Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 2010

Volume 6 Issue 12

*** Random Thoughts

Every year I say this year I will not be rushed. I will not be stressed. I will enjoy the holiday season. I will bake cookies and I will sing Christmas carols and I will, by golly, enjoy it.

Being busy is part and parcel of the holiday season. I aim to be joyful and that usually works.

Failing that, I think about how some of the things I try to squeeze into Christmas I may can transfer to other times of year. Instead of trays of goodies for friends, maybe I’ll gift them with platters of chicken salad and pimento cheese this summer.

Here’s hoping we all can enjoy a quiet moment with family. Admire the tree. Sing “Joy to the World” and mean it. Eat well and laugh long.

Merry Christmas.


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*** Great Quotes

“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.” - W. T. Ellis

*** Fun Food Ideas

Easy Side – Roasted Green Beans

Simple and tasty, Roasted Green Beans are the thing if you need a quick side dish.

Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees. Arrange fresh green beans (about one pound or so) in a single layer on a baking sheet. Top with a chopped onion, yellow or white, your choice. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Put in the oven and that's it! Stir a few times and let roast for 20 to 25 minutes.

Any leftovers can be folded into a pasta dish the next night.

**** Holiday Foods

If you need a gift for teachers or a hostess, something tasty from the kitchen is sure to be a hit.

Peanut Butter Fudge

3 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (1/2 of a stick) of butter (do not substitute)
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1 teaspoon vanilla
chopped peanuts (optional)

Lightly butter a 10 to 12” round dish and set aside.

Using a candy thermometer, cook sugar, buttermilk, and butter over medium heat until mixture reaches soft boil stage. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla. Beat until the peanut butter is dissolved and mixture is slightly thick.

Pour into prepared dish. If you like you can sprinkle chopped peanuts and lightly press them down. Let set up and cut into squares.

*** More gift ideas from the kitchen

Some of the favorite presents I give are ones that come from the kitchen.

Two criteria: things that can be made ahead of time and things that are useful. Filling up the belly is useful, right?

-- Most everyone loves cookies. You can mix up a batch of your favorite cookie dough – sugar cookie dough, peanut butter cookie dough, Butterfinger candy bar cookie dough – and rather than baking the cookies, shape the cookie dough into a log shape. Wrap it in parchment paper or wax paper and label. If you want to, get creative with the label and have fun with it. Otherwise, neat print with a Sharpie marker works fine. Either way, the recipient will have a roll of cookie dough in the freezer, ready to slice and bake any time she gets a craving for warm, homemade cookies.

-- A batch of soup is also a great idea, because the giftee can eat it right away or can freeze it. Most soups (except cream-based ones) can be easily frozen. This is an ideal time of year to make chili or gumbo or beef stew anyway, so the next time you do, double the recipe and have enough for a gift or two.

You can label it with thawing and heating instructions. You could include bread (rolls, cornbread, garlic bread) for freezing along side it.

-- Toasted pecans are another welcome gift, and they are a snap to make. Toasting nuts – pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts – really brings out the flavor.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread out nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and dot with butter. Or you can melt butter and drizzle it on top – whichever you’d rather. You can lightly sprinkle nuts with salt, or leave it out. You can also sprinkle nuts with a bit of Cajun seasoning and a bit of dark brown sugar. Butter, salt, no salt, seasoned or not, slide the baking sheet in the oven and let nuts roast for about 10 minutes, stirring about halfway through. The minute you begin to smell the nuts toasting, take them out so they don’t scorch. Let cool completely. Pour them in a cellophane bag and tie with holiday ribbon. Attach a Christmas ornament if you want and you have a tasty hostess gift.

*** Hit the Highlights – a few choice posts from this month’s blog

We celebrate the holidays old school style

My guest essay on the web site, Quest for Kindness:

Playing with watercolors

I love my little town.

Decked out.

I got in my car and drove over the Christmas gifts.

*** Shameless Bid for Commerce

I would very highly recommend "More Culinary Kudzu" to anybody who enjoys good food and good writing as well as to anybody who wants to find out more about the South. As for me, I only have one question left - how do I get invited to one of their family reunions?” – review by

*** Recommended Reading

A few weeks ago I read a collection of essays by Larry Brown, Billy Ray’s Farm: Essays from a Place Called Tula. What a great read. Two stories in, I was not believing – all over again – that Larry Brown is dead. Halfway through I began reading slower to draw out the essays.

All the books I read last month.

*** Adorable Thing My Child Said

He had a part in our church’s Christmas program. I watched him sing solo, I listened to him do the reading. He was self-assured and at ease. He didn’t seem to be nervous or teased to be in front of the entire church. The difference from last year is remarkable. Gulp. He’s growing up.

*** Mississippi Writers Guild

The Mississippi Writers Guild sponsors writer workshops, conferences, writer retreats and reputable writing contests. Membership dues are only $40.00 per year.

The Mississippi Writers Guild is a non-profit association of writers from all over the state and is a growing part of Mississippi’s literary art landscape.

*** Calendar

December 25th – Christmas

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