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Holiday Eats and Treats from the College of Social Work

a table laden with holiday food and decorMany of us associate this time of year with very particular tastes and smells.  Below are some favorite holiday recipes (and recollections) collected from across the College of Social Work.

Cranberry -Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip by Mel’s Kitchen Café 
Shared by Meghan Broadbent, Associate Director of the Social Research Institute


12 ounces (340 grams) fresh cranberries
4-5 green onions, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 cup (212 grams) sugar, more or less to taste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
2 (8-ounces each) packages (454 grams) cream cheese, light or regular, softened
Crackers, for serving


  1. Pulse the cranberries in a food processor or blender until coarsely chopped.  Add the green onions, cilantro, jalapeno, sugar, cumin, lemon juice and salt and pulse until the ingredients are well combined and finely chopped.  Transfer the mixture to a covered container and refrigerate for 4 hours (or up to overnight) so the flavors have time to meld and develop.
  2. When ready to serve, spread the cream cheese in an even layer on a serving plate or 9-inch pie dish.  Top with the cranberry-jalapeno mixture.
  3. Refrigerate for up to an hour before serving. Serve with crackers.

Lemony Mashed Potatoes by Hells Back Bone Grill
Shared by Richie Landward, Assistant Professor/Lecturer

Christmas dinner MUST have yummy mash potatoes to pair with the turkey and gravy.  We have been going to Hells Back Bone Grill in Boulder, Utah for years.  They have a lemon mash potato recipe that has become our Christmas go-to.


4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
1 cup unsalted, softened butter, in chunks
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup half and half
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped garden parsley


Scrub and rinse potatoes well, then chop them into quarters and rinse under cold water.

Fill large saucepan with potatoes, then fill with water to cover by 1 inch.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook uncovered until tender to the fork, 25-30 minutes.  Drain, return potatoes to pan and shake off excess moisture.

Add butter and mash it in, coating potatoes lightly.  Add cream and mash until smooth, adding the half and half to thin and smooth potatoes if needed.

Finish with lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper to taste.

Gently fold in sour cream, leaving ribbons of white.  Garnish dish with chopped parsley.

Makes enough for leftovers!

Acini de Pepe by Mary Margaret McComb McDonald
Shared by Chad McDonald, Director of the Social Research Institute

One of the highest-demand dishes of my holiday family gatherings is what most call “frog-eye salad,” but my family affectionately refers to it simply as “acini.”

Through the years, other family members have made their variation of it, and it never goes off as well as when I make it according to my late mother’s own recipe.  I am not sure where exactly she got it, but it has evolved to the point that when folks volunteer what dish they will bring to the gathering, they all expect and hope the dish I focus on is the acini.  Hands down, my mother’s recipe flies onto the plates, whereas other variations … not so much.  And each holiday, someone inevitably will make some type of comment that they could live off only eating acini if they could only have one food to eat the rest of their life. 

Before she passed, she always made it … now I have the privilege of carrying on her legacy with this recipe at each gathering.


A hand written copy of the Acini de Pepe recipe, the paper worn and stained.

1 box Acini de Pepe pasta
2 cans (drained) crushed pineapple (retain 1 ¾ cups juice)
1 can (drained) tidbit pineapple
3 cans (drained) mandarin oranges
1 egg
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
Mini marshmallows and shredded coconut (to taste)
1 large container (or 2 regular containers) of Cool Whip (can be regular, light, or sugar-free)


Cook 1 box of Acini de Pepe according to the directions on the box.  Drain in a colander lined with cheesecloth or other methods that minimize the loss of the small pasta.

Open cans of fruit and drain overnight.  Capture only pineapple juice (1 ¾ cups) for sauce.  The remaining juice, along with the juice from the mandarin oranges, can be discarded.


1 ¾ cup pineapple juice (from the drained pineapple)
1 egg
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients and cook until thick.  Add cooked noodles and let cool/marinate overnight.

Next day, add ingredients as indicated below:

2 cans (drained) crushed pineapple
1 can (drained) tidbit pineapple (An extra can of drained tidbit pineapple can also be added to taste)
3 cans (drained) mandarin oranges
Marshmallows and coconut to taste  
1 large container (or 2 regular containers) of Cool Whip

Pumpkin Bread by Auntie Elsie Doi
Shared by Lisa Himonas, Assistant Dean for Development

This pumpkin bread recipe has been a family favorite for at least a decade.  It makes three large loaves (I’ve also divided it make 9-10 gift-size loaves or several mid-sized loaves), which freeze well for 3-4 months.  It came to us through a close family friend, Chris Aoki Munson; she got the recipe from a beloved late aunt, Auntie Elsie Doi.  We start making (and eating!) this breakfast or dessert bread (SO versatile) in October, staying true to it through December.


2 ½ cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1 large can pumpkin (29 oz.)
6 eggs
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
5 cups flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons baking soda
2 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
½ stick (1/4 cup) butter, melted
2+ cups powdered sugar
1+ tablespoons milk


Bread: Mix sugars and oil in a large mixing bowl.  Mix in eggs and can of pumpkin.  Mix rest of ingredients together in another bowl and then add gradually to wet ingredients.  Grease and flour bread pans*.  Fill pans only to half of depth.  Bake for about 1 hour at 335° F (check middle with toothpick test before removing from oven).  

*Batter makes 3 large loaves or 5 small loaves.

Frosting: Combine ½ stick melted butter and 2+ cups powdered sugar.  Add milk until frosting is of a spreadable consistency.  Can top frosted loaves with chopped walnuts if desired.  Happy baking and eating.

Nanny’s Fruitcake Cookies by Connie Whitley
Shared by Jennifer Nozawa, Marketing & Communications Manager

WAIT, hear me out!  I don’t like fruitcake either.  But these cookies—developed by my great grandmother—have the perfect ratio of spiced dough to weird, booze-soaked fruit, and they’re delicious.  Every time my mom makes them, they fill the house with an inviting holiday fragrance and sweet memories of my grandmother and great grandmother.

a white plate with three fruicake cookies placed on it


½ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs beaten
3 tablespoons milk
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 pound dried cherries, chopped, soaked overnight in bourbon or rum
1 pound candied pineapple, chopped
½ pound raisins, soaked (or cooked until soft) in bourbon or rum
2 pounds chopped pecans or walnuts
⅔ cup bourbon or rum (as needed to moisten)


  1. Preheat the oven to 300° F.
  2. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, and milk in a bowl.
  3. Add in flour, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and baking soda.
  4. Finally, stir in fruit and nuts until well distributed, gradually adding bourbon/rum last and as needed to moisten the dough.
  5. Scoop dough into walnut-sized balls and place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes.


This recipe requires a little day-before prep work for the cherries and raisins.  If you’re not up for it, Nanny got away with candied cherries and normal raisins.

The cookies will have a somewhat cake-like texture straight out of the oven, then get a bit gooey after resting—both versions are good.

Follow me for more foods I eat, but don’t actually prepare! 😉

Grandma Alice’s Rolls by Alice Robena Ogden
Shared by Diane Weeks, Director of Administration & Finance

This recipe is 100 years old and has been loved by five generations.  It was developed by my Great Grandma Alice Ogden Christensen, who was a great cook.  It has been slightly modified using instant potatoes instead of real mashed potatoes and water instead of scalded milk, but it is still delicious.  We make these rolls every holiday season.


1 tablespoon yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
½ cup warm water
3 cups warm water
¾ cup instant mashed potatoes
¾ cup shortening
2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (optional)
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
6 cups flour


  1. Mix yeast, sugar, and ½ warm water, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups warm water, instant mashed potatoes, shortening, salt, sugar, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, and 2 cups of the flour.
  3. Add yeast mixture to the large bowl and mix.
  4. Let rise 45-60 minutes.
  5. Add about 4 more cups of flour, one at a time, stirring, then kneading to make a soft, elastic dough.
  6. Set aside in a greased bowl to let rise for at least one hour.
  7. It may raise as many times as you like before shaping into rolls.  (Do not refrigerate dough overnight, as it makes the rolls taste yeasty.)
  8. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  9. Make rolls into desired shape, let rise 20 – 30 minutes.
  10. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 3 dozen rolls

Fresh Cranberry Sauce by Ocean Spray
Shared by Christian Sarver, Associate Director of the Utah Criminal Justice Center

In my family, the main purpose of the holiday meal is to serve as a platform for cranberries.  We always have two kinds (must have two kinds—sauce and relish).  The jellied version is always served in my grandmother’s crystal bowl.  My mother is a stickler about add ins—no cinnamon, no orange liqueur, and definitely no marshmallows.  Until I was in my twenties—and making my own holiday meals—I thought the recipes were cherished secrets, handed down through generations.

Turns out both are on the Ocean Spray bag.  But cherished nonetheless.


1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 12-ounce package Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries


Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cover and cool completely at room temperature.  Refrigerate until serving time.  Makes 2 ¼ cups.

Boxed Cereal
Shared by Nicolle Dickey, Online Instructional Designer & Educational Support Specialist

The first is a tradition that my parents started, and I have continued with my children and grandchildren.  I grew up in a family with a low income, and between the expense and my parents’ philosophy on nutrition, we didn’t ever have store-bought cereal or other processed foods.  My mom ground whole wheat and made wheat mush most days, and a couple of times a month we would get raisins in it.  Sometimes we had grits, oatmeal, or leftover rice in reconstituted powdered milk—yuck.  

One year when I was about 6, my parents Santa began leaving each of us kids a box of sugar cereal wrapped in shiny paper.  Those yearly boxes of sugar cereal became a fun tradition and the “best” presents some years.  We’d drive hard bargains trading cups of our cereal with each other, and we’d have a friendly rationing competition to see who could make their box last the longest.  Ironically, three of us now have diabetes, so I guess our sugar cereal ban wasn’t all that effective—we’ll blame Santa Claus. 😂  Lucky Charms, Trix, and Fruit Loops were the favorites, and one year when I got Frosted Shredded Wheat, I was utterly disappointed and nobody would trade with me.  Too close to our healthy wheat mush to be a favorite.  

Cinnamon Sugar Candied Nuts by Damn Delicious
Shared by Nicolle Dickey, Online Instructional Designer & Educational Support Specialist

I make a huge batch of sugar and spice nuts for my middle son, and now that has been expanded to share with our neighbors and friends.  The recipe that I’ve used most in recent years comes from Chungah Rhee’s Damn Delicious site.  Our friends look forward to these each year, and our house smells “damn delicious” for days after making them.  Enjoy!


1 large egg white
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups raw almonds
1 cup raw pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 300° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg white and 1 tablespoon water until frothy, about 2 minutes; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine sugars and cinnamon; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine almonds, pecans and egg white mixture until well combined.  Stir in brown sugar mixture until evenly coated.
  5. Spread almond mixture onto prepared baking sheet in an even layer.  Place into oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring at halftime.
  6. Let cool completely before serving.

Spice Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel by Bon Appétit
Shared by Stephanie Dawson Pack, Marketing & Communications Specialist

This is the cranberry sauce I didn’t know I needed in my life.  In 2020, in the middle of pandemic lockdown and COVID spikes, my family was preparing for a holiday season on our own.  In anticipation of making many firsts (that turkey was such a disaster, it might be our only attempt at cooking one at home), I was looking for recipes for traditional dishes my husband and I could make.  Lisa Himonas passed on this cranberry recipe that her family loved and we decided to try it.  We haven’t gone a year without it since—it’s that good.

a bowl of cranberry sauce sits on table with festive decor surrounding it


1 ¾ cups red Zinfandel
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 3x1-inch strip orange peel
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries


Combine all ingredients except cranberries in medium saucepan.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1 ¾ cups, about 10 minutes.  Strain syrup into large saucepan.  Add cranberries to syrup and cook over medium heat until berries burst, about 6 minutes.  Cool.  Transfer sauce to medium bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until cold.  

Can be made up to 1 week ahead.  Keep refrigerated.

Makes about 3 cups.

Artichoke Dip
Shared by Bethany Bingham, Development Specialist

This has become a favorite for our Christmas Eve party.  I make a double recipe every year. 


8 ounce cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise (I like the olive oil type)
1 can chopped/diced green chilies (mild or medium)
16 ounces quartered, marinated artichoke hearts, drained
4 ounces package shredded parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400° F.  Chop the artichoke hearts on a cutting board to desired size after draining.  Mix all ingredients together using a hand mixer.  Reserve a small amount of parmesan for topping.  Bake in 9x9 pan for 30 minutes or until edges are browning and bubbly.  Serve warm with tortilla chips or crackers.

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Last Updated: 12/20/23