The Lawson Family's holiday card photo - Danny, Kellan, almost 5, Jane, and Carsten, 2
The Lawson Family's holiday card photo - Danny, Kellan, almost 5, Jane, and Carsten, 2
In just a few short hours, Santa Claus will be making his way down chimneys to nibble upon the tasty cookies left for him by hopeful children.

Holiday cookies and candies are made even more delicious as we get to sample them just once a year. There are some foods that make the holiday complete. Perhaps it's Grandma's gingerbread cookies or Aunt Mary's fruit salad that is your awaited taste of the Christmas season. Or maybe the holidays are a time to try something new and keep up with the times.

Whatever it may be, Happy Holidays from our home to yours.

Mom's Sugar Cookies

Michelle Sigler, of Dallas Center, and her family bake sugar cookies with her parents, Dan and Teresa Case, of Grimes, each year. It's become an annual tradition because everyone in the family likes to pitch in and help decorate the cookies. Michelle and her husband, Dave, have four children, Cole, 14, Luke, 12, Zack, 9, and Elliana, 4.

Michelle said this year, Elli definitely took the prize for decorating. Elli worked for hours to make her cookies look beautiful.

This recipe comes from Michelle's grandma and it is a family favorite. Michelle thinks they are the best tasting sugar cookies and they work very well for decorating. The recipe yields ten dozen cookies plenty to keep for your family get-togethers, plus some to bring to neighbors and friends.

3 cups sugar

1 cup lard (Crisco - Michelle really wants to try butter instead, but her mom says no)

3 eggs

dash of salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 cups sour cream (16 oz)

1 teaspoon baking soda

8 cups flour (my mom usually has to use her hands to work it all in)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Flour countertop and roll out dough to cut into shapes with cookie cutters. We find metal cookie cutters work best. Place shapes on pan and leave a little room in between each cookie for them to "poof up." Bake each pan for 6 minutes. Cookies will be light and fluffy. Let them cool before you frost and decorate them.

Ice Cream Cinnamon Rolls

A friend in Michelle's church group gave her this recipe that has turned into a holiday tradition for the Sigler family.

On the night of Christmas Eve, Michelle (a 1994 Carroll High School graduate) prepares the cinnamon rolls about an hour before she goes to bed. In the morning after the gifts from Santa have been opened and photos have been snapped Michelle bakes the rolls. Michelle said the rolls are beyond delicious and they tasted like homemade cinnamon rolls, but without all the work.

1 pkg frozen Rhodes cinnamon rolls

1 cup French vanilla ice cream

1 stick butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional - I leave it out)

Bring sauce to a rolling boil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Set aside and let cool. Place 12 rolls in a buttered 9x13 pan. Pour sauce over them. Cover with plastic wrap (spray the inside of the wrap with nonstick spray so it doesn't stick).

Bake the rolls at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Cool slightly and frost with the packets that came with the rolls.

Caramel Corn

Delayne Morris of Ottumwa (formerly of Carroll) enjoys making batches of homemade caramel corn to give away at Christmastime. She packs the caramel corn in decorative tins to give to family, friends, co-workers, and teachers of her son, Devin, 9.

7½ quarts popped popcorn

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup butter

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a saucepan, heat butter, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Stir occasionally. When the mixture comes to a full boil, cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and mix until evenly coated. Bake for 1 hour in a large, greased roasting pan, stirring every 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

*For some extra crunch, stir in 1-2 cups of peanuts (honey or dry roasted) or pecans.

Creamy Brussels Sprout Gratin

To add to my holiday cooking adventures, I am trying out two new side dishes. The following recipe comes from Fine Cooking. I've always liked Brussels sprouts even as a child. I remember ordering crab legs and Brussels sprouts for dinner one time and the waiter being very impressed with my mature palate.

2 lbs Brussels sprouts, stem ends trimmed and outer leaves removed; sprouts cut in half through the stem end

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs (from a baguette or other white bread)

3/4 oz (1/4 cup) finely grated Gruyère

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the Brussels sprouts in a shallow baking dish that will hold them in a snug single layer (a 9x13-inch rectangle or slightly smaller oval is good). Toss with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, ¾ teaspoon salt, and several grinds of pepper. Spread them evenly in the dish and roast, tossing once or twice, until browned in spots and tender when pierced with a knife, 25 to 30 minutes.

While the sprouts roast, combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Mix in the Gruyère.

When the Brussels sprouts are tender and browned, pour the cream over them and continue baking until the cream has thickened to a saucy consistency and coats the sprouts, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Set the oven to broil and position a rack to 6 inches below the broiler. Sprinkle on the breadcrumb mixture. Broil the gratin until the crust is deep golden brown, about 5 minutes.

9 Hour Burgundy Mushrooms

When I saw these mushrooms being prepared on the "Pioneer Woman" on the Food Network, I thought they looked interesting. I was even more intrigued when I saw they take a full nine hours to cook. I am armed and ready to try my hand at preparing them for our Christmas Eve dinner alongside smoked baby back ribs, bleu cheese and Rosemary mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprout gratin.

4 lbs white button mushrooms

2 sticks butter

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 liter Burgundy wine (other reds will work)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups boiling water

4 whole chicken bouillon cubes

4 whole beef bouillon cubes

1 teaspoon dill seed

5 cloves garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons salt

Thoroughly wash the mushrooms and place them in a large stockpot. Add all the remaining ingredients except the salt. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for six hours.

Remove the lid then continue cooking, uncovered, for three hours. Add salt to taste at the end if desired. The mushrooms will be very dark in color. Simmer until needed. Serve straight from the pot or in a serving bowl. Dip crusty bread in the juice. Mushrooms keep well in the refrigerator.