Holiday Recipes and Memories from the Law School's Family Cookbooks


Posted Dec. 12, 2012

University of Virginia School of Law faculty, staff and alumni opened up their cookbooks and shared recipes and memories from the holiday season.

What's your favorite holiday recipe from your cookbook? Tell us on Facebook

Martha Ballenger '69

Assistant Dean for Student Affairs

"I promise that this is the best sweet potato recipe you can find — and so easy. This is my sainted Aunt Virginia's recipe."

2 cups canned sweet potatoes or boiled fresh sweet potatoes

Sweet Potato Casserole

1/3 cup melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar (less if canned potatoes are in heavy syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons flour 
Mash potatoes with mixer. Add butter, sugar and salt and mix. Add eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Mix thoroughly. Pour into buttered casserole dish.

1 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar

Mix and spread over potatoes. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Can be made day ahead and refrigerated.

Kevin Donovan

Senior Assistant Dean for Career Services

Donovan reports that this white and dark chocolate bread pudding with Bailey’s sauce from Bon Appetit has become a family favorite. (Here it is online.)

White and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bailey’s Sauce

2 cups whipping cream
6 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

Bread pudding 
14 cups 3/4-inch cubes French bread with crust (about 12 oz.)
6 oz. bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz. imported white chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

For sauce
Bring cream, liqueur, sugar and vanilla to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Mix cornstarch and 2 teaspoons water in small bowl to blend; whisk into cream mixture. Boil until sauce thickens, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Cool, then cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. (Can be made three days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

For bread pudding
Combine bread, chocolate and white chocolate in large bowl; toss to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla in another large bowl to blend. Gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups cream and milk. Add cream mixture to bread mixture; stir to combine. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 13x9-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Transfer bread mixture to prepared dish, spreading evenly. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup cream. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake pudding until edges are golden and custard is set in center, about 1 hour. Cool pudding slightly.

Drizzle bread pudding with sauce and serve warm. The sauce can keep a few days in refrigerator and is also good for pancakes, for example.

“Make-Ahead” Oven-Baked French (Freedom) Toast

Each year the faculty and staff who are working on graduation day get together to nosh on a smorgasbord of food in Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Martha Ballenger's office in between setting things up. Donovan brings his family’s make-ahead French toast dish, which is quickly devoured. We nominate this to try on a morning when friends or family are in town for the holidays.

1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Dash of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus more for sprinkling)
1 loaf French bread or sourdough (Donovan’s family prefers sourdough)
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Combine first 5 ingredients and pour into greased 13x9-inch casserole dish. Slice bread into 3/4-inch or 1-inch thick slices and place over syrup mixture. Beat remaining ingredients together and pour over bread. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 40 minutes.

Brandon Garrett

Roy L. and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law

"I plan to cook this over winter break — a creative adaptation of an old family recipe by my artist and food-writer sister."

Apple Cake

Apple CakeFrom Natalie Eve Garrett: "I adapted this cake recipe from an apple cake that my mom has made for almost every birthday I've had since I was a little girl. She got the recipe from my dad’s Italian grandma, who apparently made better food than anyone, ever. It’s also inspired by Smitten Kitchen/Al di La’s version, which looks painfully delicious. And there are lots of other takes – some with spice, most with lots of butter. My version inevitably uses olive oil and oat flour. I smashed up some fancy dark chocolate bars that had been lonely in the freezer for far too long, and when they melted into the soft apple, it blended into light fluffy cakieness — ohhhh. I literally ate this the moment I took it out of the oven, and I burnt my tongue, and I didn’t care. Then I ate some more a few hours later, and that was pretty good, too." 

1 cup oat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
4 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (sweet apples)
1 dark chocolate bar, broken in pieces, or 1 cup dark chocolate chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a cake pan with olive oil spray and dust with oat flour; set aside. (Or if, like me, you moved six months ago and just realized you can’t find your cake pan, just use two little pie pans, it’ll all work out!)

2. In a small bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder, and set aside.

3. Bust out your electric mixer (if you don’t have one, grab a whisk and roll up your sleeves), and whisk the eggs as fast as the machine (or your arm) will go, for something like 10 minutes.

4. While the eggs spin around, chop the apples into small pieces. Any sort of sweet apple will work, I think — I used Stayman, which are relatively mild and not terribly firm, and I peeled them first.

5. Add the sugar and olive oil to the eggs. Mix a few more minutes. Then turn down the mixer, and add the oat flour mixture slooowly. (Or don’t, and watch a soft cloud of flour rise up in your kitchen. Poof!)

6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, dropping in the apple and dark chocolate pieces, and stick it in the oven for an hour until the cake looks golden brown and delicious, because it is.

Evelyn Gray

Information Technology Specialist

Christmas Eve Pecans

1 egg white
1/2 cup of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups of pecans

1. Beat egg white until fluffy.

2. Add pecans and mix well.

3. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Gradually sprinkle into pecans and mix, coating pecans. Spread on lightly greased or foil lined cookie sheet.

4. Bake at 300° for 30 minutes. Let cool. 


MarshmallowsElizabeth Leverage Hilles '92

Director of Trusts, Estates and Gift Planning, Law School Foundation

"This is an eggnog marshmallow recipe that I absolutely love. It’s a Better Homes and Gardens recipe, and it’s delicious. A friend made these marshmallows for a holiday open house she had a few years ago, and I fell in love with them (and demanded the recipe). There are lots of steps, but they are all relatively easy." (Here it is online.)

Eggnog Marshmallows

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (4 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup cold water
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup refrigerated egg white product or 2 pasteurized egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 oz. white baking chocolate with cocoa butter or vanilla-flavored candy coating, chopped (or dark chocolate, or milk chocolate — whatever sounds good to you)
White nonpareils or other little candy topping

1. Lightly coat an 8x8-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap or line bottom of pan with waxed paper or parchment paper. Coat the plastic or paper with nonstick cooking spray; set pan aside.

2. In a large metal or heatproof bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup of the cold water; set aside.

3. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, stir together until combined:
1/4 cup cold water
1 3/4 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup

Bring to boiling over medium-high heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Cook, without stirring, over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 260° (hard-ball stage), 12 to 15 minutes total.

Remove from heat; pour over gelatin mixture in bowl and stir well to combine (mixture will foam up).

4. Meanwhile, in a clean large mixing bowl beat the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer on high speed until foamy. 
Gradually add: 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight), 3 to 4 minutes. 
Beat in rum extract and nutmeg until combined.

With the mixer running on high speed, gradually add gelatin mixture to egg white mixture, beating about 7 minutes or until thick (like the consistency of thick, pourable cake batter).

Quickly pour marshmallow mixture into prepared pan, spreading to edges of pan.

Lightly coat another piece of plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray; place, coated side down, over marshmallow mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours until firm.

5. Remove plastic wrap from top of marshmallows. In a small bowl combine powdered sugar and cornstarch; sprinkle about a quarter of the mixture evenly onto a large cutting board. Loosen sides of marshmallows, if necessary, and carefully invert onto the cutting board. Remove plastic wrap or paper. Sprinkle top with some of the remaining powdered-sugar mixture. Using a knife that has been dipped in warm water, cut square into 20 marshmallows. Place squares, a few at a time, in a large resealable plastic bag. Add remaining powdered-sugar mixture; seal bag and toss to coat all sides of marshmallows with powdered sugar mixture.

6. In a small saucepan, cook and stir white chocolate just until melted. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes or until cooled but not set. Spread in a thin, even layer over the top of the marshmallows. Top with nonpareils. Store marshmallows between sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or freeze for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Makes 20 large marshmallows.


Jennifer M. Hulvey

Director of Financial Aid

"In the last 110 years or so, at least five generations of my family have lived and worked on the farm where I grew up. At the heart of it all was always my grandmother. She arrived on the farm in 1918 as a young bride, and for the next 80 years, shaped the lives of the people there. She gave birth to her five children in the old bedroom upstairs, cared for her infirm mother-in-law, raised a lot of kids (her own and others) along with cows, chickens and other assorted livestock and crops, and turned out amazing meals on the old woodstove in the kitchen. She made bread from scratch three times a day, and many of the ingredients for her meals were produced on the farm. My parents’ home was just up the hill from the main farmhouse, and I ate at Grandmother’s nearly as often as I ate at home. And every Sunday afternoon, various members of our very large extended family would show up to eat and visit at the spread she served after church. She had several signature dishes that she made at the holidays, and one of my favorites was her sweet potato casserole. My mother finally cobbled together the recipe after years of watching Grandmother, who almost never used a recipe of any kind. I now make this every year for the Hulvey family at Thanksgiving, and it is really special for me to be able to pass along this bit of my family heritage to my nieces and nephews."

Sweet Potato Casserole

1 1/2 quarts hot, cooked sweet potatoes (about 6 medium-to-large potatoes)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 stick butter
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
dash of salt
brown sugar

1. Melt butter in hot potatoes. Add other ingredients and mix well.

2. Pour into buttered 13x9-inch casserole dish. Mix coconut and brown sugar in desired amounts for topping.

3. Bake uncovered at 350° until set, about 45 minutes.

Paul Mahoney

David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law
Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law

Apple-Cranberry Pie

1 1/2 lb. Granny Smith apples
1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Pie crust pastry, pre-made or homemade using the recipe below:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons cold lard
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

1. Mix the flour and salt and put in a food processor.

2. Add butter and lard and process until the mixture forms particles the size of a pea.

3. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time and pulse briefly after each. Stop when the dough just begins to hold together.

4. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and gather into two equal parts each rolled into a ball and then flattened into a disk. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

1. On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the pastry into an 11-inch round. Transfer into a 9-inch pie pan; trim dough around rim.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Peel, core and quarter the apples, then slice 1/4-inch thick. Toss apples, cranberries, sugar, flour, orange zest, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl and mix. Pour the mixture into the cold pie shell and dot with butter.

3. Roll the second half of the pastry into an 11-inch round.  Moisten the edge of the pie shell, cover with the second round, and trim with a 1/2-inch overhang; tuck the overhang under the rim of the shell and press to seal. Cut steam vents on the top.

4. Bake the pie for 20 minutes, cover the rim with foil, then bake for an additional 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.


Potato Rolls
David Martin's grandson, Webb
Cummings, strikes a pose in front of 
the potato roll dough, just after its
first rising (before it's punched

David Martin

Warner-Booker Distinguished Professor of International Law
Joel B. Piassick Research Professor of Law


"I’m not much of a cook, except on the outdoor grill, but every Thanksgiving (and on a few other special occasions), I make rolls using this recipe. (Now that we have a really large mixer, I often double the recipe.) The aroma as the rolls bake is magnetic, and the rolls are soft and wonderful. Also, as the recipe indicates, you can keep the dough for up to two weeks, enjoying equally aromatic variations on succeeding days. The rolls are now a treasured part of our Thanksgiving gatherings, and the grandchildren enjoy helping out with the mixing, kneading and especially rolling the little balls for the cloverleaf rolls. It all makes a great mess, but they wash up easily.

Potato Rolls

1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup cooked potatoes, mashed
2/3 cup Crisco
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup scalded milk
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
5 cups flour

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Dissolve shortening and sugar in scalded milk and allow it to cool to lukewarm. Beat in potatoes, salt and eggs until mixture is smooth. Add yeast and enough of the flour to make a proper dough. Knead thoroughly. Allow to rise once, then punch down and refrigerate. This dough will keep nicely for up to two weeks and can be used to make dinner rolls or breakfast rolls in the following ways:

Dinner rolls: Form cloverleaf rolls in muffin tins. Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise. Bake at 375˚ for 10-15 minutes, or until nicely browned. (Optional: Brush a light coat of butter on the top of the piping hot rolls before removing them from the tins.)

Cinnamon rolls: Mix 1/3 cup soft butter with 1 cup cinnamon sugar. Using approximately 1/2 the above dough, roll out dough into rectangle and spread with butter mixture. Roll up, jelly roll fashion and slice with a sharp knife into 1/2-inch rounds. Place pinwheels in greased muffin tins, and bake as above. While hot, ice with confectioners' sugar icing (made by mixing sugar with milk or buttermilk).

Sticky buns: Fashion pinwheels as above. Prepare muffin tins by dropping 1/2 teaspoon butter, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar and a few broken pecans into each cup. Place pinwheels on top of this mixture, and bake as above. (Put pan under muffin tin to catch run-over). When done, invert on a board immediately and allow brown sugar mixture to dribble over buns.

John Monahan

John S. Shannon Distinguished Professor of Law
Horace W. Goldsmith Research Professor of Law
Professor of Psychology and Psychiatric Medicine

John Monahan's daughter, Katherine Monahan '07, writes a food humor blog, In a recent post, Katherine riffs on her grandma's (John's mother's) spinach-and-brownie recipe, which was "literally larger than the sum of its parts…."
Katherine offers recipes for spinach and brownies too, but "separately…. The way the universe intended." (More)

SpinachButtered Spinach

Serves 2 as a side dish

1 9-oz. bag of spinach
dash of salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon seasoned breadcrumbs
sprinkle of garlic powder (optional)

1. Dump the spinach into a large pot or skillet with a lid. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and heat, covered, over medium heat a few minutes until the spinach wilts. (You can wilt it to your taste — I like mine completely wilted.)

2. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of garlic powder, if using. Sauté for a minute or two, just long enough for the bread crumbs to thicken the butter sauce. (You don’t want the bread crumbs to sputter and pop or the sauce to burn, so reduce the heat if you need to.)

3. The spinach probably gave off some water while it cooked. You don’t want watery spinach, so use a slotted spoon to strain the wilted spinach lightly against the side of the pot before transferring it to the saucepan containing the butter sauce. Stir the spinach in the butter sauce until it’s evenly coated. Taste, add salt and pepper as necessary, and serve.

brownieSemisweet Brownies

Adapted from this recipe in Canadian Living’s Holiday 2012 edition

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate squares
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. In a medium to large saucepan over low heat, melt the two kinds of chocolate with the butter, stirring occasionally. As soon as it’s melted, remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 13x9-inch pan or line it with parchment paper.

3. Whisk the sugar and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the flour and salt. When the batter is evenly combined, pour it into the pan.

4. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Laura Monroe

Director of Alumni Relations, Law School Foundation

"My grandmother, Maria Cavedon, comes from the town of Scio in Northern Italy and traveled over on the boat with her father. She and my grandfather had five children. My mother and her three sisters (the Zenorini Nonnas ["grandmas"]) all made this recipe and said that it reminded them of their mother. In my family (I am number 10 of 11 children), cooking was a rite of passage and something that, despite all of our differences, continues to bring us back together. This cheesecake recipe remains one of my family’s favorites. Enjoy!"

Nonna’s Italian Cheesecake

Serves 10-12, depending on how large you cut the pieces.

1 1/3 cup of graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons of melted butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1. Mix above ingredients, press into 10-inch pre-form spring pan. Any extra can go up the side of the pan. 
2. Place in the fridge while you make the cake.

1 cup of sugar
3 heaping tablespoons of flour (or 2 tablespoons of corn starch)
3 packages (8 oz.) of softened cream cheese
1 pint of sour cream
2 teaspoons of vanilla
6 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons of lemon zest (grated lemon rind)

1. Beat 6 egg whites with a mixer until stiff.

2. In a separate bowl, blend together: sugar, flour, cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, egg yolks, lemon zest

3. Beat well with a mixer.

4. Fold the egg whites into the batter (or put the mixer on low)

5. Pour into the prepared pan with crust

6. Bake at 350° for 1 hour until the top is brown; place a cookie sheet on the rack underneath for run-off.

7. Turn off the oven and let it sit for at least 10 minutes

8. Open the oven door a crack and then let it sit for an hour. 

"I usually make this the night before I am going to serve it and just leave the oven opened a crack all night. It is great to bring to a party.

"This cheesecake typically cracks. It is light and airy and not as dense as a regular cheesecake. I sometimes serve it with sugared strawberries but it really doesn’t need it. I only make it for my family on special occasions. Leftovers are great for breakfast with coffee!"


Potato Rolls

Karen Moran

Associate Professor of Law, General Faculty
Co-Director, Legal Research & Writing Program


"I started making these 'Yule log' cakes at Christmas time with two friends to bring into our French class for a French 'fete' at Christmas and have been making them ever since. It is a very festive dessert and you can decorate it as plainly or ornately as you please!"

Buche de Noel

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites
1/4 cup white sugar
confectioners' sugar for dusting
favorite buttercream chocolate frosting

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a 10x15-inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whip cream, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until thick and stiff (this is the filling). Refrigerate.

2. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale. Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt. In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Dust a clean dishtowel with confectioners' sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Remove and discard parchment paper. Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. Cool for 30 minutes.

4. Unroll the cake, and spread the filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Roll the cake up with the filling inside. Place seam side down onto a serving plate. Cut cake on diagonal about two inches from end and place the round 2-inch piece on the side of the cake to resemble a cut log. Frost the outside of the cake with a thin layer of chocolate frosting — you can run a fork down the length of the cake to resemble “bark.” Refrigerate until serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Diddy Morris

Special Assistant to the Dean

"Here’s an easy one that's good and good for you, and easily made vegetarian or vegan. This soup freezes really well."

Pumpkin Tomato Bisque

From the Crescent Dragonwagon’s Dairy Hollow Soup & Bread Cookbook

3 to 4 tablespoons butter or mild vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
3 to 4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
4 cups canned pumpkin purée
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes with their juices
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
Salt to taste

1. Heat the oil and sauté the onion for about 6-7 minutes.

2. Add the stock and heat (about 10 minutes).

3. Whisk in the pumpkin.

4. Heat.

5. Add in the tomatoes and syrup.

6. If you have an immersion blender, you can use that to smooth it out; otherwise a regular blender or food processor works well (or you can leave it as is).

7. Cook till heated through. 

Loren Moulds

Digital Collections Librarian

Moulds, known for being a cookie connoisseur, offers this recipe.

"Bestest Chewy Gingerbread Cookies Ever"

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar 
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 
1 tablespoon ground ginger 
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 
1/2 teaspoon table salt 
3/4 teaspoon baking soda 
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly 
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses 
2 tablespoons milk 

1. In food processor work bowl fitted with steel blade, process flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and baking soda until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add molasses and milk; process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds. Alternatively, in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.

2. Scrape dough onto work surface; divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll 1/4-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight.)

3. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

4. Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into 5-inch gingerbread people or 3-inch gingerbread cookies, transferring shapes to parchment-lined cookie sheets with wide metal spatula, spacing them 3/4 inch apart; set scraps aside. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in centers and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating cookie sheets front to back and switching positions top to bottom halfway through baking time. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.

5. Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used. 

Barbara Ruddy

Director of Human Resources

"I have one of the simplest, healthy appetizer recipes to share (and it’s rather festive in red, green and white), and then a favorite (and for my family, most poignant) tradition to share below that."

Mini Caprese

1 package grape tomatoes
2 rounds of fresh mozzarella cheese
1 bunch of fresh basil
extra-virgin olive oil
aged balsamic vinegar

1. Slice grape tomatoes in half crosswise; set aside. Slice mozzarella cheese into 1/4-inch thicknesses. Using apple corer or small, sharp knife, cut mozzarella slices into small rounds; set aside. Chiffonade basil (roll leaves together tightly and slice very thinly); set aside.

2. Using cocktail toothpicks, skewer one half of a tomato, a round of mozzarella, and the other half of the tomato. Repeat for all tomatoes/mozzarella, placing each piece on a serving tray. Drizzle all with EVOO and balsamic vinegar, and top with chiffonade of basil.

Family tradition:
"Our family has been celebrating this tradition since my late brother suggested it almost 15 years ago. Following that Thanksgiving meal, my brother pushed back from the dinner table and declared in his quiet-but-profound way that our family should not exchange Christmas gifts that year, saying that none of us around the table needed anything. (He was right.) He went on to suggest that, rather than giving each other things we really didn’t need, we should instead pool all of the money that we might otherwise spend on gifts for one another and anonymously give it to someone who really needed it.

"Thus began our tradition. Following Thanksgiving dinner each year, our family decides where we might like to make our next Christmas donation. (The first year the decision-making process was a bit protracted, as we began talking about needs both inside and outside of our country. Our family is large so the discussion is generally pretty spirited.) In most cases, we do not select an established charity or organization; instead, we prefer to identify a person or family who may have fallen through the cracks of social services programs. We pool our monies and, always through a third party, we anonymously make our donation.

"People ask me often if I miss receiving Christmas gifts each year. I do not, and have not missed it for a moment. Instead of fretting over what to get Aunt-Sally-who-has-everything-and-needs-nothing, I get to enjoy the spirit of Christmas in giving to someone who truly needs it. Our family focuses on sharing the gift of time with one another, rather than things.

"This family tradition has become even more poignant with the untimely passing of my little brother, whose idea first created this tradition. It is in his memory each year that we make our donation." 

CutoutsMary Wood

Chief Communications Officer

"My best recipes often come from the many good cooks in my family. My sister introduced me to this sugar cookie recipe several years ago. They are a soft, almost creamy sugar cookie (thanks to the cream cheese and loads of butter) and taste good without the frosting too. I recommend making the dough and frosting one day and baking and frosting the cookies the next day because they can be time-consuming." (Here's the recipe online from Taste of Home.)

White Velvet Cutouts

Makes 4-6 dozen cookies

2 cups butter or margarine, softened
8 oz. cream cheese (1 package)
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour

Buttercream frosting
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, divided
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 tablespoon shortening
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons milk, divided
Red and/or green food coloring, optional (or whatever color you like)

For a deeper color of frosting, tint with food coloring paste available at kitchen and cake decorating supply stores. If you want muted colors, try mixing one drop of red into the green, and one drop of green into the red. Or add in a drop or two of yellow to punch them up to be more orange or yellow-green. These also work well with sprinkles and assorted toppings — get as fancy as you want.

1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla. Mix well.

2. Gradually add flour.

3. Cover and chill 2 hours or until firm. Roll out onto a floured surface to 1/4 in. thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut into shapes (the bigger the shape, the more likely it won’t break – delicate shapes don’t work as well). Place 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheets.

4. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until set (not browned). Cool 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, butter, shortening, vanilla and 3 tablespoons milk in a mixing bowl. Beat until smooth.

2. Gradually add remaining sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add enough remaining milk and food coloring until frosting reaches desired consistency

Here's a couple more:

Santa's WhiskersSanta's Whiskers

"This is my family’s most traditional Christmas recipe, one we have been making for many years. My mom got it from my Aunt Nelda, who lives in Shreveport, La."

Peppermint WreathsMelt-Away Peppermint Wreaths

"My sister first made this Southern Living recipe for me when she was in college and home for winter break. They are different than your standard shortbread cookie, but I think they’re addictive and they look great."



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