Are you still eating Thanksgiving Day leftovers? The easy way to finish off any still hanging around is to put everything into Turkey Soup; even the dressing and gravy. You might need to add a package of soup vegetables or some more turkey broth, but don't add the pie. The motto around here is, "Life is short - eat dessert first" so the pies are the first to go. Nothing better for breakfast than a slice of pie and a cup of hot coffee. I hope you and your family had a pleasant holiday.
Black Friday started early at most retailers this year. This is supposed to jump-start the Christmas buying season. The older one gets, the more one would rather pay a couple of dollars more than go out at crazy hours after a day of cooking, eating and cleaning up the kitchen. The temptation to spend too much is always staring one in the face when sales are in motion.
One of my nephews and his family (they are young) have made it a family tradition to start their Christmas with a Black Friday trip. They take cash only (no credit card bills after Christmas), go early and do their shopping, then the whole family meets at a local restaurant for breakfast about 9 a.m. It works for them and gets them in the holiday mood. I don't know what time they went this year with many stores opening at midnight, but I hope they enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed sleeping in. There weren't Black Friday sales when I was young enough to enjoy them - just another custom for which I was born too early.
With the Christmas parades this weekend, everyone should be getting in the spirit of the holiday. I am a real kid when it comes to holiday parades. I love them and that is a part of me that will always be young - or is it second childhood?
This is the first Sunday in Advent, and that makes one realize what little time is left for getting ready for Christmas. Every year I plan to be ready for the season, and each year I find myself behind a little more with the preparations. I do have my rosemary plant inside for the winter so I won't have to buy one this year just to expire in a month or two. I also got a tiny Blue Spruce tree that I hope to plant in the yard to make up for the nice one we had a few years ago that the goats rearranged. There is also a small Douglas fir on which I plan to put my live Christmas candles. If you have never seen a tree with real candles on it, you have missed one of the most beautiful scenes of the season. I know it is dangerous and takes constant watching, but it is so beautiful. The candles in the windows are electric, though, since one can't be in every room all the time to watch them. Not all the decorations are up, but we are working on them. One item that will be missed this year is the large train display husband Norm usually has at the office. There just hasn't been enough time for all the work of getting it up and lighted. Many of the decorations are getting old, so the yard won't be as festive as usual. Since the office is across from the town park, always before we have tried to make it as festive as time allows. Guess we are slowing down slightly.
Christmas always brings back of memories of the years we spent in Europe and were able to take part in the traditions of an Old World Christmas. With all the turmoil in the world now, I wonder how much it has changed over there. I try to make some of the cookies and candies that I miss, but I can't bring the promise of snow that added so much to the holiday feeling. We never know if we are going to have a white Christmas until Christmas comes, and it is Mother Nature that decides that for us. Mom used to say that it was hard for her the first Christmas they lived in Florida until she reminded herself that the Florida weather was more like that of Bethlehem than Ohio weather was. I understand that intellectually, but not emotionally. The true feeling of Christmas should have nothing to do with the weather, but snow just seems to help us feel more into the holiday. So I'll make my Stollen and other Christmas goodies and imagine it is white outside, even if it isn't.
I hope you have planned a few special places to visit or things to do to make your family Christmas one that the kids will always remember. The memories of family fun are more important than a bunch of gifts under the tree. Memories are forever; things are not. Keep the stress level down and the happy level up and you all will enjoy the holidays more. I am going to try to do just that. Prepare for Christmas in your heart and mind as well as in the kitchen. May God bless one and all.
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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 dry yeast
One-half cup butter or margarine
One-fourth cup sugar
Two-tablespoons grated orange peel
One-tablespoon grated lemon peel
One-half teaspoon almond extract
One-half cup chopped blanched almonds
Soak first three ingredients in the rum. Combine one and one-half cups of the flour and yeast. Heat and stir milk, butter, sugar, and salt until warm (115-120 degrees). Add to the dry mixture; add eggs, peels, and almond extract. Beat at low speed of electric mixer for one-half minute, scraping bowl. Beat three minutes at high speed. By hand, stir in fruit-rum mixture, nuts, and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover. Let rise until double - one and one0-fourth hours. Punch down and divide in half. Cover and let rest ten minutes. Roll each half to 10x7-inch oval. Fold long side to within one-half inch of opposite side and seal. Place on greased 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 tablespoon milk (about)
One-fourth teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix to desired consistency, adding sugar or milk if needed.
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Three-fourths cup dark brown sugar
Three-fourth cup white sugar
Grated rind of one lemon
One-tablespoon of citron, finely chopped
One-tablespoon candied orange peel, finely chopped
One-fourth cup grated unblanched almonds
One-teaspoon powdered cinnamon
One-half teaspoon powdered cloves
One-half teaspoon powdered allspice
One-fourth teaspoon powdered cardamom
One-fourth teaspoon black pepper
Generous pinch of baking soda
Three heaping cups flour
Rum or arrack
Beat eggs with sugar until very thick and light colored. Add grated lemon rind, candied fruit, almonds, and spices and mix well. Sift flour and baking soda and add to egg-sugar mixture. Knead dough on floured board until smooth. Shape into long rolls of about one-inch in diameter, and cut in one-half to three-fourths inch slices. Arrange on greased cookie sheet and let dry uncovered, at room temperature, overnight. Turn cookies over just before baking in preheated 300-degree oven. Bake twenty minutes or until they test done. Sprinkle warm cookies with rum or arrack and roll in confectioners' sugar while warm. Sprinkle with sugar again before serving. These keep very well in a tightly closed cookie tin.
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MILLION DOLLAR FUDGE
(I have been using this recipe for over fifty years - easy and good)
Five cups sugar
One can evaporated milk
One jar marshmallow cream
Three packages (6-oz.) chocolate chips
Boil sugar and milk together for four and one-half minutes, stirring constantly. Combine marshmallow cream and chocolate chips in a bowl or pan. Pour milk-sugar mixture over the marshmallow and chocolate chips mixture. Stir until creamy. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a foil lined pan and let set. Lift out by the foil and cut into pieces.
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Patty Christopher is a food columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.