Delicious treats for the holiday season

The first day of December. Our year is nearly over. Thanksgiving has left us fat and happy and now we must face the fact that Christmas is almost here. There are some of us that must have thought it wasn’t coming this year, because we have done nothing to get ready for it. I promise myself every year that “this year will be different” and everything will be done timely, like it used to be. I guess the unhappy events of this year have made us not want to think about the holidays. Many families have faced this same dilemma, not just this year, but in years past. So what do we do? We put a smile on our faces and remember good times and keep on going. This season is a season of hope, love, peace and faith. So, we look for the joy of family, friends and neighbors as we cook, decorate our houses, and enjoy the season, and the memories.

This past week has been a little different than we might want it to be. Take what comes though, and find something nice about it. The snow is pretty. The rain and mud, not so pretty, and the icy roads and sidewalks just plain dangerous and miserable. As this was written, it was too early to see what all was in store for us this past week, but there are hopes that it wasn’t be too bad and everyone was able to get where we all wanted to be for that family Thanksgiving dinner. We eat “Thanksgiving” for days after the main event, and enjoy each meal of leftovers. It is nice to “eat out” for the holiday, but the down side is that there are no leftovers. I remember years when we would “eat with others”, but still have a turkey and trimmings at home, just so we would have “leftovers.”

This storm on this holiday brings back memories of the blizzard of 1950. If you are old enough to remember, that was one snowstorm to never be forgotten. We were living on a farm, so we got along better than some others. However, wherever one was when the storm hit, that was where they stayed for a few days. Lots of folks had “houseguests” they didn’t expect. The Ohio-Michigan football game was played on Thanksgiving then (if I remember right!) and fans who had gone to the game had trouble getting home. Some of them ended up as “houseguests” of folks they didn’t know before. That was a time, though, when everyone helped everyone else and if someone needed a place to weather the storm or help with the farm chores, those folks available pitched in to help. If one lived on a farm, you shoveled your way to the barn and then had to shovel your way back to the house due to the winds that rearranged the piles of snow. Amazingly, the phones didn’t go down where we lived, and my friends in town would call to update me on all the fun they were having sledding. Our grandfather and his friend rode horses to town to get needed baby supplies for one family. It truly was a “storm of the century” and I am glad that I “did that one time.” It was sort of fun for kids, but I don’t care to repeat it.

This is a “Christmas parade weekend”. Macy’s is always neat to watch while we are cooking the big dinner, but the local parades are great because they are a part of our communities. There are some locally, so, put on your boots and warm coats and enjoy watching it. It is a big thing for the kids, and locally you know many of them. In our area (Beverly), the parade ends at the park and then is entertained by various groups. The Children’s Bell Choir is going to perform this year and, of course, everyone comes for the Christmas cookies and hot chocolate. If you have a little one riding on a float in a parade or marching in a band, you have to go to see them. They look for family and friends along the route.

The Christmas light displays get better every year, and every community in our area has them. Take your kids to see them at least once. There are neat tours to areas a little farther away to see the light displays and enjoy the entertainment. Two that are great and make for a nice Christmas tour are Dickens Village in Cambridge, Ohio, and Oglebay Park in Wheeling, W.Va. Both can be a mini-vacation that your little ones will always remember – unlike the toys that are often broken before New Years.

Check your area’s calendar to see when and where the musical events will be this season. Many are put on by local groups, like the “Singing Christmas Tree” or a community concert of “The Messiah”. It is a special treat to be a part of the Christmas programs and you don’t always have to be a professional to be a part of the local venues. So, whether you participate or just be part of the audience, you will enjoy and long remember the experience. Support the young ones by going to their school programs. They will love you for it.

Another way to make memories for your little family members is to help them make the gifts they give to family members and friends. All kids like crafts, and especially if they don’t look “perfect”, grandparents and aunts and uncles will love them. Older ones can bake or make candy, even if they do need a little extra help.

Now about those “turkey day” leftovers; there are lots of recipes for Turkey Soup. You really don’t need a recipe, though. It tastes good, no matter how you do it. If you think about what was good about the turkey, you know what would be good in the soup – gravy, even stuffing, and any leftover vegetables. Just boil the carcass and get the meat off the bones to use in the soup. Don’t give the bones to your dog. Throw them away. You can add rice or pasta if you like. Other additions to increase flavor would be sauteed onions and celery.

Anything that you won’t be eating in a couple of days, you can freeze for another meal. I have even frozen the carcass when I was too busy to make the soup right away. Of course, then you need to add other soup ingredients since you will have only the broth and some pieces of the meat. Thanksgiving dinner is one meal that will give you extra meals if you plan it to give you leftovers – cook once, have several meals.

Now, our attention is turned toward the Christmas holiday. The important thing here is family, also. This is a beautiful and happy holiday if we remember the don’ts – overspend, eat, work, grouse at others, get enough sleep, forget what the holiday is really about, and allow others to upset us. That’s a lot of don’ts, but vital to our enjoyment of this Holy season. Plan to be happy and you probably will be. God Bless.

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Three-fourths cup raisins

One-half cup chopped mixed candied fruits and peels

One-fourth cup dried currants

One-fourth cup rum

Four to four and one-half cups all-purpose flour

Two packages active dry yeast

One cup milk

One-half cup butter

One-fourth cup sugar

One teaspoon salt

Two eggs

Two tablespoons grated orange peel

One tablespoon grated lemon peel

One-half teaspoon almond extract

One-half cup chopped blanched almonds

Confectioners’ glaze

Soak first three ingredients in the rum. Combine one and one-half cups of the flour and yeast. Beat three minutes at high speed. By hand, stir in fruit-rum mixture. Heat and stir milk, butter, sugar, and salt until warm (115- to 120-degrees). Add to dry mixture. Add eggs, peels, and almond extract. Beat at low speed of electric mixer one-half minute, scraping bowl. By hand, stir in fruit and rum mixture, nuts, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth. Place in a greased bowl and turn once to grease top. Cover. Let rise until double – one and one-fourth hours. Punch down dough and divide in half. Cover and let rest ten minutes. Roll each half to 10×7-inch oval. Fold long side over to within one-half inch of opposite side and seal. Place on greased (or parchment lined) baking sheets. Cover and let rise until double – forty-five minutes. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. While still warm, glaze with Confectioners’ Glaze.

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One cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

One and one-half teaspoons milk (about)

One-fourth teaspoon vanilla

Mix to desired consistency, adding sugar or milk if needed.

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Two cups sugar

One-half cup shortening

One cup chopped dates

Two teaspoons baking soda

Two cups boiling water

Three cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

One teaspoon baking powder

Two teaspoons vanilla

One cup English walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 300-degrees. Grease and flour a large tube pan or Bundt pan. (Do this well as I have trouble with the cake not coming out of my Bundt pan perfectly. It is quite pretty when it does come out nicely.) In a crock, combine sugar, shortening, dates and soda. Pour boiling water over r and stir to melt the shortening and dissolve the sugar. Let cool slightly while you combine the remaining dry ingredients. Stir in dry ingredients and when mixed well, add the vanilla and nuts. Mix well and pour into prepared pan. Bake forty-five minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove from pan and finish cooling on a wire rack. Serve with whipped cream or Hard Sauce.

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(Not really a sauce – more of a spread)

One-fourth cup butter

Two-thirds cup confectioners’ sugar

One tablespoon half-and-half

Two tablespoons brandy (rum – bourbon)

One-fourth teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Beat butter until light; add sugar a little at a time, until incorporated. Add brandy, half-and-half, vanilla and pinch of salt. Beat until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

This is only a guideline for Hard Sauce – use spirits of choice. Adjust amount of ingredients to taste and amount. It should be like a smooth spread, not sauce consistency. This is great on warm Mincemeat Pie as well as Plum Pudding, etc. Use bourbon for true Southern Hard Sauce.

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Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.