Barbara McClellan

Well, like it or not, we need to get on the ball for Christmas or other holiday preparation. Somehow, with the horror of the year past and having to deal those difficulties, I have made the mistake of almost ignoring the fact that we are already into December. I think it’s time to remember (and maybe sing, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute” from the show, “Mame”).

Before I start with some new (or old Christmas recipes), I want to tell you something about last week’s delicious Almond Pecan Cake that came to me from Jerri Palmer. No, I did not get anything wrong, but my wonderful “almost son”/ hairdresser/dear friend, Mark Eberhart suggested that cream cheese frosting might be good on this recipe. Though the cake is good enough as is, (I froze part to keep it out of sight) this just knocks it out of the park.

Almond Frosting


4 ounces cream cheese softened

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 tablespoons milk

3 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon almond flavoring

1 cup toasted, chopped pecans


Mix well and spread over the Almond Cake (from last week’s column). Instead of putting the pecans into the frosting, I sprinkled them over the top.

All right, I feel guilty that I have not reshared the easy peanut brittle recipe I have had for at least 30 years. Now, if you are 60-plus years old or have my cookbooks, you might remember this recipe. I think I got it when I was teaching microwave cooking for Amana.

Microwave Peanut Brittle


1 cup raw peanuts

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup white corn syrup

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon baking soda


Mix peanuts, sugar, syrup and salt in microwave-safe pitcher or bowl. Cook on full power in microwave for 7-8 minutes, stirring after 4 minutes. Add butter, and microwave for 1 minute more. Add soda and stir gently until light and foamy. Pour and spread gently onto a greased 10-by-18-inch well-buttered cookie sheet. Let cool. Break into pieces and store in air-tight container. Note, on most microwaves, 7 minutes cooking time (at first) is sufficient. Candy should begin to smell like roasting peanuts and candy should begin to look light golden brown. If not, cook 1 more minute before adding soda.

As long as we are indulging, let’s make some microwave pralines.

Microwave Pralines


3/4 cup buttermilk

2 cups sugar

2 cups pecan halves

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon baking soda


Stir together buttermilk, sugar, pecans, salt and butter in a 4-quart microwave dish. Microwave on Full Power for 12 minutes, stirring after every 4 minutes. Stir in soda. Microwave on Full power for 1 minute. Beat for 1 minute and drop by teaspoonfuls on buttered foil. Makes about 72 pieces.

The last recipe is the appetizer that I mentioned a few weeks ago that is probably the one recipe that I have made the most times. It is quick, easy and can be made days ahead or 30 minutes ahead. Mary Lawler sent it to me several years ago. It can be molded into a Christmas tree shape, or in a ball, or almost any shape.

Mary’s Ranch Cheese Ball


2 packages (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened to room temp.

1 package (1 ounce) dry Ranch dressing mix

Seasoned black pepper (my favorite is Lawry’s)


Mix cream cheese and dry Ranch dressing. Mold into desired shape and sprinkle with pepper. Garnish with parsley and red bell pepper for holiday entertaining.

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— Barbara Richardson McClellan is a longtime food columnist. Write her at or in care of the Longview News-Journal, P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.