Preparing for special season

December is the month that most of us have something in common — we are preparing for Dec. 25 celebration.

However, at the same time, many of us have different beliefs and ways of celebrating the season. Some have the birth of Jesus, which to me is the reason for the season and the most important.

Then some are just wrapped up in the shopping, parties and Santa Claus aspect which starts way before Thanksgiving anymore. I know that is crazy to start shopping that early, but because I do so with many trees to decorate, I shop for Christmas items all year round.

I hope you were able to make a visit to the Blennerhassett Hotel to see the displays of all the beautiful trees which will be up until Dec. 6. There is no charge and you may visit the exhibit at anytime during the day.

Be sure to also take a drive through the Parkersburg City Park and Belpre Park to view all the many beautiful lighted Christmas displays.

This is a very busy time of the year as you all well know, so be sure to take the time and effort to enjoy all the beautiful things and events going on in our area.

Have you started your shopping yet? The stores have many good buys. I went to buy an item that I saw advertised on sale in a flier for a limited time, but when I got there the sales person told me not to rush, that the same item will be on sale now through Christmas and probably even cheaper. So now I had to make the decision and buy now and possibly forget where I put it by Christmas or buy later….I waited. (I will let you know if I made the correct decision.)

Last Wednesday, we woke up with a little snow on the ground that I wasn’t really thrilled about, but it does help put you in the Christmas spirit.

Of course the kids all get excited with the two hour school delays, which is for the safety of our children, but I am sure it also presents problems for many working parents, like who will take them to school and if it is safe to leave especially younger children at home alone for two hours.

All this reminds me of the movie “Home Alone” which is an older Christmas movie that you should watch if you have not already seen it.

Last weekend, we decided to have a sleepover at our house, only this time we did one night with just the three older granddaughters and the next night with four younger granddaughters, which they all enjoy for we do a big variety of things, starting out by going out to dinner, to Marietta for ice cream, along with going to different stores to get Christmas ideas. We then returned home to watch DVD movies, have snacks and all slept on the floor where they wanted me to sleep with them, so we all did but I didn’t realize that at my age sleeping on the floor is a little more difficult than when I was younger. This event was also a great way to get them active and doing something rather than playing on their iPads and iPhone all the time.

We are on a countdown now with only 23 days until Santa makes his appearance…which will fly by very quickly.

Until next week.

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Fruit ‘n’ Nut Stollen

4-4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups milk

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter, softened, divided

1 egg

1/4 cup each raisins and dried cranberries

1/4 cup each dried pineapple and apricots

1/4 cup each chopped pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts and walnuts

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

Lemon Glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, cardamom and salt. In a small saucepan, heat milk and 1/2 cup butter to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add egg; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky.) Turn onto a floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray; turning once to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. In a small bowl, combine the dried fruits, nuts and extract; set aside. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead fruit mixture into dough. Divide into thirds. Roll each portion into a 10×6 oval. Melt remaining butter; brush over dough. Fold in a long side over to within 1 inch of opposite side; press edge lightly to seal. Place on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake at 375 for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks. Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm loaves.

***

Merry Christmas Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cold butter

1 cup eggnog

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup red candied cherries, quartered

1/2 cup green candied cherries, quartered

Glaze:

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon rum extract

4-5 teaspoons heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and milk; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in eggnog until moistened. Stir in pecans and candied cherries.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead 10 times. Transfer dough to a greased baking sheet. Pat into a 9-inch circle. Cut into 12 wedges, but do not separate. Bake at 425 for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over scones. Serve warm.

***

Multigrain Bread

1 cup water (70-80 degrees)

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup molasses

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups bread flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rye flour

1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder

1/4 cup quick-cooking oats

1/4 cup toasted wheat germ

1/4 cup cornmeal

2 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

In bread machine pan, place all ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. Select basic bread setting. Choose crust color and loaf size if available. Bake according to bread machine directions (check dough after 5 minutes of mixing; add 1-2 tablespoons water or flour if needed.)

***

Orange Cranberry Bread

2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 egg

1 cup milk

1/4 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons canola oil

2-3 teaspoons grated orange peel

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

1 large apple, peeled and chopped

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk the egg, milk, orange juice, oil and orange peel; stir into dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in the cranberries and apple. Pour into two greased 8×4 loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes befgore removing from pans to wire rack.

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Spicy Ginger Scones

2 cups biscuit/baking mix

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup Half-and-Half cream

1/2 cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger

Additional Half-and-Half cream and sugar

In a large bowl, combine the biscuit mix, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Stir in cream just until moistened. Stir in raisins and ginger. Turn onto a floured surface; knead 10 times.

Transfer dough to a greased baking sheet. Pat into a 9-inch circle. Cut into edge wedges, but do not separate. Brush tops lightly with additional cream; sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

***

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

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