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Lost Italian: Brownies an example of dishes suited for latest recipe contest

Tony and I have spent the past year sharing our stories and recipes with you, and we've had a lot of fun getting to know you better along the way. We've learned that you like our Red Curry Scallops almost as much as a good soup recipe and that ma...

Lost Italian
Buttermilke brownies with crushed candy cane topping is a recipe passed down for holiday baking. Dave Wallis / The Forum
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Tony and I have spent the past year sharing our stories and recipes with you, and we've had a lot of fun getting to know you better along the way.

We've learned that you like our Red Curry Scallops almost as much as a good soup recipe and that many of you are serial recipe-clippers, even if you have no intention of ever actually making one. We know now that you love anything with bacon, whether it's our Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing, or our made-from-scratch Bacon Pancakes.

But the comments we hear most often are how much you enjoy our stories about family and tradition, two topics that so often involve food. We love family, food and tradition, and invite you to share your stories and recipes with us in our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest.

Tony and I both grew up cooking and baking with our moms, and enjoy making many of these family recipes with our son, Giovanni, who always wants to hear the story behind the dish. For this contest, we ask you to share a recipe for a holiday sweet treat that has been passed down in your family from one generation to another. This can include recipes for cookies, bars, candy, cakes, pies, etc.

All entries must be submitted via email no later than midnight on Dec. 4 and must include a short story (50-200 words in length) about the recipe and its heritage. Photos are highly encouraged.


Tony and I will select our favorite entries for review by an independent panel of judges, who will taste each recipe and read each story to select our finalists. We will announce the finalists Dec. 11 in the paper and on our blog, and the public will be invited to review each recipe and story and vote online for a favorite.

Once again we have terrific prizes in store for our winners, which will be distributed based on the volume and variety of recipes we receive. The winner or winners will be announced on Dec. 25, both in our column and on the blog, and the top winner will take home a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

When I was growing up, my mother was a whirling dervish during the holiday baking season, making everything from standard treats like toffee and chocolate crinkles, to Norwegian specialties including krumkake, rosettes and sandbakkel cookies. She made it look so easy as she deftly handled the delicate Scandinavian treats, and I'm hoping she'll teach me how to master these recipes this holiday season.

Today we're sharing her recipe for Buttermilk Brownies, one of Gio's favorite heritage recipes next to Peppermint Bark. This recipe is a classic from the Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookies cookbook, which my sister and I received in 1975 for Christmas.

Last year, Gio was assigned to bring the treat for his class' Christmas party, and we added peppermint extract and crushed candy canes into the frosting.

These brownies are moist and airy, with a wonderful cooked cocoa frosting that was made even better with the mint flavoring. Our Christmas brownies were an instant hit, and we gained a new tradition to add to our family story.

We hope you will participate and share your family recipes and stories with us. All entries must be submitted via email to by Dec. 4 to be eligible.

Peppermint Buttermilk Brownies


Adapted from the Better Homes and Garden Homemade Cookies cookbook

Makes 60 small brownies


1 cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda


½ teaspoon salt

2 slightly beaten eggs

½ cup buttermilk

1½ teaspoons vanilla


In saucepan combine butter, cocoa, and 1 cup water. Bring to boil; stir constantly. Remove from heat. In large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, soda, and salt; stir in eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Add cocoa mixture; mix till blended.

Pour into one greased 15½-by-10 ½-by 1-inch baking pan, or two 11-by-7½-by-1½-inch baking pans, or two 9-by-9-by-2-inch baking pans. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until a toothpick test comes out clean.

Immediately pour the Cocoa-Buttermilk Frosting over brownies and spread evenly. Sprinkle the top liberally with the crushed candy canes and allow to cool before serving.

Cocoa-Buttermilk Frosting


¼ cup butter (half stick)

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons buttermilk

2¼ cups powdered sugar, sifted

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon peppermint extract


In saucepan add butter, cocoa powder, and buttermilk. Cook and stir to boiling; remove from heat. Beat in powdered sugar, vanilla and peppermint extract.


If the frosting is too thick, add more buttermilk in very small amounts, stirring until easy to pour.

Once the ingredients have been mixed together, heat the frosting over low heat for 30 seconds and stir constantly until the powdered sugar is no longer visible and the frosting is shiny.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at . All previous recipes can be found at

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
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