Tuna Spaghetti Pie, and Cookies Everywhere…Drop in and Decorate!

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Christmas Cookies.

Along with the Tree, the Lights and lots of Candles; nothing says Christmas like Christmas Cookies.

They're different from regular cookies; they're richer, prettier, fancier, more decadent.

My favorite Christmas breakfast is a big, steaming mug of dark, Spanish Chocolate and a big plate of Christmas Cookies.  (Actually, I could do it every morning but we all know where that would lead, now, don't we?)

I remember the Christmases when my older brother was in the Navy.  My mother would start right after Thanksgiving, making the candy: fudge and divinity; the bread: pear, date and nut; and the cookies: drops, crinkles, snaps, icebox and cut-outs.  The package needed to be sent by the first week in December if it was to reach my brother in time and my mother was determined that her oldest son, with an insatiable sweet-tooth, would have a happy Christmas.

I would spend the evenings helping decorate the cookies.   My mother also had a sweet-tooth and her cut-outs were simple sugar cookies with butter-cream frosting.  (I prefer molasses, or lemon).  I was allowed to put the frosting base on, then my mother piped the decoration.  I finished with the colored sugars, silver balls, and hot, red pepper candies.

Each cookie was carefully wrapped in tissue paper and packed in the center of the box.  The softer cookies, breads and candies were on the outside, protecting the prizes.

The first Christmas, my brother was a very popular fellow when he opened his package…even though most of the cookies were crumbs, they were very good crumbs.   He managed to eat most of the fudge, himself (he always did eat most of the fudge, regardless of where my mother hid it), and, sharing the rest, the huge box was empty within hours.  Getting that box of cookies was the highlight of Christmas for him and his shipmates.

The second Christmas, someone on ship remembered my mother's cookies and the box didn't get to my brother until it was half empty.  He was not pleased.

Mother sent him a another, smaller package of just fudge.

The next year he took appropriate precautions!

When I started pretending to be a grown-up I started baking Christmas cookies.  It's the only time I really love baking, and, back when I was gainfully employed, I went all out!

I spent several weeks pouring over cookie books (yes, cook books with just cookies), choosing, planning, getting ready for the big weekend.  I would bake 8 or 10 different kinds; some fancy, some plain, some new, some family favorites.

What does gainfully employed have to do with baking, you ask? 

Simple.  I baked because it was a Christmas tradition and because I love Christmas cookies.  But what do I do with 50 dozen Christmas cookies!?!?  Keep a half dozen of each kind and take the rest to the office.  'Nuff said!

Now there is another way to satisfy the Christmas Cookie Urge.  Make them for those who can't!  Lydia, of The Perfect Pantry is doing just that.  She has the full story and details on how to organize your party on her site, NineCooks  but the quick version is this:

Get your friends together and have a cookie baking and decorating party.  Make them simple or fancy.  Have fun.  Be kids.  When you're all done, keep a few for you and wrap the rest up and brighten someone else's Christmas.  See the "Drop in and Decorate" link on my sidebar for more details.


And if you're looking for something easy to make ahead for your party, how about a new take on that old, Wisconsin, standby: Spaghetti Pie?

The original version, with 10 pounds of cheese (a Wisconsin recipe, remember) and 9 pounds of sausage was wonderful.   In the interest of preserving calories to be used for Christmas cookies I've tweaked it a bit…'cause that's what I do!

In hopes that everything is back to normal after the hurricane I'll send this up to Halifax to the indomitable Ruth, of Once Upon A Feast, for  Pasta Nights.  Visit her blog on Friday for all the yummy pastas.

Tuna Spaghetti Pie  This is for 2 or 3, but could easily be doubled, tripled, whatever.   If you make it ahead, you'll need to add 10 minutes to the baking time.

3 oz mushroomsTunatimbale

1 medium onion
1 stalk celery
black olives, optional
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1 lg can tuna – 9 oz (290 gr), drained
spaghetti – make a circle with thumb & index finger, a little less than 1" (2.5 cm) in diameter
you're own personal pasta measurer that you can never misplace!
3/4 cup ricotta
1 egg
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup ( 2 oz, 60 gr) shredded cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Chop onion, celery, and mince garlic.  Slice mushrooms.  Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, mushrooms and garlic sauté until tender.  Open and drain tuna.  Put it into a bowl and break it up with a fork.  Add half of the ricotta and mix lightly.  In large bowl lightly whisk the egg.  Add the rest of the ricotta and herbs and whisk.  When pasta is done, drain well.  Toss to cool a bit (do not rinse) then add to the egg mixture along with 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.  Mix well and put into a glass baking dish (mine is 9 inches square).  Pat into place.  Spread onion/mushroom mixture evenly over the top.  Sprinkle with olives, if using.  Spoon the tuna/ricotta mixture on top.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.  Bake, covered with foil (or lid) at 400 F (200C) for 20 minutes.  Remove foil (or lid) and bake 5 minutes longer.  Serve.

Is everyone thinking about cookies?  I'm making Ginger Chocolate Chunk, Triple Chocolate Drops and, for the cut-outs, Stone-jar Molasses.  I have to limit myself, sigh….I only have a few neighbors I can give them to….and the French don't really 'get' Christmas cookies….

26 thoughts on “Tuna Spaghetti Pie, and Cookies Everywhere…Drop in and Decorate!”

  1. Katie, thank you so much for helping to spread the word about Drop In & Decorate! Your post brings back memories of many happy holiday baking days with family and friends.

  2. I hope it’s a smashing success, Lydia. It’s such a wonderful idea!
    Peter, I used Emmenthal (Shshsh – don’t tell mon mari it’s tuna casserole – he hates that…but he loves this)

  3. Any chance you’ll be posting the ginger chocolate cookie recipe? YUM!
    Sadly, my mom was not a baker. Nor a cook, for that matter. She did what she had to do to feed my sis and I, but our menu was pretty much set in stone. Meatloaf, roast chicken, pot roast, chili, goulosh, and maybe pea soup. I had to start my own traditions when I married and had children. My mom always said I was born in the wrong century. She felt I fit in better with Ma Ingalls! But she always loved anything I baked…especially my Christmas cookies!

  4. Katie, I love this post. Cookies are such a happy food. A true symbol of celebration. Like you and your mom, I sent many a care package to my Navy sons..filled with cookie crumbs just like yours. They really did appreciate them and so did their buddies 🙂 I like your recipe btw.

  5. I am thinking that it is time to start my fruit cake so that it is ready a few weeks before Christmas.
    That is when and why I started my blog was last year making fruitcake and everyone love it too.

  6. Katie have just come home form watching (on TV) the biggest Horse race in Australasia
    The Melbourne Cup
    By the way I won the sweepstake at work with a real outsider
    $60 is my take…very exciting.
    Anyway we have had a few wines and I have realised how much of your blogging I have missed…You have been so busy everything looks wonderful.
    I just so enjoy your blog.
    The pumpkin is superb how clever is that?

  7. Your Christmas breakfast sounds fantastic! I may just have to try it myself this year.
    That tuna spaghetti pie also sounds brilliant. Just the sort of thing I love to eat. Delicious!

  8. can I be your neighor 🙂 🙂 Your stone-jar molasses sound great, any chance to see it? I may bake some Silician-style cookies; Callipygia mailed a recipe to me quite a while ago. I’m still looking for a good store selling a wider range of baking ingredients (oh boy, thinking of your triple chocolate drops!!!), or may search on internet.
    I bet those fellows must be standing by your bro’s mailbox even a month before Christmas!

  9. How could the French not get Christmas Cookies ?? How odd.
    Great story about your brother!
    I’m really interested in the tuna and would like very much to try it. I’ve missed tuna casserole which this is not because I know it’s so much better.

  10. Hey! that’s a neat idea Katie…I’d just substitute the Tuna for cheese and potatoes and bingo..a beautiful dinner for me and my hubby! thanks for the idea:)

  11. Oh, that tuna and pasta looks soooo delicious. Growing up, my favorite dish was tuna noodle casserole–and your dish looks fantastic!

  12. Pam, that’s the closest I can get to tuna casserole!
    Cindy, I can post the cookies recipes – no pic’s though, as I won’t be baking them until just before Christmas. My mother liked to bake but didn’t like to cook, either. It was part of the job, and she, like yours, did it but didn’t enjoy it.
    Maryanne, a box of cookies can really make a difference at Christmas…crumbs or not!
    Kevin and Anh, thanks, I love canned tuna and an also always looking for good recipes.
    Shayne, you havne’t started your fruitcake yet?!?!?! What’s wrong? Don’t you have to pour brandy over it for a couple of months? (BTW, I love fruitcake)
    Thanks Gilli! And congratulations! I’m so glad to have that whole damn pumpkin, cut-up, baked, strained and frozen!
    Truffle, I love sweets for breakfast – 363 days of bran flakes and two days of love….
    Gattina, the Stone-jar Molasses are almost as good as the chocolate…plus they keep forever (if they would not be eaten)
    Tanna, I have no idea – they thought they (the cookies) were quite a novelty! Cookies (other than the store-bought ones) are not big anywhere in Europe – not in bakeries, no shops in malls…They just don’t know what they’re missing!
    Mansi, sounds perfect – hope it works!
    Tigerfish, yes, Big, Dark Chocolate. I even have a special hammer I use just for smashing the chocolate bars (no chips, here)
    Lindsay, You’ll have to look at the spaghetti and imagine the cookies for a bit..
    Neil, is one ever ready for Christmas? You still have a few weeks…but is sneaks up.
    Sher, I loved it, too. And ate lots of it – every…. other Friday night

  13. Wow . . . you really rock on the Christmas cookie front. I’m lucky if I get one batch of gingerbread men to turn out edible.
    This tuna pasta reminds me of the tuna casserole I used to make when I was a kid (yours looks MUCH better than mine, though). It was from the Betty Crocker Cookbook and one of the first recipes I mastered. I’ll have to try your recipe when my parents are here and see if we’re all overcome by nostaligia ;-).

  14. Hi David, thanks for visiting! No matter what the versions – I love Christmas Cookies!!!
    swirlingnotions, good old Betty Crocker! I have that – and the ‘Cookbook for Boys and Girls’ – and the Cookie Book…

  15. I can’t wait to begin Christmas cookie baking! And I thought of my mom when you spoke of yours beginning right after Thanksgiving. Fun! And, I can’t wait to get a drop and decorate party going here…:)
    Your cassrole looks tasty! I am not a fan of tuna, but love recipes like this where there are other yummy ingredients that don’t allow the tuna to dominate..

  16. All those cookies sound divine!!!Slurp, drool!!
    I remember my mother making lots of different kinds of cookies…shortbreads with marachino cherries were my favorite followed by her pecan crescents. Somehow, though, I never became the baker she was. Now I wish I was…or perhaps it’s a good thing I’m not. 😉
    Thanks for sharing the great tuna spaghetti pie with Presto Pasta Nights.

  17. Chris, I wish I could do one here…or come to one there! I shall have a party of one!
    Ruth, my mother was a great baker, too. Not me. Cookies, sweet breads, the occasional cake or dessert, that’s it. I’ve never made a pie from scratch!

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