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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Keeping the Season Merry and Bright —Anyway

By Sherrie Norris

This column from the first week of December 2020 had a rather dismal tone attached to it as I talked about all the things that were not going to happen during a usually festive season. And for the first time in many years, I commented, many of our December calendar blocks remained empty. 

Fast-forward about 52 weeks. While much has changed in the last year,  things remain the same in many situations. Our red flags and caution lights, whether in reality or in our minds, are still present. The events calendar may be taking on a personality all its own this year, with a few more blocks colored in for fun — and life is somewhat normal for many — there are still those of us who are taking every turn with care and easing on the brakes when things start to move too fast.

Vaxed, boosted, masked, gloved, infused, socially distanced — or not — many of us have learned not to take anything for granted, and are trying with all our might to stay healthy through this continuing time of uncertainty.  After all, ‘tis the season to be merry, right?

And with that does come increased opportunity for gatherings, and much-needed fellowship and good food. I’m all about that, within reason. And I promise you, my hesitancy does not come from the latest political or scientific forum. We all must do what we feel is the right thing to do for us as individuals and families. 

So, let’s get the party started in whatever venue you choose — the office, community functions or maybe just in your home with those closest to you opting for another quiet celebration.

Here’s hoping we keep close to our hearts the real reason for the season — and everything else will fall into place.

Savory Holiday Rolls

4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. mashed potato flakes

1 pkg. (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. dill weed

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

2 cups water

4-1/2 tsp. butter

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 large egg, room temperature

3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


2 Tbsp. fat-free milk

4-1/2 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. dill weed

1/2 tsp. dried basil

 In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, sugar, potato flakes, yeast, salt, dill and garlic powder. In a small saucepan, bring water and butter just to a boil.

In a small bowl, pour boiling liquid over oats. Let stand until mixture cools, stirring occasionally. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add egg; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough, which will be sticky.

On a floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Knead in mozzarella cheese. Place in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning once to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1/4 hours.

Punch down the dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 24 pieces. Shape each into a ball. Place 9 x 13-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray; brush milk over rolls.

In another small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; sprinkle over tops. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers, if there are any. 

Baked Potato Casserole

8 medium baking potatoes 

1/2 cup butter, cubed

2/3 cup sour cream

2/3 cup milk

1 tsp. salt

3/4 teaspoon pepper

10 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled, divided

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

4 green onions, chopped, divided

Preheat oven to 425°. Scrub potatoes; pierce several times with a fork. Bake until tender, 45-60 minutes. Remove from oven; reduce oven setting to 350°.

Cool potatoes slightly; cut each one in half, lengthwise. Scoop pulp into a large bowl; Mash up with butter; stir in sour cream, milk, salt and pepper.. (Discard potato skins or use later as an appetizer with additional cheese, bacon, etc.) 

 Reserve 1/4 cup crumbled bacon for topping. Into potato mixture,  gently mix in remaining bacon, 1 cup cheese and half the green onions. Transfer to a large greased baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese and green onions; sprinkle with reserved bacon. Bake until heated through and cheese is melted,  about 15 minutes.

Jell-O Cake          

1 box white cake mix

1 box strawberry or lime Jell-O (or flavor of your choice)

1 (8 oz.) Cool Whip 

Preheat oven and prepare and bake cake per box directions.

Let cool to room temperature. With fork, poke holes in cake.

Mix Jell-O as directed on box. Immediately pour over cake.                          Cool in refrigerator for about an hour. Once cake is cool, cover with Cool Whip and return to refrigerator. It’s best to chill for several hours or overnight. 

Cranberry Pineapple Salad

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, in juice, undrained

2 pkg. (3 oz.) raspberry Jell-O

1 can (16 oz.) whole berry cranberry sauce

 1/3 can chopped walnuts or pecans

1 apple, chopped

Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Add enough water or juice to measure 2½ cups. Pour into saucepan and bring to a boil. Add dried gelatin mix; stir 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Stir in pineapple, cranberry sauce, nuts and apple. Refrigerate until it sets up.  

Sour Cream Pound Cake

1 box Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Cake mix

1 (8 oz.) carton sour cream

4 eggs

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup cold water

1/3 cup Crisco oil

Mix all ingredients with electric mixer until well blended. Batter will be thin. Bake in a greased and floured tube pan 45-55 minutes at 375. 

This is good frosted with sour cream/white frosting or served plain.