Welcome! Kick off your shoes, get comfy and join in as we chat about books, romance and the ups and downs of everyday life.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Romancing the Holidays - Vanessa Kelly

VANESSA KELLY















The Hour Eight winner of 

a book
Southern Praline Candy
and
a What Happens at Christmas mouse pad
is

Donna M. Brown

Congratulations, Donna!



Hour Two — All The Holidays of the Season


I was raised in a pretty traditional Catholic household, so we celebrated all the major Christian holidays.  But there are some other holidays and festivities that take place at time of year, and really add to the beauty of the winter season.

Hanukah is the Jewish Festival of Light, commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  It’s observed for eight nights and days, taking place at any time from late November to late December.  It’s most memorable symbol is the Menorah, the unique, nine-branched candelabrum.  Many families exchange small gifts each night and there are wonderful traditional foods to celebrate the holiday.


Diwali is known as the “festival of lights,” and is primarily a holiday in the Hindu and Sikh tradition.  It falls between mid-October and mid-November.  There are a number of regional variations in the celebrations, but they generally involve lighting small clay lamps and setting off firecrackers.  People wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks in gatherings with family and friends.  There’s also Pancha Ganapati, a festival celebrated from Dec. 21 to 25 in honor of Lord Ganesha.  Some describe it as the Hindu alternative to Christmas, and it includes outings, picnics, and the exchange of gifts. 



Kwanzaa was created in 1966 as a specifically African-American holiday.  It is now also celebrated in Canada, and runs from December 26 through January 1st each year.  It was established as a way to support African-Americans in reconnecting with their ancient heritage, and celebrates the seven principles of Nguzo Saba.  Families decorate their households and celebrations often include cultural performances.

Winter Solstice is the time of year when the winter sun is at its lowest altitude on the horizon – the shortest day of the year.  The Solstice was recognized by many cultures and religions traditions, and usually symbolized rebirth and the renewal of life.  It was celebrated by the Anglo-Saxons, the indigenous people of Scandinavia, early Christians, ancient Slavic cultures, and is still observed by many people around the world today.

There are many more winter festivals, of course, including St. Lucy’s Day, Boxing Day, Twelfth Night, and the Chinese New Year.  Perhaps all this celebration is a way to lighten and bring joy to what is a very dark and cold time of year.  It makes perfect sense to me!

Readers, I’d love to know what special or favorite traditions you observe during the holiday season, religious or otherwise.  Do you have cultural or family traditions that are particularly meaningful?  Let’s share!




The Hour Seven winner of
a Book
a What Happens at Christmas mousepad
and
a White House ornament
is

Ezrah Lasola

Congratulations!



Hour One — Welcome to Romancing the Holidays!!!




Time for Brunch?!  

   
Happy Holidays, everybody!  I’m so excited to be here for today’s Gala, hosted by our wonderful friends at The Romance Dish, PJ and Andrea.  Thanks so much, ladies!  What a day it’s been so far, right?  And there’s more fun in store, but I also want to remind everyone that we’ll be making donations to women’s shelters and libraries at the end of the day, and we’re encouraging you to do the same.  It’s always a good idea to check out your local library and shelter and see if they need any book donations, and it’s very sensible way to clean out your bookshelves and spread the reading love.

One of the topics of conversation today is favorite holiday recipes.  My mother was a fantastic cook who really pulled out the stops at this time of year, so I have lots of good recipes from her secret horde.  But rather than giving you one for her cookies or pies, I thought I’d go with one of her delicious brunch dishes.  After all, there’s nothing like a good breakfast or brunch to set you up for holiday celebrating.

To start us off on the right foot, here’s Flora’s Holiday Brunch Strata.  My mom often served this on Christmas morning, and it was always a winner.


~ 12 slices of good white bread, cubed.
~ 8 eggs
~ 1 cup of sweet onion, finely chopped
~ 4 cups milk
~ 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
~ 2 cups cubed ham
~ 1 teaspoon salt
~ ½ teaspoon pepper

Place bread cubes in buttered 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Layer the onions and the ham & cheese on top of the bread.  Beat the eggs, milk and seasonings together and pour over the ingredients in the dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.  Feel free to add whatever herbs and other seasonings you think might go nicely with this dish.  Then, pour the champagne and orange juice and start celebrating!

What are some of your favorite recipes for the holidays?  Feel free to share!

196 comments:

  1. It wouldn't be Christmas dinner without a ham from Honeybaked Hams and homemade mashed potatoes!

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  2. Yum, Susan! I love Smithfield Hams, too. So good with a sweet potato casserole!

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  3. That sounds good. I always make a dip that everyone seems to enjoy and it's very easy. Cream cheese, either crab or shrimp in a can, onion (optional), mix all that together and top with cocktail sauce (can add green pepper for color if you uwant) - can't get much easier lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That one's a classic, catslady. And so tasty!

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  4. My husband makes a beautiful prime rib every year for Christmas Day. Mashed potatoes, rolls, salad, and veggies complete it all. We also get my Mother's homemade pecan pie. I would post the recipe, but she would kill me for giving away her secret. She may be 84, but I think she could take me, lol

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    Replies
    1. Ann, I love your mother! My mom also had a fabulous pecan pie recipe. It's also in the secret vault.

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  5. That sounds/looks awesome! My grandmother always makes me Ambrosia! I wish I had the recipe to share! It's fruit cocktail and marshmallows ~ among some other ingredients but those are the most important!

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    1. Jessica, Ambrosia was one of my FAVORITE holiday dishes when I was a kid. My mother made it with mandarin oranges.

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    2. My mother made it with mandarin oranges.

      My mom did too!

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  6. That strata sounds delicious! I am adding it to my recipie stash!

    Years ago, when my parents had to get to two Christmases on the same day, we established a tradition of just soup & sandwiches for our immediate family. One of the staples is ham salad, but it's made with bologna (and hard-boiled eggs, pickles, cheese, celery, and mayo). I was probably 30 years old before I realized that other people made their ham salad with real ham! Our holidays have expanded to more appetizers and dips and less sandwiches, but it's still not Christmas without "ham" salad.

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    Replies
    1. Kima, what a fun story! Bologna was always my sandwich of choice when I was growing up. Slap that puppy between two slices of Wonder Bread, add some mayo, and I was in kid heaven!

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    2. Hi Kima, our family's "ham" salad was always bologna too! LOL

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    3. Oh, I love that story! Bologna has always been a favorite in my family!

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  7. This looks delish! One of our current holiday favorites is a Cranberry Horseradish Sauce. Excellent with turkey, ham or on crackers.

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    Replies
    1. Mary, that sounds awesome! Feel free to post the recipe.

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  8. The children love when my husband does his crème brûlée, chocolate or egg nog delicious!

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  9. That sounds so good. May have to give that dish a try :)

    Lori P

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  10. My mother prefers seafood so we've gone from crab (blue) to lobster (Maine) to crab (Dungeness) for the holidays.

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    Replies
    1. Sounds great, and very festive! Lobster is such a special dish to serve during the holidays.

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    2. I would have no problem with that whatsoever, infinitieh!

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    3. Oh my goodness, that sounds delicious, infinitieth! I LOVE seafood!!

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  11. Welcome, Vanessa! What a fun day this is. ;)

    Your brunch recipe looks amazing--a great way to offset all the sweet baked goods around the holidays. We have a similar recipe in my family, kind of a sausage and egg casserole. No one really likes making it, but everyone likes eating it! It's been a few years since we've had it, so maybe I'll be the one to carry on the tradition this year.

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    Replies
    1. Theresa, I think the Italian in you has to do something with sausage at Christmas!

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  12. That recipe sounds scrumptious! My Mom's Lane Cake and Japanese Fruit Cake are out of this world and it simply isn't Christmas without them!

    Her divinity, fudge, peanut butter balls and potato chip cookies are always in demand as well. In fact I have a cousin from whom all divinity must be hidden or it will mysteriously disappear!

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    Replies
    1. Wow, Louisa! I want to come to your house for Christmas! What is Lane Cake?

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    2. My grandma made divinity when I was a child. I seem to remember it didn't last very long in her house either!

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  13. That looks so good! I don't really have those kinds of recipe's for the holidays. I've been making these 2 bite pumpkin pies a friend of mine posted on Facebook that went over big for Thankgsgiving. You need one of the bigger cans( i use Libby's) of pumpkin pie MIX (has to be the mix) you add like it says on the can 2 large eggs and 2/3 cup evaporated milk. Mix it well and then pour it in a dish and bake it per the instructions on the can. Then you need 3 boxes of roll out pie shells(each has 2 per box find by the eggs. I use equate walmart brand) roll one out onto parchment paper or whatever to keep it from sticking to your surface. Then use a top of a cup about 3 inches wide to cut circles from the pie shell. You get 7 per pie shell and fill with a tablespoon of pie filling. Fold over in half and place on a baking sheet. ( i line mine with reynolds non stick foil)When the baking sheet is full you brush each one with a egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. That's it! Cool whip on the side if want. Makes 42 pies more if you can use the scraps and roll it back out.

    Lisa B

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    1. Lisa, I am definitely trying this recipe. Sounds fabulous for both Thanksgiving and Christmas!

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    2. Oh, now that sounds interesting!

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  14. Replies
    1. I hear you, Hope! I might have to sneak off for a little snack!

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  15. That recipe sounds easy and delicious! I need to try it sometime. We are usually in a rush on Christmas morning since we have to drive a couple of hours to the in-laws. So we eat something quick and light in preparation for the big Christmas dinner of ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, etc., etc. I know...I'll fix it for New Year's morning!

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    1. Cheryl, it would be a great recipe for New Year's morning - good hangover medicine! Your Christmas dinner sounds delish!

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  16. CRANBERRY HORSERADISH SAUCE (Courtesy of the Williams and Sonoma Library)

    2 cups fresh cranberries
    1/4 cup sugar
    1/3 cup prepared horseradish

    Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones. Finely chop them and put into a small saucepan with the sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is fully blended, about 4-8 minutes depending on how you would like the texture.

    Set aside to cool. Stir in the horseradish and serve. Makes 1 cup.

    I usually prepare this a day in advance. Enjoy!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing that, Mary! I love Williams and Sonoma. This looks easy as falling off a log, too.

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    2. Ooh...never heard of this before! Thanks for the idea. We love horseradish!

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  17. I get to the enjoy the feast without cooking. My cousin gets her recipes from Alton Brown and he's never let us down.

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  18. Your mom's strata sounds wonderful! I just printed it off & plan on giving it a try. Our holiday must-have is Jello Spritz Cookies. I make them for weeks at our house, because all of our friends and family have come to expect a package. They freeze very well, which is a good thing because I have to hide them from my husband! :)
    Here's the recipe:

    Jello Spritz Cookies.

    1 1/2 Cups Butter (I use I Can't Believe it's Not Butter)
    1 Cup Sugar
    1 3oz pkg (4 serving size) Jello, your choice of flavor. In our home, we use lime for trees & wreaths, cherry and cranberry for flowers & blue raspberry for ornament shaped cookies.
    1 Egg
    1 tsp. Vanilla
    3 1/2 Cups Flour
    1 tsp Baking Powder
    Sugar sprinkles (optional)

    Cream butter, sugar & Jello until light and fluffy. Blend in egg & vanilla. Add combined, sifted, dry ingredients. Mix well (if you don't have a stand mixer, this will build muscles. Dough is very thick!) Fill cookie press with dough & "press" on UNGREASED cookie sheet. Decorate with sprinkles(optional). Bake at 400* for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are VERY lightly browned. Makes approximately 10 dozen.


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    1. I should probably point out that while each "flavor" tastes different, the Jello is more for changing the color of the dough. I promise you, your green trees won't taste like limes! :)

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    2. Michelle, thank you for sharing that awesome recipe!

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    3. Your very welcome! It's one of my favorites to share because you can make so many pretty cookies in such a short amount of time! Kids love to help make them, too! :)

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    4. I have a Jell-O cookie recipe I use every Christmas. It's the young ones favorite cookie to make.

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    5. This sounds great.....oh dear I need to get out to lunch!

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    6. Oh, I am SO copying this for my mom! Thanks!

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  19. I absolutely ADORE peppermint bark and have recently found the best recipe for it. I plan on making some very soon. Yummy!

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    Replies
    1. Connie, don't feel shy about sharing your recipe!

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    2. Connie, please share your recipe. I make peppermint bark too. It's very popular! :)

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  20. Believe it or not one of my husband's favorite recipes for the holidays for the holidays are my deviled eggs and they're the first thing I put out on the counter for everyone to eat for when they first arrive and no matter how many I make by the time I finish greeting everyone they're already gone!

    I make them by adding not only mayonaise, a small amount of mustard, dill paprika and parsley but also my "secret" ingredient of sweet relish to the mashed egg yolks! In fact we're going to a pre-holiday party at one of my husbnd's cousins on Sunday and she asked me to be sure to bright 2 dozens of them with me! Who knew that something so quick and easy to make would be everyone's favorite!

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    1. My favorite! I adore deviled eggs!

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    2. Jeanne, my mother always made deviled eggs for holiday parties, including our annual 4th of July party. She used mustard and paprika, too.

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    3. My kids can eat their weight in deviled eggs. LOL!

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  21. Can I use cheddar instead? Don't like Swiss. Looks yummy though.

    Sue P.

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    Replies
    1. Sue, I think you can use whatever cheese you want. Cheddar would be great!

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  22. Title: No Bake Rum Balls

    Categories: Cookies

    Yield: 1 servings



    1 3/4 c Fine vanilla wafer crumbs

    1 c Pecans; finely ground

    1 c Confectioner' s sugar;

    -unsifted

    1/4 c Cocoa

    3 tb Light corn syrup

    1/4 c Light rum; or bourbon

    1/3 c Sifted confectioner' s sugar



    Place all but the last ingrdient in a bowl and
    mix well,using hands. Roll

    mixture into 1″ balls and dredge in confectioner' s sugar. These cookies

    will keep up to 10 days when stored in airtight canisters. From the New

    Doubleday Cookbook.

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    Replies
    1. I have a friend whose husband is handy around the house but he never lets me pay him. He always trades his expertise for a batch of my bourbon balls. lol

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    2. Rum balls were always a big hit in our house too, Jennifer! And PJ, that sounds like the best handyman ever. But don't let him get into the rum balls before he starts working!

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    3. I copies your Rum Balls Jennifer. Thanks for sharing. I'm eager to try them. They sound really good.

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    4. Jennifer - I could have used your No Bake Rum Balls when Sandy took out our power!

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    5. Jeanne Im sorry to hear you was one of them without power :( I think everyone in that whole region could have used some rumballs . and its strange to say but im putting a copy of the recipe in my emergency kits cause you make a great point

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  23. Your strata looks GREAT. I made one, actually 2, one year when we had the older kids and their kids for Christmas and had bodies sleeping everywhere. *sigh* those were the days. The recent years the twins think we need to have coffee cake for Christmas morning. What's up with that? I pull it together the night before so all I have to do is put it in the oven.

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    Replies
    1. Pennie, I'd go with the strata, too. More protein, more flavor, and starts the day off right!

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  24. That looks and sounds so yummy! Instead of ham I think I would put bacon, if that was possible :)
    One of my favorite Christmas sides is cheesy potatoes casserole! It can be eating year round, but I think of it as a Christmas dish because I know for sure every year that someone in my family will make it.
    -Preheat the oven to 350
    -Peel and slice your potatoes, put them into a pot of water bring them to a boil. You should be able to get a fork easily through when they are done.
    -When your potatoes are cooking make your bacon and crumble it. I normally let it cool a bit and then crumble it in paper towel this way it also takes out the extra grease.

    -Now that your potatoes are done put them in a blender or hand held mixer whatever you use and make them look like mash potatoes :).
    -When they are nice and creamy add all of you liquid ingredients and blend some more.
    -When this is good and blended add the rest.
    (For cheese you can judge yourself how much you want to use, the same with the bacon.
    I always save some cheese and bacon so I can put that on top at the end.)

    -Okay now everything is blended, this is the part where you put it into a casserole dish or a glass pan whatever you want to call it. (I normally taste at this point ;)!!!)
    -I add my set aside bacon and cheese now to the top. You don't have to do this I just like too.
    -Put in the oven and wait for the top layer of cheese to be melted then they are done :) The oven doesn't really cook anything it just melts your cheese for you so there is no set time on how long it should stay in.

    You can use the recipe for twice baked potatoes too but the cooking technique is different for them

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    Replies
    1. opps lol I forget to tell you what you need!!
      8 Potatoes
      1/2 Evaporated Milk (this comes in a can)
      1/2 teaspoon pepper
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1 bag of Shredded Cheddar Cheese (you can use whatever cheese you want this is my favorite)
      Crumbled up bacon (judge how much you want, I normally do 4 strips for 8 potatoes)
      1/2 sour cream
      2 tablespoons of chives (you can use fresh or freeze dried, I use the freeze dried)

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    2. I am definitely making this one! (wiping the drool from my chin)

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    3. Savannah, I'm like PJ - drooling! Thanks for sharing this recipe. And you can absolutely use bacon instead of ham. Now that I think of it, I'd probably like it better with bacon too!

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    4. *copying this one* I love potatoes, I love cheese, I love sour cream, and I love bacon. 'Nuff said! :)

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  25. It sounds delicious! I love gingerbread cookies =D
    Great event, Vanessa =)

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    Replies
    1. Gingerbread is a classic! Thanks so much for stopping by, Nat Reading Romances!

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  26. Hi Vanessa the brunch recipe looks delish going to have to make it for my husband.

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    Replies
    1. Your hubby will definitely thank you for it, Lori!

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  27. My oyster dressing is a huge hit. It is a variation of a Paul Deen recipe.
    Box cornbread stuffing crumbs
    one sleeve of saltines
    2 cups celery
    1 lg onion chopped
    1 red pepper chopped
    1 c. butter
    2 pints oyster
    6.5 c. chicken broth
    2 TB Old Bay Season
    1/2 tsp Black Pepper
    1 tsp salt
    5 eggs, beaten
    Tabasco Sauce
    Saute celery, onion and red pepper
    Add satuted veggies to cornbread stuffing cubes, crushed saltines
    Add salt, Old Bay Seasoning and black pepper
    Add oyster, liquid and all
    Add chicken broth
    Add eggs
    Give the tabasco a good couple of shakes
    Bake for 45 minutes in oven at 350


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    Replies
    1. Flip, what an absolutely elegant, gorgeous recipe. Thank you so much for sharing it! Do you use it to stuff a turkey, or do you bake it separately?

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  28. Hi Vanessa! Merry Christmas! That casserole looks wonderful. I'm going to have to give that one a try.

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    Replies
    1. Hi PJ! Thank you so much for hosting us today - you and Andrea are the best!

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  29. My Favorite is....


    Red Velvet Cheesecake

    Ingredients
    1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
    1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    4 large eggs, lightly beaten
    3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
    1 cup sour cream
    1/2 cup whole buttermilk
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
    2 (1-ounce) bottles red food coloring
    1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    1/4 cup butter, softened
    2 cups powdered sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

    Preparation
    Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar; press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
    Beat 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar at medium-low speed with an electric mixer 1 minute. Add eggs and next 6 ingredients, mixing on low speed just until fully combined. Pour batter into prepared crust.
    Bake at 325° for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 300°, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center is firm. Run knife along outer edge of cheesecake. Turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes. Cover and chill 8 hours.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the recipe, Auburn Girl! I have a teen in my life whose favorite desserts are Red Velvet Cake and Cheesecake. This is perfect for her!

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    2. AuburnGirl, you had me at Red Velvet. Thank you so much for sharing that! I have some great cheesecake recipes on one of my Pinterest boards. http://pinterest.com/vanessakellyaut/cupcakes-and-cakes/

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    3. It is very yummy and I also love anything Red Velvet....I will have to follow you I love desserts

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    4. OMG, copying this one, too!!! I am a red velvet freak!

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  30. Oh my word! Red velvet AND cheesecake. Amazing! Thanks for sharing this. :)

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  31. Good heavens, we need a GALA cookbook. I leave you people alone for a few hours and find the party has moved to kitchen. Any recipes for the punch bowl?

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    Replies
    1. Grace, that is a fabulous idea! I should dig through my mother's recipes and see if she has any for Christmas/holiday punch. I vaguely remember something with gallons of sherbert.

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  32. This looks amazing I am jotting it down ! Merry Christmas Vanessa !

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    Replies
    1. All the recipes look so good, don't they? Merry Christmas to you, my dear friend!

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  33. I'll add a very simple holiday salad that I LOVE: equal parts shredded jack cheese, chopped mushrooms, and chopped celery. Marinade a couple hours with Italian dressing. Scarf up.

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  34. Another simple favorite, this one a dessert: Four cups of sliced white grapes, marinated in equal parts honey and cognac, topped with sour cream. I can DISGRACE myself eating this one.

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    Replies
    1. Wow! This sounds dangerous! I like it! :)

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    2. Oh my gosh! (wiping still more drool from my chin)

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    3. But it's practically health food since it's got fruit!

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    4. What happened to my resolution to eat healthy!

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  35. Ooh...I have a holiday punch recipe!

    Ingredients
    4 cups cranberry juice
    8 cups lemonade
    2 cups orange juice
    4 oz jar maraschino cherries
    2 liter bottle of ginger ale
    1 orange sliced in rounds

    Directions
    In a large punch bowl, combine cranberry juice cocktail, lemonade, and orange juice. Stir in the maraschino cherries. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more.
    When ready to serve, pour in the ginger ale. Garnish each glass with an orange slice.
    If for adults, a little splash of vodka is nice, too! :)

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    Replies
    1. Michelle, that sounds yummy! Spiking with vodka is a good idea, since it won't really change the taste.

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  36. My Mom makes "Dutchboy" its a pancake made in a skillet in the oven and then filled with warm pie filling and jam (we like peach pie filling & raspberry jam). It looks so good and is so easy to make.... here's the recipe:

    ¼ cup butter
    3 large eggs
    ¾ cup milk
    ¾ cup all-purpose flour
    1 quart fresh strawberries
    ¼ cup berry jam or red currant jelly
    3 tablespoons powdered sugar

    1. Put butter in a 2-quart skillet such as cast iron and place on bottom rack in a preheated 425-degree oven.

    2. While butter melts, quickly mix batter. Using a food processor or blender, or with a bowl and whisk, mix eggs until light and lemon- colored. With motor running, gradually pour in milk, then slowly add flour. Continue mixing 30 seconds.

    3. Pour batter into melted butter in pan. Continue baking about 22 to 25 minutes, or until puffed and browned on the edges and golden in the center.

    4. While the pancake is baking, rinse and pat dry berries. Hull and slice into a bowl. Warm the jam or jelly and stir into the berries.

    5. When the pancake is pulled from the oven, immediately fill with the berries. Sift powdered sugar over the top and cut into wedges.

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    Replies
    1. Oh dear, I have got to try this!

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    2. Here's a site that has pictures of it.
      http://seattletimes.com/html/foodwine/2004396519_dutchbabies07.html

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    3. Okay, this I am definitely going to make. I never met a pancake I didn't like. Thanks for sharing, QuenKne!

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  37. This I made for Thanksgiving -- Cranberry Sauce -- it was wonderful.


    Cranberry sauce has always been part of the traditional Thanksgiving menu. In the 1960s, an uncooked sauce of coarsely ground cranberries and oranges became a national favorite. But since then, the original quickly cooked cranberry sauce has regained its popularity, with many variations such as this one with apple, orange and a hint of spice.

    Ingredients:

    · 1/2 orange

    · 2 cups water

    · 1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, pippin or McIntosh

    · 3 cups fresh cranberries

    · 1 1/4 cups sugar

    · 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

    · 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

    Directions:

    Squeeze the juice from the orange and set the juice aside. Remove and discard the membrane from inside the orange rind and cut the rind into small dice. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the rind and the water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

    Peel, core and quarter the apple. Cut into 1/2-inch dice and place in a saucepan. Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones. Add to the apples along with the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan partially. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst, 10 to 15 minutes.

    Transfer the cranberry sauce to a heatproof bowl and let cool for 1 hour before serving. Or cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving. Transfer the cranberry sauce to a sauceboat and pass at the table.

    Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Thanksgiving & Christmas, by Chuck Williams (Time-Life Books, 1993).


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    1. Mmmm...I love cinnamon and cloves in cranberries. My recipe is darn near identical; its just misssing the apple. I'll have to try adding that when I make the recipe for Christmas. Thanks!

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    2. What a great idea to include apples. Thank you for sharing!

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  38. My daughter has just started baking and cooking and came up with a great truffle...its chocolate and delicious.

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  39. In our house one of the favorites we call Wonder Bars which have a graham cracker crust, chocolate chips, walnuts, coconut and they are covered with condensed milk and baked until golden.

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    Replies
    1. Love Wonder Bars! I cannnot eat just one. Not possible. ;-)

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    2. Maureen, I never heard of Wonder Bars, but they do sound wunderbar!!

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  40. I love strata. A family tradition is the mincemeat tarts. My grandmother made the recipe using venison. The men in the family always went deer hunting during the fall season. We no longer have her mincemeat, but my mother continues the tradition.

    bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

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    1. I haven't had mincemeat in years. Mincemeat pie was my dad's favorite but nobody else in the family likes it.

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    2. Bonnie, how cool that your family makes the original kind of mincemeat recipe. We make mincemeat pie every year, but it's from a jar. Doesn't really include any meat.

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    3. Yes, my grandmother did it the true way. I think my mother also does it from the jar now. I do think she did it like my grandmother many years ago, but now she uses the convenience of ready made mincemeat.

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  41. I miss the mincemeat as well.Never tastes the same(whichever recipe you used it in) when you make it..

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    1. I bet those old recipes were a fair amount of work, Holly. But they paid off for it in taste.

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  42. The only "cultural" tradition I've held onto from my childhood is having tamales on Christmas eve. My paternal great grandparents were Hispanic, and they held a large family dinner every Christmas Eve where they served the tamales (I know there was a ton of food, but for me all that mattered was the tamales)that they had spent weeks making. This was a huge get-together. I remember that it didn't matter where my dad was stationed, we always came back to San Antonio for Christmas. No one missed this meal! My great grandparents passed in the mid 90s & the dinner quickly faded away. Still, when I have tamales (and always complain they're not as good as grandma's were), I feel connected to that branch of my family & remember all of the hard work she put forth to bring her family together each year.

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    1. Michelle, what a lovely story. It's a shame how family traditions can gradually fade, mostly because folks are so busy, I think, and then the older generation passes. My Italian grandmother and aunt used to put on a big Christmas Eve dinner every year with the 12 fishes. Even if you didn't like fish very much, it was totally cool. And my aunt made this amazing ricotta cheesecake - haven't had it in years. I loved those old family dinners and still miss them. P.S. I love San Antonio - wonderful town!

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    2. Michelle, having lived in Mexico (with a Mexican family) as an exchange student, I can fully understand why no other tamales could compare with those made by your grandmother. In all the years since I lived there, I've never had Mexican food that could compare with what came out of their kitchen.

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  43. Hi Vanessa! My tradition is currently pretending like I don't know how to put up the Christmas tree and lights so my husband does it instead. Desperate times...

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    1. LOL!! Jennifer, I suspect you are very busy working and meeting your book deadlines. I applaud your inventiveness!

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  44. I love the Christmas holiday! Our family tradition is Christmas Eve at my Grandparents, or Uncle's, for the kids presents! I miss being one of the kids lol! Then Christmas morning my brother, sister and I all wake up early and we'd have presents with our immediate family! Then off to the other of the 2 house we didn't go to the night before for dinner!

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    1. That's the same agenda we followed when I was growing up. Miss those times when we all lived close enough to spend the holidays together.

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    2. Jessica, our tradition is Christmas Eve at our house with my dad and stepmother - we serve a big spaghetti and sausage dinner, than Christmas brunch and dinner at my father's place. My stepmom makes a mean rack of lamb!

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  45. Hi vanessa I just wanted to say I love all your books and I am a great fan of yours. Well I'm not very good in the kitchen. I've never tried to bake anything but this christmas I will try

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    1. Good for you, Kristine! You never know until you try.

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    2. Kristine, thank you so much! Nothing makes me happier than hearing readers enjoy my books. And you know what? You don't have to cook to have a great Christmas dinner. This past Thanksgiving my stepmother and I ordered the dinner from a local restaurant. It was really good and oh-so-easy! All we had to do were the dishes.

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  46. Our tradition is that we open presents at midnight. It was always exciting to be able to open our gifts earlier.

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    1. Jane, we had a tradition when we were kids that we could open one present at midnight. I still do that to this day. My husband doesn't quite get it, but he plays along.

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    2. I miss that. My kids and my husband vetoed the practice 3 years ago. I felt so betrayed! ;)

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  47. My family is Jewish, so Hanukah involves latkes, and lots of them. With sour cream. Yum...

    Interestingly, my parents maintained that Hanukah isn't a traditional gift-giving holiday in Judaism, so we didn't exchange presents until we kids were all old enough to buy or make them for each other, and there has always been (and there still is) a spending limit amongst us. We've always received chocolate money or silver dollars from the grandparents, but it's never been a gift bonanza.

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    1. Also, that's a lovely Chanukiah pictured in the post. Very classic!

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    2. Cayenne, do you have a good recipe for latkes?

      I love that your family placed a spending limit on the gifts. For too many people these days, it's all about the cost of the gift rather than the thought behind it.

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    3. We didn't do gifts in my family either, my dad would present us each a small coin for each night of the candle lighting and a larger coin on the last night (even a penny bought something when I was young :).

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    4. Thanks, Cayenne! I also love that your folks put a spending limit on gifts. It's really gone crazy these days, how much money we spend!

      I loved that chocolate money when I was a kid! My mom used to put it in our stockings on Christmas Eve.

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    5. I do have a great family recipe, although I realize that I'm probably biased in favour of what I know. They're a bit different from what you might find in a deli: less chewy and more crunchy, especially at the edges (due to the fact that they're egg-free, which is convenient since I'm deathly allergic to egg whites). I'm happy to share the recipe, so please feel free to email me at cayenne-9t1 AT hotmail DOT com

      The family limit was $30/person, which we all can afford to spend on ourselves individually, so it forces us to be creative and really think about what the recipient will enjoy. The process of planning & finding the presents under that condition is almost more fun than actually receiving!

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  48. My family doesn't have a tradition, unless you consider that it's the only time in the year we all get together! It's simple, but very special ; )

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    1. As someone whose family is spread across the country, I'd say that's a very good tradition.

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    2. That's the best kind of tradition, Nat Reading Romances!

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  49. My mom lights a candle and places it in her front window every year on Christmas eve. She told me its an old Irish tradition, we are only part Irish though. I will have to ask her more about it this year, I pretty sure its to let Mary and Joseph know they are welcomed, but I'm not 100% sure about that I'll have to ask her.

    A new tradition I started with my oldest that I hope I can do each year is I took him to a Christmas show at the Radio City to see the Rockettes! He loved it :)

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    1. Savannah, that's a beautiful tradition - just so simple and sweet, and full of meaning.

      My mom used to take us to see the Christmas show at Radio City, too. We also went to the big Wanamaker's store in Philadelphia every year to watch their huge music and lights spectacle and to visit Santa's village. They had this cool monorail in the toy department. That was really exciting to a five year old!

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    2. We drove into Chicago every Christmas as a special treat. I remember how excited I always was to see the decorated Christmas windows at Carson Pirie Scott (Carson's) but the highlight would be attending the ice show in town that year (Ice Capades, Ice Follies, etc.)

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  50. We were living in Lebanon about 4 years ago. The Christmas holiday, the Jewish holiday and the Muslim holiday were about 4 days apart. It was a wonderful feeling that we could all come together, sharing the feeling of the oneness of humanity and still be able to have our different traditions. Unfortunately, moments like those are far between in our combative world.

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    1. Too far between. What a precious memory you have. If only it could always be such.

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    2. Too far between, that's for sure. But what a lovely memory to have - thanks for sharing it with us!

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  51. We would always try and see the Nutcracker over the holidays. Also, I celebrate the Winter Solstice and Twelfth Night. We tend to celebrate and honor all the traditions. It's something that my parents instilled in us growing up.

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    1. Cool, Mary! I read a lot about Twelfth Night when I was doing research for His Mistletoe Bride - the book's climax takes place during a big Twelfth Night party at Mistletoe Manor. I wish we celebrated it here in North America!

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  52. We lived in England for three years when I was a child. That was over 40 years ago, but we still maintain some of the traditions we observed there. Christmas crackers are one of those traditions. It is great because you can buy them online now and even have the real thing shipped from England. My mother also tries to do an authentic Christmas pudding every year. (Some years are more successful than others!) We also still receive oranges, apples and nuts in our stockings just as we did when we lived in England.

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    1. Louisa, I have family members who grew up in England - whenever we celebrated with them we had traditional Christmas crackers, and put on the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. And I love the idea of getting fruits and nuts in stockings. In Regency times, an orange would have been a huge treat.

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  53. Christmas eve is the only service I can get the whole family to join me for church. Both of the twins will be home this year with my son coming home in a couple weeks from basic training and able to spend the holidays with us and my daughter coming for a couple days at Christmas. I am almost choked up just thinking about it.

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    1. Pennie, I'm so happy your children will be home for Christmas. How lovely that you all go to Christmas Eve services together!

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  54. After having survived 12 years of Catholic school and going to church 6 days a week, I fell off the wagon and didn't attend church unless required by family. The first Christmas my now husband and I were together he asked if I would like to go with him to their Christmas Eve services. It was beautiful with candlelight and classic Christmas carols and exactly what the holidays are all about. It has become one of our favorite Christmas traditions.

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    1. Sounds lovely, Kima! Most of the members of my family tend to be lapsed Catholics too, but I always try to go to mass with my 89 year old dad throughout the year. And, of course, on Christmas!

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  55. We follow the usual Christian customs of Christmas. However, when we lived in Paris, it was wonderful to see the different names given to Santa Claus such as Pere Noel. The lights in Paris were just beautiful. I think it's wonderful to learn about other cultures. It gives us an appreciation of other people which is as it should be.

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    1. It was really fun doing a bit of research on other holiday traditions, Connie. It's amazing how many of them revolve around light during the darkest times of winter. And Paris - the City of Light. What could be better for Christmas!?

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  56. We have always attended the children's mass on Christmas Eve. It was wonderful to participate when we were kids and wonderful to watch my kids participate. Now we go and just enjoy all the joy in the kids faces as they dress as angels and such. We also never forget to put out the magical reindeer food. I still make a jar of oatmeal and silver glitter for the "kids" to leave for Santa's reindeer. The silver "magic" helps them fly.

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    1. LOL! Fun, Ann! I love the idea of reindeer food. Bet the kids love it!

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  57. Flora’s Holiday Brunch Strata looks yummy - I just copied it out. When we have the whole family together we do the traditional Turkey & Ham, with white mashed potatoes & gravy, sweet potato casserole, stuffing/dressing, roasted asparagus. When there's just a few of us we'll go with more snack good like pepperoni bread, cocktail shrimp, macaroni & cheese

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    1. *snap* Di, you reminded me how much I love pepperoni bread. My Aunt Rudy used to make it every Christmas. Got a good recipe for it?

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  58. We like any excuse for a party. I'm Jewish and the hubster was raised Catholic, so our little Cashews celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. Plus Advent because it's fun to have something special to look forward to every day in December. We have a giant Santa wall hanging with numbered pockets that I slip notes into so the kids can discover our adventure for the day. Who knew something as simple as "after-dinner drive through the neighborhood to look at holiday lights" could thrill a child all day long?

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    1. Cashews - love it! Jenna, you and hubby are clearly awesome parents!

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  59. After church on Christmas eve, we drive around our town to look at people's decorations. It's a nice way to wind down the evening and really get into the spirit and beauty of the holiday.

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    1. Hubby and I really like doing that too, Susan. There are a few streets in our town that go WAY out. It's really fun to drive around on Christmas Eve. They hand out candy and sing carols. Very festive.

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  60. I listen to Patrick Stewart's one man show of "A Christmas Carol" on Christmas Eve, by the fire with the tree lit, all the lights off, and something festive to drink. His voice fills the room along with the spirit of the story/season. It is the one tradition I can do no matter how sick or healthy or where I am.

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    1. I've never heard it before, but I love his voice. I'll have to look for it. Thanks for sharing!

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    2. I'll have to look for that, Kitchen Witch. Jean Luc Picard reading A Christmas Carol - very cool!

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  61. Turkey, dressing and gravy are my favorite!

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  62. We attend church on Christmas Eve.

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    1. That's always a lovely tradition, Ingeborg.

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  63. We go to Christmas Eve services and then come home and have a nice dinner and open presents.

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  64. Vanessa, that Holiday Brunch Strata looks delicious!! I think I'll try that this year!

    I love to make Green Bean Bundles (an appetizer) and they are so easy! The ingredients are 5 cans of whole green beans, a pound of bacon, 1/2 stick butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons (or more or less depending on your preference) garlic salt. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut pack of bacon in half and roll about 8-10 green beans in each bacon strip. Place each bundle in a 9x13 pan. (I usually put the few that are left over in an 8x8 pan.) Melt butter in small saucepan. Add brown sugar and garlic salt and stir. Drizzle over bundles. Bake for 45 minutes. They are SO good!!

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    1. I recently saw those on Trisha Yearwood's cooking show. They looked so good!

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    2. My younger sister made them last Christmas & they're fabulous! I let her know I expected to see them again this year.

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    3. They are always a big hit. Even those who don't care for green beans eat them!

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  65. around our house we love to learn about other culture or even just how other countries celebrate christmas . last year we learned about germany christmas traditions as we had a nice lady in germany that was willing to share with us then my kids who are ina small school took the letters she wrote into there school and everyone in their grade learned as well . The teacher really enjoy it and have set aside a day this year for it too .. now to decide what they will be learning this year

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    1. Jennifer, German Christmas traditions are some of the oldest - many were brought to England by the Hanoverians and then by Prince Albert. Sounds like the holidays are fun and interesting at your house!

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  66. My mother is from England. So, we would usually have some sort of Christmas dish. She cooks the best beef roast. She used to do the Yorkshire pudding, but it's time consuming. We always have the plum pudding with charms put in it. We love the blue light that comes off of it after the brandy has been heated, and then poured over the pudding. During dessert, we do the Christmas crackers, and all of us wear the paper crowns and read the riddles and jokes.

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    1. Bonnie, I would love to see a real plum pudding in action - sounds like a lot of fun!

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  67. Every Christmas Eve we go to a church candlelight service, and then open presents at home with our immediate family and my side of the family. On Christmas Day we travel by car a couple of hours to my mother-in-law's house. We gather there with a huge crowd for Christmas dinner and then open presents.

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    1. Cheryl, there are few things as beautiful as a candlelight Christmas Eve service!

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  68. ***ALERT***

    We're approaching 200 comments on this thread and, for some reason, Blogger doesn't want to display the second page of comments today so I'll be posting Vanessa's third hour blog under a different thread. Just backspace to www.theromancedish.com in your browser box and refresh. The new blog thread will post at 5pm.

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  69. We don't have many family traditions now, but when I was young, one of my favorite things was to go to my grandparents' house for a party with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins. We didn't get to see each other much throughout the year, so this time was very special to me. :)
    Now, we live away from most of my family, so we have Christmas morning and a mid-day dinner with my mother and brother, then it is off to the in-laws for the remainder of the day. I love getting together with family though!

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    1. Me too, Tina! Makes the day that much more special.

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  70. My grandparents started a tradition on there honeymoon, and although there first one was at a restaurant they brought it home and for 65 years for Christmas breakfast we have Waffles with Strawberries and Vanilla Ice Cream on top. My mom and dad started to do it whenever we came home to visit with our families once we moved out and it has become our families "Special Breakfast". All three of us children have kept the tradition alive and now out children are enjoying it!

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    1. rlovely, I want to come to your house on Christmas morning!!

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  71. I bake the same Christmas cookies that my Grandmother baked. She is 97 now and not able to bake. Every Christmas when I was little she would mail a big box of cookies. We live in Florida and she lived in Michigan at the time. She is here in Florida with us now and has been for years. She used to make Christmas Wreaths, they are made with green food coloring. We all walk around on Christmas day with green teeth, because of course I make them now. lol

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