Sunday nights are family dinner nights for Jo Dommer. The New Haven woman busily makes dinner for her immediate family – husband Rick, sons Josh and Zac, their wives, Cortney and Tasha, and the four grandchildren.
As the holidays draw close, the women of the family are turning up the heat in Dommer’s kitchen baking cookies. All have an apron to wear with their names embroidered on the front, including granddaughters Makenna, 7, and Keira, 4. Another granddaughter, Insley, will be joining the group this year for the first time at the age of 14 months and, yes, she has her own embroidered apron to wear.
When Christmas comes that’s our big baking time, Dommer says, smiling, You should see it, there’s flour everywhere.
Dommer, 57, says she’s following a tradition her mother, the late Mag Peterson, started.
My mom always made big cookie trays and I try to do that, too. We bake cut-out cookies, but (Oh Henry Bars, Church Window Cookies and Green Christmas Holly Candy) are the easiest. Sometimes when we have the big family gathering and it’s nice out, we go out on the patio and (make) gingerbread men, she says.
In addition to Christmas cookies, Dommer’s granddaughters like to bake for other occasions and share it with those living at Kingston Residence of Fort Wayne.
My parents went to Kingston, that’s when we started going out with the girls. At first, the girls were nervous then they really enjoyed going and passing out treats. We bag the stuff and it’s easier to pass around. When Grandpa died, Makenna asked if we would still go out. The older ones there enjoy their visits, she says.
Formerly an art teacher and part-owner of Shaffer and Peterson, a furniture store in New Haven, Dommer likes to devote her time to painting and mixed media as well as her grandchildren.
I like to do things with my grandkids. I had two boys and having three granddaughters is fun, she says, adding, We’re going to have five. It’s going to be another boy. We’re excited.
Q. Do you have a favorite cookbook?
A. I would say I have 20 to 25 cookbooks but I put my stuff together (in binders). I have all my recipes from my mom and aunts and from what people have given me. That’s what I use. If I had to pick one, I would pick the Better Homes and Gardens.
Q. What do you do to keep meals healthy?
A. I try to get as many vegetables as I can. I put zucchini in stuff. I like a lot of vegetables. I love spaghetti squash, salads, zucchini, green beans. We do a lot of salads. Rick likes salads, too. We eat brown rice and pasta.
Q. What’s your go-to meal?
A. Probably throw stuff in the Crock-Pot or on the grill.
Q. Are you a member of Weight Watchers?
A. Yes, I’m a lifetime member. I do one (recipe) that I got from Weight Watchers. Frozen pork roast, whole cranberry sauce and Lipton onion soup. Cook on low all day. Or frozen chicken breasts, a can of Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup, 6 ounces of fat free sour cream, half a package of Lipton onion soup mix plus a can of mushrooms. Serve over spaghetti squash.
Q. What do you make better than anyone else?
A. Oh Henry Bars. That’s what everyone says. The original recipe called for baking them but if you put them in the oven, they were too hard. I make them in the microwave, five minutes.
Oh Henry Bars
2/3 cup butter-flavored Crisco
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups oatmeal
Mix ingredients and press into a sprayed 9-by-13-inch glass pan. Cook in microwave on high for 5 minutes. Let cool. Spread on topping. Makes 24 to 30 pieces.
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
Melt in microwave, for about 1 minute; spread over cookie mixture.
Church Window Cookies
1 (12-ounce) package chocolate chips
1 (16-ounce) package small, colored marshmallows
1 stick of butter
1 cup ground nuts, optional
Powdered sugar, as needed
Melt chocolate chips and butter in the microwave. Add nuts if desired. Stir in marshmallows until coated. Pour out onto wax paper that is sprinkled with powdered sugar; roll up wax paper into a log shape and chill. When cool, unwrap the roll and cut into slices. Makes 2 to 3 dozen.
Green Christmas Holly Candy
2 tablespoons butter
1 (16-ounce) package marshmallows
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons green food coloring
4 1/2 cups corn flakes
2 tablespoons Red Hots candy
Melt butter and marshmallows in the microwave. Add vanilla and green coloring. Stir until coloring is mixed well. Add cornflakes. Stir until coated and pour out onto a buttered or sprayed cookie sheet. While hot, sprinkle with Red Hots candy and let cool. Makes 24 to 30 pieces. Note: The candy looks nice surrounding baked treats at the holidays.
Apple Dumpling Cake
1 1/2 cups oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups apples, unpeeled and cut into pieces
1 cup nuts
Cream oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla together. Add flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, apples and nuts. Pour into a greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Pour topping over cake. Makes 15 to 20 servings.
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick oleo or margarine
1/4 cup milk
Mix together in sauce pan and bring to a boil; continue boiling 1 minute, stirring mixture. Pour over cake when it’s removed from oven. Let cake sit for 30 minutes before removing from pan.