Candied Spiced Pecans

These spiced pecans are from China Grove, NC. A friend of our has a grove of pecans that produced a bumper crop this year. The three boys use the pecans to raise money for music instruments. So it is a great cause to support.

Pecans are common throughout Kirby

I look forward to the Helms Farm Pecans every year.

There are so many spiced and candied nut recipes out there, you can modify any one of them to fit your tastes. Personally, I love the sweet, salty, slightly hot flavor of these nuts. The warm spices enhance the amazing flavor of the roasted nut, the chili powder gives a slight amount of entertaining heat and the sugars make them indulgent.

Imagine these with fresh pears and bleu cheese! Now, that is an amazing platter to put out with pre-dinner wine and champagne.

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Candied Spiced Pecans

Pre-heat the oven to 300°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or use a silpat.

  • 1 ounce egg white (1 white from 1 large egg)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 pound raw pecan halves

Beat the egg white to soft peaks. If it is properly beaten, there will be no liquid in the bottom of the bowl.

Tip: Wipe the bowl and beaters with vinegar to remove any possible oils that may be on the surface. This will ensure a successfully beaten egg white.

While the egg white is beating, mix the sugar and spices in a small bowl.

Beaten egg whites mixed with seasonings.

Beaten egg whites mixed with seasonings.

When the egg is properly beaten, add the seasonings.

Fold in the pecans and toss to evenly coat all of the nuts. Separate any nuts that stick together.

Spread onto a lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Stir them occasionally for even roasting.IMG_4831

Cool, separating any nuts that stick together again after roasting.

Package and present as a wonderful gift for anyone!

Please be aware that if you put these out for a party, they will disappear fast! I suggest you save them for a small group.

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Steak House Yeast Rolls

Tanks Giving is fast approaching! I am going to re-post several of the most popular Thanksgiving related posts over the next few days you help you get ready for the big feast!

First up: Steak House Yeast Rolls!

Needing to develop some recipes for a couple of TV shoots coming up, I have been going through a lot of recipes.

This recipe for Steak House Yeast Rolls was a consideration but as I was working through the recipe, the realization that this would be far too complicated to do on Charlotte Cooks, my TV show on PBS in the Charlotte market.

Steak House Yeast Rolls

Steak House Yeast Rolls

With only 26.45 minutes to fill, two 2-hour rising times, mixing, shaping, baking, making a filling for cinnamon rolls, icing, would take an entire season, not 26 minutes.

You have the pleasure of the recipe and variations, my neighbors will enjoy a slab of rolls.

Since I started taking a nutrition class a couple of weeks ago, I have seriously increased the awareness of what I am eating and what is in those lovely morsels I select to stuff in my face.

Making these rolls at home ensures you are using good wholesome ingredients. No dough conditioners, artificial flavors or stabilizers. Just fresh butter, eggs, organic flour, sugar, milk and yeast.

The dough feels great and gives your arms a work out.

  • Servings: ”18″
  • Difficulty: ”medium”
  • Print

Original recipe from Martha Stewart

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 ounce active dry yeast
  • 4 ounces melted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 6 to 6-1/2 cups of AP flour
  • Extra soft butter to butter the sides of the bowl and baking dish
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Heat the milk and water to 110°F. Whisk the yeast into the heated milk and water. Let sit for 5 minutes, it should become frothy and bubble.

Add the butter, eggs, sugar and salt to a large bowl, whisk in the milk and yeast mixture.

Add the flour one cup at a time, creating a shaggy dough.

This can be done in a mixer with a dough hook but the final kneading will have to be done by hand so you don’t burn out your machine. unless, or course, you have a really heavy-duty mixer. I don’t stress my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer with the final kneading. Initial mixing yes, but not the final knead.

On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and knead until it is smooth and elastic. Form it into a nice round ball.

Butter the inside of a large bowl, Roll the dough ball to cover the surface with butter then place the ball in the bottom of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap that has been also oiled to prevent the rising dough from sticking to the wrap as it rises.

Doubled in Size

Doubled in Size

Allow to rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This may take 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide the dough in half.

Roll each dough ball into an even rope

Cut and weigh for even size

Cut and weigh for even size

and cut even size rolls. Weigh each roll to weigh 1.70 ounces. Lightly roll them to shape into balls.

Butter a 9 x 12 baking pan. Place each roll in rows 4 x 6, allowing a small bit of space between each roll. This space will fill in as the rolls rise. Cover with oiled plastic wrap.

Allow to rise again, until doubled in size.

Yeast Rolls ready to bake

Yeast Rolls ready to bake

Once the roll pan is full, you will have some left over dough.

This dough is perfect for some amazing cinnamon rolls!

Roll the dough into a rectangle. Mix some soft butter with some brown sugar and cinnamon to make a paste. ( Make sure it tastes good.)

Spread the butter cinnamon mixture over the rolled out dough. Sprinkle the surface with pecans or walnuts.

Roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seam closed.

Using a serrated blade, cut 2″ sliced from the roll. Place them cut side up (and down) in a well-buttered baking pan so the sides barely touch.

Cinnamon Rolls ready to rise

Cinnamon Rolls ready to rise

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Use a pan large enough to fill with the sliced cinnamon rolls.

Allow these to double in size.

Baking yeast rolls and cinnamon rolls:

Pre-heat the oven to 375°F

Mix 1 egg with water to make an egg wash. Brush the surface of the rolls with egg wash just before putting them in the oven.

Bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan half way through for even baking.

The rolls are done when they are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Any leftovers?

Make bread pudding!

Baked Yeast Rolls

Baked Yeast Rolls

Pumpkin Snicker-doodles

Pumpkin Snicker-doodles are delightful. Full of rich Autumnal flavors, they are sure to please your sweet tooth craving.

Yum! Cookies!

I made last year and sent some down to Tyler. I had my culinary students make them to share with the local Ronald McDonald House, and now my son wants the recipe again. He had several friends last year who were going to another friends home for Thanksgiving and they wanted to take these pumpkin cookies.

So somehow they found a kitchen to bake in. We had an afternoon of “cooking by text” with successful results. Hopefully they had enough to take to their hostess.

This year he and his girlfriend are in apartments and have their own kitchens. They are going to cook for each other this year. I am publishing the recipe for Pumpkin Snicker-doodles, along with the method and photos so one of them can make the cookies again.

So, you don’t like pumpkin? Substitute mashed banana instead of pumpkin.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies so you may want to cut the recipe in half or just share!

Here are some reasons you should make these this afternoon:

  • They are easy
  • They taste great
  • They look impressive
  • The recipe makes a lot of cookies so there is plenty to share
  • Your house will smell wonderful all afternoon
  • You can freeze some dough to bake later
  • It’s another Pumpkin thing!
  • Fall is in the air

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

  • Servings: A lot of small cookies! About 6 dozen
  • Difficulty: moderate to easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3  large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6 cups AP flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt

For rolling dough balls in before baking:

  • 1 cup white sugar mixed
  • 1 ½  tsp. cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl beat butter, both sugars, eggs, pumpkin puree, and vanilla on medium until butter is evenly incorporated into pumpkin.

In another bowl combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and spices.

Fully Mixed Dough, Chill for at least 1 hour

Roll balls of the chilled dough in cinnamon sugar

Space the cookies 2″ apart on a lined sheet pan. Use parchment paper if you don’t have a silpat sheet. Flatten slightly with your fingers.

Beat dry ingredients into wet until it is all mixed in.  The dough will be fluffy but very sticky.

Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 375°.

Using a cookie scoop or two spoons  form golf-ball sized balls with the chilled dough.

Roll balls in cinnamon sugar.

Place 2” apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Flatten slightly with fingers, but not too much.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are crackled and the edges are light golden brown.

Let cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet before removing to cooling sheets.

Cool cookies on a wire rack before drizzling with icing sugar.

To make icing sugar, combine 10x powdered sugar with a small bit of milk and a few drops of vanilla. Add the liquid a few drops at a time as the sugar will reach drizzling consistency quickly. Us a fork to drizzle, allow to dry before stacking cookies.

Eat and be happy!

Pumpkin Snicker doodles

 

Monk Fruit in the Raw VS. Sugar

Monk Fruit In The RawOK, so at the start of every new year, almost everyone says “I’m going to lose weight or get fit” or something. So I decided to see what this zero-calorie Monk Fruit In the Raw “all natural sweetener” is about.

The ingredients are: dextrose, monk fruit extract. In the larger bulk pack, the ingredients were: maltodextrin, monk fruit extract.

I wonder why the difference? I wonder what percentage of dextrose to monk fruit extract am I getting? Theoretically, they could simply add a few drops of the extract to the bin of dextrose and call it Monk Fruit in the Raw, but it is far from raw and since dextrose is the first ingredient, it is also far from being monk fruit.

So, I bought some to explore since I didn’t think the store would appreciate me trying this in the store. I opened a pack and poured it into my hand. I put some in my mouth and tasted it.

Sweet on the front, but it had an odd numbing sensation, slight, but numbing. Then the bitter after taste came on a few minutes after I had finished tasting the newly discovered miraculous ‘have your sweets and no calories too’ monk fruit sweetener. Yuck!

Then I put some in a perfectly good cup of coffee and totally ruined that too.

While the initial taste is sweet, it’s the dry bitterness of dextrose (yes another ‘natural’ sugar) that gets you in the end. Not being a diet soda drinker, I suppose my taste buds are more sensitive to those kind of flavors, but I didn’t like it at all. It actually numbed my taste receptors for a while after I finished  tasting, that I didn’t like at all!

I read the website the claim “Has the least after taste . . .” but whats with that tongue coating effect?

After washing my tongue off and getting it back to normal, I tried the same with a bit of organic sugar. Yup! Pleasure, smooth and sweet.

Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl

So what’s the conclusion? Use sugar, just use a lot less. I’m learning to like my tea with no sweetener but Earl Grey really likes a small bit of sugar.
Unless you enjoy the sensation of diet/low-calorie food things in your mouth, stick to using sugar. Train yourself to use less. I know that’s not an option for diabetics., but maybe use the real fruit instead of this processed junk?

The packaging is romantic and describes the ancient history of using monk fruit as a sweet ingredient. I’d bet they didn’t have granulated sugar then either, let alone dextrose or maltodextrin to mix it with. What they used back then is not what is wrapped up so neatly in bright orange packages and presented to you as monk fruit.Monk Fruit In The Raw Packets

And the zero calories? The say on the side of the box that each package contains less than 3 calories per serving which the FDA recognizes as zero calories. But whose counting?

This is my opinion and your tastes and experience may differ. I love that!

Southern Iced Tea

Southern Iced Tea

Sugar Scrub!

Sugar Scrub Stack

Sugar Scrub Stack

Gifting doesn’t get any easier than this: Sugar Scrubs!

They are super simple and quite inexpensive to make. Choose some nice jars to put them in, create a nifty label and you have a great thoughtful gift. Be sure to make a few extra for you to use too!

Basic Sugar Scrubs

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Up to 1/4 cup oil (See Note Below)

Use grape seed, almond, olive or jojoba oil. Don’t use coconut oil as it solidifies in the drain as it cools. Grape seed oil isn’t as “oily” as the others, with olive leaving the “oiliest” feel, which can be quite pleasant on dry skin.

Always be careful walking after using sugar scrubs as the oils can make surfaces slick.

Use your personal preference as to how much oil to add. I prefer only using enough to make the sugar damp and start to hold together as opposed to swimming in oil. I prefer the drier side.

Orange Vanilla Dream Sugar Scrub

Orange Vanilla Dream Sugar Scrub

  • 5-10 drops fragrance of choosing, I like to use essential oils, vanilla extract, almond extract

When adding peppermint oils, be careful about the scrubs coming in contact with sensitive skin, eyes and private parts. It can sting.

  • Up to 3 drops of food coloring, optional

Don’t use more than 3 drops because you don’t want to color your skin! Other choices for colors are raspberry juice, beet juice for a natural product.

Cinnamon Vanilla Sugar Scrub

Cinnamon Vanilla Sugar Scrub

Add the sugar to a bowl, add the oil, fragrance and color. Mix and bottle it up in pretty containers.

Make some labels, glue them on, tie some ribbon and you’ve got a lovely gift. I have several jars wrapped under the tree in “Stacks of Sugar Scrub” ready for the last-minute. Teachers, neighbors, hair stylists, manicurists, hostesses, dog walkers, your mail carrier, cat sitters, even baby sitters would enjoy a sugar scrub.

Lavender Rosemary Sugar Scrub

Lavender Rosemary Sugar Scrub

These are the scents I made:

  • Cinnamon Vanilla
  • Vanilla Orange Dream
  • Calming Lavender Rosemary
  • Peppermint Lift

What’s wonderful is the scent lingers on your skin.

Easy , fun, and any leftovers, you get to use!

Peppermint Lift Sugar Scrub

Peppermint Lift Sugar Scrub

These make great additions to the Spa Basket you have in mind and make nice little thoughtful ditty for those people in your life who could use a little “Thinking of You” gift.

What kind of sugar scrub will you make?

Awareness of Eating

“Never trust a skinny chef!” is how the old saying goes. But let’s examine that adage and explore the rearrangement of a common cliché.

As we become more aware of our diets, the effects food has on our bodies and how it makes us feel, there needs to be a basis of trust between the cook and the consumer.

English: White House chefs, directed by Execut...

English: White House chefs, directed by Executive Chef Henry Haller, prepare for a state dinner honoring Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. The chefs are working in the White House kitchen; the dinner occured in 1981, during the administration of Ronald Reagan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take a look at the chef, the person responsible for creating the menu and training the kitchen staff on how to prepare the various dishes.

Since I have worked in kitchens, I know a lot more about how restaurant kitchens run than most. If the person creating my meal is on the heavy side, typically sauces and flavorings  would be full of butter, fats, salts and sugars.

“A heavy chef means they enjoy their food, so it must be good!”

Really? How many people who are overweight have a hard time identifying a proper portion size? Someone who struggles with weight will eat for the sake of eating.

Someone who has emotions (hopefully all of us) will eat sometimes for comfort. Think of chicken soup when you’re ill; but when you can’t stop eating weight becomes an issue.

Sometimes the food choices we make are simply because the food we choose is familiar, it is what we know. But what if that food is bad for us? What if people really don’t understand the processed food they are eating is bad?

Evidence the obesity crisis in the USA.

Jamie Oliver is doing an eating awareness program in West Virginia to address the problem of obesity. He goes into an elementary school and the children cannot identify fresh tomatoes on the vine, cauliflower or even potatoes.

The pile of pizza, corn dogs, hot dogs, hamburgers, cakes and ice cream all over the table that represented what the family ate for a week was disturbing. Most disturbing of all is that the mom didn’t know the food was bad for them. They weren’t hungry and she thought that was good.

But she is killing her family. Her 10-year old son is already 350 pounds. Really, “Well we’re not hungry”?!

Shocking. How did it get so far?

I want a chef who is inventive but not at the expense of my health. I want someone preparing my food with the same attitude I have for health.

Obesity is a rampant problem in the USA. Identifying proper nutrients is a major issue. Processed foods, fast foods, restaurant foods loaded with fats, salts and sugars invade the diets of every day eating all around us.

The basic food environment in the USA is severely lacking in good solid nutritious fresh food.

Drive through any town, fast foods for everything from donuts, burgers, sandwiches, Mexican, Chinese, and Italian; fried and fast is what lines the streets. It isn’t easy to choose not to eat fast food, especially when you are hungry, the temptation is great to give in.

There are many of us who are aware of what we eat. Those on gluten-free diets are aware of nearly every product they eat. Thankfully, gluten-free is easier to find these days, but there is still the issue of all that fat, sugar and sodium.

When we eat out, we are at the mercy of the kitchen to actually know how to make food taste good without the added fat, salts and sugar.

Slapping butter, sugar and salt onto food is an easy way to make anything taste good. Cooking like that takes no skill at all.

Using salt is an important seasoning but so many far overdo the salt thing. Adding some salt to cooking water when boiling pasta, rice or potatoes is usually all you need.

I love salt! I adore all the different kinds of salt there are, yet I don’t overdo it either.

I am not looking for a chef who serves me a plate full of sauces and vegetables full of butter. I am looking for foods that are cooked correctly and seasoned to bring out the full of flavors.

People need to learn what a proper portion size looks like. Restaurants serve enough to 1 person to feed three and yet that one person still tries to eat as much as they can because that is what they are served.

Case in point: The Cheesecake Factory (Hint right there) offers a “Crispy Chicken Costoletta” which serve up a whopping 2610 calories, 89 grams of fat and 2720 milligrams of salt. Costolotta alright, cost a lotta health if you eat all that.  If you really have to eat that, then break it down into three meals at least. (Nutrition Action Healthletter, January/February 2012) Best of all, choose another place to eat.

Watch buffets; people load up their plates as if they only have one visit. All manner of foods get glopped together on a plate so it becomes a huge pile of goop melange. Why not go get some salad, talk, visit with your dining companions, eat, and return for entrée, then again for dessert. It seems more civil. Why are we rushing? Trying to beat the mental signal you are full?

But instead they try to slip that cherry cobbler right next to the fried chicken and coleslaw that sits on top of the ranch dressing salad with “Country Crocked” yeast rolls underneath.

Then they stuff it all in, make a second trip and wonder why they have bellies the size of VW Bug cars.

Burp.

Talking to Tyler the other day, he mentioned he was having his girlfriend over for dinner and he had to go set the table. I felt good knowing he was carrying on a family value: Setting a table and sitting there to eat dinner and talk to each other about the day.

An attractive dinner setting

An attractive dinner setting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something so small, yet it is so important. Our social and family bonds grow stronger with each meal gathering. Shouldn’t the food put in front of us be nourishing as well?

The movement to better health through eating well begins with each one of us making a choice.

If you don’t know how to cook or how to choose better nutrition, take a class and learn. Get your children involved with preparing meals; they are more likely to try new foods if they have a hand in making the dish.

Step away from the sugar bowl! Put down those sodas and juice boxes. Drink water, teas, non-fat milk. There are even flavored waters with bubbles if you simply must have a fizzy drink.

Try extra-virgin coconut and olive oils instead of butter. Your heart will thank you.

I started taking a Therapeutic Nutrition class a few weeks ago. My eyes have really been opened to how severe the obesity epidemic is and that we CAN do something about it.

That something is education and choice.

I hope you can join me in starting something is your neighborhood. The future depends on our kids, how can they carry on if they aren’t healthy?

First step ANYONE can take:

Don’t eat any food advertised on TV

Except eggs and milk, of course!

Sorry Jared, Subway needs a better way.

Make a sandwich from home. Learn to cook fresh foods and eliminate processed foods. It may take a while to actually accomplish this, but you will be rewarded with better health and more money in your pocket.

If each of us took one small step towards better eating and nutritious health, we could change a nation. We can start in our own homes.

The power of one can inspire another.

Apples are an all-American success story-each ...

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Cut-out Christmas Sugar Cookies are some of my favorite cookies not only to make but sneaking one in with a cup of tea is pure heaven.

A festive plate of Christmas Cookies

A festive plate of Christmas Cookies

Although they may look sweet, they really aren’t too sweet. Well, kinda sorta.

They make great little gifts to children and adults enjoy them too.

To make the cookies, make the dough and cut out the shapes you want. I like using impression cutters so decorating is more like coloring.

Impressed snowmen

Impressed snowmen

The angel impression

The angel impression

Rolled Out Christmas Sugar Cookies

  • 8 ounces soft butter (or 2 sticks, or 1 cup)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 – 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cream the butter and the sugar, add the eggs one at a time, add the vanilla and mix to combine.

Measure and mix the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl.

Scrape the bottom of the bowl; add the flour 1 cup at a time, until it all comes together.

Separate the dough into 2 balls. Cover 1 and roll out the other.

Roll out he dough and lay the cutters out.

Roll out he dough and lay the cutters out.

Lightly flour the counter and rolling-pin. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick or the thickness you desire. Just don’t make them too thin or else they will be very hard to decorate.

Cut out the desired shapes and place them on a parchment lines baking sheet.

Bake in a pre-heated 400°F oven for 6-8 minutes. The bottom of the cookies should be golden brown and the top will be pale when they are done.

Cool completely before frosting.

Lay the baked cookies on a baking sheet, organized by shape. It will make it easier to decorate them faster.

Lay the baked cookies on a baking sheet, organized by shape. It will make it easier to decorate them faster.

Butter Cream Frosting for Decorating Cookies

  • 1 cup Crisco or vegetable shortening’
  • 1 cup butter (or 8 ounces or 2 sticks)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups 10x confectioners sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Whip the Crisco and butter together, add vanilla and salt.

Add the 10x sugar a little at a time, moistening with milk as needed.

Color with food coloring and use piping bags to create your own designs, outlines, fill ins etc.

Make them as detailed as you want. Personally, I like making these things come to life and do details with all kinds of decorating sugars and piping tips.

I bought a Wilton box of 18 gel food colors and decided to make a bit of every color. I also bought a roll of disposable piping bags and some tips for each bag. There were a lot of bags and colors which makes coloring with frosting in piping bags quite fun.

Take a clean rimmed sheet pan, line it with parchment. Choose 4-5 cookies to decorate and lay them on your sheet pan. With the coloring bags and decorative sugars laid out in front of you, pick and choose and start decorating.

Eat your mistakes.

Get friends, family and kids involved. It really is quite fun!

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One of the snowmen

One of the snowmen

A red-headed angel with a blue dress on

A red-headed angel with a blue dress on

Holly in her hair. . .

Holly in her hair. . .

A fun tray of decorated cookies. Decorating on a tray catches all the tiny sugar bits that don't stick to the cookies.

A fun tray of decorated cookies. Decorating on a tray catches all the tiny sugar bits that don’t stick to the cookies.

A cozy snowman

A cozy snowman

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After the cookies are decorated, I lay them out to look at them all.

After the cookies are decorated, I lay them out to look at them all.

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Each gift box will get at least one of these. They make great additions to cookie platters and kids love them.

Actually, I do too. I make them every year and love giving them away.

Turn on some Christmas music, whip up some frosting and decorate to your heart’s content.