Easy About Africa

easy_350When I was a little girl I was given a membership to a record collection by Unicef with music from all over the world. I loved the international collection, and loved reading about the Peace Corp and missionaries and everything by Pearl S. Buck. I spent my junior year of high school living in South Africa and read voraciously everything by Southern African writers like Nadine Gordimer, Andre Brink, and Wilbur Smith. Three years later at UCLA I took a course in African Lit and my fascination and passion for the African continent deepened.

As my readers know, there is nearly always a piece of me in my books, and that passion for Africa, particularly Zambia, found its way into two of my books: my July ’09 release, Easy on the Eyes, and my Harlequin Presents, Hollywood Husband, Contract Wife. Both stories use South Africa and Zambia settings, both books have sexy male protagonists, and both books have glamour, but Easy on the Eyes is also about finding yourself, and loving yourself, even as we age.

I’ll tell you a secret–I’m afraid of aging. Afraid of growing old. In this country, in our culture, we too often throw away seniors. We put senior citizens in homes and communities of older people, making older people invisible. Powerless. The idea of becoming invisible terrifies me. The idea of one day not being wanted or needed makes me want to give now–to reach out and share and love and connect. And maybe one day if I’m lucky, I’ll still be important and cherished and loved.

Two of the ways I give are through Operation Smile and World Vision. Through World Vision I’ve helped fund a school in Zambia. Through another church organization I fund books and clothes so children can attend school. Some years I can give a lot. Some years I can give only a little. But everything I do–even the smallest amount–still matters. I now sponsor 5 children through World Vision and here is a link to one of the children’s villages/communities:  www.worldvision.org/mySponsorship.

Thank you to all who made donations, too. I appreciate your support and I know World Vision and Operation Smile do, too.

And to celebrate my love of Africa, I have a special contest with 1 grand prize winner receiving a 2011 Safari Calendar, a glass Safari suitcase Christmas ornament, Africa trivia cards, a signed copy of Easy on the Eyes, a signed copy of Hollywood Husband, Contract Wife, a Starbucks drink card and JP reader goodies. Four runner up winners will receive a signed copy of Easy plus reader goodies. Want a chance to win? Anybody doing holiday baking? If you were to only make one treat this December, what would it be? Tell me about your favorite holiday treat–or even better, share the recipe if you feel like it–and you’re entered. The contest runs through Thursday night and I’ll announce the 5 winners Friday morning.


  1. What a lovely and heartfelt post. It touched me greatly and was meaningful. A recipe that I always make at this time of year are my special brownies that are delectable. These goodies are made with love, care and sweetness. I make a few batches and give them to my friends, children and the retirement home around the corner. They are always grateful for my visit since I drop by with my Maltese, books and these scrumptious treats.

  2. Hi!

    No Christmas holiday would be the same without my butter tarts:

    Laney’s Butter Tarts
    1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
    2/3 cup (160 mL) corn syrup
    2 eggs
    1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
    1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
    24-34 frozen mini tart shells (or make your own)
    Mix first 5 ingredients well. (I use the electric mixer.) Pour into tart shells. Bake in 425oF (220oC) preheated oven for 13 minutes.
    * Can add raisins if you like.

  3. Jane,

    It is clear in your writing (especially in this post), and in the way you give to your family, you have a heart of pure gold.

    My absolute favorite treat to make for our family is fudge. We have a brittle diabetic daughter so we tend to only make fudge during the holidays. It is the one thing that brings back so many warm memories, and is at the heart of creating new ones. I have decided, with the snow falling and all of us stuck inside the house, today would be a perfect day to make fudge!

    Here is a quick and easy recipe (we leave out the nuts): http://www.fudge-recipes.net/chocolate-fudge.htm

    Happy Holidays!

  4. I’m not baking, but maybe I can convince my cousin to make some shortbread cookies. I would enjoy decorating them.

  5. My tradition of baking, of course, starts with my Nana. So in connection to your fear of growing old, I learned to bake from my 82yr old Italian Grandmother who would never ever have a box mix in her pantry and is my favorite person ever. I make homemade Pumpkin Bread every year. I actually made my first batch of 2010 on Saturday and brought a loaf to a Holiday boutique today. Need to email the recipe to a couple of the people too! It is delicious and totally fattening and worth it all! And to boot, your house smells awesome! Here it is:

    3 cups sugar
    1 cup corn oil
    4 eggs
    1 (1 lb)can whole pumpkin
    3.5 cups flour
    1 teasp baking powder
    1 teasp baking soda
    2/3 cup water
    1/2 teasp salt
    1/2 teasp ground cloves
    1 teasp cinnamon
    1 teasp allspice
    1 teasp nutmeg

    Beat well, bake in 2 greased loaf pans for 1 hr at 350.


  6. Jane,
    Our favorite this year is gingerbread cookies in all different shapes.

    Insightful comment about aging.

  7. We cannot control how others see us, but we can control how we behave, what we say, and how we feel about ourselves…no matter our chronological age.

    With the passing of Elizabeth Edwards today, it struck me that my impression of her was one of grace…of taking the high road, not only under the strain of her illness, but also in regard to the unfortunate public revelations regarding her marriage. As a person with an illness, she did not dissolve into an object of pity, she met her life on the best terms that she could manage.

    I believe that we can choose to feel/act powerless in situations such as hers, or as we age, or as we sit on the other side of the world listening to reports of acts of injustice. Or not. We can make a choice to act, to give a gift, write a letter, remain active, to raise a voice.

    We are only as invisible as we believe ourselves to be. We are as good as we choose to behave. We are as beautiful, at any age, as are our hearts and minds.

    And…on top of that, today I’m making cranberry bread…

    1 1/2 cups of rough chopped fresh cranberries
    1 cup sugar
    1 1/2 tsp baking soda
    2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
    1 well beaten egg
    3/4 cup orange juice
    1 tablespoon orange zest

    Sift dry ingredients together, stir in juice, zest, shortening, and egg until well blended. Fold in cranberries.

    Bake in a loaf pan @ 350 for 55 minutes to an hour. Makes the house smell wonderful

    Merry Christmas!

  8. One of my family’s favorite cookies are Oreo bon bons.

    1 package Oreo cookies
    1 – 8 ounce pkg cream cheese
    1 pkg chocolate almond bark

    Crush Oreo cookies in a food processor until very fine.
    Add softened cream cheese. Work well with hands or heavy mixer. Chill mixture for an hour or put in freezer 15-20 minutes. Remove from fridge and roll into bite-sized balls. Dip into melted almond bark and let dry on waxed paper. Keep refrigerated.

    I like to add mint to the mixture so they kind of taste like the Girl Scouts’ Thin Mints.

  9. You will never be forgotten with all you do for others and the special relationship you have with your readers/friends and your wonderful family and your outreached families. I’ll be making an old family recipe of Polish cookies made with anise oil and baking ammonia…also some brittle and toffee. I am saddened by the death of Elizabeth Edwards, she radiated total grace. Jane, you are very special and you will age gracefully and be loved forever…that’s for sure. Thanks for the fun you give us too…Ruth

  10. I always make pecan pies for Christmas but the special treat I make is Pecan Devinity Rolls, since it takes several hours to do this I wait until my son is home from college to have an extra hand with making them. He love to make home made candies during the holidays. Last year he helped with Peanut Brittle because he loves it so he was all for helping make it.

  11. Jane, you are always an inspiration to me! You’ll never be insignificant, because you care about and give yourself to others.
    Every Christmas for many years, my family’s favorite cookie, they all helped wrap up was Rum/Brandy Balls (ate a few in the making too!) :>D
    2 – 7 1/4 oz. pkg. vanilla wafers (crushed into fine crumbs)
    1/2 cup honey
    1/3 cup brandy
    1/3 cup white rum
    1# shelled walnuts, finely ground
    granulated sugar to roll balls in.
    Mix together vanilla wafer crumbs, honey, brandy, rum, & ground nuts. Shape into round bite-sized balls; roll each in granulated sugar. Wrap each ball in Saran Wrap squares big enough to twist tight at top like a purse. Flavor improves with holding! Makes about 5 doz. balls

  12. Hi Jane,

    I always do a lot of Christmas baking at this time, especially cookies, and I love all the cookies but if I have to choose a favorite it gotta be the danish “specier”. A very easy recipe just with powdered sugar, butter and flour. They tastes so good.

  13. My favorite holiday treat is Peppermint Bark- YUMMY!!! It is so easy to make too.

    All you need is candy canes and white chocolate chips. You grind the candy canes down in a food processor. You slowly melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave (30 seconds at a time) and then once melted you add the candy canes to it. Then spread the mixture on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Spread out and put the tray in the freezer until harden. Break into small bite size pieces and serve. Goes great with a Starbucks coffee 🙂

  14. Oooooh Jane! You’ll never be invisible. With a giving and caring heart like yours, your kindness will be returned. It will. That young’un of yours will certainly take care of you. 🙂
    You got to be picky about those senior homes too. Have you been to some of them lately? It’s not so much like the “old” days. Some of them are like living in a dorm. Games, parties, food and drinks all day. I HOPE I get to choose my senior citizen home. I’m going to make sure it’s fun. If you don’t see a smile or hear some laughter as you go down the hallway, go to the next home.

    I’m going to make some peanut butter fudge during the holiday season. Looking forward to it.
    3 c. sugar
    1 stick of butter
    1 c. milk
    Let biol 20-25 mintues, stirring. When forms softball in cold water, turn off heat. (do not overcook)
    1/2 c. Peanut Butter
    1 t. vanilla
    Stir. Pour into dish.



    1 lb of milk chocolate coating wafers (in the candy making aisle at Michael’s Craft Store – they come in 14 ounce bags) – you will need one bag and then a handful out of another bag – so buy 2 bags of milk choc.

    1/2 lb white chocolate coating wafers (so about half a bag of white choc.) – WILTONS was the brand

    1 cup peanuts

    1 cup mini marshmallows

    1. Melt the milk chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for
    two minutes stirring once. Remove the chocolate from the
    microwave and stir until smooth. Melt the white chocolate
    separately following the same directions.

    2. Mix the nuts and the marshmallows together in a small
    bowl, then stir half of them into the milk chocolate. Using a
    spatula, spread the mixture onto a 9″ x 13″ baking sheet
    covered with parchment paper.

    3. Drop the white chocolate by tablespoonfuls over the milk
    chocolate. With the tip of a butter knife, swirl the chocolate
    together to create a marbled effect.

    4. Sprinkle on the remaining peanuts and mini

    5. Refrigerate the bark for about an hour or until firm, then
    break into pieces. Store the bark in the refrigerator or cool
    place for up to a month.

  16. Hey Jane, don’t count me in. You and I share a similar fear. I don’t want to be forgotten either. Kudos to you for doing what you do to make a difference in the lives of people anywhere in the world.

    I don’t bake, so can’t help you there. I hope all is well. Keep doing what you do and being true to you.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  17. My first reaction upon reading your post was ‘Jane, you won’t have to worry about being cherished and loved; you’ve got family’.

    I went through a phaze somewhat similar and even phoned a niece and said ‘don’t forget about auntie in her old age’. You see, I have no children(have 3 stepchildren)so who is going to check in on me if dh is gone and I’m alone. I worked in a level 1 and 2 Personal Care Home and it was sad that some residents hardly ever had visitors.

    I, too, sponsor 4 children in El Salvador for school; they get their meals, supplies and a uniform. This is through a church I used to attend.

    One treat that I couldn’t do without is my Cherry Bars – they are just like Nanaimo bars but you put cherries (cut up)and cherry juice in the middle instead of Birds Custard; the rest is the same. They are to die for.

    I’ve done my baking – 3 different kinds of loaves, 2 cookies and Snack Mix.

  18. Hello. I always bake at the holidays and a favorite of my family are the Peanut Butter Blossoms, but instead of using a Hershey’s Kiss for the top, I use a small Reeses Peanut Butter Cup or a Hershey’s Hug.

  19. I LOVE baking monster cookies. They’re basically cookies with everything you could possibly imagine…chocolate chips, peanut butter, vanilla, oatmeal, red and green M&Ms for festivity. Cute and tasty!


  20. I do a lot of baking every year around Christmas. It runs in my blood and even when I say I’m not going to do much on certain years, I still end up making at least 10 different things. It’s a passion of mine and it brings back memories of both of my Grandmothers, who I miss dearly. My favorite treat was one from my Grandma (of course) Peanut Butter Fudge. I still am doing something wrong, as last year mine never got firm. Oh well…one day I’ll figure it out..maybe! 🙂

  21. At our house we are skipping the baking and giving to our local food bank.

    Full tummies for those who have little and warmed hearts for us.

    It is more fun to give than to receive. God bless you Jane for all you do and don’t worry loving eyes don’t see our aging bodies, they see instead our youthful hearts and spirits!

  22. Beautiful post, Jane! You will always be cherished…those boys will never forsake you. The children you help thru World Vision will remember the generous heart that made a difference in their lives. You are a beautiful light that will never fade!

    Holiday baking? Bring it on!! I like candy cane cookies (sugar cookies with half the dough colored and flavored peppermint), my mother in law is a wonderful baker and she sends many great things our way. I used to bake a lot more before the kids, now the time is fleeting. I can barely get dinner on the table sometimes. ((o: I want to be remembered for my tasty meals and delicious cookies (choc chip).

    Hope you’re enjoying a fun holiday season, Jane. We hope to get our tree up this weekend.

    Hugs from Tustin,

  23. My favorite Christmas treat is buckeyes. You make them with peanut butter and rice krispies and of course chocolate. My mom used to make them when i was a good and i still love them but don’t make them myself because I’d eat to many lol. I just wait and see if my moms making them so can get a few at least. So good!

    Lisa B

  24. Jane, I don’t think you will ever be forgotten. You have too good of a heart and are loved by many!
    I love to bake this time of year. Don’t ask me why I do, it just means I can’t fit into my jeans comfortably, but that’s another story. My favorite recipe is Dream bars. A gooey, coconut, chocolate, condensed milk and graham cracker creation. And yes, it’s as sinful and calorie packed as it sounds…but it’s delightful!

  25. I don’t do much baking for the holidays, we always spend the day at my sister’s house. She is watching her sugar intake so we are all trying not to tempt her this year. So pumpkin pie is probably all we will have sweet wise.

  26. I don’t bake very well but I love to decorate cookies. I make the simple place and bake cookies and add different colored icing and sprinkles. I make each one unique. I must be doing something right because they go pretty quick.

    Another thing I love to do is make chocolate covered pretzels. I like making them over buying them. I think it is so peaceful annd fun. We eat them just as fast as we make them most of the time. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

  27. This has been a rough day and your post was timely. I share a fear of growing old, but you did the one thing that trumps that isolation – you reached out. Continuing to reach out to help others, to connect, to celebrate the holidays – this turns age into just a number. And I’ve earned every year and every birthday!

    Pumpkin bread is a holiday staple here, but if I could really get my hands dirty and covered in goodies, I’d make Russian Tea Cakes. I love them, but almost ever make them. Betty Crocker has a good recipe, use any nuts you like (pecans, yum!).


  28. Jane your posting was beautiful.
    As a just turned “50” years young woman( I spent it on the Big Island!!), I too fear getting older, I see and work with Seniors daily, some with great care, some not..I try and make their visit good, chat with them and always give a compliment and listen to them.
    Now for cookies.. I make my Mother in Laws Molasses cookies, since she had a stroke and is unable to, and give them to the family, and in honor of my Grandmother, I make Bizchochitos, a sugar cookie from New Mexico with anise seeds and cinnamon sugar on top.. yum..! would post but wrote too much!

  29. I actually understand how you feel, but from the perspective of the one who cared for the forgotten/invisible senior. I worked for many years in the Convalescent industry, both in hospitals and home health. Unfortunately I saw the result of your fear…the loneliness, depression, anxiety, frustration, anger and sadness. 🙁 I saw what just the tiny bit of attention I as a CNA could give would do for my patients. Their faces would light up just like Christmas trees. It spurred me to find ways to connect on a personal basis with each and every one of my patients every day. So I found something they liked and developed ways to inject that into our points of contact during the days I worked with them. For instance I had a Hispanic patient with Alzheimer’s stage 4…I learned to sing “La Bamba”, “De Colores” and “La Cucaracha”. I would sing them as I was caring for this patient who no longer spoke. After a few short weeks this patient began humming, and shortly after that they began singing occasional words. The day that persons spouse came in and heard them singing made the whole thing totally worthwhile. The smile on both of their faces would have warmed even “The Grinch’s” tiny little heart. 😀

    Our favorite family treat is a flashback to yesteryear…I have made them for more than 25 years from a recipe I got from a dear friend…Snickerdoodles. They remind us all of hearth and home and even feel like Christmas!


    2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    2 teaspoons cream of tartar

    1 teaspoon of baking soda

    1 cup butter, room temperature

    1 1/2 cups sugar

    2 large eggs

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract


    1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated white sugar

    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

    Directions: In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda.

    In another large bowl beat the butter and sugar until smooth (about 2-3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough. If the dough is soft, cover and refrigerate until firm enough to roll into balls (one to two hours).

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

    Shape the dough into 1 inch round balls.

    Coating: In a large shallow bowl mix together the sugar and cinnamon.

    Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon sugar and place on cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Then, using the bottom of a glass, gently flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch thick.

    Bake the cookies for about 8-10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.(For crispy cookies cook slightly longer.)

    Can store in an airtight container, at room temperature, for about 10 – 14 days.

    Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

    From the Johnson Family to ours…and from our Family to yours. Best Wishes for a Blessed Christmas Season! ♥

    Gayle Pullen

  30. Hola Jane!

    I really enjoy making Paula Dean’s ‘Not yo mamma’s banana pudding’. I will make it for any holiday as it is that good.

  31. Peppermint Bark! Oh I love it, especially with a dark chocolate layer on the bottom.

    Don’t enter me in the contest, I just loved this post of good cheer and spreading joy and health to others.

    Happy Holidays!

  32. Our church sends a group of people every year to Zambia. I’ve almost gone a few times, but something always happened that wouldn’t allow it. The church has an orphanage there and I look forward to seeing pictures and hearing about the happenings their. My dream is to still go there someday. When I read Easy on the Eyes, it fueled that desire even more. This year for Christmas I will make my usual Chocolate Covered Pretzels. Everyone expects them. It’s so funny, to me. It reminds me of the Rice Krispies commercical where the mother is making them in the kitchen…while reading and throws flour on herself to make it look like she worked so hard on them. They are the ultimate comfort food…and I like making people feel comfortable. 😀 Merry Christmas!

  33. For me growing old isn’t an issue. I actually don’t mind it (though I have to admit that pushing 42 I still get carded more times then not and most people think my kids are my friends) but even so I don’t mind. I’ve always lost interest in the celebs that have plastic surgery to stop from looking older because they should be setting a role model on growing old with dignity not trying to be something they are not. And half the time it doesn’t turn out great. In the end as long as you’re beautiful inside, which you are, it’ll come through on the outside no matter what age you are.
    Now, favorite cookie recipe? Anything I don’t have to bake. LOL.
    But we do have one of those cupcake makers (looks like a george foreman grill but makes perfect mini cupcakes) and we make them for work/school/functions about 1-2 times a week. one box of cake mix makes 40+ mini cupcakes.The machine is called BABYCAKES and is about 25.00 in stores.

  34. I sarted baking when I was about 13 for I always loved to bake and my cousin and his 3 friends were in Viet Nam, so I sent care packages to them and others. I always made my banana bread for it was good…i still make it for gifts and I make cookies. My staple is banana bread, my son and his friends are asking for some now and I’m behind schedule. Its an easy recipe so delicious..Banana Bread 1/2 stick butter-maragine 3/4cup sugar, 2egssa 1.1/2cupflour 1teaspoon baking soda, 1teaspoon salt 3med.bananas mashed 3Tablespoon sour cream 1/2chopped pecans or walnuts Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. add eggs and beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients,mahed banana and sour cream, beat well. fold in nuts. Pour into a well greased loaf pan(9x5x3) Bake at 325 for 1hour. I triple it for my holiday baking for one loaf just isn’t enough at my house..I always wanted to go to Africa thats my dream to go on a church mission, my church is looking into going next summer, I want to go for my daughter willbe graducating form high school that May. Have a wonderful holiday with your family and I wish you the best New Year ever!

  35. This year will start new traditions because I quit eating meat and dairy at the first of the year. But the recipe below (along with my personal comments) is a favorite and likely to become a holiday tradition. 🙂

    Vanilla-Yogurt Pound Cake

    1/2 cup vanilla soy yogurt
    1/2 cup blended silken tofu (blend the tofu first, then measure it out . . . NOTE: I’ve found that 1/4 to 1/3 of a silken tofu package will blend out into the 1/2 cup)
    3/4 cup vanilla or plain soy milk
    1-1/4 cups sugar
    1/2 cup canola oil
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon lemon extract or 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
    1/2 teaspoon orange extract or 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest (NOTE: I’ve never used the lemon or orange extracts/zest – I’ve always made this will 1 teaspoon almond extract as a substitute)
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    3 tablespoons arrowroot powder (I’ve made it with the arrowroot power and almond meal/flour – I haven’t noticed a difference between the two)
    1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour (I don’t flour) a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. A metal pan with a dark finish is the best choice for this cake (I only have a glass pan – it works fine.).

    In a large bowl, combine the soy yogurt, blended silken tofu, soy milk, sugar, oil and extracts. Use an electric mixer to beat until everything is smooth, about 2 minutes.

    Sift in the flour (I think I’ve only done the sifting once), arrowroot powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir with a rubber spatula (I don’t have a rubber spatula – I use a wooden spoon) to combine (if you don’t do this part, flour goes everywhere – I know from experience!), then beat with electric beaters for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, until a very thick batter forms. Don’t overmix.

    Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Use the rubber spatula (see note above 🙂 ) to scrape all of the batter out of the bowl and smooth the top of the loaf. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (a little moisture is okay). Don’t open the oven to peek for at least the first 45 minutes of baking!

    Remove from the oven and let cook in the pan 10 minutes, then carefully transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. Store the cake in an airtight container.

    It also says the oven should heat for at least 20 minutes before putting the cake in the oven. I also tried this as muffins. Prepare the same as above but cook for 25 minutes.

  36. It feels like I bake constantly, but I decorate my cakes differently during the holidays. I use the red mini M&Ms to Cover my red velvet bundt cakes. Not just sprinkle, Cover the cake…(the regular M&Ms are milk chocolate, and the mini “baking” M&Ms are semi-sweet.)

    Thank you for your warm, heart-felt post.

  37. hi jane. you truly are a giver and i truly don’t ever think you could become invisible with your heart being as big as it is!
    my mom passed 12 years ago, unexpectedly from cancer after a two week “illness”. caught us all off guard. we weren’t able to get alot of her most beloved recipies, so i did find one similar to hers online a few years back. it is for:
    brown sugar pinwheel cookies.
    you need:
    1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar. 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened. 1 egg. 1 teaspoon vanilla. 2 cups all-purpose flour. 2 teaspoons baking powder. 1/4 teaspoon salt. 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa.
    preheat oven to 350 degrees. grease cookie sheets. beat brown sugar and butter in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. add egg and beat until creamy. stir together flour, baking powder, and salt;gradually add to sugar mixture. divide dough in half. add cocoa to one-half dough. roll dough separately on floured counter into 2 rectangles about 1/4-inch thickness. top one with the oter and press together. roll up lengthwise, jelly roll fashion. trim edges;wrap and chill. when firm, cut roll into 1/4 inch slices and bake on prepared cookie sheets for 12-15 minutes. makes about 3 dozen cookies. merry christmas!

  38. I like to make seven layer magic cookie bars and cherry oatmeal white chocolate chunk cookies for the holidays.

  39. My choice would be individual cheese cakes TO DIE FOR My friends love mini peanut butter cup snesations… but since my son is allergic to peanuts I have to make them when he isn’t home & pretty much have the Hazmat team clean my kitchen after I’m done 🙂 Merry Christmas Jane!!!!!

  40. Oh, I bake alright, and I eat it too! 😉 I make cookies, candy and caramel corn for family, friends and neighbors every year. I have to say the almond joys are my favorite. It’s a simple recipe with just a couple ingedients, but so yummy!
    Jane, I understand how you feel. I don’t think your family (or anyone) will forget about you. You are too good of a mom, friend and all around a great person. You give so much and I truly believe what you give out in life, you will eventually get in return. Which means you have a lot coming your way! You have such a giving heart — that’s the way everyone should be. Have a wonderful week!

  41. I always make bread during the holidays. Any and all types but my favorite is bananna and pumpkin.

  42. I love to bake every holiday! I usually bake something for my work colleagues as well as my husband’s to save a little money as well. If I could only pick one to bake this year it would be the thumbprint jam cookies I just found a recipe for. They are SO GOOD and taste like crumbly shortbread!

  43. I love those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey’s kisses in the middle… But Hubby is trying to lose weight and won’t let me bake cookies, so sad… 🙁

  44. Ok, I have three older sisters. Yep, I’m the baby. We all have fears and I believe with fear comes strength. We’ve all made a promise to each other that if and when we get old and our husbands pass away then we will all take care of each other and live together. Plus, I will have a freakin gun and pop a cap in someones rearend that trys to put me away and forget about me. Huh, I plan on living life to the fullest, giving, loving, caring and sharing.

    My family and friends enjoy my cheesecakes. For many years as an extra dessert around the Christmas table I would prepare the cheesecake and pour the mixture into the mini/single serve Keebler/gram crust. The toppings would be placed on the table. Most toppings that were offered would be cherry, strawberry, or even blueberry.

  45. I must admit I don’t bake very often because I tend to eat too much. I like the basics such as brownies and chocolate chip cookies. I tend to cheat and buy the box of brownie mix at Sam’s Club. It is delish–triple chocolate. Give it a try.

  46. Gosh, so many great recipes here to try, thanks everyone.
    But… pavlova, with cream and strawberries on top.
    I think everyone downunder has this on Christmas Day. And I’m not good at making them, so I buy one. Yum.

  47. Hi
    I’m born and raised in Switzerland ( I live now in Sweden) and every year on December the 6th – St. Nicolas Day (Santa Clause) we eat the traditional Grittibänz, they are made from a very lightly sweetened brioche dough and taste delicious. For me it’s the one thing I miss the most this time of the year, but when I try to make them myself they just don’t taste the same :/ (There are a lot of pictures of what they look like if you google Grittibänz)

  48. What a lovely post. My friend works for an organization called Alliance for Smiles and he just got back from a trip to Nigeria. They did operations on children that have cleft palates.

    As for baking, I like pumpkin spice bread. I’ll admit though, I just buy the box from Costco, so I don’t make “homemade” pumpkin spice bread, but the Coscto kind is still yummy!

  49. Jane,
    I don’t think about getting older. You are as young as your mind allows you to be.
    As for baking, I bake cookies, but it is the puppy chow that everybody loves.

    Puppy Chow
    1 Cup peanut butter
    1 stick of butter
    1 bag of chocolate chips

    Melt together. Add Chex Party mix. Stir in until completely covered in chocolate mixture. Next, take a plastic bag and dump in a bag of powdered sugar. Pour chocolate chex mixture into bag and shake until completely covered in white. This is messy, but the kids love to do this part!!
    Lastly, divide into festive bags.

    Puppy Chow is a wonderful teacher gift especially as your kids get into junior high and high school because you can divide it up and give it out as you like.

  50. We Love Mississippi Mud-cake.

    Here is the recipe:

    1 c chopped pecans
    1 c butter (2sticks) I use real butter
    1 4oz square semi-sweet chocolate baking chocolate.
    2 c sugar
    1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
    4 large eggs
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    3/4 tsp of salt. ( if I use salted butter I leave this salt out.

    1 (10.5 oz bag of marshmallows

    toast 1/4 of the pecans on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes for 10 minutes. set aside.

    <microwave butter and baking chocolate in large bowl for 1 minute on high or until melted.

    Beat sugar and next 5 ingredients into chocolate mixture. Pour batter in a greased and flour 13×9 pan. (I use the Baker Joy baking spray).
    Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
    While cake is baking make icing

    1 box of 10X powdered sugar
    1/3 cup cocoa
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    6 Tablespoons of milk
    mix together with electric

    When cake comes out of the oven immediately sprinkle top with all the marshmallows. I invert a cookie sheet and put on top of the cake to keep the heat in and speed the melting of the marshmallows. When marshmallows are melted then drizzle icing all over the marshmallows. Take toasted pecans and sprinkle on top of the chocolate icing.

    This is very rich treat we all love around my house.

    Merry Christmas!

  51. I am not going to be baking this year. If I wasn’t so consumed with work, I would love to. We have a lot of bakers in the family, so I’m sure I’ll still see plenty of goodies. My favorite are gingerbread cookies!

  52. I’ve been thinking about the aging process and the loss of power it can mean too.

    A 97 year old family member of mine just died and was cherished to the end. She survived the 1918 flu epidemic, studied at Julliard, married her husband when she was 29 and he was 19, outlived him after 50 something blissful years, traveled to every continent except Antartica, and in her last years, stayed in touch with a son who moved out of the country with Skype. She had the patience to teach piano to little kids and listen to elderly people repeat stories. The caretakers that became necessary loved it when she expressed gratitude for the things they did for her. I don’t usually write long posts but she was so special and I think expressing heartfelt gratitude and appreciation kept her going and kept her visible.

    I don’t make my favorite Holiday treat — it’s Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses. And I have a feeling that you will rock every year of a very long life, Jane!

  53. Good post Jane (happy holiday season) – think many of us are scared of aging. I know I am! So much!!! When I was a kid growing up, I always looked at older people with admiration and they always filled me with such positivity and hope. Nowadays, it’s very different. Society or whatever drives society doesn’t want us to age – it wants us to have botox and no curves etc etc

    My fave holiday treats are truffles made with marshmallow centres, pavlova and the BBQ lunch that we always have on Christmas Day – even if it rains!

    Merry Christmas All 🙂

  54. I love elderly people, they’re full of such interesting and funny stories. Many have more energy and spunk than us younger folks. My 84 year aunt can shop from 9 am – 4 pm. She goes to aerobics three times a week, works at her church, washes her own car, and reads at least three books a week. She says as long as she can keep moving, she’s going to. She is a true inspiration and is loved by many. Because of her, I don’t fear getting older because I plan on being just like her. 🙂 As far as baking, during the holidays, I am a baking machine! I normally make six or seven kinds of cookies for family, friends and coworkers. Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family Jane!

  55. You don’t realize you’re getting old until people start offering to help you load groceries into your car at the supermarket or assist you. I am 70 and I don’t think of myself as old except in years. I still feel the same, think the same etc.
    I love Mexican Wedding cookies, those little shortbread cookies with pecans rolled in powdered sugar.

  56. I don’t think I’m doing any serious baking this year, I am seriously running out of time! Just some cookies (and nothing fancy:). My favorite holiday treat is always cookies – I love the snicker doodles with Hershey’s kisses on top.

    I must confess Africa has never really fascinated me, probably because I don’t know much about it. But I LOVED easy on the eyes – especially the part of the story set in Africa. I also recently read a good book that was set in both London & South Africa! I think you’d like it. The author obviously loves the continent as well….her vivid descriptions made me want to jump on a plane!

    The Perfect Happiness, by Santa Montefiore.

    You’ll always be loved – because your a loving person with kids, family, friends & thousands of fans! Your books will always be around, sparking more love. Plus – I tell my kids all the time, they have to love me BEST, FOREVER:)!

    And lets not forget about WISDOM~! Our gift for aging.

  57. Hi Jane

    Another great blog!

    I don’t usually bake much because I tend to gain weight quickly from eating sugar and once I start its hard to stop! But I do remember my grandmother making “church windows” with chocolate and other sinful ingrediants and different colored mini marshmallows and then rolling the mixture in coconut and making a log, then you cut it into slices and it becomes church windows.

    I have to say though that I copied down the recipe for the brandy/rum balls and plan on making those!!

    Bon Appetit!

  58. I am excited to try making a new treat this year. It was on Good Morning America the other day & I just printed the recipe. It’s Brownie Cheesecake Peppermint Bars! How decadent does that sound? 🙂

  59. Wow, Jane, today’s blog took me back to high school English class. We got to choose a pen pal and mine was from Zambia! I loved writing to him and I think he felt the same…I still have all of his letters and a few pictures too. I loved getting the blue air mail letters in my mail box with all of the colorful, cool stamps on them. I often wonder how he is doing and have thought about reconnecting. What a wonderful,caring person you are, and the world is a much better place with you it. I miss my grandparents everyday, and often times wish they were here today, especially my Grandpa Pete who was such a gentle, loving man-someone you could talk to about anything-I think I’m gonna cry… Anyway, I’m not much of a cook or baker, but I love sweets and appreciate the people that share them with me!! Merry Christmas, Jane

  60. This post is making me hungry, making me want to bake but I’m so warm and cozy in my chair. I’ll just open a box of mallomars and make hot cocoa =D I love Christmas cookies — sugar cookies with lost of colored sugar. I used to make them when my children were younger and they’d end up with sticky colored fingers. I miss those days. I wouldn’t worry about “aging” Jane. You still look the same if not younger from when I first met you. You’re so full of life and love and always busy, you’ll “forget” to grow old. Lovya!

  61. Our new item we have added to our holiday treats are Pumpkin muffins/cupcakes with cinnamon chips, frosted with yummy cream cheese frosting. My daughter Kenzie made them for us on the 4th of July. These muffins/cupcakes are wonderful and the cinnamon chips explode like firecrackers in your mouth. Plus, they are super easy to make.

    One Box of Yellow Cake Mix (any brand)
    One Can of Pumpkin
    1/2 of a bag of Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips
    Can of Cream Cheese Frosting

    1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 12 cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.
    2.In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix and pumpkin until smooth, add cinnamon chips, mixing in by hand. Spoon equal amounts of batter into the prepared muffin cups.
    3.Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.

    Let cool. Frost and eat!
    They are even wonderful without the frosting.

  62. Hi Jane,
    I haven’t been able to keep up lately, but just wanted to say, you are an amazing woman…who is loved by so many people. Your compassion and generosity is easily visible to us. I know I’m repeating myself when I tell you, you are one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met…inside and out! As for baking ~ you’ve already tasted some of my chocolate treats and I usually bake cookies at Christmas time. My aunt and I had started this tradition about 14 years ago. I haven’t started any baking yet due to some family matters, but I hope to be able to make a few types next weekend. My favorite is called “Italian Nutball”, or the more traditional thumbprints. I will come back to post the recipe during the weekend (I need to find it-lol). I’ll be in touch.
    Love ya,

  63. Hi all!

    I’m here to announce the grand prize winner and my runner up winners. Winners, please please send me your mail address ASAP and if you want your book signed to you or someone else. With the holidays fast approaching I want to get everything out in the mail soon!

    The grand prize winner is….#67 Carole!
    Congrats Carole. 🙂

    The other 4 winners are:

    #17 Lesli
    #31 Sharon A
    #34 Gayle P
    #54 Queen N

    Congrats all again!


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