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The holidays are upon us, and everyone will soon be in a mad rush to do the best Martha Stewart imitation they can: festive home, good food and cocktails at the ready for droppers-by, perfectly wrapped gifts, etc. It takes a lot of labor to attain that somewhat short-lived sense of holiday perfection and bliss.

Some people aren’t fond of the holidays, though I am in the opposite camp. I like it when the radio station I listen to in the car starts playing nothing but Christmas music, and I enjoy driving through neighborhoods looking at all the decorations and taking in the luminaries on Stratford Avenue. In fact, I am the person in Nebraska who likes fruitcake.

Another thing I look forward to around the holidays is making recipes that have been passed down from friends and family. Along with cookie recipes and things like sauerbraten from the old family cookbook, my grandfather’s Tom & Jerry batter is crowd pleaser, and so is the mulled wine recipe I’ve listed here which came from my good friend Ruth’s Austrian mother. I’ve made the recipe for years and years, and I know it by heart, but I always make it a point to call Ruth in December to ask about it. When I call, it’s not so much about the recipe, but more to remember the good times we had when we were in college, and reminisce about how much fun we had when her parents would come here from Austria to teach at UNL for the summers. Werner and Elisabeth Leinfellner have passed on, but every time I make this wine, I remember them fondly.

Elisabeth’s Mulled Wine

4C burgundy

4C water

1 C sugar

1 orange

Handful of cloves

3-4 cinnamon sticks

Simply poke the whole cloves into the unpeeled orange, mix the first 3 ingredients together in a large pot on the stove, stir over low to medium heat until the sugar has evaporated and put in the orange. Set the stove to the lowest heat and enjoy.

Tom & Jerry Batter

12 eggs, separated

1/2 tsp. salt

1 lb. butter, room temperature

3 lbs. confectioners' sugar

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1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. ground allspice

Beat egg whites and salt until foamy in a metal bowl until stiff peaks form.

Beat the egg yolks to soft peaks in a separate bowl. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla to the butter mixture; mix. Stir in the nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and the egg whites; beat until well-blended. Batter can be refrigerated for several weeks.

To make a Tom and Jerry, put 2 T batter in a mug with a ½ shot of rum and a ½ shot of whiskey and add hot water to the top.

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