Reminiscing and Ginger Bread Houses

By Rhonda Woods

Oh, Christmas, you are only a few days away.  The children are excited for Santa to come.  Parents and grandparents are trying to find all the items on their sweet little lists. Some people go all out with decorations, while some, like me, keep it simple (barely getting the tree up). Secret Santa, playing the White Elephant gift exchange game (not sure where that name came from) and holiday music on every station.  Calendars are filled with special events, cantatas, drive through light shows, and of course, food…lots of food.  Pace yourself and forgo the fancy fitted frocks.  Opt for “eating pants”, as we say, you know the ones that allow a little room in the waist for “I just want a little taste”…of everything!

Last Christmas was the beginning of what I think will be a tradition in my family.  With my sweet husband in the hospital, I had no time to shop or even think about gift giving.  Talking about it, we decided to give each of our children and their spouses a set amount of money to purchase a special gift for themselves, and their children.  The instructions that came with the money was specific.  They must wrap their own gifts and place them under our tree to be opened on Christmas day in front of us, thus surprising us with the gifts they chose.  Worked great, but I must admit, with all that was going on, it was a blur.  Shopping has never been a favorite for me.  Hard to believe, right?  Now, keep in mind, I’m no Scrooge or Grinch, I just can’t seem to get into the “Christmas Spirit”, especially this year.

My mama was reminiscing about the foods we enjoyed on Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house as we were making our newer version of fruitcake last Saturday.  Now, Fruit Cake was something my mama and her grandmother made every year…early, like right after Thanksgiving! They would wrap them in cloth, place them in tins, and occasionally brush with some blackberry wine to “keep them moist”!  My sweet husband would say, “That’ll go good with my coffee in the morning”.   She told us about how they would go downtown in Columbia to Silvers on Main Street to purchase the candied fruits, not in the containers like today, but weighed by the clerk at the counter from bins. Mama also reminded us about the deli meats, cheeses, mustard, Kosher pickles and breads that were purchased from Groucho’s Deli in Five Points and served at my grandmothers house.  The food list went on describing things like celery stuffed with a cheese spread, olives, nuts, and deviled eggs.  We will honor her requests for all of these and more at our family Christmas gathering this year.

So, as we race through the last few day of school before Winter Break, my students are making Gingerbread Houses.  It’s a process and a lesson in patience.   Each one rolls and cuts the house parts from the cookie dough.  I bake them, and then the patience part comes into play when they assemble them using royal icing.  Each students customizes their house with a variety of candies and other edible decorations. I’m looking forward to seeing their final projects.

With limited time to spare these busy days, I have included a few quick and easy sweet treats, dips and spreads for you to try.  Merry Christmas Ya’ll!

May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Appetizers and Dips

Zesty Crab Cakes

Squares

Spinach Dip

Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade Sauce

Quick Fudge with Nuts

Pimento Cheese

Double layer fudge

Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Orange Glazed Pecans

Spinach Artichoke Dip

By: Brady Evans

I am not a lover of football.  I don’t keep up with local high school games, college games, or the NFL. Football was never a tradition in my family and I never got intoxicated by the sport in college. But I could get behind the Superbowl. Really the only reason I was looking forward to the Superbowl was…the food.  I love appetizer and game day fare!

Spinach artichoke dip is a crowd pleaser for sure.  Even people who hate spinach and wouldn’t dare eat an artichoke in any other form will dive right in. Cheesy, gooey, and delicious – this recipe is a crowd pleaser!

Spinach Artichoke Dip (adapted from Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations)

Spinach & Artichoke DipIngredients

  • ½ sweet yellow onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 10-oz. box frozen spinach
  • 2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2 packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt

Directions

  • Heat a pan over medium heat and add olive oil.
  • Saute onion and garlic in olive oil, about 5 minutes, and set aside
  • Meanwhile, cook spinach according to package directions; drain thoroughly.
  • Mix spinach, onion, and garlic in large bowl.
  • Add cream cheese to the spinach mixture; combine thoroughly.
  • Add mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese, and salt. Mix well.
  • Fold in artichoke hearts; mix to combine; transfer to a baking dish
  • Either store in fridge until ready to bake or bake on 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.
  • Serve with tortilla chips.