Holiday cooking and baking

Susan Manzke

Today it’s cold, very cold — it’s below-zero COLD.

Bob dressed for snowplowing

Of course, that means it’s time to be in the kitchen making soup and baking. Right now I have a couple loaves of bread rising: French bread and cinnamon raisin nut bread with lots of cinnamon. The house will smell so nice when these are in the oven.

I’m still considering what to put in the pot for soup. Bob isn’t a big fan of vegetables, but somehow he likes them in soup, especially on a cold day after plowing snow from our driveway. When he comes inside, I try to have something hot for him to drink, and when he’s ready to eat, I’ll put the bowl of hot soup in front of him, and he’ll be ready to say “yum.”

Many kitchens are geared up for Christmas cookie baking. I have never loved making cutout cookies, but this year I yearn to try them again, but I won’t. After Bob’s heart stint issues, we went on a heart healthy diet. Of course, one cookie wouldn’t hurt too much, but having a batch of cookies sitting around for company only is temptation for both of us. Bob has to watch his sugar and salt consumption, too.

Being a good wife, I’m trying to keep Bob around a few more years. So no matter what, he’s going to eat healthy. This means none of the usual Christmas cookies or candy for him.

But being a good wife, I also want to give my husband special treats. I racked my brain to come up with something good. That’s when I remembered cookie kisses. Most of the recipe is whipped egg whites, with the yolks going out to the barn cats for their supper.

I used a sugar substitute for sugar in the recipe to keep with Bob’s diet requirements. Honestly, the outcome wasn’t as good as with sugar. Plain, they were awful, so I added a few chocolate chips and some nuts. This helped with the flavor and just enough of a sweet zing to make them a special treat.

Bob said they were better than nothing.

Since I was still in the baking mood, I made one batch with coconut, which was different enough from the first kisses to make them special too.

I still had the urge to make ooey, gooey batches of fudge. Chocolate is my favorite. Since chocolate and egg whites have issues, it took some trial and error to make a chocolate kiss. The one that worked best was when I added cocoa. The sweetened, whipped, egg white mixture lost some of its fluffiness when the cocoa was folded in, but these are definitely my favorite.

That’s the extent of my holiday baking. These days I can’t watch cooking shows or even commercials without having the old urges come back, but so far we’re being good.

Now I just have to worry about Bob going out in this extreme cold weather. After 10 minutes, his fingers go white from the cold, no matter how good his gloves are. That man of mine still thinks he can do everything and is hesitating about hiring someone to plow our snow.

“I can do it,” he told me more than once. “I’ll come in and warm up when I get cold.”

Our Christmases have changed over the years. It’s not centered on our children. Our little grandchildren will be getting pajamas again — useful gifts and cute. At least the kids are cute. Bob and I don’t really need anything, just good company.

These days we focus on sending Christmas cards. Getting cards is such a positive part of the season. It’s so much fun connecting with everyone. Receiving cards and news in the mailbox makes our day. I hope wherever our photo cards travel that they bring joy to others, too. If you want one, hurry and send a card with a return stamp to us soon, before we run out.

Happy baking everyone.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;