Happy holidays!! It’s that time of year again–when I break out the mixer and start making all the stuff that will drive me to the gym on January 2. That means Christmas candy. It takes a lot of patience and precision to make candy. So, you may have guessed, I don’t do it much. But once a year, my daughters and I descend on the kitchen and spend the day messing up every dish in the house. It makes for an impressive grocery run. Which means you have to keep yourself from choking up at the cash register.
A true Southerner does spend an adequate amount of time barefoot (it gets pretty hot down here), but to approach candy day in anything less than tennis shoes is suicide. If you ignore that rule, the back and legs will spend two days making sure you regret it.
This may sound like too much effort, but I also make rum cake on candy day. Anything that involves rum is worth the effort. My version uses two different kinds. So double the pleasure. Plus half of my Christmas gifts are knocked out in 8 hours at home and I get to spend the day with my girls. Therefore, in the balance of things, candy day is a plus. So is this rum cake.
For the cake:
1 cup chopped pecans
1 package yellow cake mix (mix only-don’t add the other ingredients)
1 small package vanilla instant pudding mix
1⁄2 cup cold water
1⁄2 cup cooking oil
1⁄2 cup dark rum
For the glaze:
1⁄2 cup butter
1⁄4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup coconut or dark rum
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of greased bundt pan. Stir together cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and rum, then pour batter over nuts. Bake for one hour. Cool for ten minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Prick the top of the cake with a fork.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in water and sugar, then boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Brush glaze evenly over top and sides of cake.
My woeful lack of cooking skills in my youth is a frequent subject of family get togethers in my neck of the woods. I made some cookies that my daughter referred to as “nuclear waste.” There was that cake my brother used as a frisbee. And the time I melted a rice cooker. Not kidding. It ended up in a puddle on the bottom of my microwave. I actually burned boiling water once. Don’t ask my mom about it. Even after 25 years, she’ll still bend your ear for 30 minutes about how I ruined her good double boiler. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, then you’ll know what happened–I left the kitchen.
But I did pick up a trick or two from Grandma when I was young. Like good chicken and dumplings. I moved to Maine when I was 21, and I remember calling her because my chicken and dumplings didn’t look like they were supposed to. She solved the problem in five seconds, and we had home cooked chicken and dumplings 30 minutes later, even in the dead of winter in Brunswick, Maine.
So the ability to make good chicken and dumplings is one I acquired from Grandma and, other than that small hiccup, have had most of my life. Grandma always rolled the dough, but I just spoon it into the pot. Grandma worked a lot harder in the kitchen than I do. I should be ashamed, but I’m not.
Make sure to add plenty of black pepper. And make a double helping. If your house is anything like mine, you’ll need it.
Chicken and Dumplings
1 10.5 oz. cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups milk
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded (I use a pre-cooked rotisserie)
1 cup baking mix
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
Add cream of chicken soup to large pot, along with milk and shredded chicken. Heat, stirring constantly, until well blended and bubbly (you can add a half cup of water to the mix to thin it out and give more volume, if you like). Place baking mix in a bowl and add water or chicken broth, then stir until well blended (should have a dough-like consistency. You can add more water or baking mix to get it to the right consistency). Drop dough by half-spoonfuls into the pot, then simmer, stirring constantly, until the dumplings are firm.