Somebody's Mother's Christmas Treats

I would like to dedicate all of Somebody's Mother's Christmas recipes to Jennifer Levin. Jennifer is a rare talent in that she is both a great chef and a great baker, pursuits which sometimes preclude each other. Jennifer cooked and baked her days away in high school, while I played outside and literally ran from my mother's attempts to teach me to cook anything at all.

(It should be noted that Somebody's Mother's Mother and Somebody's Mother's Sister, Evan, and Somebody's Mother's Grandmother are (and were) superb cooks. Thus, the genetic aberration that I am is all the more puzzling.)

Jennifer grew up, gave divine dinner parties, worked for Martha Stewart and became a successful event planner in Washington, D.C. She remembers the time Mother decided I should learn how to make homemade tamales. When I came home from school one day, there was an entire hog's head on the kitchen counter. Of course, I fled. Mother ran after me shouting, "But you have to learn. What if I die and you don't know how to make tamales?" As I started the car, I yelled back, with the characteristic grace and charm for which I am known, "Mom, before you die, put a whole lot of those tamales in the freezer!" For this, and other noteworthy examples of dismal cooking failures, Jennifer, her sister Judy, and her mother Suzanne have told me they are already wracked by great gales of laughter every time they think of the improbability of Somebody's Mother's. So, Girls, this one's for you...

Poached Pears

Somebody's Mother's Chocolate Sauce - Poached Pears

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  • 1 bottle red wine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 8 large Bosc pears, although any pear will do

In a saucepan, combine the wine, lemon juice, the vanilla bean, sugar and about 2 cups of water. Cover and cook until the sugar has dissolved.

In another pan, blanch the pears for a couple of minutes, and then drop into cold water. Peel the skins gently with a small paring knife, leaving the stems. Set the pears upright in wine syrup and simmer until they are just tender. Remove them from the pot carefully so they don't bruise. Place them in a pyrex dish and refrigerate.

Then turn the heat up and boil the syrup until it is reduced by half. Let it cool to room temperature and spoon it over the pears, basting often. The syrup will deepen the color of the pears. In spring, you may want them to remain a lighter red. At Christmas, I leave the pears in the syrup for a longer period of time, until they become almost burgundy in color.

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Remove the pears from the refrigerator about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with Somebody's Mother's White Chocolate Whipped Cream (see Somebody's Mother's Chocolate and Raspberry Trifle for recipe).

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Poires Belle-Helene

Somebody's Mother's Chocolate Sauce - Poires Belle-Helene

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  • 1 bottle red wine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 8 large Bosc pears, although any pear will do
  • one half-gallon Häagen-Dasz white chocolate raspberry ice cream or, if you prefer, vanilla ice cream
  • Somebody's Mother's Chocolate Sauce

Poach pears and allow to cool. Cut them in half, core them and leave the stems intact.

For serving, scoop ice cream into a large bowl or large wine or brandy glass. Place one pear half (artfully) on top of the ice cream scoop. Top with warm Somebody's Mother's Chocolate Sauce.

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Somebody's Mother's
Baked to Pear-fection

Somebody's Mother's Chocolate Sauce - Baked to Pear-fection

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  • 6 ripe Barlett Pears (you determine quantity, this recipe is for 6)
  • Somebody's Mother's Caramel Sauce
  • Dulce de Leche ice cream
  • cinnamon
  • raspberries
  • brandy
  • fresh mint

Cut the thin ends off of each pear (about a 1/2 inch down). Peel the skin with a peeler about half-way down around the whole pear. Using a long, thin paring knife, carefully core the center of the pears, but don't cut through to the bottom. Ripe Barletts are wonderfully tender and the centers will scoop out easily.

Marinate the pears in brandy in the refrigerator for about an hour, occasionally 'basting' them with the brandy.

Dust the pears with cinnamon and bake in an 8-inch square baking pan at 350 degrees for about 10 to 12 minutes.

While the pears are baking, cook 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup water somewhat slowly, stirring continuously until it becomes a thick syrup. Add about 1/2 cup raspberries and cook one or two more minutes. Remove from heat.

Remove pears from oven and fill the centers about halfway with Somebody's Mother's Caramel Sauce and the raspberry syrup. Return to oven and bake for an additional 7-8 minutes. Let the pears cool.

Before serving, fill the pears with Dulce de Leche ice cream. Drizzle caramel sauce over the top and garnish with a fresh raspberry and a sprig of fresh mint.

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Somebody's Mother's
Chocolate and Raspberry Trifle

Somebody's Mother's Chocolate Sauce - Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

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  • 2 dozen ladyfingers
  • Creme de Cacao
  • White wine
  • 1 jar Somebody's Mother's Chocolate Sauce
  • 2 cartons fresh raspberries
  • 1 jar Somebody's Mother's White Chocolate Sauce with Pear William
White Chocolate Whipped Cream:
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup Somebody's Mother's White Chocolate Sauce with Pear William
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 cups milk and cream, mixed
  • 4 well-beaten egg yolks
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipped cream

For custard:

In a double boiler, mix in the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Then gradually stir in the milk and cream mixture.

Cook covered over hot water for 8 minutes without stirring. Uncover and cook for about 10 minutes more.

Add the egg yolks and butter. Cook and stir these ingredients over hot water for 2 minutes longer.

Cool, stirring occasionally to release steam, then add the vanilla.

Fold in the whipped cream. Chill the custard. It will have the consistency of a heavy whipped cream.

For white chocolate whipped cream:

Place 1 cup whipping cream into an electric mixer. Mix until whipped. Fold the whipped cream into 1/2 cup of white chocolate sauce.

For trifle:

Brush the ladyfingers generously with creme de cacao and white wine. Arrange a dense layer of ladyfingers on the bottom of a trifle bowl.

Pour on half of the jar of chocolate sauce. Add half the custard.

Then brush the next layer of ladyfingers again with the creme de cacao and white wine. Arrange the ladyfingers on top of the custard.

Pour on the last half of the sauce. Add slightly half the berries in a layer. Top with remaining custard.

Add another layer of ladyfingers, brushed with the wine and creme de cacao. Add the white chocolate whipped cream onto the ladyfingers. Arrange the remaining raspberries around the edge. Place the entire dish in the refrigerator to chill.

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Sugar Cookies

Somebody's Mother's Chocolate Sauce - Sugar Cookies

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  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp Mexican vanilla

Combine flour, cream of tartar and baking soda; set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add egg and vanilla, mixing well. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Chill the dough so it will not pick up so much flour when it's rolled out.

Roll on a lightly floured surface, but into desired shapes and dust with sugar.

Bake on a lightly buttered or oiled cookie sheet for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, being careful not to let them get too dark. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool a little.

Ice with Somebody's Mother's Caramel butter cream and sprinkle colored glazing sugar, appropriate to the season.

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Somebody's Mother's Butter Cream Icing

Somebody's Mother's Chocolate Sauce - Sugar Cookies

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  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 3-4 tbs milk
  • 1 tsp Mexican vanilla

Cream butter, add salt and sugar, a small amount at a time, beating all the while. Add vanilla. Add milk if needed to slightly moisten the mixture. Depending on what you're serving, add one mini jar of Somebody's Mother's Chocolate, Caramel, or White Chocolate Sauce with Pear William.

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