San Antonio’s Perfect Holiday Recipes

reached out to leaders in the
Alamo City’s culinary world to
find out what they like to serve
to family and friends at their
holiday gatherings.
Here are the delicious recipes
and anecdotes they shared with us.
Margaret Jabour Co-Owner, Twin Liquors

I chose two recipes because I love all varieties of dates, the edible sweet dried fruit. As a young girl, I would enjoy eating the dried fruit and would eat a substantial amount of them while completing my homework assignments. Maybe it gave me more energy and focus. Whatever it did, I enjoyed them and they must have been beneficial, as I was an exemplary student.

The first recipe is a fruitcake recipe shared by a great-aunt who enjoyed baking sweets among many other delicious recipes. When I was a young girl, my family would go over to their house almost every Sunday for family visits. I enjoyed her fruitcake because it was mainly dates and nuts and not all the excess fruit, as in the normal recipes. As a fourth-grader, I asked for her recipe, and it was the second dessert I ever prepared. The recipe below is the same fruitcake recipe that I wrote down in fourth grade.

The traditional fruitcake is not as common as when I was young. So I took this time to share the recipe in hopes of salvaging fruitcake from its typical bad reputation. The second recipe is a traditional Lebanese date cookie that has been prepared for generations.


  • Fruitcake
    4 eggs
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    3 ounces cognac (Pierre Ferrand
    Memorable Cognac)
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 pound dates (whole, pitted)
    1 pound maraschino cherries,
    whole (Luxardo are the best)
    1 pound walnuts or pecans (whole)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Beat eggs, add sugar, vanilla and cognac, then mix in sifted flour and baking powder. Fold the dates, cherries and walnuts into the batter, adding a little at a time. Pour into well-greased Bundt pan. Bake at 250 degrees 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

    3 cups farina (ground)
    1 teaspoon ground mahlab (aromatic spice made from seeds of specific cherry. Flavor profile is almond and cherry. Found in specialty food stores).
    1 pound unsalted butter, melted
    2 cups flour
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/2 package active dry yeast/1 cup lukewarm water to dilute
    3-4 pounds pounds pitted dates, or purchase prepackaged ground dates
    Pour farina into large bowl and mix in lukewarm melted butter. Allow butter to saturate into farina for about 15 minutes. Sift flour and sugar into farina mixture.

Melt dry yeast with lukewarm water and mix by hand or mixer. Add lukewarm water as needed to form dough mixture. Cover mixture with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/2 inch or thicker layer of farina mixture on greased 12×16-inch pan; add a layer of dates. Repeat layer of farina mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and pour cooled syrup immediately over surface. Allow syrup to saturate until the next day before cutting pastry.

    4 cups water
    2 cups sugar
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    2 tablespoons orange blossom water

Bring water and sugar to boil and add lemon juice. Lower heat and stir in orange blossom water. Allow to cool.


My husband and I ducked into a tiny, dusty pink restaurant that featured fondue when we were in Buenos Aires this summer. We didn’t have much hopes for the meal, but it ended up being our favorite evening together. We chattted, quibbled over who would get the last piece of bread and finished off two bottles of wine. Here’s a San Antonio version of that recipe:




SAW N-D 2015 - Entertaining - Melissa Guerra - Spicy Fondue


1 clove peeled garlic
1 cup white wine
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
4 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tequila
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 loaf French bread, cut into chunks
1 apple, cut into slices
1 pear, cut into slices
Assorted veggies and sausage,
cut into chunks (about 8 ounces each)

Rub the inside of a 2-quart saucepan with the clove of garlic. Discard the garlic. Fill the saucepan with the white wine, and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, place the shredded cheeses in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, and toss to coat well. Add the cheese to the simmering wine, stir and allow to melt, about 3 minutes. Add the tequila and pepper flakes (if desired), and simmer for 2 more minutes. Pour the hot fondue into a fondue pot. Light candle or fuel source under the fondue pot to keep it warm. Serve with bread, fruit, veggies and sausage.
Serves 4


Pumpkin Cheesecake has been a tradition in our family for years. I love this recipe from Taste of Home.

SAW N-D 2015 - Entertaining - Caryn and Tony Hasslocher Pumpkin Cheesecake






    Pumpkin Cheesecake
    1 cup crushed gingersnap cookies
    (about 20 cookies)
    1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened, divided
    1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    4 large eggs
    1 cup canned pumpkin
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1-1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

GARNISH: Fresh Ginger Whipped Cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Place a greased 9-inch spring form pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 inches square). Securely wrap foil around pan.

In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs, pecans and butter. Press onto the bottom of prepared pan. Place on a baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack.

For filling, in a large bowl, beat 1 package of cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in remaining cream cheese, one package at a time until smooth. Add remaining sugar and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined.

Place 2 cups filling in a small bowl; stir in pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Remove 3/4 cup pumpkin filling; set aside. Pour remaining pumpkin filling over crust; top with remaining plain filling. Cut through with a knife to swirl. Drop reserved pumpkin filling by spoonfuls over cheesecake; cut through with a knife to swirl.

Place spring form pan in a large baking pan; add 1 inch of hot water to larger pan. Bake 55-65 minutes or until center is just set and top appears dull. Remove spring form pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.

Garnish with Fresh Ginger Whipped Cream. Yield: 12 servings.


My maternal Greek grandmother was an amazing matriarch who loved to entertain and was very devoted to family. She had four brothers, and all of their families would come together at her house for wonderful meals during the holidays and year-round. She would make delicious Greek food that was enjoyed by all. These are two of her recipes.




Christine Kelly-Keftedakia copy

  • Greek Cocktail Meatballs /Keftedakia
    2 pounds ground beef
    (or optional 1/2 ground lamb or pork)
    1 cup finely chopped onions
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    2 cups moist bread crumbs or cooked rice
    2 eggs (slightly beaten)
    1 tablespoon salt (or less salt if desired)
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    2 tablespoons chopped parsley
    1 teaspoon dried mint leaves
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    White wine (optional)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Sauté the onions and garlic in the butter and olive oil until soft and then let them cool. Place the cooled onions in a bowl and add the meat, bread crumbs or rice, eggs, mint, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Knead well until all ingredients are blended and shape into small meatballs, the size of a walnut. Place in an oiled baking pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from oven and pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup white wine over the meatballs. Place in a serving dish to keep warm and pour any pan juices over the meatballs.

As an alternative cooking method, these meatballs can be dredged in flour and fried in a heavy skillet in about an inch of extra virgin olive oil. Heat the oil and fry a few at a time, turning constantly, until golden. Serve hot or cold.
(Custard with Filo Dough)

SAW N-D 2015 - Christine Kelly - Galatoboureko 3

  • Custard:
    1 quart milk
    1 3/4 cups sugar
    3/4 cup farina or Cream of Wheat
    1 cup butter
    10 eggs, separated
    2 teaspoons grated orange rind
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 jiggers Cointreau or other fruit liqueur
    1 pound filo pastry leaves
    Melted butter
  • Spiced Syrup:
    1 cup water
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 jiggers orange or peach liqueur
    3 whole cloves
    1 cinnamon stick
    2 teaspoons orange peel

In a large saucepan, heat the milk and 1/2 of the sugar over low heat until warm. Add farina slowly, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it thickens and is smooth. Add the butter and stir until completely blended. Remove from heat, add vanilla, orange rind, and liqueur. Stir well and allow mixture to cool. Beat egg yolks and remaining sugar until frothy. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into yolks. Add farina mixture and mix well.

Bring all the spiced syrup ingredients (except vanilla and liqueur) to a boil. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and liqueur. Remove from heat and cool. Prepare the custard and syrup and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan. Place about 10 sheets of filo dough on the bottom of the pan, each individually brushed with melted butter. Pour the cooled custard mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Cover the custard with the remaining filo sheets, brushing each sheet with butter. With a sharp knife or razor blade, cut the top of the pastry into 3-inch squares. Bake for 1 hour; remove from the oven and pour cool syrup over the pan, so that it saturates the filo and custard thoroughly. Allow to cool before serving.

Maureen Weissman Co-Owner, Moshe’s Falafel

This recipe is a family favorite and a crowd pleaser even with the older set of Jewish women who think that we don’t know kugel from schmaltz!


SAW N-D 2015 - Entertaining - Maureen Weissman - Kugel 4




    2 pounds egg noodles
    1/2 pound unsalted butter
    2 pounds cottage cheese
    8 cups labneh
    2 cups sugar
    25 eggs
    4 cups yellow raisins
    5 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil noodles. Mix with all other ingredients. Bake 45 minutes. Crush frosted flakes over top and dust with cinnamon to finish.


The Christmas Tree Appetizer has been a favorite of the Cacy family for over 30 years during Christmas gatherings in the festive home of chef Young Cacy, the owner and chef at Ilsong Garden Korean BBQ at 6905 Blanco Road. The tree is always the centerpiece on the table, and even though there is an initial hesitation by the guests to tear apart the artistic masterpiece, it is quickly devoured every time. The concept and design are beautiful, and the construction is simple.




Young’s Christmas Celebration Tree
The foundation for the tree is a Styrofoam cone, which can be purchased at most arts and crafts stores. The size of the cone selected depends on the size of the party.

  • Required:
    Styrofoam cone
    Boiled and peeled shrimp
    (the larger the better on larger cones)
    One large bunch of parsley with
    main stems removed
    One pint of cherry tomatoes
    Party toothpicks

Construction: Begin by placing shrimp on a circular/ascending pattern on the cone, secured with the party toothpicks. Next, place cherry tomatoes next to the shrimp also on a circular/ascending pattern. The final task is to place the de-stemmed parsley between the rows of tomatoes and shrimp to simulate the tree branches.

That’s it. Sit back, marvel at your work, and then enjoy.


This bread pudding recipe is very special to me because we began making it at Uncle Ben’s 70 years ago. Today, it holds a very special place at our family holiday table. Our family looks forward to enjoying it every Christmas.





SAW N-D 201`5 - Entertaining - Rosemary Kowalski - Bread Pudding 1

    1 French baguette, sliced into 1/2” rounds
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
    4 ounces butter, melted
    4 cups heavy cream
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon vanilla
    4 tablespoons cornstarch
    1/4 cup bourbon (optional)

Mix together 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss baguette rounds in melted butter, then lay out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over baguettes. Toast at 300 degrees for 8-10 minutes until crisp and slightly golden.

Heat heavy cream and sugar over medium heat until sugar dissolves and milk simmers. Prepare a slurry with the cornstarch, and drizzle it slowly into cream mixture, being careful to whisk quickly and avoid lumps. Allow sauce to simmer and thicken, stirring often. Remove sauce from heat and add vanilla and bourbon if desired.

In a cake pan or other deep-sided baking dish, ladle 1/4” of sauce, and then cover with a single layer of baguette toast. Cover baguettes with another layer of sauce and repeat process until dish is full.

­Wrap entire dish in plastic wrap and foil. Heat bread pudding in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes when baguettes will have softened a little and become soaked with sauce. Invert bread pudding onto a serving platter, and then ladle extra sauce over the top. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, berries or toasted nuts.

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