Ten days from today. Are you enjoying the season or are you tied up in knots with stress about getting everything done? Nothing has to be perfect, you know. Relax and let your family relax, too, or you all will be basket cases by Christmas Day. There are still many things not done here on the hilltop, too, but no one knows what was hoped for and planned, so no one will know if they aren't all accomplished. There is no way that even the most "flushed with money" family could get everything that the TV ads tell the kids they need to have, so don't even think about trying to buy them all that stuff. The important thing in this season is to have a relaxed and cheerful family time that will live in those little ones memory forever. It is the season of love, joy and hope and should not be overshadowed by "things."
Many families are having to "downsize" the family expectations as far as purchased gifts go, and this can really be a good thing. A box of homemade Christmas cookies or a holiday cake is a very welcome gift for friends, neighbors, and even family members. It is the love that is given that makes any gift, small or large, special. Children can learn that they are not entitled to everything they see or their friends get, too. Let's try to remove some of the commercialism from this Holy celebration.
With the colder weather coming in, one way to keep our houses warm is with the kitchen stove, baking and cooking. This gives us those delicious aromas that encourage us to think "Christmas" as well as inspires us to cook and bake. There just can't be any calories to worry about this time of year, so make and eat whatever you and your family love. January first is a good time to think about calories. It gives us a goal for which to strive and something to do during that usually nasty month. So, enjoy this season and don't bother to think about anything bad such as limiting the foods you love and get only at this time of year.
Last weekend, husband Norm, granddaughter Baylee, and I enjoyed a wonderful Saturday evening. The monthly church group "Cooks Night Out" was canceled, but we were already at the restaurant, so we enjoyed a wonderful meal and just being together. We went to Spagnas in the Harmar area of Marietta. It is a beautiful Italian-themed restaurant with great atmosphere and wonderful food. If you aren't familiar with it, do try to visit it when you want a really nice meal and a beautiful dining room in which to eat. The service was excellent, and we each brought a box of food home to enjoy the next day, which is always a big plus for us. It was nice to have the company of one of our young folks, too.
After our great meal, we decided it was early enough to drive to Cambridge to check out the Dickens Village and the light and music program at the county courthouse. To really enjoy the Dickens figures along the main street, one should take a walking tour so they can be seen up close. The "sound and light" was one not to be missed. It repeats every 30 minutes and is one of the best I have ever seen. The entire idea for this addition to the town was from one man, and it is great to see how the vision of one person, and his sharing of his own money for the seed money for it, can benefit not only the town, but the entire area. It definitely is one of the attractions close to us that one should see. There were even carriage rides and tours available to enhance the experience.
Every town in our area has a special section that is lighted for the enjoyment of all of us. Most even have music to which we can listen as we drive through the displays. Take the little ones, and the old ones, too, and go "to see the lights." Be thankful that so many folks have decorated their homes for us all to enjoy, but if you aren't able to drive around to homes in your neighborhood, do go to the parks to see the public light displays.
The holiday season can be difficult for some folks and for various reasons. Maybe they have lost someone close to them, or maybe they are financially strapped and feel they can't give their family members the things they are used to or want, and maybe they are depressed for other reasons. Try to give everyone you see a smile as you never know what may be in their heart, and just maybe your smiling and speaking to them will be the high spot in their day. Some folks drink too much during this time of year and turn into a nasty person as many who have this problem do. If that hits you in the eye, try to think of those you love and those who love you and resist that urge to "have another one." You just might be surprised to find out how nice it is to be nice. Pray for those who have this problem.
This is a season when one should remember those who sacrifice so that we can have a joyful holiday. It isn't any fun to be away from home on Christmas, and many have to be on duty for the rest of us. The families of those folks can use some prayers and concrete help, too. A little one doesn't really understand why Daddy or Mommy can't be with them when Santa comes. If you can, volunteer with one of the many organizations that supports these folks, especially at this time of year. However, do check out the organizations who ask for your money contributions as some of them, though they appear to be helping the less fortunate, are mainly just lining their own pockets. Some of my favorite good ones are the Salvation Army, St. Jude's Hospital, Shriners' Hospitals, local food pantries, Toys for Tots and most local church organizations. Any Senior Home will welcome goodies and gifts, too, but don't forget the folks who live just down the street and don't beg for help - just need it.
Enjoy this next week as we remember why we celebrate this Holy Day. May your soul be at peace, your hands busy doing good for family and friends, and your bones not get too weary as you enjoy the music and the wonder of this season. God Bless one and all.
SOUTHERN LANE CAKE
(A special Christmas cake)
One cup butter, softened
Two cups sugar
Three cups sifted cake flour
One tablespoon plus one teaspoon baking powder
Three-fourth cup milk
One teaspoon vanilla extract
Eight egg whites
Lane Cake Filling
Seven Minute Frosting
Cream butter. Add sugar gradually, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer. Combine flour and baking powder and add to creamed mixture, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Beat room temperature egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter. Pour batter into four greased and floured 9-inch cake pan. Bake in 325-degree preheated oven for 18 minutes or until cakes test done. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool completely on wire racks. Layers are very tender and fragile, so handle them carefully. Spread Lane Filling between layers and on top of cake. Spread Seven Minute Frosting on sides. Garnish with pecan halves.
LANE CAKE FILLING
Eight egg yolks
Two cups water
One cup butter
Two cups chopped pecans
One cup currants or chopped raisins
One can (20-oz.) crushed pineapple, well drained
One-fourth cup bourbon
Combine egg yolks, sugar, and butter in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in pecans and remaining ingredients. Cool filling completely.
SEVEN MINUTE FROSTING
One-and-one-half cups sugar
One-fourth cup plus one tablespoon cold water
Two egg whites
One tablespoon light corn syrup
One teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients except vanilla in top of a large double boiler. Beat at low speed of electric mixer 30 seconds or just until blended. Place over boiling water and beat constantly at high speed for seven minutes or until stiff peaks form. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Beat two minutes or until frosting is thick enough to spread.
One standing rib roast - about 10 pounds
Two teaspoons salt
One teaspoon ground thyme
One teaspoon pepper
Eight or 10 cloves of fresh garlic
Fresh parsley sprigs (or kale) - garnish
Spiced peaches or red crab apples - garnish
Trim excess fat from roast. Cut several slit in roast and insert whole garlic cloves. Season roast with salt, pepper, and thyme. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered in preheated 500-degree oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 2.5 to 3 hours, or until a meat thermometer registers 155 degrees - 160 is medium. Remember the temperature will rise about 5 degrees as the roast rests, so take it out sooner if you like rare roast. Transfer roast to a serving platter and keep warm. Use pan drippings in the sauce. Garnish with parsley (or kale) and spiced peaches or crab apples nestled in the greens. Serve with Madeira Sauce. (This size roast should give you six to eight servings.)
Two-thirds cup water
One-and-one-half tablespoons butter
One tablespoon fresh lemon juice
One-half teaspoon salt, divided
One-half pound sliced small mushrooms
One-fourth cup butter, melted
One-half cup chopped green onions
One cup beef broth
One-half cup Madeira wine
One tablespoon tomato paste
One-fourth teaspoon pepper
Combine water, 1.5 tablespoons butter, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and add one quarter teaspoon salt and the mushrooms. Cover and simmer 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Drain, reserving liquid. Set mushrooms aside. Combine pan drippings, melted butter and onion in roasting pan. Saute until tender. Add water to reserved mushroom liquid to equal 1 cup. Combine with onion mixture, broth, tomato paste, pepper and remaining salt. Heat thoroughly and stir in mushrooms. This makes about four cups.