Hometown gratitude list

Praise the bridge that carried you over.”  ~George Colman

As the old year winds down, one of my favorite practices is to make a list of all the blessings in my life — people, places, and things for which I’m most grateful. In this week’s Royal Oak Patch column I share more than a dozen hometown “resources” I’ve used and counted on for many years. From my gifted hairstylist to our family doctor, these folks have earned my loyalty. Who’s on your hometown gratitude list? –CL

Decking the halls

“A house is a home when it shelters the body and comforts the soul.” — Phillip Moffitt

It’s always an honor to have your home featured in the “Homestyle” section of The Detroit News. Here’s a link to the article that runs this weekend, featuring our 1927 Tudor-revival home decorated for Christmas. Design writer Jeanine Matlow did a wonderful job telling our story. To see additional photos that didn’t appear in the article click here. From our house to yours, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! — CL

–Photo courtesy of The Detroit News

Scottish Bread Pudding

Food is the most primitive form of comfort.” — Sheilah Graham

Second only to a perfect bowl of homemade soup, Scottish bread pudding is pure comfort food. Simple and satisfying. I remember waiting patiently at the kitchen table while my frugal Scottish Grandmother, an Orkney Islands native, turned stale bread and a handful of raisins into a Saturday night treat.

Though I don’t have Grandma Ruby’s recipe, I was able to find several bread pudding recipes online. Combining the best of three, I improvised a dish that would have made Grandma proud. My holiday dinner guests — both Irish, by the way — told me it was the best bread pudding they’d ever had. Several Facebook friends asked me to share it, so here it is.

Meanwhile, I’d enjoy hearing about the comfort foods — or special holiday dishes — your family enjoys. Merry Christmas to all …. Yours, aye!

SCOTTISH BREAD PUDDING

Ingredients:

10-12 thick slices of bread, cut into 1″ squares and left out overnight

1/2 stick of butter

1/2 cup of golden raisins soaked overnight in 3/4 cup of good whiskey; reserve whiskey

4 large eggs

2 cups half-and-half (or whole milk)

3/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Butterscotch sauce (purchase ready made)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an 8-inch square baking dish with butter, then melt remaining butter in a cup in the microwave.

Line the baking dish with layers of bread squares, then drizzle with the melted butter. Drain the whiskey from the raisins and reserve it in a bowl. Sprinkle the soaked raisins over the bread.

In medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour the mixture over the bread, then lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture. (Just as my grandmother did, I find it helps to make this dish ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for a few hours, giving the flavors time to meld and to ensure all liquid is absorbed in the bread.)

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly tapped. Cut into square servings while warm. Heat the butterscotch sauce to use as topping (about 1/2 cup, depending on how many you’re serving) on the stove; stir in the remaining whiskey while it gently heats.

Pour the sauce over the top of each serving and add whipped cream if you like. Makes 10 servings, but some guests will ask for seconds.

True gifts

The only gift is a portion of thyself” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

By this time, only the sanest among us haven’t gone Christmas-crazy. The rest of us are baking, cooking, addressing cards, planning holiday meals, shopping for holiday meals, decking the halls, scouting the malls for last-minute gifts, and trying to make cameo appearances at parties when we’d really rather pull the covers over our heads and call it a night.

This week, my Royal Oak Patch column asks you to pause to consider: Which Christmas carol best expresses the true meaning of Christmas? Please click here to read it.

Meanwhile, I’m preparing for Nate’s arrival home for the holidays. I went grocery shopping today for the Christmas meals I’ll cook this week, and right now I’m soaking raisins in whiskey for traditional Scottish bread pudding. If the new recipe turns out even better than my grandmother’s, I’ll post a photo along with the recipe here soon.

I’m sending you all my very best wishes along with heartfelt gratitude for your friendship this year. Merry Christmas! — CL

Oh, winter!

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”  ~Andrew Wyeth

Unlike artist Andrew Wyeth, I don’t “prefer” winter. I’ll never warm up to the cold reality of bundling up in gloves, boots, and an unwieldy thermal coat from December through March — though I’ve done so every year for more years than I care to recount. And I hate driving in snow.Yet I can’t deny winter’s stark, glistening beauty. Earlier this week, southeast Michigan was pounded with a heavy snowstorm, leaving us blanketed in yards of white stuff. The view outside my home office window is a veritable Currier and Ives landscape, as you’ll note in the photos I’ve posted here. Those of you who live in the south or on the west coast will be amused?  — CL