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    Holidays: A Time for Family

    By David Landis–

    Whether it’s Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, or whatever floats your boat, holidays are not just religious or cultural, but truly a chance to celebrate family.

    So, what better way to share the holidays with my loyal readers than to share recipes from three generations of the Landis family. (One actually was a “Talandis” from Lithuania whose name got changed at Ellis Island, but that’s another story for another time.)

    To celebrate, I asked my dear sister Kate Landis (who happens to be a great cook in her own right) for holiday family recipes. I offer the following delectable desserts from our Lithuanian, Austrian, and American kin: grandmother Ona (Anna) Landis (originally Talandis), my paternal grandmother from Lithuania; Catherine Krater, my maternal grandmother from Austrian heritage; my American mother, LaVerne Shirley Landis; and my sister Kate. Kate gets all the credit since she’s still around. My other holiday hope is that my two Grandmas and Mom are smiling down from wherever they are, knowing that their recipes live on.

    Grandma Landis’ Krustries

    According to sister Kate, “I actually have memories of making these with Grandma Landis. She was always afraid we’d burn ourselves!”

    2 eggs
    1 ½ cups flour
    1 teaspoon whiskey
    2 ½ tablespoons butter
    1 teaspoon sugar
    ½ teaspoon vanilla

    Mix all ingredients. Knead well until dough isn’t sticky. Roll in plastic wrap and let rest 10 minutes. Roll paper thin on floured surface. Cut into rectangles 1 ½” x 3.” Cut a slit in the middle—turn ½ through to twist. Deep fry a few at a time until light golden brown. After they’re cooled, sprinkle powder sugar on them.

    Grandma Krater’s Kolacki

    As The Gay Gourmet attests, “We used to eat the inside jam first!”
    8 oz cream cheese
    2 sticks butter
    2 cups flour
    1 can Solo filling (apricot, prune, or raspberry)

    powdered sugar

    Preheat oven to 350º. Soften butter, mix with cream cheese and flour. Roll out dough to 1/8” thickness. Cut 2” squares. Fill with ½ teaspoon filling. Fold two kitty corners into center so filling appears on two sides. You can also cut into circles and put filling into “thumbprint” in the center. Bake 10–15 minutes. Cool. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top.

    LaVerne Shirley Landis’ Christmas Wreath Cookies

    Kate says, “These take a lot of work, but they are wonderful little bites that look just like wreaths. One recipe yields between 32 and 36 cookies.” 

    ½ pound butter
    3 cups flour
    Seedless raspberry jam
    Diced red and green cherries
    3 egg yolks
    ½ cup sugar

    ground pistachios or, alternatively, green sugar

    Preheat oven to 350º. Cream sugar and egg yolks. Work flour and butter like pie dough. Mix. Roll like pie dough. If too dry, add a little egg white. Cut into shapes with shot glass and thimble (or equal size cutters). Put the cookie bottoms on one sheet and the tops on the other in case the tops cook faster. Roll to a thickness of 1/6th inch and cut with 2” round and ¾” round. Beat egg whites. Brush on cookie tops and decorate to resemble wreaths with cherries and green nuts. Bake about 13 minutes, but watch closely. Wash cookie sheets before using again to get rid of any pistachio or cookie residue. Put together after cooked with raspberry jam in between the bottom and top.

    Kate Landis’ Nanaimo Bars

    Kate explains that these are “a later addition to our family recipe book, made after our boys graduated from high school. It is an all-time favorite. You can make a batch, eat a few, freeze in small quantities, and then take out for a treat in the middle of the summer. There are a number of stories as to where this cookie came from. It’s thought to be native to Nanaimo, British Columbia (hence the name), and it gained widespread popularity in the 1950s. Whatever its origins, we love it. We added the twist of peanut butter to make a simple, delicious, no-bake bar cookie that’s super kid-friendly.”

    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
    1/4 cup sugar
    1/3 cup cocoa
    1 large egg, beaten
    1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
    1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
    1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds

    Peanut Butter Filling:
    1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
    1/3 cup peanut butter
    1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

    Chocolate Glaze:
    4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter

    Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan or casserole with aluminum foil, with long flaps hanging over each edge.

    For the cookie: Put the butter in a heatproof medium bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer over medium-low heat. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar and cocoa, and stir to combine. Add the egg and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until warm to the touch and slightly thickened (it should be about the consistency of hot fudge), about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press the dough firmly into the prepared pan. Save the pan of water for melting the chocolate.

    For the filling: Beat the butter, peanut butter, and confectioner’s sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light. Spread over the cookie and freeze while you prepare the chocolate glaze.

    For the glaze: Put the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl and set over the barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. (Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt at 50 percent power in the microwave until soft, about 1 minute. Stir, and continue to heat until completely melted, about 1 minute more.) When cool but still runny, pour the chocolate layer over the chilled peanut butter layer and carefully smooth out with an offset spatula. Freeze 30 minutes. To serve, remove from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Pull out of the pan using the foil flaps and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch squares with a sharp knife. Serve cool or at room temperature.

    Busy baker’s tips: Finished bars can be wrapped in the pan in plastic wrap, then covered with aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month.

    Holiday Bits and Bites

    Here are some last-minute holiday gift ideas for the foodie in your family:

    Mr. Espresso is offering “Espresso d’Italia,” a coffee break in a box. It contains three bags of Mr. Espresso coffee, assorted Condorelli Italian chocolates, and a sleek, black, six-cup Moka pot.

    Canela, the Spanish tapas favorite in the Castro, is planning an “our home is your home” event—a New Year’s Eve tapas tasting menu with a pairing option. Party size is a maximum of 5 guests. Dine-in only.

    Local favorite TCHO Chocolate has gift boxes that are sure to be a holiday hit with the family.

    Boxxle is a must-have for wine lovers, like The Gay Gourmet! This stylish, bag-in-a-box appliance creates wine on tap at home. The dispenser holds up to four bottles of wine or one boxed wine. It uses new technology to dispense wine, elevating the experience both by offering a convenient and attractive way (one button touch) to pour boxed wine and by placing the spigot above the rim of the glass for easy dispensing. Boxxle will keep your wine fresh for up to a month if you do not finish all of it in one sitting. It also prevents oxidation, which eliminates spoiled wine.

    Meatcrafters salamis, cured meats, and sausages are made for charcuterie lovers everywhere. The company uses high quality meats, many locally sourced and produced in small batches, along with fresh spices, herbs, and seasonal blends designed to bring out unique and complex, yet subtle, flavors.

    This holiday season, hand-crafted and locally-owned Johnny Doughnuts is offering a holiday doughnut box for $60, which includes a pre-made dozen to order, wrapped in gold ribbon. The box includes seasonal exclusives like apple pie bismarks and wildberry bismarks, as well as 8 other assorted flavors.

    Mr. Espresso:
    TCHO Chocolate:
    Johnny Doughnuts:

    David Landis, aka “The Gay Gourmet,” is a foodie, a freelance writer, and a retired PR maven. Follow him on Instagram @GayGourmetSF or email him at: Or visit him online at:

    Published on December 2, 2021