Christmas Countdown C -2

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Butter Rum Cake

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon rum extract

Cream butter until light. Gradually beat in sugar, creaming until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternating with milk, beat thoroughly after each addition.

Turn into greased bundt pan. Bake in 350 oven for 70 minutes or until cake springs back when tested. Place cake in pan on rack to cook.  Pierce cake with fork. Pour hot sauce over cake. Cool thoroughly before removing cake from pan.

To prepare sauce: Heat sugar, butter and water in pan until butter melts, do not boil. Add rum extract.

Christmas Countdown C -3

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Jean’s Beans Chili

I began making this dish for my friends who are vegetarians.  However, many of my meat loving guests also enjoy my special chili.  It is made with 4 kinds of beans and plenty of spices to make it thick and flavorful.

  • 1 large can chili beans
  • 1 large can pinto beans
  • 1 large can kidney beans
  • 1 large can black beans
  • 1 cup frozen chopped onions
  • 1 cup frozen chopped green pepper
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can of tomatoes with chilies
  • 1 large can of tomato sauce
  • 1 box vegetable broth
  • garlic salt
  • chili powder
  • hot sauce
  • salt and pepper

 

Pour chili beans into large crock pot.  Drain and rinse other beans. Add to crock pot.  Mix.  Add onions and green peppers.  Add tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Season to taste.  Top pot with broth, making chili stirrable but not “soupy.”  Simmer on low 4-6 hours adding broth as needed.

Christmas Countdown C -4

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Orange & Spice Doughnuts

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons shortening, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • sugar

Cream sugar and shortening. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Blend in orange rind, juice and pumpkin.

Sift together dry ingredients. Gradually add to pumpkin mixture, stirring until blended. cover and chill 2 hours.

Roll 1/3 of dough at a time to about 1/3 inch thickness on floured pastry cloth. Cut with floured doughnut cutter. Let stand 15 minutes.

Fry in deep hot fat, 375 degrees, until nicely browned on both sides, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Roll in sugar or frost as desired.

Christmas Countdown C -5

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Party Pizzas

1 loaf party rye bread

1 jar pizza sauce

shredded mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat oven 350 degrees. Place rye bread on ungreased cookie sheet. Bread may be place close together. Drop spoonful of pizza sauce on each slice of bread and spread around bread. Sprinkle top of pizzas with cheese. Place in oven for 5-10 minutes until sauce bubbles and cheese melts. Serve immediately.

Showstopping Christmas Cake Recipes

Showstopping Christmas Cake Recipes

My Tuesday evening Bible study had their Christmas party last night. We had a wonderful time! It was a potluck. Now, when I host a potluck, I never assign dishes to anyone, nor do I have anyone sign up to bring something, carefully listing the items they intend to share. I know how life often gets in the way. You sign up to bring one thing & then something comes up suddenly & you don’t have time to make your favorite dish, the one you SWORE you were going to bring! Nope. None of that for MY potlucks. Instead, I just tell everyone to bring whatever they want & if we end up with all desserts, YAY! I have never had an event where we end up with only salads, nor have I had an event where we end up with only desserts (BOO!)

Last night worked out great. We had an excellent mixture of food from casseroles to appetizers to veggies & salads. And we had CAKE! (You knew there was a reason I was telling you this, didn’t you?) Jan brought 2 cakes and they were FABULOUS! One was angel food topped with a frosting made with Cool Whip & pineapple. The second was the one I had. It was yellow cake frosted with a delicious topping made from Cool Whip, pudding & egg nog. Yum! And guess who was lucky enough to bring the rest of the cake home with her! 🙂

Jan shared her easy recipes for both cakes with us last night. Today, I am share cake recipes from Southern Living. Every celebration deserves a cake! Enjoy!

Christmas Cakes

12 Easy Make-Ahead Ideas for Christmas

12 Easy Make-Ahead Ideas for Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, as the song says. Christmas also goes by in a blur. Time seems to speed up, leaving us gasping & wondering how we are going to get it ALL done! Betty Crocker to the rescue with a selection of recipes you can make ahead. Being able to prepare dishes ahead of time calms me. I feel a bit more in control of the situation, whether or not I really am. So take a breath & take moment to decide which of these delicious recipes might give you more time to celebrate Christmas! Enjoy!

Make Ahead

Christmas Countdown C -6

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Baked Spaghetti

My cousin, Mary would always prepare this dish for family gatherings. It is simple, filling and may be prepared ahead of time. I am able to expand this recipe as needed, enabling me to make more than one pan of spaghetti at a time. 

  • 12 oz pasta
  • 1 lb ground meat
  • 1 small onion, chopped (or ½ cup frozen chopped onions)
  • 2 small cans tomato sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 cubes beef bouillon
  • seasoning as listed 

Preheat oven to 350. Brown ground meat. Drain and set aside.

Boil 1 ½ quarts water in a large stock pot. Add bouillon cubes and allow to dissolve. Add 1 tablespoon oil to boiling water. Add pasta. Stir to prevent sticking. Cook pasta until just tender.  DO NOT DRAIN.

Add tomato sauce and paste. Season with 1 tablespoon crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, 1 tablespoon basil and salt and pepper. Blend thoroughly.

Add meat. Mix. Pour mixture into large flat baking dish. It will look sloppy. Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Bake one hour or until firm. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Cut into squares.

Christmas Countdown C -11

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Almond Eggnog Pound Cake

  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 package yellow cake mix
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups eggnog
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoons rum extract

Generously grease a bundt pan or tube pan with soft butter. Press almonds against the buttered sides and bottom; set pan aside.

11 Unique (and Totally Fun!) Holiday Traditions

11 Unique (and Totally Fun!) Holiday Traditions

Christmas is a time for traditions. The things you do with your family through the years make an impression we may not see until our children are grown. Growing up, I made cookies with my mother each year. After she passed, I continued to share our favorite cookies with family & friends each year. When The Child came along, WE began making cookies together. Oh, we made some changes as life got busier. Some years, we only baked the cookies that come in rolls from the store but we baked! Then, one year, I came home late from work to find a huge stack of chocolate chip cookies on the counter. The note on the stack said “DO NOT EAT!” The next day, Katy wrapped dozens of stacks of cookies & handed them out to her friends! A tradition that continues.

Good Housekeeping offers you & your family some new traditions to add to your Christmas season. Whatever you do, the things you do together stay with you & your children all your lives. And THAT’S a Simple Joy money can’t buy! Enjoy!

Holiday Traditions

Christmas Countdown C-12

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Have Yourself a  Low-stress Little Christmas!

During the Holidays, many of us are guilty of procrastinating. We put things off until the last possible moment, filling ourselves with anxiety as we scramble to get everything done. Each year, we promise ourselves we will be better organized THIS year and each year it’s the same. Holiday tasks come rushing at us leaving us standing frozen like a deer in the headlights.

Why do we do this to ourselves year after year? I believe most of us have good intentions of doing better every year but unfortunately, we become overwhelmed by everything we have to get done for the Holidays. Our to-do list seems endless and  makes it impossible to know just where to begin. We flit from one task to another, never quite completing anything. Or, we become immobile, unable to motivate ourselves to take on even the simplest task. How can we overcome these feelings and begin to enjoy the Holidays once again?

You should begin by saying the following words over and over again, “Work smarter, not harder!” Take the time to sit down and develop a strategy for the Holiday season. Do not do another thing on your list until you begin to follow the 6 steps listed below:

1.   Distinguish between “have to” and “want to:”  It is difficult to motivate yourself when you feel there is so much you “have to” get done for the Holidays. How many of these things are really “have to’s” and how many are “want to’s?” A number of years ago, when our daughter was in grade school, I was overwhelmed by everything I felt I had to get done before Christmas arrived. I couldn’t get motivated to do anything. Then I had an idea. I sat down and made 2 lists. On one, I put everything that really had to be done by Christmas morning. I tried to be realistic and only list things that, if not done, would truly spoil Christmas. On the second list, I put everything else, the tasks I only wanted to get done. When I was finished, I only had ONE item on my “have to” list. I needed to buy our daughter’s presents. She was still young enough that I knew Christmas would be spoiled if I didn’t have her presents ready by Christmas morning. Everything else on my list was something I only wanted to do. I didn’t have to put up the Christmas tree. I didn’t have to send out Christmas cards. Well, there were a lot of things I didn’t have to do. Once I gained that perspective, the process became easier. I felt the pressure being lifted from me and I got to work. I organized my “want to” list and one by one, I whittled each task away. By the time Christmas morning arrived, I had completed every item on both lists without the stress. Take the time to create 2 lists. Be brutal. You may have more than 1 item on your “have to” list but it should still be a small enough list that you can tackle it easily. Then, organize your second list and get to work.

2.   The calendar is your friend: This time of year, we see the calendar as our enemy. Each day it reminds us how little time there is left to prepare for Christmas. Do not see the calendar as your enemy, make it your friend. Once you have prepared your 2 lists and then organized your longer “want to” list, grab your calendar and begin to plan. Write in all the scheduled events, like the kids’ school programs, the church Christmas event, holiday parties, etc. Next, study your list and schedule a deadline for certain events: mailing Christmas cards, mailing packages, decorating the house, shopping, etc. Make sure you write tasks in pencil. No need to add to your stress level by setting arbitrary deadlines in pen. Pace yourself by spreading out tasks throughout the month.

3.   Let the list be your guide: I am a great maker of lists. It is too easy for tasks to fall through  the cracks during the non-holiday part of the year. This time of the year, it can be overwhelming. Therefore, I make a list. In fact, I make multiple lists. I have a master list of everything I want to get done for the holidays. I have a daily list of the 5 and only 5 things I need to do for that day. I have my Christmas shopping list with everyone and their gift ideas listed. I have a grocery list for everyday items and the various lists for any entertaining I am doing. These lists go everywhere with me. I never know when I might see a gift I can purchase or have a chance to pop into a grocery store to pick up a few things. I have the lists clipped together so I can easily refer to them. I do not let the lists intimidate or overwhelm me. They allow me to calmly plan things in the quiet and comfort of my home. They help me stay on top of things. Most important, they give me a sense of control. When you plan ahead and make your lists, you control the Holidays, they do not control you.

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4.   Give yourself the gift of “no:” One of the reasons we become overwhelmed at Christmas is the added burden of Holiday tasks piled on top of our already full to-do list. Unfortunately, everyone else around us has a lot to do and some of these people are looking for unwary individuals upon whom they can thrust one (or more) of their tasks. They may not mean to burden you but they do burden you just the same. You must learn to say “no” to these request. At the very least, you need to get something in return for doing the task. For example, if your husband asks you to pick up a gift for someone in the office, you need to have him take one of your tasks. Explain in a calm tone that you are also very busy during the Holidays and, in order to do one of his tasks, you need him to take one of yours. Everyone only has 24 hours in a day. This means we are only able to do so much in the course of a day. To have time to do his task, you need something removed from your list. For both of you, time is valuable. Be respectful of each other’s time. Keep in mind, there are other times when you must just say “no.”  Take a moment to consider whether or not you really have the time to do the requested task. If not, say so. You do not owe anyone an explanation. If you are unable to do one task, you might offer to do another but only if you have the time. You owe this gift to yourself and you deserve it.

5.   Allow others to help: We often think everything must be done by us. However, there are all sorts of people able and willing (or at least easily swayed) to do tasks for us. Some of these people are family and friends. Some of these people can be hired, like a cleaning service to come in and give your home a thorough cleaning for the Holidays. Nowhere does it say Mom must do everything. If no one offers to help, then ask. Women often feel men should know they need help. Men believe women will ask if they need help. We are both making assumptions. Mr. D. always tells me to speak up if I need help. Getting your family to help you also gives them a better respect for all you do to prepare for Christmas.

6.   Take care of yourself: This is the most important thing of all. Most women I know develop terrible colds or other ailments right after the new year begins. I believe this is often caused by the lack of care we give ourselves in December. Take simple basic steps to care for yourself during the holidays. Drink lots of water. Eat more balanced meals. Cookies and fudge just done’t cut it. Get plenty of rest. At least once a week, I climb into bed with a good book about 8:00. I may read for hours or fall asleep before 9:00. I find my body needs the rest. In addition, get some exercise every day. I like to go for a walk or ride my bike. This gives me time to plan my day, or the next day if I go out in the evening. It also clears my head. I also like to pray while I walk, helping me maintain perspective on the season.

Christmas is a fabulous time of the year, too fabulous for us to be wishing it over. Take a few simple steps to get a handle on the holidays and you can truly have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.