‘Tis the season of family, friends, food, and fun! Our Santa Rita Ranch team put together some of our holiday favorite eats that celebrate all 4 of these things together to celebrate this magical season.


pie crust


Regina’s Homemade Buttery Flaky Pie Crust

Yield: 2 pie crusts

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (includes chilling)

This recipe is enough for a double crust pie. If you only need 1 crust for your pie, cut this recipe in half OR freeze the other half per the Make Ahead Tip instruction below.


  • 2 and 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 3/4 cup (148g) vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) ice water


  1. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening.
  2. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the butter and shortening into the mixture until it resembles coarse meal (pea-sized bits with a few larger bits of fat is OK). A pastry cutter makes this step very easy and quick.
  3. Measure 1/2 cup (120ml) of water in a cup. Add ice. Stir it around. From that, measure 1/2 cup (120ml) of water– since the ice has melted a bit. Drizzle the cold water in, 1 Tablespoon (15ml) at a time, and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon after every Tablespoon (15ml) added. Do not add any more water than you need to. Stop adding water when the dough begins to form large clumps. I always use about 1/2 cup (120ml) of water and a little more in dry winter months (up to 3/4 cup).
  4. Transfer the pie dough to a floured work surface. The dough should come together easily and should not feel overly sticky. Using floured hands, fold the dough into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats. Form it into a ball. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half into 1-inch thick discs using your hands.
  5. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (and up to 5 days).
  6. When rolling out the chilled pie dough discs to use in your pie, always use gentle force with your rolling pin. Start from the center of the disc and work your way out in all directions, turning the dough with your hands as you go.
  7. Proceed with the pie per your recipe’s instructions.

Make ahead tip: Prepare the pie dough through step 4 and freeze the discs for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using in your pie recipe.

 Dark Choc pie

Regina’s Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie

Yield: 8-10 servings

Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes (includes dough chilling)

Total Time: 5 hours (includes cooling)


  • Homemade Pie Crust (see above)
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (250g) shelled pecans
  • 1 cup (180g) dark chocolate chips*
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240ml) dark corn syrup*
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar (or light brown)
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • sea salt for topping


  1. The crust: Prepare using steps through 5.
  2. After the pie crust has chilled, adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
  3. Roll out the chilled pie dough: On a floured work surface, roll out one of the discs of chilled dough (you can freeze the 2nd for later use, see note). Turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls until you have a circle 12 inches in diameter. Carefully place the dough into a 9-inch pie dish.* Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is smooth. Flute or crimp the edges of the crust. No need to pre-bake the crust.
  4. The filling: Spread pecans evenly inside pie crust and sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly on top. Set aside. Whisk the eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, melted butter, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Once completely combined and thick, pour evenly over pecans and chocolate chips.
  5. Bake the pie for 40-50 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. After the first 20 minutes of bake time, I place a pie crust shield on top of the pie to prevent the edges from browning too quickly. You can also tent a piece of aluminum foil over the whole pie if the top is browning too quickly. Remove finished pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. The pie filling will set as it cools.
  6. Slice and serve pie warm or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, if desired. Cover and store leftover pie at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

Make ahead tip/Freezing: Pecan pie is a wonderful dessert to make ahead of time. You can get started by combining all the filling ingredients (except the pecans and chocolate chips) one day ahead of time. Keep it covered tightly in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the pie. You can also make the pie dough 1-5 days in advance since it needs to chill. If you want to bake the pie 1 full day in advance, bake it as directed, allow it to completely cool, then cover tightly and keep at room temperature until ready to serve the next day. Baked pie freezes well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes:

*You can freeze the 2nd pie dough for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using

*I strongly recommend a glass pie dish so you can see when the crust on the sides is browning, which signals that the pie is finished.

ginger cookies

Alex’s Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies


  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt. Set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl if need be. Mix in the eggs (one at a time) and molasses, and beat on medium-low speed until each is combined. Gradually add the dry ingredient mixture and beat until combined.
  4. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the dough to completely cover it and prevent air from getting in. Refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes, until completely chilled.
  5. Roll the dough into small balls, about 1-inch in diameter. Fill a small bowl with sugar, and roll each ball in sugar until it is completely coated. Place on the cookie sheet at least 1 inch apart, then bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies begin to slightly crack on top (they will crack more while cooling). Remove from oven and let cool for a minute or two. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

pecan cheese balls

Farrens’s Pecan Cheese Balls


  • 16 oz Fat-Free Cream Cheese (or regular)
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Splash of milk
  • Garlic powder
  • Bag of chopped pecans


Let the cream cheese soften, put a splash of Worcestershire sauce and milk, sprinkle some garlic powder, cheese, pecans and mix all together. Then add more cheese, chopped pecans, and sprinkle some garlic powder again, mix. Once you have think you have enough cheese and pecans mixed in make into a ball. Spread out pecans on wax paper and cover the entire cheese ball with pecans, wrap up and put in the fridge. This can also be put in the freezer and kept for later.


Alex’s German Gluhwein

Gluhwein and Kinderpunsch are staples at Christmas markets all over Europe and the perfect beverage to serve at holiday celebrations!

Mix together in a large pot:

  • 1 bottle of dry red wine of your choice
  • 1 cup of brandy
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 3 oranges, sliced
  • 6 sticks of cinnamon
  • 8-10 whole cloves
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 3-5 whole anise

Simmer for 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Kinderpunsch (the non-alcoholic version)

Mix together in large pot/saucepan:

  • 4 cups grape juice (1 liter)
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1 whole star anise

Bring to a simmer and then turn off the heat and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Serve warm.