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Readers answer questions about their Christmas favorites

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, at 7:35 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, at 7:40 a.m.

Carnation Famous Fudge

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup (5 fluid ounces) evaporated milk

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups miniature marshmallows

1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line 8-inch-square baking pan with foil. Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallows, morsels, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Pour into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 48 pieces.

FOR MILK CHOCOLATE FUDGE: Substitute 1 3/4 cups (11.5 ounces) milk chocolate chips for semi-sweet chocolate chips.

FOR BUTTERSCOTCH FUDGE: Substitute 1 2/3 cups (11 ounces) butterscotch chips for semi-sweet chocolate chips.

FOR PEANUTTY CHOCOLATE FUDGE: Substitute 1 2/3 cups (11 ounces) peanut butter and milk chocolate chips for semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup chopped peanuts for pecans or walnuts.

(The Wichita Eagle – Dec. 22, 2012)

White Fruitcake

Makes two 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaves (32 servings)

2 1/2 cups golden raisins

1 cup dried apricots, cut into quarters (about 7 ounces)

1 cup chopped crystallized ginger

2 3/4 cups all-purpose or cake flour

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

5 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

2 cups chopped pecans, toasted and cooled (see NOTE)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Spray two 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pans with nonstick oil-and-flour spray. Line with 2 pieces of parchment or wax paper, one cut to the width of the pan and the other to the length of the pan plus 4 inches of overhang to use as handles to lift the loaf from the pan.

Toss the raisins, apricots and ginger in 1/4 cup of flour until evenly coated.

Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces, add them to the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer and beat on low speed until soft, about 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 or 2 minutes, until the mixture looks like lightly whipped cream. Reduce the speed to low and add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, gradually increasing the speed and beating until well whipped, 5 to 6 minutes. Combine the eggs and extracts in a small bowl, then add to the butter mixture in four additions, beating for 1 minute on medium-low speed after each addition. The mixture might look curdled, but all will be well.

Sift the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt onto a piece of wax paper. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the batter, beat well, then add the remaining flour mixture and beat. Once the flour is incorporated, use a flexible spatula to fold in the grated zests, then the nuts and dried fruit. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Tap each pan once against the counter to remove any air bubbles, and smooth the tops.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (The cakes will be white and might give the appearance of being underbaked even though they are not.) Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Then carefully run a knife around the inside of the pans to loosen the cakes. Use the parchment paper handles to remove the cakes from the pans and transfer them to a wire rack. Remove the parchment or wax paper and cool the cakes thoroughly.

NOTE: To toast pecans, spread them on a baking sheet and place in a 350-degree oven, shaking the sheet occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully; nuts burn quickly.

MAKE AHEAD: The cakes can be tightly wrapped and stored at room temperature for three days or frozen for four months. Adapted from “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking,” by Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (Gibbs Smith, 2012).

NUTRITION Per serving: 230 calories, 3 g protein, 30 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 65 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 17 g sugar

(The Wichita Eagle – Dec. 22, 2012)

Like many of us, Wichita florist Marleen Valliere puts her Christmas stuff in the same spots every year. But this year, she let two of her friends have at her decorations.

“When they assembled it, it was different from what I do, and I thought, ‘That’s sweet,’ ” Valliere said.

She reciprocated by helping her friends decorate their houses – and each time, there were cocktails and food to make it a party.

“This makes for a nice get-together and a nice party – it pulls people out of ruts of what they do with their homes,” Valliere said. “ ... It gives a refreshing new look to what you have and what you work with every year. It takes the burden out of decorating, which is a gift to friends. When people are being interactive, when people go to each other’s homes and deck the halls, it is festive.”

Seeing Christmas through other people’s eyes can help us have a new appreciation, too. When we asked readers about some of their holiday preferences, we got the same refreshed feeling. Here are some of their responses.

Clear white lights or multi-colored lights?

“Both: white inside, colored outside.” – Valerie Ledesma, Wellington

“White lights, to match the stars in the heavens.” – Beth Landrum, Wichita

“Growing up – I was born in 1953 – multi-colored lights on the tree. (Now), in an apartment on the lake, I put clear lights around the balcony.” – Melissa Stephens, Wichita

“Multi-colored lights, and they should twinkle. (Your narrator must interrupt here, to ask a question: What’s become of twinkling lights?) I don’t think you can get them any longer. I had some several years ago – they were the mid-sized lights that screwed into sockets on the string. You used a regular light string, and got flashing lights to put on it. Since each light was self-contained and flashed independently of the others, it gave you the twinkling effect that was so neat. Now, the ‘flasher’ light controls a section of string and you get (unfortunately) that ‘emergency flasher’ effect instead.” – Pat Knoop, Winfield

Real tree or fake?

“Fake but looks really real!” – Jane Deterding, Colwich

“Fake (unfortunately). Had a real tree growing up and miss it.” – Valerie Ledesma

“Fake tree. I hate having to wait to put up a real tree and then taking it down so soon because it is so dry.” – Connie Foster, Wichita

“A fake tree, with some pine spray, because I don’t want to kill a tree, but love the smell of pine, and childhood memories of a real tree. Actually I’d prefer a real one, if I could plant it, and hang seed suet from it for the birds, but we are old, with less get up and go!” – Beth Landrum

“No tree, a wreath. I wired white and red balls to a wreath that leans against the wall above the fireplace.” – Melissa Stephens

“Real tree is best, but fake will do if it’s your only option.” – Pat Knoop

Ribbons or tinsel?

“Tinsel on the tree.” – Pat Knoop

“Neither tinsel or ribbon. My entire tree is different gingerbread ornaments. I add several new ones each year. I finish the tree with about a dozen red balls.” – Connie Foster

“Tinsel growing up. I never understood the idea of garland on the tree.” – Melissa Stephens

Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

“Eve, except stockings.” – Jane Deterding

“Christmas Eve.” – Valerie Ledesma

“Christmas Eve is Mass for everyone. We go to my daughter’s house to watch my granddaughter open gifts on Christmas morning. In the afternoon we go to my sister’s for a white-elephant gift exchange with all of the adults and young adults. We have the big family Christmas dinner and gift exchange on the 26th. Then we don’t have to compete with everyone’s in-laws.” – Connie Foster

“Both, one at midnight, the rest is after church on Christmas Day. P.S. I may be old , but I still do stockings, with filled with laughs, food and curiosities!” (Narrator’s note: Along with other members of her church, Beth Landrum filled a stocking for one of 25 Burmese refugees newly located to Wichita, full of thoughtful gifts: tea from the Spice Merchant that is from the area of their homeland, warm slippers “because they’re not used to the cold here,” a flashlight, a calculator, a tape measure, and a calendar with scenic photos from around the United States.) – Beth Landrum

“One package (your choice) on Christmas Eve; everything else on Christmas morning.” – Pat Knoop

Snowy or balmy?

“Snowy. For all the good that gets me!” – Jane Deterding

“Snowy! ( I’m dreaming of a white Christmas ... )” – Valerie Ledesma

“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” – Melissa Stephens

“Soft, white, fluffy snow – it’s just so pretty!” – Pat Knoop

Bing Crosby or Mariah Carey?

(Bing! I can watch every Bing Christmas movie three times (during the holidays).” – Jane Deterding

“Bing all the way!” –Valerie Ledesma

“Mariah Carey.” – Melissa Stephens

“Neither. The Trans-Siberian orchestra playing Christmas carols, or any of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums.” – Pat Knoop

Fudge or fruitcake?

“Sugar cookies. When Grandma was alive, she made the bourbon-drenched fruit cake, but you have to start before Thanksgiving! Who has that kind of time?!” – Jane Deterding

“My (late) mother-in law’s fudge! Keeps family with us.” – Beth Landrum

“Both! Easily accessible for whichever taste you choose. Oh, and put an end to those tired fruitcake jokes by getting a fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas – it will change your mind forever about this grand old tradition.” – Pat Knoop

Narrator’s note: Please see accompanying recipes for a traditional fudge and a twist on fruitcake. Merry Christmas!

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