Cup of Christmas

Today it is cold, windy, and wet. We may have a fire in the fireplace for the first time this season tonight. Siting by the fire and the Christmas tree is a perfect time for a hot drink. Along with our collection of Christmas mugs,we have a number of hot drink recipes that have been favorites during the holidays through the years. Years ago, I always kept a spiced tea mix and hot chocolate mix that I made.  I don’t make those anymore because there are so many available on the shelves of the supermarket, but there are other recipes  I will share.

Hot Cranberry Punch 

This recipe is on a card in my mother’s handwriting. As usual when she passed on a recipe she liked, she noted “Good!” at the top of the card!

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

4 cups water, divided into 1 cup and 3 cups

2 cans jellied cranberry sauce

1 quart unsweetened pineapple juice

Butter to add before serving


1.Bring spices and 1 cup water to a boil and simmer just until well blended.

2.Combine (separate from above) 2 cans jellied cranberry sauce and 3 cups of water.  Add water a little at a time and beat to blend well.

3. Then combine spice mixture and cranberry mixture with 1 quart unsweetened pineapple juice. Heat to serving temperature.  Add 1 pat butter to each cup you are serving and ladle hot punch on top.

Mother added an asterisk, telling me “never serve without tasting”

This sounds crazy, but it is delicious!


Hot Buttered Pineapple Punch

1 46 ounce can unsweetened pineapple juice

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 1/4 cups dry white wine


In large saucepan, combine pineapple juice, sugar, lime juice, and nutmeg. Bring to boiling, stirring till sugar dissolves. Reduce heat,; stir in wine. Heat through but do not boil. Pour into heatproof glasses or mugs; float a pat of butter on each. Serve cinnamon stick with each serving if desired. Makes about 9 cups


Spiced Percolator Punch

We used to make this so often, we kept an extra large coffeemaker with spigot to make it.

2 32 ounce bottles cranberry juice cocktail

1 46 ounce can unsweetened pineapple juice

1 cup packed brown sugar

4 teaspoons whole cloves

12 inches of stick cinnamon, broken

peel of 1/4 orange, cut in strips

Optional – 1 fifth (3/14 cups) light rum

In 24 cup electric percolator, combine cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and brown sugar. Place cloves,cinnamon stick pieces, and orange peel in coffee maker basket. Assemble coffee maker; plug in and percolate. Just before serving, remove basket and stir in rum if you are using.. Keep hot. Float a quartered lemon slice in each mug if desired. Makes about 17 cups!

Of course we enjoy wassail, and everyone has their favorite recipe for that cup of holiday cheer, but I hope you enjoy trying one or all of the above as well.

Cranberry Almond Bread Pudding with Amaretto Sauce


Years ago, my sister sent me a recipe for bread pudding which I believe she found in the Austin Statesman. I added cranberries and our family raved about it. I do not think I ever made bread pudding before that, but have certainly made up for it since. This has become a keeper, a favorite, a lovely holiday tradition for the Parker kitchen. I have mentioned it before on Kitchen Keepers, but it deserves a stand alone post. I served it this week at our family Christmas dinner.  it is also a favorite guilty pleasure served for next morning’s breakfast or brunch if there are any leftovers!

Cranberry Almond Bread Pudding with Amaretto Sauce

1 pound French bread loaf, plain

1 quart half and half

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

1½cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 tablespoons almond extract

¾  cup sliced almonds

3/4 cup dried cranberries

Tear french bread loaf into bite-sized pieces, place in a medium size bowl Pour quart of half and half over bread and soak for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Preheat oven to 325 and butter a 9X13 inch baking dish.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together 1/2 stick of melted butter, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 3 eggs. Then stir in 2 tablespoons almond extract,  3/4 cups sliced almonds, and 3/4 cup dried cranberries. Pour soaked bread pieces into buttered baking dish and add almond/ cranberry mixture over the top.  Bake for 45 minutes or until it is turning golden brown on top. While it is cooking, make Amaretto Sauce:

Amaretto Sauce

½ cup butter

1 cup powdered sugar

1 egg

¼ cup Amaretto

Cook 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup powdered sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until hot. Allow the sugar mixture to cool to room temperature.

Whisk in 1 egg and 1/4 cup Amaretto.  After the bread pudding is cooked, slice it lengthwise and crosswise in the baking dish. Spoon sauce mixture over the top. Then, put the pudding back into the oven under the broiler until the sauce bubbles. WATCH CAREFULLY! It is really easy to burn the top of the pudding at the end. It is important to bring the sauce to a bubble, to cook the egg in the topping.

It is important to bring the sauce to a bubble, to cook the egg in the topping.   For individual servings, cut pudding into squares, place one at a time on oven proof dessert dish, spoon sauce over top and broil briefly as with whole pudding.

5 Spice Candied Pecans


This is one more recipe I cooked during the holidays that makes a treat welcome anytime!  In fact, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and  these spiced nuts make a nice thinking of you surprise. I filled some glass star dishes with these for small gifts for friends before Christmas. .  There are many ways to make candied nuts but this one is different because of an ingredient called Five Spice Powder.  5 Spice is a blend of wonderful flavors and fragrances –  Chinese cinnamon, cloves,sichuan pepper, ground fennel seeds, and star anise.

Five spice is used in Chinese cuisine, but is also found in other Asian food and Arabic cookery.  It may be used with fatty meats such as pork, duck or goose. It is used as a rub for chicken, duck, pork and seafood, or added to the breading for fried used in recipes for It is used in recipes for beef stew as well as a marinade for Vietnamese broiled chicken.  In Hawaii, some restaurants place a shaker of the spice on each table.

I like having a small bag of these in the freezer to use as a topping for salads.An extra bonus for us is the fact we are able to buy locally grown pecans.

Five Spice Candied Pecans
Yields 2 cups, or four 1/2 cup gifts

4 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
2 cups pecan halves
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°.
In a medium saucepan, warm 4 teaspoons vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar, 4 teaspoons water, 1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder; stir until sugar dissolves and mixture bubbles. Add 2 cups pecan halves; cook, stirring until pecans are thickly coated, about 3 minutes. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bake 5-8 minutes,or until fragrant and crisp. Cool completely.

Store in an airtight container, or place 1/2 cup portions in four cellophane bags and tie with festive ribbon.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

Maddie’s Chocolate Cake



Our Christmas time with our middle son, Jeremy, and his family, began just before New Year’s when they arrived, filling us up with good hugs, little girl laughter, and lots of help in the kitchen.  At 8, Maddie has been developing her cooking skills for long enough that I barely need to stay in the kitchen while she creates.  I do, of course, for the pure pleasure of being with her and being amazed at her skill.  This cake is a deep, rich, chocolate, (made from scratch, of course!) with chocolate buttercream frosting, layered with strawberry jam. Beautiful to look at, and every crumb was delicious!

Recipe?  Times have changed!  Our younger cooks no longer pull out a cookbook to look up a recipe – the internet offers a wider range of choices, plus videos that show every step! As Maddie says, “Just go to YouTube!”  So here is the link for ingredients and easy to follow video:  Print version available by clicking on the link at bottom left of video.

I have made many a chocolate cake, but I learned several things from watching this video with Maddie.  I wish I had realized a long time ago that buttering my cooling rack would save the top of the cake sticking!  Thank you, Maddie,  This grandmother is still learning new tricks, and you are teaching me

Pomegranate Bark

IMG_2003I did not do my traditional pre-Christmas cookie-baking or candy-making!  But I did make one batch of this very unusual Christmas treat.  Dark chocolate, tart pomegranate arils, and bits of crystallized ginger combine to make a much healthier holiday treat than most.  It went together quickly, and everyone who has tried it likes it.  I am sure it will not replace fudge, gingerbread houses, and German butter balls, but I am pleased to add it to my file of Christmas recipes. 

Pomegranate Bark
10 ounces good quality dark bittersweet chocolate (60% Cacao)

1 cup pomegranate arils (can be purchased in small containers at Costco, or seed your own, much more work!)

1/4 cup crystallized ginger bits (Penzey;s) or 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger pieces

pinch of sea salt

Prepare small baking sheet (that will fit in refrigerator) by lining with silicone mat.

Carefully melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler.  If using microwave, place chocolate in shallow microwave safe  dish, cook on high until chocolate begins to melt, about 1 minute, stir with rubber spatula, then cook at 15 SECOND intervals until chocolate is soft. The chocolate may not lose its shape, so check often. Quickly stir until smooth, add pomegranate arils, ginger bits, and salt.  Mix gently before spreading into 8 X 10 inch rectangle on baking sheet. Place in refrigerator at least 30 minutes or until firm.  Break into pieces and store in container in refrigerator for up to 5 days.



Pumpkin Bread


I first learned to bake pumpkin bread in 1966 when we moved in our first house and I learned how wonderful neighbors can be!  Amon and Lucille White lived next door. I believe this recipe came from Lucille, although it was very popular among others on South Little John Circle.  For many years I baked it as we did then – in three/1 pound coffee cans, so the loaves were lovely and round and sliced beautifully. Of course, then 1 pound coffee cans became smaller than 1 pound, and baking in any kind of can became questionable so now I make this in 2 loaf pans.   This is guaranteed to make your kitchen smell like Christmas.

IMG_1392Pumpkin Nut Bread

3 eggs

3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 can pureed pumpkin

1 cup oil (original recipe called for Mazola)

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

1 cup chopped nuts

Grease loaf pans and fill half full (1966 in 3 one pound coffee cans) and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until done.  Turn upside down on rack when removed from oven and let cool before removing from pan.

Almond Kringle



On the morning of St. Nicholas Day, December 6 this week, I made a European treat, a Kringle. It is simply a choux pastry which is baked and glazed.  A variety of nuts or chopped fruit may be added.  This one has almond flavoring in the dough as well as glaze, and is topped with sliced almonds.  Although the water, butter, and flour are mixed quickly by hand, I highly recommend using an electric stand mixer for beating in the eggs one at a time – this develops alot of muscle if you do it by hand.

Almond Kringle

1 cup water

1/4 cup butter

1 cup flour

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

dash of salt


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest

Sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring water and butter to boil, then remove from heat.  Add flour all at once and stir quickly until mixture forms a ball.  Transfer mixture to bowl of electric stand mixer and set paddle to slow.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add almond extract and salt, then turn mixer to medium and beat until shiny and well blended.  Spread the dough into circle (about 10 inches) on buttered baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Do not overbake. While Kringle is baking, mix glaze by combining all ingredients and stirring until smooth.  Drizzle glaze over warm Kringle and sprinkle with almonds.  Serve immediately.



Crab Puffs


A recipe given to me by a neighbor whose name I sadly can no longer remember stayed with our family long after the neighbor (or we) moved!  This is a treat we often make at Christmas, but it is delicious for brunch or a light lunch anytime of the year. The English muffin halves don’t need to be cut if it is more than an appetizer. It is one of my most often requested treats. I like to keep a Ziploc bag of Crab Puffs in the freezer this time of year to pull out when needed

1 5 ounce jar of Old English cheese spread

1/2 cup soft butter

1 can king crab meat

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

1 teaspoon garlic salt or to taste

2 Tablespoons chopped Parsley

1 Tablespoons lemon juice

6 count package English muffins

If you want to make these more colorful, add 2 Tablespoons chopped pimiento.

Combine ingredients and spread on English muffins. Place on flat surface in freezer for 30 minutes or longer.  When ready to serve, remove from freezer and cut each muffin half into fourths. Bake for 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Crab Puffs may be made ahead and stored in Ziploc bags in the freezer.  .

Cranberry Orange Butter


We were so blessed to have every one of our sons, daughters-in-law, and granddaughters at Thanksgiving dinner this year!  I smile when I remember our first Thanksgiving after we were married (1964).  We were far away from family, living in Oregon, and I tried my hand at roasting a duck!  I have not put a duck on the table again in 50 years!  We had cranberry sauce, right out of the Ocean Spray can, just like my mother always did it.

As years went by, I learned how much better cranberry sauce that I made on top of my own stove tasted.  When our boys were growing up (and again now with our grandchildren) we enjoyed the children’s book Cranberry Thanksgiving, and added Cranberry Bread to our Thanksgiving favorites. When dried cranberries became available I found dozens of ways to use them, often subbing them for raisins in old recipes. This year we found a new treat with our old friend the cranberry, Cranberry Orange Butter.  It is not just for a holiday table.  It is wonderful added to pancakes, waffles, or oatmeal!

Cranberry Orange Butter

8 ounces butter softened (I used Kerrygold Irish but

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cranberries

zest of 1 orange

Let butter soften at room temperature, do not microwave. Place butter in bowl with cranberries and orange zest and blend with the back of a spoon until well mixed. Spread a large piece of plastic wrap out on the counter and put dollops of the mixture in a line. Roll into a log by holding the sides up and pulling back and forth, then with fingertips roll and smooth slightly.  Wrap with plastice wrap and place on a cookie sheet that will fit on a shelf of your refrigerator.  As soon as the butter hardens into shape, you can remove the cookie sheet and store the butter overnight or loinger.  When ready to serve, slice into rounds and place into butter plate or dish along with a butter knife or tongs.  Halve this recipe if you wish.  The smaller size roll is easier to shape.

Instead of cranberries, try freshly zested lemon,  chopped fresh rosemary or other herbs, or make a sweetened butter with a spoon or two of mashed raspberries or a spoon of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Red Velvet Peppermint Cake


My daughter-in-law Kristen baked this cake last week and brought it when she and our son came to dinner at our house. She is pregnant, and any day now they will be bringing their baby Nora to our house instead of cake!  Pregnancies are well known for food cravings, and she had been craving this cake, which she first ate when my friend Joyce brought it here for a Solstice gathering several years ago.  The cake was a huge hit that evening, as it was again.  It is a beautiful cake, billed in 1998 Southern Living magazine as their “most show-stopping dessert ever.”  It appears in several sites online and Kristen made it by the book!   It is a lovely thing to look at it, and delicious to sample. I rarely post recipes here that I have not made myself or helped to make, but this is a special cake, baked at a special time!  Kristen, thank you!


Red Velvet Peppermint Cake

  • 1 (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 (9-ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Peppermint Candy Canes for garnish

Beat first 4 ingredients according to cake mix package directions.

Beat yellow cake mix and next 6 ingredients according to package directions. Spoon red batter alternately with white batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round pans. Swirl batter gently with a knife.

Bake at 350° for 22 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool on wire racks.

Spread Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.  Garnish with crushed candy canes.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup butter or margarine, softened\

1 (2-pound) package powdered sugar

2 teaspoons peppermint extract

Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at low speed until smooth. Add extract, beating until blended.