‘Tis the season to celebrate! Five of Forever’s authors with brand new Christmas romances are sharing their favorite holiday recipes and memories.
CAROLYN BROWN’S PUMPKIN BREAD
Kids, grand children, great-grands, all coming home for the holidays—the aroma of pumpkin bread baking in the oven—everyone waiting for it to get done so they can slice it up while it’s still hot, slather butter or whipped cream cheese on it, and tell the age old stories about the holidays we’ve had in the house. That’s the stuff memories are made off and every time I smell pumpkin bread it puts a smile on my face for the whole day.
This makes 2 loaves and 8 muffins; Or it makes one Bundt cake
½ cup shortening
2 2/3 cups of sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin (one 15-16 ounce can)
3 ½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
1 cup pecans (optional)
2/3 cup of cold strong black coffee
(NOTE: I use all butter if I’m out of shortening or even oil)
Cream first four ingredients.
Add canned pumpkin.
Add dry ingredients alternately with coffee
Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour for loaves or bundt cake, 25 minutes for muffins, or until they test done in the center.
Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Cool completely before frosting with Harvest Moon Frosting (below).
HARVEST MOON FROSTING
3 egg whites
1½ cups brown sugar
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a double boiler.Cook 7 minutes, beating the whole time with an electric mixer, over the boiling water. The frosting will stand in peaks when done.Add vanilla. Beat until thick enough to spread.
About Carolyn Brown
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Carolyn Brown was born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma. These days she and her husband make their home in Davis, Oklahoma, a small town of less than three thousand people where everyone knows everyone, knows what they are doing and with whom, and read the weekly newspaper to see who got caught.
A plaque hangs on her office wall that says I know the voices are not real but they have such great ideas. That is her motto and muse as she goes through the days with quirky characters in her head, telling their stories, one by one, and loving her job.
She has been married almost half a century to a retired English teacher that she calls Mr. B and he does not read her books before they are published because she cannot afford a divorce. They have three grown children.—and enough grandchildren to keep them busy and young.
When Carolyn is not writing she likes to sit in the back yard and watch the two tom cats protect the yard from all kinds of wicked varmints like crickets, other cats, spiders and blue jays.
PAULA QUINN’S CHRISTMAS COOKIES
My dad used to live across the street from us. Every year, when my kids were little, he would dress up like Santa, climb out his window on the second floor, and hang Christmas lights on his fire escape. My kids would watch from our window with wonder in their eyes, unaware that it was grandpa. He would turn and wave to them, sending them into little fits of breathlessness. Later, we would visit grandma and grandpa’s for homemade cookies (left there for them by Santa). The house was always fully decked out with every Christmas decoration imaginable with Alvin and the Chipmunks on repeat while the kids hunted down little “pre-Christmas” gifts he’d hide for them. I loved witnessing the magic of Christmas and love through their eyes. Now grown, my kids will sometimes still look out the window at his fire escape and smile, remembering a grandpa who loved them beyond measure.
GRANDPA’S CHRISTMAS COOKIES (A favored Italian recipe)
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
3½ cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
Sift dry ingredients.
Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs; add vanilla and dry ingredients.
Knead and add flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to hands.
Pinch off dough, roll in your hands to form a log and then twirl into shape.
Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.
2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 teaspoons water
Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Stir until creamy. Dip cookies into icing and sprinkle with trim. Place on wire rack with wax paper on counter to collect the dripping icing and sprinkles.
About Paula Quinn
New York Times bestselling author Paula Quinn lives in New York with her three beautiful children, three over-protective chihuahuas, and a loud umbrella cockatoo. She loves to read romance and science fiction and has been writing since she was eleven. She loves all things medieval, but it is her love for Scotland that pulls at her heartstrings.
DEBBIE MASON TREE TRIMMING PARTY
One of my family’s favorite holiday traditions is our tree trimming party. We’ve held one every year for the past thirty years. Though I don’t know if it qualifies as a party seeing as it’s just the immediate family. But we do make a thing of it with our favorite carols playing in the background, fire on (mostly for ambience), hot chocolate served in festive mugs, lots of holiday treats, and a special ornament for each of the kids and grandkids to open before the tree decorating gets under way.
But I think the most fun for all of us isn’t decorating the tree, it’s unpacking the ornaments. I’ve always tried to buy an ornament that’s uniquely suited to each of the kids, whether it was a sport they were into that year or a movie, book, or hobby they loved, so unwrapping each one brings back a lot of special memories. Here’s a peek at just some of the collection. I don’t think it will be long before we have to break from tradition and let the kids take some of the ornaments home to decorate their own trees. Either that or we’ll have to put up another tree.
And this one in my office doesn’t count. Every year, my family gifts me with an ornament too. This year they gave me these three adorable ornaments to celebrate the release of the first book in the new Harmony Harbor series, MISTLETOE COTTAGE, and the short story, CHRISTMAS WITH AN ANGEL.
About Debbie Mason
Debbie Mason is the USA Today bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado series and Harmony Harbor series. Her books have been praised for their “likable characters, clever dialogue, and juicy plots” (RT Book Reviews). She also writes historical paranormals as Debbie Mazzuca. Her MacLeod series has received several nominations for best paranormal as well as a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. When she isn’t writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, three wonderful children and son-in-law, two adorable grandbabies, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella.
HOPE RAMSAY’S GINGERBREAD COOKIES
Every year for the last quarter-century, or possibly longer, I have set aside the Saturday closest to Christmas to bake gingerbread cookies with my children, and now, with my grandchildren. These are the only cookies I make at Christmas time, and the activity is more about family fun than turning out a perfect cookie. Usually I do most of the rolling, cutting, and baking. And the rest of the family does the decorating.
The magic is in the royal icing. The white icing is a snap to make, and it can be divided up into small bowls and colored with food dye, creating pots of colored cookie paint. I give each child (or adult) a watercolor paint brush and let them paint the icing onto the cookies. The kids have a blast, and the cookies always come out looking wonderfully homemade.
To me, cookie baking embodies everything I love about Christmas: kids, family, baking, and yummy desserts.
GINGERBREAD COOKIE DOUGH
Makes about 6 Dozen
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Dutch cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
1 cup superfine sugar
1 egg at room temperature
½ cup unsulphured molasses
Whisk together the dry ingredients – flour cocoa, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, backing soda, and salt.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat thoroughly.
On low speed, add the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
Cut the dough into thirds, pat into disks, wrap in plastic and chill until firm – 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough about 1/16 inch thick and cut cookies with cookie cutters. Transfer the cookies to an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges of the cookie turn brown.
Let cool on sheets and then transfer to a wire rack. Decorate with royal icing.
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup water
Using a mixer, place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat at high speed until fluffy, thick & shiny (about 10 minutes.) Divide the icing into smaller bowls and color it using food coloring.
About Hope Ramsey
Hope Ramsay is an award-winning, bestselling author and two-time Golden Heart finalist. Her series of heartwarming romances, published by Grand Central Publishing, have won critical acclaim. Hope is also a member of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood and regularly blogs about storytelling and plotting. She is married to a good ol’ Georgia boy and has two grown children and a couple of demanding lap cats. She lives in Virginia where, when she’s not writing, she’s knitting or playing on her forty-year-old Martin guitar.
OLIVIA MILES SNOWFLAKE COOKIES
In my newest release, CHRISTMAS COMES TO MAIN STREET, my heroine owns a cookie bakery. As this story takes place over the holidays, I thought hard about a signature cookie she might make, and eventually I settled on charming snowflake cookies. Of course these are not just any old cut out cookie, though. No, Kara makes them by the dozen, sure to keep each one in the batch distinct in shape and decoration, because no two snowflakes are ever the same, after all! And it’s these snowflake cookies that she delivers every day to the inn in Briar Creek…where a Christmas visitor falls in love with more than just her cookies.
I hope you all enjoy these snowflake cookies as much as Nate does!
KARA’S SNOWFLAKE COOKIES (sugar cookie cut-out and royal icing recipes courtesy of Martha Stewart)
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.
Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into a disk. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Let one disk of dough stand at room temperature just until soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes. Roll out dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/4 inch thick. Remove top layer of plastic wrap. Cut out cookies. Transfer cookie dough on plastic wrap to a baking sheet. Transfer baking sheet to freezer, freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes. Remove baking sheet from freezer and transfer shapes to baking sheets lined with nonstick baking mats. Roll out scraps, and repeat. Repeat with remaining disk of dough.
Bake, switching positions of sheets and rotating halfway through, until edges turn golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
2 large egg whites, or more to thin icing
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, or more to thicken icing
Juice of 1 lemon
3 drops glycerin
Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar, lemon juice and glycerin (if using); beat for 1 minute more. If icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it is too thin, add more sugar. The icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Decorate each as you wish!
About Olivia Miles
Olivia Miles writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance. A city girl with a fondness for small town charm, Olivia enjoys highlighting both ways of life in her stories. She currently resides just outside Chicago with her husband, young daughter, and two ridiculously pampered pups.