By Deborah Eisenhut

The year has certainly flown by and we have survived the mudslides, hurricanes, trees down blocking roads, humid nights with mosquitoes as big as bats, even cancelled vacations. But we have worked together as neighbors and communities should, taking care of business and each other and sending support in any way we could.

We are now looking for some holiday magic, a couple months of gatherings with family and friends for culinary togetherness. We look forward to cooking extra big turkeys so we have plenty left over for sandwiches to go with three days of football. Everyone has a new recipe to try but we are really hoping to binge on traditional childhood favorites.

We clean and prepare and decorate so we are able to sit down to an awesome meal with family and friends, eccentric or otherwise, and maybe even strangers, to overeat as we count our blessings. We fight the good fight of retail shopping for perfect gift choices and beautiful wrappings…….while trying to make an effort to share our personal bounty and good wishes for peace.

With just a little planning and keeping things simple, the holidays can be a restorative and comforting time, whether it is hot cider around a backyard bonfire or gala pageantry with our little ones’ dancing at church programs in ribbons and bows. And whether you are having a few friends in for cheer or a big family dinner, remember that being together, sharing the small, simple joys of life and our great blessings in a free nation, is what is really important and lasting holiday connectivity is all about.

Try some of the following simple but delicious “almost traditional” recipes and remember to slow down to enjoy, delegate for help and relax, knowing that how hectic it gets, no one really means it when they suggest we should plan going “out” for the next holiday season!

Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish

1 large orange

¼ cup plus 2 Tbls sugar

2 (10 oz) packages fresh cranberries, washed and dried

Grate orange rind (orange only), place in food processor

Peel and section orange over the bowl of processor (making sure no seeds)

Add orange sections, sugar & cranberries; process to coarsely chopped

Cover and refrigerate one day.

Optional before serving: 2 Tbls Grand Marnier and or ¼ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Serve cold.

Champagne Punch

This is sweet punch that can be tarted with additional sparkling water. It is a pleasant change from Christmas morning mimosas.

1 (11.5 oz) can frozen pineapple juice concentrate, thawed & undiluted

1 (6 oz) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed & undiluted

1 (12 oz can) ginger ale

1 (750 ml) bottle Champagne or sparkling white grape juice chilled

2 cups sparkling water, chilled

Stir together concentrates in bowl or pitcher, add remaining ingredients, stirring gently and serve immediately.

Grandma’s Special Pumpkin Roll Cake

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup sugar large eggs

2/3 cup canned pumpkin

1 tsp vanilla

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 TBLS butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting if desired

Preheat oven to 350. Line a jellyroll pan with parchment leaving an extra inch over edges so cake can be lifted out of pan. In a large bowl whisk flour, salt, baking soda & cinnamon. In a separate bowl mix the eggs, sugar, vanilla & pumpkin until smooth. Add dry ingredients to the bowl & stir just to blend dry ingredients. Spread the batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake for 14-15 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Immediately lift out parchment paper of cake and lay on heat safe surface. While the cake is hot, starting at the short end, roll the cake with the paper into a roll & allow to cool on a rack to raise the roll up.

While the cake is cooling, mix remaining ingredients with a mixer until smooth & fluffy. Once the cake has cooled, unroll very carefully on a smooth surface & gently smooth filling in an even layer over cake. Roll the cake back up without the parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour but up to 2 days. When ready to serve cut and serve with powdered sugar and optional whipped cream with cinnamon sprinkled on top.

Happy holidays everyone! Be safe and happy enjoying your blessings and good wishes for a healthy, wonderful 2019!