501 Life Magazine | Visions of sugarplums!
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Visions of sugarplums!

by Don Bingham

Christmas is such a blessed time to celebrate! The season has always represented a deep sense of awe at the thought of the glorious announcement of the birth and the coming of the Incarnate Christ.

It will be our joy, once again, to “behold, such love, that the Father has bestowed upon us” — to allow us to know and see His glory — all due to the birth, life, death, resurrection and coming again of the Christ Child — our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

As the season begins, our home is decorated to encourage the bright eyes of grandchildren and to provide a safe and colorful reminder of all those things we hold dear  — truth, family and friends.

Christmas is a wonderful time to have guests in our home. Whether it’s for a single fare of tea and cookies, a cookie decorating class for the children that my wife will do, or an eight-course dinner with all the trimmings, it’s a great opportunity to say “we love you,” “thank you” or “happy holidays.”

One of our favorite holiday memories was in December 1990. We had invited Georg and Annabelle Andersen, Jack and Wanda Logan, Charlie and Beth (Ward) Haynie to our home for dinner. These were special friends who had been so kind to us for many years and we wanted to say “thank you” and “we love you” all in a holiday setting. 

Nancy prepared the menu, we did the decorating together and we planned the evening around the personality of each guest. In between the courses of dinner, we gave tributes and blessings to each couple and presented one attending a book as a lasting reminder of our appreciation. Following dessert, we concluded the night with a Christmas concert by Ann Rice, a wonderfully gifted mezzo-soprano and a dear friend.

My wife and I grew up celebrating family traditions and “bigger-than-life” Christmas celebrations. As a child growing up, I have the memory of my father working for the Coca-Cola Corporation for 40 years. As we grew up, Christmas was a special time and my mom was a talented decorator as well as a great cook. 

During those growing up years, Dad thought it more fitting to leave Santa a coke and cookies behind the overstuffed chair rather than the traditional milk and cookies! It took several years for me to understand why.

Many years later and box after box of Christmas decorations, our family traditions have evolved into the decorating of a separate dining room to house the entertainment, fellowship and feasting of family and friends. 

The normal seating for Sunday lunch is 20 — and sometimes more! This season, the garden-atmosphere dining room will have to be re-arranged to house three tables. The largest table will seat 14 and the smaller two rounds will seat four (or more) each. The room is well lighted, inviting the outside garden, seen through the large windows, to join the decor, and touches of “all things Christmas” appoint the room.

Our family loves Christmas. This year, we will be even more grateful for a blessed life and heritage, for the knowledge of the true meaning of Christmas and for the opportunity to feast in thanksgiving and celebration with many loved ones — both past and present.

Here are some of our holiday favorite recipes — and Merry Christmas to all!

Eggplant Tart 

A terrific meatless dish.


4 to 6 medium eggplants

Salt

Olive oil

4 to 6 medium onions, sliced

4 to 6 medium tomatoes, sliced 

Freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 to 2 cups freshly grated Gruyere, or swiss cheese

3 cups cream

Butter

2 cream cheese pie crusts


Peel eggplant, cut in thin slices, sprinkle with salt and let stand at room temperature in a bowl for 2 hours. Drain and wipe eggplant. Fry lightly in olive oil until soft and golden. Drain on paper towels. 

Saute the onions. In pie crust, layer the eggplant, pepper, cheeses, cream and dots of butter. Repeat the layers with the onions and then the tomatoes. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes.


Cream Cheese Pie Crust


3 ounces cream cheese, softened 

1 stick margarine

1 cup all-purpose flour


Mix well, pat in pie plate; prebake if necessary at 350 degrees until lightly browned.


Vegetables Mornay

3 (10-ounce) packages frozen mixed vegetables

1 1/3 cups water

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

3/4 teaspoon salt


Place vegetables, water, salt, seasoned salt and butter in saucepan. Cover and heat to boiling. Simmer for 5 minutes, drain vegetables and reserve cooking liquid. Pour vegetables into shallow casserole and prepare sauce.


SAUCE:

1/3 cup butter or margarine 

4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon leaf thyme

3/4 teaspoon salt

Cream or milk

1/2 cup grated Parmesan and swiss cheese, mixed 

Buttered bread crumbs


Heat butter in saucepan. Blend in flour and seasonings and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in reserved vegetable liquid with enough cream or milk to make 3 cups. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth. Stir in cheese and pour over vegetables. Cover with crumbs and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Casserole may be assembled except for crumb topping the day before and refrigerated. Serves 8-10.




Creamed Onions with Peanuts

16 whole small white onions

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups milk

1/4 cup whole salted peanuts

1/2 cup buttered bread crumbs

1/4 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 1-quart casserole. Cook onions in boiling salted water until tender; drain. Melt butter over medium heat; stir in flour and salt. Add milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth and slightly thickened. Put onions in prepared casserole and pour cream sauce over them. Serves 4-5.


Brown Sugar Pound Cake

3 sticks butter

1 pound light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

5 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup milk

1 cup chopped nuts


Cream butter and sugars thoroughly. Add eggs one at a time, beating at medium speed. Add flavoring. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Add nuts. Mix well. Place in well greased tube pan and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes.


Christmas Pecan Cake

3 cups sugar

1 cup bourbon whiskey

2 cups butter, softened

2 pounds white raisins

10 eggs, separated

2 pounds pecan pieces

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon nutmeg


Cream sugar with butter, and beat in egg yolks one at a time. Alternately add, in small portions, 3 cups flour and bourbon. Combine remaining flour with raisins, pecans and nutmeg, and add to batter. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold into batter. Pour into large tube pan or three small loaf pans well-greased and lined on bottom with two layers of wax paper. Fill two-thirds full and bake 4 hours at 250 in tube pan or 3 hours at 250 degrees in loaf pans. Cool completely before removing from pan. Wrap in cloth soaked in bourbon, and then wrap in foil. After one week, re-soak cloth. Soak again two weeks later.


New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp, unpeeled

4 ounces bottled Italian dressing

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 stick butter or 1/2 stick butter and 1/4 cup olive oil


Wash shrimp and drain well. Melt butter in 1-quart casserole, add all ingredients except shrimp and stir. Add shrimp, stirring gently. Cover and bake in preheated 350 degree oven, stirring occasionally for 25 to 30 minutes or until shrimp are bright pink. Serve shrimp and sauce in large soup bowls with French bread for dunking. Serves 2.

Key Lime Cheesecake

SHORTBREAD:

7 oz. all purpose flour 

2 1/2 oz. sugar 

Pinch of salt

4 oz. butter, cut into flakes 

1 egg yolk


Mix dough together as like pie crust and chill. Roll 2 rounds, 1/8-inch thick and cut to size of spring form pan. Bake until it begins to turn golden. Cut top section into desired portions. Leave bottom section whole. Cool until room temperature.


FILLING:

8 oz. half and half or milk 

7 oz. sugar

4 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

5 oz. Key Lime juice

2 packages unflavored gelatin 

1 lb. cream cheese, softened 

1 pint heavy cream, whipped


Cook first five ingredients in double boiler until thickening begins. Stir in unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water. Chill filling until it begins to get firm. When filling begins to set, blend in cream cheese (that has been brought to room temperature) until smooth. Fold in whipped cream. Fold into spring form pan that has been oiled and sugared and lined with bottom crust. Place pieces from top crust on cake and chill 4-6 hour or overnight.

This cake can be flavored other ways by omitting Key Lime Juice and replacing with more half and half and folding in fresh fruits, flavored liqueurs or lemon juice.


Orange Butter Rolls

1 package dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1/4 cup granulated sugar 

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

6 tablespoons butter

2 3/4 – 3 cups all-purpose flour

FILLING:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

Grated rind of 1 orange 

1 cup coconut


Soften yeast in warm water; stir in 1/4 cup sugar, salt, eggs, sour cream and butter; add enough flour to form a stiff dough. Beat well; cover, let rise until doubled, about 2 hours. Combine and set aside 3/4 cup sugar, grated orange rind and coconut.

Knead dough about 15 times; roll out half of dough into a 12-inch circle; brush with melted butter (1/2 stick); sprinkle with half of sugar mixture. Cut into 12 wedges and roll, starting with the wide end and roll to point; repeat with remaining dough and sugar mixture; place rolls point-side down in three rows in a greased 9×13 pan; cover, let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Leave in pan and pour glaze (which you have prepared while rolls were rising) over hot rolls. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup coconut.


GLAZE:

3/4 cup granulated sugar 

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons orange juice or juice of 1 orange 

1/4 cup butter


Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Boil 3 minutes stirring occasionally.

Fudge Ecstasy Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

4 tablespoons cocoa

1/2 cup sugar (mix sugar together with cocoa)

2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour 

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Chocolate chips (12 ounces)


Cream butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add eggs, beat well. Stir in cocoa/sugar mixture. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet, cool slightly. Makes approximately 6 dozen.


Spiced Sugarplums

1/2 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups finely chopped toasted almonds

1 cup finely chopped dried apricots

1 cup finely chopped pitted dates

1 cup confectioners’ sugar


In large bowl, combine honey, orange peel, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg; mix well. Stir in almonds, apricots and dates.

Form rounded teaspoonfuls of mixture into 3/4-inch balls. Roll in confectioners’ sugar. Store in airtight container.

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