Thursday, 13 December 2012

Stopping by a Christmas Kitchen on a Snowy Evening by Shirley Hailstock

Picture this – a roaring fire in the hearth, one that glows and turns the room into a place as cozy as a your favorite sweatshirt.  You know, the one you’ve had since college that’s worn at the elbows and nowhere near the color it was when it was new.  Big fluffy flakes of snow falling like feathers from the sky and coating the ground and windowsills until the world is marshmallow white.  Warm cinnamony smells emanating from a country kitchen and wafting throughout the house making it an edible wonderland.  These are some of my favorite things.  I grew up in snow country – the wilds of Buffalo, New York (USA). We know snow.  But in conjunction with that, we learned things to do when the weather keeps you indoors.  Most of them are fat free, but there is one that is delicious enough for you to brave the treadmill for an extra mile in order to eat it.

            For me the scenario of snow, fireplace and kitchen goodies is one of my favorites.  It means contrasting the outside by baking something sweet, gooey, and loaded with mouth-watering calories.  I tend to gravitate toward cinnamon rolls.  I love baking cakes, muffins, cookies and bread, but cinnamon rolls are my snowy day indulgence.  Inhaling that sweet air as the cinnamon and sugar melt and bubble up and the dough changes to bread is an experience eclipsed only by curling up in front of the fire with the picture window in full view, my fingers wrapped around a hot cup of coffee and biting into an icing-laden cinnamon roll.

            We had just such a day recently.  It snowed.  The snow didn’t last, didn’t even coat the ground, but the moment I saw the white flakes, memories of my childhood came flooding back.  Just like your best Christmas memory, the thought of cinnamon rolls popped into my mind and had me opening one cabinet after another.  I pulled out my recipe for Cinnabons and checked that all the necessary ingredients were in house.  If they weren’t, the urge was so strong I was willing to drive to the grocery store and buy them.  Luckily, my well-stocked kitchen had everything I needed and I got to work, just like Santa’s elves on the day before Christmas Eve.

            I made the dough in the bread machine.  This was my first time using it for this purpose and it proved a God-send.  The dough was perfect, elastic but not sticky, exactly the way you want it when you knead and knead and knead.  This time without the effort.  The machine even handled the first rise.  And the elasticity made it easier to roll/create the required rectangle before adding the sugar-cinnamon mixture.  I often have problems forming dough into a rectangle when it wants to be a circle.

            Apparently, this was the kind of day when the universe was aligned and everything was working in my favor.  The bonus was a mouth-watering dessert that proved a crowd-pleaser with every member of my family.  There are times when snow is a good thing.

            I live in New Jersey now.  We get snow a few times in the winter.  It’s usually heavy and will close businesses for a day.  At my office once we talked about the foods we love to cook and eat on snow days.  For me it was the cinnamon rolls.  What is your snowy day favorite?

            If cinnamon rolls are as mouth-watering for you as they are for me, I’ve included the recipe below.  Bon-appetite.

Cinnabons (Bread Machine)

Ingredients - Dough
1 package yeast
1 cup warm milk
3 eggs (room temperature)
1/2 cup butter or margarine (melted)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
5 cups flour

Directions: Place above ingredients in bread machine in the order presented.  Consult manufacturers directions to make dough.  Allow it to run through the first rise.  Remove from machine and place on a lightly floured surface while you make the sugar mixture below.

Ingredients - Sugar Mixture
1 cup brown sugar - packed
3 tablespoons cinnamon
½ cup butter or margarine (softened)

Directions: Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, mixing until they are smooth and even.  Mixture will be crumbly (no clumps).  Roll out the dough, creating a 16x20 rectangle.  Spread the butter or margarine over the dough.  Top it with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Beginning at the short end (width), roll the dough into a tight cylinder.  Cut into 12 rolls and place in a slightly greased 9x13 pan.  Let rise until doubled.  Pre-heat oven at 400 degrees.  Bake rolls 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and sugar mixture is bubbly.

Ingredients - Icing
4 oz (113.4 g) cream cheese (softened)
1/3 cup butter
1 ½ cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla flavor (I use pure vanilla not the extract)
1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions: In a small bowl, place the above ingredients.  Using a hand mixer, beat until they are smooth and have the consistency of eggnog or chocolate milk (store bought milk).  It’s a little thick.

When the rolls have cooled enough to touch, but are still warm, pour the icing over them and spread it over the top.  It doesn’t need to be even.  The thickness is based on your taste for icing.

Serve warm.  Coffee, tea or milk is optional.

            In my current Christmas story, entitled The Christmas List, neither heroine, Allie Underwood nor angel Heather make cinnabons, but the idea for the story came to me while the delectable buns were baking in the oven and giving the house a delicious smell.  I was looking at my list of ingredients and thinking of an old Christmas list from my past.

            We all make lists of what we’d like Santa to leave to us on that famous day.  Allie Underwood was in the middle of making a list when tragedy struck.  She’s back on her feet now and knows she has to make changes in her life.  But like all of us, we don’t like change when it’s thrust upon us.  Then she meets Peter Barrett, a man who seems to be her polar opposite.  But she finds he’s like an angel come to life.

            I really enjoyed writing this book, especially when a real angel came to sit on my desk and tell me what I needed to write.  I hope you enjoy it and that everything on your Christmas list is under the tree on Christmas morning.

Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing for a free download of e-book ,The Christmas List, a story about an architect who must help an injured tennis player.  Assisting him is his guardian angel, a thin teenager with an agenda of her own.

Shirley Hailstock

Contact Information:           
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Shirley Hailstock, a bestselling, award-winning novelist, is the author of over twenty-nine novels and novellas. Holding a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Howard University and a MBA in Chemical Marketing from Fairleigh Dickinson University, she left her job in the pharmaceutical industry and is now a full-time writer. Shirley is a past president of Romance Writers of America. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

Excerpt from The Christmas List

Alice Underwood
Christmas List 20. . .

1. Lose 10 pounds.
2. Christmas dress with white fur.
3. Diamond hair comb in the window of McClure’s Jewelry Store.
4. Go to a fancy dress ball and dance with a handsome stranger.
5. Get my tennis academy running and profitable.

Allie’s hand shook when she looked down at the year old paper. Her mouth went dry as she stared at the list she’d begun two years ago. Uncalled for emotions sailed into her like a fast moving train. Her free hand went to her heart, trying to control the sudden beating that she could feel all the way to her head.

The note’s title was clear, but the year had been obliterated by water damage. She didn’t need to see it. She knew exactly when she’d written it. It was during her before period. Before the accident. Before her world collided with a drunk driver. Before life as she knew it and the promising future her friends and family knew was hers, was snatched away in a blinding few seconds that crushed her life, limbs, and career into a space too small for a woman her size.

Balling the single sheet into golf-ball size, Allie tossed it toward the trash can – missing it by inches. She didn’t need to read it. She knew what it said. She also knew the list was moot. Allie wouldn’t get any of her Christmas wishes – not then or now.

“Allie, are you ready?” her sister called from the hall. Allie started taking a deep breath and snapping her attention to the present. From the sound of Melanie’s voice, Allie could tell she was half-way up the stairs.
“Just throwing out some trash,” Allie called. She glanced toward the trash can as if she could see her past.

Melanie pushed the door open and walked in without waiting for Allie to offer her entrance. She was immaculately dressed in black pants, a creamy soft cable-knit sweater and red knee-length boots. Not at all like Allie who wore a simple green dress with long sleeves. It was cinched at the waist by a silver belt whose loop was three dress sizes tighter than it had been a year ago. Allie wore support stockings and shoes with a one-inch heel. There was snow outside, but it had been cleared away leaving adequate paths that could keep her feet dry. Despite spending her entire life in Lighthouse, Maine, Allie did not like boots.

“What are you doing?” Melanie asked, looking around.

“Cleaning out some papers I don’t need anymore.” She wanted to say some old memories, but that would spark more conversation than she wanted to go into with her perceptive sister.


Allie pushed her arms into her coat. “I am now.” She smiled even though she didn’t feel like it.

“It’s cold out, but it hasn’t snowed yet.”

New snow was predicted. Allie saw her sister glance at her shoes. The censure that she should have on the boots Melanie had bought her was there. She ignored it and started for the door.

“I’ll take this down for you,” Melanie said, lifting the nearly full trash can.

Allie gritted her teeth. After two years, she was capable of taking her own trash down the stairs, but Melanie thought she was helping. And Allie’s limp was almost gone. If she didn’t overdo or try to walk too fast, no one could tell she even had a limp.

Melanie took the trash basket to the kitchen and left it next to a larger one. The balled up list still lay on the floor of Allie’s bedroom. Neither of them noticed.


  1. Alas, I don't make lists for Christmas but every now and then I come across something I wrote years ago. It is always interesting to note how life has changed.

    1. Carol,

      I'd be lost without my lists. They are really motivators for me. I love the crossing off process. And since I have so much to do, without the lists, I don't do anything.

      Lists work for me, but I understand that they aren't for everyone. And I come across things I've written at some point in the past. It's good to revisit most of it.


  2. I just love the recipes and excerpt !

    Merry Christmas !


  3. Kym,

    It looks like the Internet ate the message I wrote you. I love recipes and visit a food blog every Friday where I always find something I can try.


  4. Thanks for the recipe. Sounds tasty.


    1. If you ever have a baking moment, try them. They will sate your sweet tooth and have you wanting more. They don't last a day at my house.


  5. I'm always on the look out for new recipes!! And I HAVE to have my lists for Christmas. I am usually hosting a dinner for up to 20 people and without my lists I would be totally lost!!

    in Germany

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I hosted Thanksgiving (American holiday) for my family this year and without a list I'd have left out someone's favorite dish or forgot to buy a crucial ingredient for one of the dishes.

      When I add writing and family doctor's appointments and Christmas patents and singing to the calendar, I need it all written down.


    2. Valerie (in Germany),

      You are the winner of my Guest Blog day. An e-book copy of THE CHRISTMAS LIST is waiting for you.

      Please send me your contact e-mail and I will send the book. I need to know what kind of e-reader you have (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.).

      My e-mail is


  6. Cute excerpt and yummy recipe, Shirley! Our family loves to make chili on cold winter days. And few things beat fresh baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert :) Might have to do that this week...

    Thanks for the fun!

    f dot chen at comcast dot net

  7. FLCHEN,

    I just got your message. The holidays were hectic, but fun and now I have a book deadline looming. But I wanted to say, I love chili. I usually make it and serve it over rice.

    Oatmeal Cookies don't last long here. If they are homemade, no matter how many dozens are made, they're gone in a day and half.