Favorite Family Recipes for the Holidays

This holiday season, Renewal by Andersen of Sacramento owners Brian Morris, Steve Grendahl and Debi Grendahl would like to share their favorite family recipes prepared each year at this time. From oyster stew to Norwegian torte, these dishes go back generations and have created family memories that have lasted for decades—and flavors that will be awaited for years to come!

favorite family recipes 1

Date-Filled Sugar Cookies

Owner Brian Morris’ grandmother, Annie Eilders, was famous for these date-filled sugar cookies. Every today, family members still mention how they fondly remember these holiday treats made lovingly by their grandmother back when they were children.


  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg


  • 2 cups chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tarter
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, if desired (Mother didn’t.)

Alternate filling recipe:

  • 1 cup white syrup
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • ½ cup water
  • If you don’t like dates, an alternate recipe for the filling is:
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons flour


  • Cook filling mixture slowly until thick, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes until a stiff batter forms.
  • Roll thin, as if for a pie crust.
  • Cut into rounds with cookie cutter and place on baking sheet. (Motlier used a cutter that was 3 3/8 inches in diameter with a gear-tooth-like edge.)
  • Put 1 generous teaspoon of filling in a mound on a cookie and cover with another cookie.
  • Press edges of top cookie down onto bottom of cookie in order to seal in the filling.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cookies will be light cream in color.

favorite family recipes 2

McGillivray Oyster Stew

Brian would also like to share one of his mom’s favorite family recipes—McGillivray Oyster Stew—with the Renewal by Andersen family. She wasn’t sure if it was of Scottish or Danish, but she was sure it would pair perfectly with ringing in the New Year. The family usually serves this with a platter of cheeses, some crusty breads, salad or fruit salad and desserts—usually platters of Christmas cookies and breads—with coffee.


  • 1 pint shucked oysters (fresh)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup half & half
  • Dash of bottled hot pepper sauce (optional….I don’t usually use it)
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Paprika
  • Butter (real)


  • In a medium saucepan, combine the undrained oysters and ¾ teaspoon salt.  Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes until the edges of the oysters curl.
  • Stir in milk, cream, and sauces.  Heat through.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle each serving with paprika and top with a pat of butter.
  • Serve with oyster crackers.
  • Prepare just before serving, as it will get a skin on top if it sits and cools, which will need to be removed.

favorite family recipes 3

Himmel Torte

Owners Steve and Debi Grendahl can’t remember a time when this scrumptious Himmel Torte wasn’t around during the holidays—it truly is one of the most celebrated favorite family recipes! Steve is 100 percent Norwegian and very proud of his roots, so much so that his son was a little bit nervous to give away this family recipe.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 package chopped pitted dates 8 ounces
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  • Mix all ingredients together and bake on a large, greased baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Crumble on large glass plate. Top with fruit and whipped cream.
  • Fruit suggestions: fresh pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe, strawberries, bananas, and grapes.