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Gear up for the holidays

Every day when I wake up, I expect to find a big change in the weather, but so far we have been very lucky and blessed with warm days and cool nights.

My husband Francis has always told me if we did not have the little grandkids and the businesses we would move south where it does not get so cold. However, we want to enjoy our grandkids, so that possibility is out of the question for us.

Even during the yearly vacations to Europe, it is difficult being away from all the family and grandkids. Our weekly family dinners are very hectic and interesting because some of the kids are doing cartwheels, some playing the piano, some playing hide-and-seek in the house and others running up and down the second floor and basement.

I had the pleasure of inviting some of our special friends over for dinner that we haven’t seen for a while because of each family’s difficult schedule. Friends are the special flowers in our lives.

Now that the entertaining is over for now, it is time for me to concentrate on decorating Christmas trees for the Festival of Trees and Easter Seals fundraiser.

This is the season and time to support the Mid Ohio Valley kids who have special needs.

This year I will be decorating five or six Christmas trees and wreaths to be auctioned off Thursday, Dec, 7 at the Blennerhassett Hotel. Starting Nov. 14, the Festival of Trees featuring over forty trees will be open and free for viewing at the hotel. It is a very nice experience if you have never taken time to visit and see all the beautiful trees.

Today make sure you visit the “Trees of our Heritage” from 1-3 p.m. at the Blennerhassett Museum of History at Second and Juliana Streets, featuring trees from different countries in the world. Admission is free and there will be live entertainment and refreshments. Not only are the trees beautiful and interesting, but you can also enjoy at the same time the history and items related to our area,

I just finished decorating my tree representing the country of Greece for the 20th year.

Next to my Greek Christmas Tree (about 7 or 8 feet ) are two display cases with my father-in-law’s chocolate molds and items from the Angelos Brothers Confectionary at the corner of Seventh and Lynn streets. Angelos candies (especially Easter candies) and homemade ice cream were very popular in our area.

November and cold weather is upon us and below I have a few soup recipes for you to try and next week I will have some dessert suggestions for the upcoming holiday season.

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Beef and Sausage Stew

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 pound lean beef chuck for stew, cut into chunks

1 pound turkey sausage, cut into chunks

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped sweet green pepper

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 16-ounce can stewed tomatoes

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeno peppers

Heat oil in large Dutch oven. Add half of beef and sausage and saute until browned, about 6 minutes. Remove to plate and repeat. Add onions, green pepper, garlic and 1 tablespoon water to drippings in pot. Cook, stirring occasionally for 7 minutes. Stir in chili powder and cook 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and 2 cups water. Bring to boiling. Return meats to pot. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Stir in potatoes, cook until potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes. Whisk flour and remaining 2 tablespoons water until smooth. Stir into pot; cook until thickened 5 minutes. To serve, top with cheese and jalapenos.

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Roasted

Cauliflower Soup

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 15.5-ounce cans chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 cup half-and-half

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oven to 400. In large roasting pan, toss cauliflower, chicken broth, 1 cup water, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

Discard bay leaf and puree soup with immersion blender or in batches in blender. Return soup to saucepan. Stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until heated through.

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Kiki Angelos is a food columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

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