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December 21, 2016

A Taste of Christmas

Discover five Christmas recipes from Pathway students around the world!

At this special time of year, families gather to celebrate the Christmas season and the birth of our Savior. Love and joy fill the air, as well as the aromas of home-cooked holiday meals.

Across the globe, friends and families are preparing their favorite Christmas dishes to share with loved ones. This year, we asked five BYU-Pathway students to share their tastiest holiday traditions. Get a taste of Christmas in the Philippines, Canada, Australia, and the United States!

KIM ATHENS MATSUZAKI | Quezon City, Philippines

Kim Athens and her family are always spending time with one another during the holidays.

Kim Athens and her family are always spending time with one another during the holidays.

My favorite tradition is the Noche Buena (“Good Night”). On the night of December 24th, we wait until the clock strikes midnight to celebrate. The giving of aguinaldos (“gifts”) is a must. The holiday season gives us the chance to see our relatives that don’t live nearby, so we value the time we have together. We prepare a program and sing to our grandparents. Our family then enjoys a traditional Filipino Christmas meal, which includes a Sweet Macaroni Salad. The recipe has been handed down for generations in our family, and no holiday meal is complete without it. Merry Christmas from the Philippines!

RECIPE: Filipino Sweet Macaroni Salad

Sweet Macaroni SaladIngredients:

  • 2 ½ Cups (350 g) Elbow Macaroni
  • 1 Cup (250 mL) Cool Whip, or Mayonnaise
  • ½ Cup (120 mL) Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 Apples, chopped into medium sized cubes
  • ½ Cup (120 mL) of drained and cooked Nata de Coco (Coconut Gel)
  • 1 Cup (250 mL) Heavy Cream
  • ½ Cup (120 mL) Cheddar Cheese (optional)
  • 1 handful of Raisins (optional)
  • 1 Pear, chopped into medium sized cubes (optional)

Cooking Directions:

Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain cooked noodles and set aside for 20 minutes to cool. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, stir in noodles, and refrigerate. Serve cold and enjoy!

ANTOINETTE MCNEILL | Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The McNeill family share generations of Christmas traditions.

The McNeill family share generations of Christmas traditions.

On December 23rd, I make my family’s Swedish Gingerbread Cookie recipe. I enjoy shaping some of the dough into gingerbread men to be used as ornaments. Before they bake, I make a small hole at the top of each cookie. After they cool, I tie them with string and pipe our names onto each gingerbread man’s tummy with icing. The cookies are then hung on the tree to be eaten on Christmas Eve. I started this tradition when my second child was a baby, and it is something that my kids now do with their children. Merry Christmas from Canada!

RECIPE: Swedish Gingerbread Cookies


  • 1 Cup (240 g) Butter
  • ¾ Cup (180 mL) Cane Syrup
  • 1 ¼ Cup (250 g) Sugar
  • ¾ Cup (180 mL) Whipping Cream
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL)  Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dry Ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoon (8 mL) Cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) Baking Soda
  • 5 Cups (600 g) All-Purpose Flour

Cooking Directions:

Melt butter, sugar, and syrup in a pot over medium heat, constantly stirring. Remove the mixture from the heat and cool. Add the remaining ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir in the melted butter mixture until smooth. Refrigerate the dough overnight, or until firm enough to roll. Divide the dough into round balls, around 3 tablespoons (45 mL) each. Roll each ball of dough out onto a floured surface until the dough is ¼ of an inch (6mm) thick. Press with floured cookie cutters (traditionally a heart shape is used) and place the cookies 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 7-10 minutes, or until edges are firm. Cool on pan for 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, decorate cookies with your choice of icing and enjoy!

REED BALL | Fresno, California, USA

Reed Ball (center with baby) and his family.

The Reed Ball (center with baby) family enjoys spending time together, and celebrating the holidays with family traditions makes it all the merrier.

My favorite Christmas tradition is making ornaments with my family. I am the father of nine kids, so each year we have an array of unique ornaments. Every Christmas season, we leave the ornaments as a gift on the doorsteps of friends and family. My children also enjoy making cookies for the holidays. Our favorite is a recipe passed down from my late Aunt Peggy, so we think of her every time we make her cookies. The holidays are a time of joy, so it is wonderful being able to celebrate as a family. Merry Christmas from California!

RECIPE: American Chocolate & Peanut Butter No-bake Cookies

No Bake CookiesIngredients:

  • 4 Cups (800 g) Sugar
  • 1 Cup (240 mL) Milk
  • 4 Tablespoons (60 g) Unsalted Butter
  • 7 ½ Tablespoons (113 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 5 Cups (450 g) Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 1 Cup (240 mL) Smooth Peanut Butter
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Large pinch of Kosher Salt

Cooking Directions:

Line a large, flat surface with wax paper. Bring the sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir mixture occasionally. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the vanilla, oats, salt, and peanut butter. Drop 2 tablespoons (15 mL) of the mixture onto the wax paper surface in the shape of cookies, and allow them to sit at room temperature until cooled and hardened, around 30 minutes. Enjoy!

SANDY BOWEN | Anchorage, Alaska, USA

Sandy Bowen and her family.

The Bowen family looks forward to the holidays when they can spend time together and enjoy an English Chocolate Torte.

For me, the holidays mean family. My husband and I are the parents of four children and the grandparents of ten grandchildren. On Christmas Eve, we have a family home evening where we enjoy a program of Christ’s birth, games, and a family talent show. Afterwards, we share a traditional holiday meal. Our family’s favorite is Chocolate Torte. This dish has been passed down through generations, all the way from England! My grandmother made it every holiday season and we looked forward to it all year. Now I am carrying on the tradition with my family. Merry Christmas from Alaska!

RECIPE: English Chocolate Torte

English Chocolate TorteIngredients:

  • 1 Cup (120 g) All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons (25 g) Sugar
  • ½ Cup (120 g) of Butter, softened
  • ½ Cup (75 g) chopped Walnuts, or Pecans

For the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, butter, and nuts. Place in the bottom of a 9×13 inch (23x33cm) greased baking dish and pat it down until the mixture is smooth and flat. Bake for 15 minutes at 350°F (180°C). Let the crust cool, about 30 minutes.

  • 8 Ounces (230 g) Cream Cheese
  • 1 Cup (100 g) Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Cup (240 mL) Cool Whip

For the cream filling: Mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and cool whip until combined. Spread over the cooled crust.

  • 2 Cups (475 mL) of Chocolate Pudding, ready made or previously prepared
  • 2 Cups (475 mL) of Cool Whip
  • ½ Cup (75 g) chopped Walnuts, or Pecans
  • ½ Cup (75 g) chopped Maraschino Cherries

For the toppings: Spread the chocolate pudding over the layer of cream filling. Add the final layer of cool whip, and sprinkle the nuts and maraschino cherries across the top of the torte. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Isabel Purcell and her daughter.

Isabel (right) and her daughter now carry on generations of traditions.

ISABEL PURCELL | Hebersham, Sydney, Australia

Growing up in New Zealand, I spent my holidays by the sea. In our culture, we wait for the Pohutukawa tree (New Zealand Christmas Tree) to bloom with red flowers to indicate Christmas is here! We gather together under the shade of the tree as the gatherers collect an array of seafood and we prepare hot fried bread. Traditionally, the starter for the bread was passed on from generation to generation. I grew up watching my mother nurture the dough given to her from her mother. I now get to share this recipe with my friends and family. Merry Christmas from Australia!

RECIPE: New Zealand Fried Bread


3 Cups (360 g) All-Purpose Flour
4 Tablespoons (50 g) Sugar
1 packet (¼ Ounce or 2 ¼ teaspoons) Dry Active Yeast
1 pinch of Salt
3 Cups (700 mL) Lukewarm Water
2 Cups (475 mL) Cooking Oil

Cooking Directions:

Combine flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a bowl. Slowly stir in the water, creating a spongy dough. Form the dough into a ball and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or cloth. Leave in a warm place until the ball of dough has doubled in size. Sprinkle flour onto a flat surface and roll out the dough. Cut into small squares, around ¼ of an inch (6 mm) thick. Heat the oil in a pot over medium high heat until small bubbles begin to form. Carefully place the dough squares into the oil and cook until each side is golden brown. Remove the bread and pat to dry until cool. Serve with an array of toppings and enjoy!

chocotort-cameraSharing the Love

Christmas is about the Savior, so we celebrate His birth by remembering Him, sharing with others, and enjoying the season with friends and family. The BYU-Pathway Communications team loved hearing about the cherished Christmas traditions and Christmas memories of BYU-Pathway students. As your favorite holiday recipes came rolling in, we were so excited that we couldn’t resist trying one of them for ourselves!

None of us had ever made a traditional English Chocolate Torte before, so learning how to make it was a new and exciting experience. As we worked through the recipe, we felt closer to all BYU-Pathway students during this special time of the year. We loved having the opportunity to experience some of the traditions that are so important to some of you.

Although our traditions and meals may vary depending on where we are from, one thing remains the same for all of us — holidays are best when celebrated with our loved ones. On behalf of all of BYU-Pathway, the Communication team wishes everyone a wonderful holiday season.

Merry Christmas from BYU-Pathway!

Comments on "A Taste of Christmas"

Kalina says:

I also bake a gingerbread for Christmas. This is my favorite Christmas tradition.

Reed Ball says:

Sorry, it’s should only be 2 teaspoons of vanilla for the no bake cookies -Reed

Caleb Trujillo says:

Thanks for the clarification, Reed. We’ve revised that in the article. Merry Christmas!

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