Welcome, Kathleen Rice Adams, yet another author in the anthology WISHING FOR A COWBOY. And Kathleen will give away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter, so be sure to leave a message. Also, I’ll be drawing for a $25 Branes and Noble gift card on Friday from all those who have commented on any 2o13 Holiday Cheer post.
Thanks being on Holiday Cheer today, Kathleen, as my last guest author and for sharing your holiday secrets and the really yummy looking Bread Pudding recipe.
Eggnog or hot chocolate? Definitely eggnog — with a splash of bourbon and a sprinkle of nutmeg. In a way, I owe my very existence to nutmeg, since my grandfather and grandmother married after an unfortunate nutmeg incident (long story). I’m rather fond of that spice.
Share one of your favorite holiday memories. As a child, I always loved decorating the Christmas tree. Daddy would put Christmas records on the stereo, and then he and Momma would sit back, relax … and do their dead-level best not to kill four darling children who never did learn not to fight over who got to hang which ornament where. Those poor ornaments probably deserved some kind of medal for surviving the Wild Bunch.
Do you have a real or artificial tree? A real tree! We had real trees the whole time I was growing up, and that fragrance says “Christmas” to me. Just sniffing a spruce, fir, or pine reminds me that at any moment, one of my beloved siblings could leap from behind a branch and grab me around the throat.
What color lights do you put on your tree? White twinkle lights. I have simple tastes … in everything except handbags. For some reason, I’ve always been attracted to purses with so many compartments that I will never see some of my belongings again. We never did find that Volkswagen Beetle my youngest brother swears disappeared into a purse in 1983.
Do you have a favorite holiday decoration? You know, I don’t. I’ll always regret not keeping Momma’s collection of tree ornaments, but when we were settling her estate, the mere thought of the holidays without her was something I didn’t want to face. Now I wish I’d been just a bit braver. The ornaments were only plain glass trinkets, but some of them had been on the tree every year for as long as I can remember. They were donated to a local charity. I hope someone is enjoying them as much as we did.
Do you wrap as you go or do you do a marathon wrapping ‘party?’ I’m a marathon wrapper. It’s fun to set aside a chunk of time and do nothing but wrap gifts. More important, the brave soul who ventures into the deepest, darkest recesses of Fibber McGee’s closet to find the wrapping paper and other paraphernalia has to take a map. Putting everything away requires a shoehorn.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Marathon eating. As soon as the International Olympic Committee declares eating a competitive sport, my family has a lock on all the medals.
What is your favorite holiday dish? My all-time favorite holiday dish is oyster dressing made with a mixture of cornbread, wheat bread, and white bread. For my entire life, I’ve considered it a personal mission to leave no oyster behind. Without responsible adult supervision, I could singlehandedly decimate every oyster bed on the Gulf Coast. Consequently, for public safety reasons, we have oyster dressing once a year.
What is your favorite holiday treat (pie, cake, cookies, etc)? There are three mandatory holiday treats at my house: butter cookie wreaths topped with green icing and red sugar sprinkles, bread pudding, and … fruitcake. There. I said it. In public. I am one of four people on the planet who adores fruitcake. The other three are my siblings. We’re picky about our fruitcake, though. My mother’s secret recipe makes a dark, heavy cake using grape juice, all kinds of candied fruit, two kinds of raisins, and pecans. I’m not kidding about the heavy part: A fruitcake baked in a 10-inch tube pan (an angel food cake pan) weighs about twenty pounds. If the Confederacy had used Momma’s fruitcake instead of cannonballs, we’d all be speaking Southern today.
I make drunken bread pudding for Christmas dinner every year, and usually again during Mardi Gras. I sent along the recipe. I’ll warn you up-front, though: The whiskey sauce will put a full-grown man under the table from ten paces away.
What is your favorite holiday movie? It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart. The ending gets to me every time.
What is your favorite holiday book? I’m a bit biased this year, because I have a short story called “Peaches” in Wishing for a Cowboy, a Christmas anthology from Prairie Rose Publications. Prairie Rose is a new publisher devoted to westerns and western romance written by women, and I have to say I was tickled to death to be invited to contribute. The other authors — Phyliss Miranda, Cheryl Pierson, Jacquie Rogers, Sarah McNeal, Tracy Garrett, Tanya Hanson, and Livia Washburn Reasoner — are all ladies I respect and whose work I admire, and the stories run the gamut from sweet and touching to action-packed and humorous. Without gushing too much, it really is a heartwarming collection.
One commenter who leaves a name and email address in the comments today will receive a free copy of Wishing for a Cowboy in his or her choice of e-formats.
Where would you spend the holiday if you could go anywhere in the world? I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be during the holidays than at home, surrounded by family and friends. Before anyone teeters anywhere near an “awwww,” let me just say that I come from a long line of Texans and Kentucky hillbillies. Holidays around the Wild Bunch do not produce a lot of Norman Rockwell moments. Shootouts, yes. That’s why I said “family and friends.” Never underestimate the strategic value of a well-positioned friend in a flak jacket.
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
(Makes 10-12 servings)
Bread pudding is a traditional treat in parts of the South, but there is no one traditional recipe. Each cook has his or her own approach to dealing with the problem of stale bread. This is my solution.
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ cup bourbon (or other favorite liquor — spiced rum or flavored brandy works well)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
3 cups milk
¼ cup butter
1 loaf stale French bread (16 oz.), cut or torn into roughly 1-inch cubes
Whiskey Sauce (recipe follows)
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 13” x 9” baking dish.
2. Combine eggs, cream, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, bourbon, and vanilla in large bowl.
3. Heat milk and butter in saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until butter is melted. (Do not boil.)
4. Gradually whisk about 1 cup of hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Add remaining milk mixture, stirring constantly.
5. Place bread cubes in greased baking dish. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread; press bread into liquid to encourage absorption.
6. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes, or until knife or wooden pick inserted near center emerges relatively clean.
7. Let stand 30 minutes or so before serving slathered with Whiskey Sauce. (Pudding should be warm but not hot.)
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1 ½ tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
¼ cup bourbon (or other favorite liquor)
Whisk cornstarch and water together. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a boil. Add cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly, until cream returns to boiling. Whisk for a few seconds until thickened, then remove from heat. Stir in sugar and bourbon. Ladle over bread pudding.
Both the bread pudding and the sauce may be reheated in the microwave, and both recipes may be doubled for larger crowds.
Christmas miracles can happen when you’re Wishing for a Cowboy: eight authors, eight heartwarming stories — and as a bonus, eight recipes for delicious holiday goodies.
Running a ranch and fending off three meddlesome aunts leaves Whit McCandless no time, and even less patience, for the prickly new schoolmarm’s greenhorn carelessness. The teacher needs educating before somebody gets hurt.
Ruth Avery can manage her children and her school just fine without interference from some philistine of a rancher. If he’d pay more attention to his cattle and less to her affairs, they’d both prosper.
He didn’t expect to need rescuing. She never intended to fall in love.
The bare limbs of the peach trees reached for the sky as if someone held the small orchard at gunpoint. A gust of wind swirled dust through the branches and set them to rattling like old bones.
A corresponding shiver rattled through Whit McCandless. He crammed his hat lower and pulled the collar of his sheepskin coat up around his ears as he knelt beside a hunched-up lump in the tall grass. “Got a name, boy?”
Trembling hard enough to churn butter, the tyke answered between chattering teeth. “T-T-To-Toby.”
“You belong somewhere ’round here, Toby?”
A thin arm clad only in a long, flannel sleeve pointed to the schoolhouse on the far side of the peach grove.
Figured. Whit opened his coat and the boy scuttled against his chest, small arms wrapping Whit’s neck like a noose. He buttoned the child between his body and the wool, then climbed into his saddle. The lineback dun stamped and tugged at the bit, and Toby shimmied up Whit’s trunk. Took him pert-near forever to convince the kid they’d both be warmer and less apt to take a tumble if the sprout scooted down toward the cowpony’s back.
A scornful twist pinched Whit’s lips. If anybody in Young County needed educating, that person was the new schoolmarm. What kind of dolt let her offspring ramble around without a coat in December—and on fenced cattle range, to boot? City folk had no inkling how fast a riled longhorn could move. Luckily, he’d spotted Toby before the fractious new bull took exception to the pint-sized trespasser.
The frigid breeze moaned through the trees, raising Whit’s gaze to the army of clouds rolling southward across a gray firmament. Storm coming. Like as not he’d need to crack the surface of Flat Rock Creek by morning. The cattle watched him perform the chore every winter, yet the entire herd would die of thirst before any of the critters learned to break ice.
The peach orchard, though… Those damn trees knew how to survive. Defying storms, drought, and neglect, in thirty years only one had fallen.
Whit filled his lungs with cold air and let the breath go in a long, frosty plume. Shifting in the saddle to relieve an ache in his hip, he gritted his teeth and nudged the gelding into a wide arc toward the old farmhouse. The bundle inside his coat burrowed closer to Whit’s belly. Small fingers dug into his waist. He glanced down. “You okay, boy?”
The kid’s head jerked in what must have been a nod. Whit huffed an exasperated breath. How did Toby’s mother expect to ride herd on a passel of other folks’ young’uns if she couldn’t keep track of her own? The fool woman’s greenhorn carelessness was bound to get somebody hurt. He possessed neither the time nor the patience for schooling the schoolmarm, but if one stern lecture could keep her kids off McCandless range, then by God he’d rise to the challenge.
Irritation building like steam in his chest, he wrapped his free arm around the shivering lump inside his coat and gigged the dun into a brisk jog.
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