly greased cookie sheet.

  • Flatten cookie dough with heel of hand to about 1-½ inches diameter.  Leave about 1 inch between each cookie.  Put about ½ tsp of meringue on top of each cookie.

  • Bake 6-1/2 to 7 minutes @ 350 degrees F until cookies are lightly browned on bottom and meringue is just beginning to brown.

  • Cool on a wire rack.  I always leave a few cookies without the topping for those who don’t like coconut


Yield:  About 60 1-½ inch cookies. 

Update:  I received this comment from a reader:  “My sisster, Linda McCready ne Yungling, created the name and recipe for Mt. Shasta cookies and won first prize for her Mt. Shasta recipe (a trip to Chicago for her and our mother) in a Parade Magazine contest in 1958 or 1959.  She deserves recognition and credit for that creation.”  I agree – it’s a wonderful cookie.

Update 12/25/2012 – I received this message from Linda McCready:

Hello Lillian.

I am Linda McCready, and in 1958 I created the recipe for “Mt. Shasta Cookies”. I was the primary baker for my family of 10, and was constantly trying to come up with something different. This recipe began as a standard shortbread made with brown sugar and chopped walnuts. I love macaroons, so decided to try topping the cookies with macaroon mix. The result was such a huge hit that I spent many of my free hours making more and more … and more. The local newspaper carried Family Weekly magazine on Sundays, and one week they had a notice of a recipe contest for teenagers. I sent in the recipe and promptly forgot about it. Early in December of 1958 a man knocked on our door, introduced himself as a reporter for the Sacramento Union, and announced I had won the grand prize. My prize was a week-long stay in Chicago, over Christmas holidays, a slew of events such as plays, ballet, Ice Capades, museums etc. etc, and finally a gala luncheon with representatives of the food companies who advertised in Family Weekly. An amazing experience for a 15-year-old. Now I am 70, and still remember it clearly.
I am glad my recipe is still being used, and appreciate your sharing it with others.

Linda 1959 Newsp Class

Austrian Crescent Cookies

In 1960, my oldest daughter was in the first grade at old St. Rose school in the East End of Cincinnati.  The three or four block area where we lived was like a small town with little shops, the water works, the gas works, St. Rose church and school and great ethnic diversity.  There were a lot of German, Hungarian and Austrian folks in the neighborhood – hard working with meticulously clean houses and in every one of those homes, there were tins and tins of baked cookies stashed away for the holidays.

At our December PTA meeting, held in a very chilly basement of the church, the ladies brought in tins of cookies for a treat – each tin different according to the woman’s background.  Each lady passed her open tin among the other guests and took great pride in her baking and decorating.

There were so many delicious varieties – Spritz, butter cookies, gingerbread –  but the Austrian Crescent cookie was my favorite.

Those little morsels were buttery, full of ground walnuts, and coated with powdered sugar – heaven.

In later years, they became my oldest son’s favorite as well, so I make sure I have some every year for him to take home and enjoy.


  • Servings: 2-1/2 to 3 doz. cookies, depending on size
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  • 1/2 cup butter (not margarine)
  • 6 Tblsp. granulated sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup ground walnuts
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Powdered/confectioners’ sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Cream butter and sugar.  Mix in flour, walnuts, salt and vanilla.  Roll into balls about 1″ in diameter and then form the balls into crescents (about 1/4″ thick).  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, allowing 1″ of space between each cookie.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.  My son likes them crispy brown, so I bake his a few minutes longer.  Cool slightly on a rack and placing the rack over a baking pan, use a sieve/strainer to sprinkle powdered sugar over the cookies while they are still warm.

Yield:  2-1/2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size. 

I like to serve the cookies on plates purchased on a trip to Austria in December of 1990.  I don’t know that these cookies are as good as those made almost 50 years ago by a lovely Austrian housewife, but they come close.

The Great-Grandkids Bake Christmas Cookies

My two great-grandchildren have never come to my house before to make Christmas cookies, but this year their mother thought they were old enough at 2 and 4 years to have the fun she used to have with all the flour and butter and cookie cutters.  Here’s their mother baking cookies when she was nine years old.

I supervised as great-granddaughter measured flour and sugar, and even broke an egg.

The two-year-old wanted to do anything his sister was doing and got right into the spirit.

Great-granddaughter soon caught on to the art of rolling cookie dough….

….and great-grandson let his mother help him, his only comment being, “Bite, bite” for bits of the cookie dough which we didn’t want him to have.

They each brushed milk and sprinkled colored sugar on a sheet full of wonderful cookies.

We used the same recipe from all those years ago – it’s a good one.

Grandma’s Sugar Crisps

Apricot Cheese Dainties

I found this recipe in 1990 in a publication called Blue Ribbon Gazette, a collection of winners from county and state fairs all over the country.  The lady who submitted the recipe cautioned that Solo apricot filling should be used, not jam or preserves, to keep the filling from seeping out too much.  I can attest to that, since I tried other products and found Solo to be the best.

The cookies won a ribbon at the Ohio State Fair and a Blue Ribbon at the Hamilton County Fair (Cincinnati) in 1990, and have become a favorite of my daughters for every holiday – Christmas, St. Nick, Valentine’s Day, birthdays.


  • Servings: 1-1/2 dozen cookies
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  • 1/2 cup margarine (I like Imperial)
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tblsp. ice water
  • 1/2 can of Solo Apricot Filling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream the margarine and cheese until smooth.  Add flour and salt, mix together until blended.  Add water and stir with a fork until the mixture forms a ball.  Divide dough in half,  roll one portion 1/8″ thick (like pie crust) on a lightly floured surface and cut with a floured 2″ cutter.

cutterPlace cutouts on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Place 1/2 tsp. of apricot filling on each circle of dough.

fillingRoll the remaining portion of dough 1/8″ thick and cut into 2″ circles.  Place the circles on top of the filled cutouts, press together lightly and prick with a fork around the edges.

Bake @ 375 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes until cookies are golden brown.  Cool slightly and then remove to a rack.


Makes about 1-1/2 dozen cookies. 

Note:  These cookies are like pie – best the day they are made.


1950s Spritz Cookies

spritzcardFor quite a few years, I’ve created personal memory-type Christmas cards for close family and friends.  In 1995, I sketched and scanned this Spritz cookie scene.  Since I didn’t have a printer with colored ink at the time, I hand water-colored each card.  This was the inside message:

In December of 1953, I took the trolley bus downtown and bought a beautiful copper and aluminum cookie press.  I could hardly wait until the next morning to try it out and kept getting up in the middle of the night to read the little recipe pamphlet that described all of the different shapes possible with this marvel.  I’ve baked hundreds of cookies of all kinds since that December, but every year I get out the old cookie press and look again with wonder at the dainty Christmas tree and wreath cookies, sparkling with green and red sugar.

Have a Christmas full of wonder.

Once again last week, I pulled out the press and the plates for the tree and wreath, making Spritz cookies from the 1950s for St. Nicholas on December 6.

fullpressHere is the recipe:


  • Servings: Approx. 60 cookies
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  • 1 cup margarine (I like Imperial)*
  • 1 large egg (should measure 1/4 cup when broken)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose fl0ur
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

*Back when I first started making these cookies, I couldn’t afford butter but in later, more affluent times, I’ve found that I prefer the consistency of the Spritz made with margarine.  Certainly, butter can be used if you prefer.

Cream margarine, egg, vanilla and sugar until smooth.  Add flour and salt.  Mix until blended.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Put one of the plates and half of the dough in the cookie press.  Press cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

pressSprinkle with colored sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes until light brown.  Remove to rack to cool.


Repeat with other half of dough, changing to the star plate which I use to make long strips which can be cut and formed into wreaths.  On these cookies, I have traditionally added bits of red and green candied cherries.

I’ll make another batch of these cookies for Christmas and this year, I’ve been asked to make enough of the wreath cookies  to serve  14 of my granddaughter’s pre-school classmates at their Christmas party.   Since my granddaughter likes them so much, I hope her friends will, too.

Cranberry Date Bars


About 20 years ago, I subscribed to a small newspaper called The Blue Ribbon Gazette, a publication devoted to county and state fair cooking winners.  Sadly, it’s no longer in publication but I got some wonderful recipes while it was around.  One recipe that I include every year for St. Nick and Christmas is the one for  Cranberry Date Bars.  It was the favorite treat for my youngest daughter to take to work to share.


  • 6 oz. fresh cranberries (frozen don’t work as well)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • Glaze:  1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar mixed with fresh orange juice to make a drizzling consistency.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a small saucepan, combine cranberries and dates, cook covered over very low heat for 10 minutes until the cranberries pop, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, brown sugar, soda, salt, and flour.  Stir in the butter with a fork.  Put half of the mixture in the bottom of an ungreased 9×9 baking pan.  Spread the cranberry/date filling over the bottom layer.  Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture on top, patting gently.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes until top is golden brown.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

While the cake is still warm, drizzle the Glaze over the top and cut into bars. 


This wreath complete with vintage cookie cutters was made by my oldest daughter and hangs in my kitchen to inspire me while I’m baking cookies.

The Grandkids Bake Christmas Cookies


When my children were growing up, I don’t recall their ever being interested in helping with the cookie baking and I didn’t have the time or ingredients to waste, so I just made the cookies myself without any help from them.  When my grandchildren started arriving in the 1980s, though, I thought it would be nice to have them come to the house, starting when they were about 3 years old, to make Christmas cookies.  Granddaughter #1 loved mixing the dough, using all the different cutters, and decorating with sugar.

She is now married with two children and her husband is in Iraq this Christmas.


Grandson #1 joined his sister when he turned 3, and his specialty was piling lots of sugar on the cookies and cracking the eggs to mix in the batter.


Granddaughter #2 made it a threesome and her favorite cookies are still the cutout Butter Crisps. She has two children who are too young to help her with baking, but the 2-1/2 year old likes the cookies, too.


There was a hiatus of a few years between when the older grandchildren grew up and before the youngest came along.  This year, Dolphin and Jellyfish came to do their best  and Jellyfish takes it all very seriously.


Dolphin is also serious about her baking but takes a more fun approach.


All of the kids have enjoyed the baking but most of all, enjoyed taking home plates of their own creations.

Here is a gingerbread cookie that the older grandchildren liked to make.


  • Servings: Depends on size of cutters and thickness of dough
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  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream sugar, shortening and molasses until smooth.  Blend in egg.  Mix together dry ingredients.  Add to creamed mixture and blend well.  Form into a flat circle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate dough at least one hour.

Roll out dough on floured board 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.  Cut out with floured cutters.  Place cookies 1/2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. 

Granddaughter Dolphin Bakes Cookies


Since we got our first major snowfall of the year yesterday, I wasn’t sure 4-year-old granddaughter Dolphin would be here for her weekly Wednesday visit, but here she came, all bundled up in pink coat and boots, ready to make Christmas cookies.

I brought out my big copper breadbox filled with all kinds of cookie cutters and it was a hard decision to narrow the choice down to 7 or 8 cutters.  She picked them out, though, and I don’t believe any of them were Christmas cutters, but the colored sugar would make a Christmas cookie out of any design.



With the older grandchildren (now in college and beyond) the best part was mixing the cookies, especially breaking the eggs, but the two youngest grandchildren, Dolphin and her brother Jellyfish, are somewhat squeamish about getting stuff on their hands so I normally have the dough ready for rolling and cutting when they get here.  This time, though, Dolphin wanted to make the cookies from scratch and did all of the measuring, pouring and mixing.



She did a good job rolling out the dough, asking every few seconds, “Is this good enough?” until she had the cookies cut out and on the sheet.


Then came the fun of using all the sugar and decorations she wanted – and she used a lot, as the grandchildren always do.



When the cookies were finished, she was extremely proud and only ate a portion of one pony, saving the rest for her mom and dad and for Jellyfish when he got off the school bus.


Here is the recipe the grandchildren have been using for about 25 years.  It’s the favorite Christmas cookie of my son-in-law and one older granddaughter and they both like the cookies cut rather thick and barely golden around the edges.  I personally like the cookies rolled very thin and baked to a crisp brown.  The baking time and the yield will depend on how you like your cookies.


  • Servings: Depends on size of cutters and thickness of dough
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  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup softened margarine
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

In mixer bowl, blend flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt.  Mix in butter and margarine.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of beaten egg and 2 teaspoons of vanilla over the flour mixture. Blend well and form into a ball.

Roll out 1/3 of dough at a time to desired thickness on floured board.  Cut with floured cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheets, an inch apart.  Brush with remaining egg and sprinkle with colored sugar.  Bake @ 375 degrees F 5-8 minutes for thin cookies, several minutes more for thicker cookies to a golden brown.