Welcome! :-) Whatever brought you here today wasn't an accident, and I'm so glad you stopped by. I'm always glad to have folks drop in my kitchen for a visit and hope you'll feel right at home. We always have an ample supply of fresh lemonade, sweet tea, and a pot of coffee brewing along with a sideboard full of baked treats for you to enJOY while you're here. Relax and take your time as we visit and catch up on the latest news. Don't forget to email and let me know what's going on in your world, as well. And, come back soon!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Traditions

As this year draws swiftly to a close, I am reminded that nothing is so valuable as our time together as a family. Traditions established over the years seem to bind us even closer.

Each family , big or small, loud or quiet, has its own traditions that are followed more or less unchanged for a long period of time. Keeping these family traditions alive is not only the responsibility of the parents, but also the grandparents, the uncles and aunts, the family friends and in most cases, the responsibility of children. Whether you consider a family tradition to be the annual  Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas presents and birthday parties, the fact remains that families come closer and share the memories of past rituals performed to honor everyone. Families need those times together to strengthen ties and develop bonds that last for years to come.

We can cherish and keep family traditions alive by doing what we used to do as kids. (Just because you're older doesn't mean you have to grow up! I still hang three special ornaments on our tree that my mother gave me way back in 1964. Each one brings back special memories of Momma, Daddy, and the JOY we shared as we prepared for Christmas.) If you are given the chance help your mother or grandmother bake cookies, wrap presents and put them under the Christmas tree, bake that special cake that she only makes once a year, do whatever it takes to make memories that will last. These are some of the most precious moments you can share with your loved ones. Do not forget or let them vanish.

During the holidays, our family has developed several traditions over the years. For almost thirty years now, my husband has purchased some type of Christmas music box for me (each with a different tune---and believe me, that isn't easy as the numbers of music boxes have grown). On Christmas Eve, we play some of the music boxes (usually in the order they were purchased), then my husband reads the Christmas story from Luke 2 in the Bible, and then we play more music boxes to complete the ritual. Most of the time, the only lights are from the Christmas tree and candles, which adds to the atmosphere as the Christmas story is read.

Several "food traditions" have developed as I've tried new recipes and added them to the list of "must haves" over the Holidays. One of these is a recipe for homemade rum cake. Before I found this recipe, I tried several that either flopped (baked high and pretty, then fell flatter than a pancake), or turned out more like a sponge. However, this is one that I think you will enJOY making and sharing with friends and family. The syrup coating cools to make the outside almost crunchy, while the inside is deliciously light and has just the right amount of rum flavor without the taste of alcohol (which cooks out during the baking and boiling processes). I hope you will give it a try and leave me a comment below about how it turns out for you.

Before we get started with the recipe, let me say that I was just a bit too busy last week when I made this to photograph all the steps. So, if you have any questions about any of the directions, don't hesitate to email me (or if you're local, call me!). You can contact me at pkrains@tcworks.net.

I hope you will consider making this one of your "traditions"---no matter what time of year you choose to do so. Don't forget to print the recipe or copy and paste it to a file and save it in your recipe collection.

Pat's Homemade Rum Cake Recipe

For the Cake:
1 cup chopped pecans
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons + ½ cup Crisco oil, divided
1 - 3.4-ounce package of instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup dark rum
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Rum Syrup:
¾ cup butter
1½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup water
Pinch of salt
½ cup dark rum

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a standard tube pan (12-cup capacity). Lightly toss chopped nuts in flour to coat, then sprinkle them around the bottom of the prepared pan; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture and the 3 tablespoons of canola oil, and mix on medium-low speed for a minute or two – the mixture should look like wet sand. Add the pudding mix and mix again on medium-low speed until combined.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, remaining oil, milk, rum, and vanilla extract. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat until smooth.

5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (My oven takes just a few minutes longer.)

6. When the cake has about 10 minutes left to bake, start the rum syrup. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the sugar and the water. Bring to a rolling boil (one that can't be stirred down). Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and stir in the rum. Once it is mixed in, return it to medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

7. When the cake comes out of the oven, use a fork to poke holes all around the top. Immediately pour about one-third of the rum syrup over the top of the cake. Pour slowly so it has time to seep into the cake and down the sides between the pan and cake. Let it sit for 5 minutes or until it appears that all the syrup has absorbed. Don't let it sit too long, or it will stick to the pan.

8. Invert the cake onto a serving platter. Using a fork or a skewer, poke holes all over the cake – the top, sides, and around the inside. Don’t be shy – all of the holes ensure that the rum syrup seeps into the cake evenly. Sloooooowly pour the remaining rum syrup over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. You want to do this step very slowly so that the syrup actually seeps into the cake and doesn’t just pool on the bottom of the serving dish.

9. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving. Leftovers can be kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 5 days.

What holiday traditions do you observe during the year? If you haven't established any, consider doing so as we begin the New Year.
May 2013 be one filled with JOYful BLESSINGS for us all!