According to the calendar, Christmas may have ended, but it really hasn’t for me. Remnants from the past will remain in place until Sunday night when the midnight hour welcomes in a new year with promises for good health and happiness … a toast Daddy professed was his favorite. In the meantime, hanging on the wall inside our entry, one sees a framed picture of my parents wearing the red velvet Christmas vests Mother made many years ago. Underneath the framed picture is a brass hook and a chain of brass bells they hung on their front door every Christmas season for us to jingle upon entering the home we grew up in on Talmadge Street.

And that is just the beginning of holiday memories. Colorful tins in the kitchen offer leftover Christmas cookies made from some of Mother’s favorite recipes beautifully handwritten for me to enjoy years later while other tins are filled with cookies purchased elsewhere when time was of the essence. In the refrigerator portions of fruitcakes await being sampled. One special food item missing from our Christmas menu is the exceptional Jubilee ham from Oscar Mayer, where Daddy worked for more than 40 years.

Other Christmas items from the past are delicate tree ornaments and those purchased new when the boys were little, while dishes, mugs and wine goblets await being filled one last time before packing away for another year. Because everything seems to tug at my heartstrings, I hope and pray family members will welcome these Christmas reminders that have meant so much to all of us through the years that suddenly seem to have passed by so quickly.

Remaining on my kitchen counter is a small glass jar filled with a special seasoning recipe meant to share sooner for you to personalize, enjoy yourself, and give as gifts. Not sure where the recipe was discovered, but I’m convinced it is one you can experiment with by adding your own special touches with favorite flavors which then allow you to add your own name to the title. Right now it’s known as Private Label Seasoned Salt that is “great on chicken and pork.”

Private Label Seasoned Salt

1 cup salt

1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano leaves

1 teaspoon garlic salt

2 ½ teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 teaspoons dry mustard

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon dried dill weed

Mix together very well before storing in a glass jar.

If your family lives elsewhere, leaving you somewhat alone during the holiday season, here are a few recipes you might enjoy preparing for just one or two and not 10, 12 or 16. Prep time is 10 minutes, then 15 minutes to cook, followed by chilling for 2 or more hours.

Broccoli bacon salad

3 slices bacon

1 cup broccoli florets

1 tablespoon chopped red onion

2 tablespoons halved red seedless grapes

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

¹⁄³ cup mayonnaise

¹⁄³ cup sunflower seeds

Place bacon in skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside. Combine broccoli, onion and grapes in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar and mayonnaise. Pour over broccoli mixture and toss. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Toss salad with crumbled bacon and sunflower seeds and serve.

From “Table for Two: The Cookbook for Couples,” by Warren Caterson

If you enjoy the sweet-sour flavors of Hawaiian cuisine, this is a great recipe from “Table for Two” that can easily be doubled for company.

Sweet and sour spareribs for two

2 tablespoons rice or white wine vinegar

¼ cup ketchup

1 ½ teaspoon soy sauce

½ (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained

1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated or ½ teaspoon dried

1 ½ pounds pork spare ribs, cut into serving size pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, and pineapple in a small bowl. Add to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar, cornstarch, salt and ginger. Cook, stirring constantly until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Place a layer of spare ribs in a 9x13-inch roasting pan. Pour half of the sauce over the top. Arrange another layer of spare ribs and top with remaining sauce. Cover tightly with tin foil. Bake ribs until they are done and falling off the bone, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Caterson also likes this recipe because “once it’s in the oven you can snuggle up to a loved one while nibbling Italian cheese and sipping a fine red wine.” A tossed salad and warm Italian bread makes this a complete meal. This meal takes 15 minutes to prepare.

Baked chicken Milano

2 baking potatoes, cut into wedges

Salt to taste

1 garlic clove, minced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 14-ounce can stewed tomatoes

½ pound sweet or hot Italian sausages, cut into two-inch slices

2 chicken legs and 2 thighs

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place potatoes in a medium roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and garlic. Layer pepper slices, tomatoes and sausages over the potatoes. Arrange chicken pieces on top. Brush chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake uncovered for 1 hour and 15 minutes until chicken is tender

Caterson also claims that using real Vermont maple syrup makes a big difference with this recipe, so you might consider spending just a little more by following his instructions. This recipe takes only 10 minutes to prepare, must be marinated for 30 minutes, then baked for 20 minutes.

Maple-glazed salmon filets

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoons soy sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 4-6 ounce salmon fillets

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place salmon in a small shallow glass baking dish and coat with maple syrup mixture. Cover and marinate salmon in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once. Place baking dish in the preheated oven and bake uncovered 20 minutes, or until fish easily flakes with a fork.

This recipe from the same book supposedly deserves the richness of extra virgin olive oil. Prep time is 5 minutes before cooking for 15 minutes.

Baked cod with Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons dry white wine or chicken broth

2 4-6 ounce cod fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ cup crushed saltine crackers

1 teaspoon Italian herbs

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ teaspoon sweet paprika

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour wine into a baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Add fish to dish. Combine cracker crumbs, Italian herbs, garlic and paprika in a small bowl then sprinkle over fish. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned and fish flakes easily with a fork.

When it’s time for dessert, whether you are in a hurry or not, treat yourself to locally made ice cream favorites with no preparation involved that can be served within minutes directly from your freezer.

Happy New Year!

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI 53708 or by email at greenbush4@aol.com.

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