Festive Ham Dinner

I love to cook and bake for the holidays. During this busy season, because I have a full-time job, I get up an hour earlier each morning so I can prepare foods ahead of time for the upcoming celebrations.

It starts with baking our pies 3 weeks before Thanksgiving—I triple-wrap them with aluminum foil and freeze them. For Christmas, I get an early start making treats to fill several pretty holiday plates of goodies I give out.

Also, I plan ahead for our family's festive dinner. While the menu may vary a bit from year to year, there are some "must-haves."

It just would not be Christmas—or Easter—at our house if we did not have Ham with Peach Glaze. With the ham, I'll serve Home-Style Scalloped Potatoes, Beans with Celery Bacon Sauce and Cherry Cheesecake Dessert.

In addition to this traditional fare, I'll add another side dish or two and at least one more dessert.

We like the peach glaze for the ham so much that I always double, if not triple, the recipe.

I have found that the leftover ham, pineapple and glaze taste wonderful served with scrambled eggs and fresh fruit the next morning for breakfast.

Potatoes Can't Be Beat

Over the years, I've tried many extra-nice potato recipes, but I always keep going back to the Home-Style Scalloped Potatoes recipe that was in my high school home economics class cookbook!

It's so good and simple to prepare, which I appreciate when I'm working against the clock. I assemble this dish the day before and refrigerate it.

Beans with Celery Bacon Sauce is a tasty side dish—and pretty, too! I found the recipe in a farm magazine. The first time I made it was many years ago, when my grandmother gave me fresh beans from her garden. The recipe can easily be doubled for a crowd.

My mother made Cherry Cheesecake Dessert for as long as I can remember, and it is my sons' absolute favorite treat.

I serve it for each holiday. It is also requested for every birthday celebration…and our oldest son even wanted it for his college graduation party.

Mom taught me how to cook while I was growing up on the family wheat farm near McPherson, Kansas. She was a wonderful cook but didn't enjoy it. So, cooking became my chore while she worked with my father in the fields.

Dad "Dressed" for Dinner

I took pride in the meals I prepared and often set the dining room table with Mom's china and a white tablecloth for the evening meal. I can still vividly remember the night my dad came to the table—after he had cleaned up from a hot day of harvesting wheat—wearing a tie and no shirt!

My husband, Gene, and I will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary this December. To commemorate it, we are taking the "Canadian Rockies—Christmas in November" tour through World Wide Country Tours.

Gene is in industrial sales, and we were transferred to Tulsa from Wichita, Kansas nearly 20 years ago. We have two sons. Jeff and his wife, Tiffany, live in Edmond, Oklahoma and have busy sales careers. Joel works for an oil company in Midland, Texas.

Homemade, great-tasting food is very important to our family. I am an assis-tant in a commercial real estate office. Although I have worked full-time for the last 36 years, I still manage to cook a lot.

I try to prepare several new recipes each week. Baking cookies, pies, bars and cobblers and making candy are my specialties. But I also enjoy working with fresh seasonal produce.

I have lots and lots of cookbooks. My library includes every issue of Taste of Home and Simple & Delicious, as well as their annual recipe books!

As for other interests, I walk 2-1/2 miles at least 3 days each week, spend hours in my flower garden, hand-sew, sing, read, decorate our home and handle our family's investments.

Both Gene and I are collectors. He has 1/8-scale model tractors, eight of which are displayed above my kitchen cabinets. They're each 18 to 20 inches long. Lined up lengthwise, eight are as long as a full-size tractor. I like to collect angels and Swarovski crystal.

Gene and I travel every chance we get. I look forward to retirement, when I will have the time to entertain large groups in our home. We are planning to retire somewhere out in the country.

In the meantime, it is such a pleasure to be a Taste of Home field editor and to be asked to share one of our favorite meals with you. From our family to yours, have a blessed and most joyous holiday season!