Child asks for tombstone for sister

Worth Monument employees Troy Mack (left) and Mack Reaves load Gabriella Ward's headstone onto a truck at Worth Monument in Orangeburg. Ward's 5-year-old brother wished for a tombstone for his twin sister, who died two years ago. The Times and Democrat of

Merry Christmas! And good tidings to all cooks and would-be cooks reading this today.

It's a bit of a slow time in recipe request activity, since many people have been busy decorating, making holiday goodies and shopping on top of their regular responsibilities in life. As always, it seems everyone is vowing to go on a diet as soon as the new year gets under way. I'm right there with you.

But for today ...

Paula Deen made this the other day on the Food Network and it looked yummy, especially for feeding family or friends who are house guests this week. I also saw it in her newest cookbook, "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" (Simon & Schuster, $29.99).


Serves 6 to 8

For French toast:

Butter, for the baking dish

1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)

8 large eggs

2 cups half-and-half

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of salt

For praline topping:

2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, at room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For raspberry syrup:

1 cup raspberry preserves

2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur such as Chambord (see cook's note)

Cook's note: If you would rather not use raspberry liqueur or can't find it, substitute orange juice.

For French toast: Grease a 13x9-inch baking dish generously with butter. Cut the bread crosswise into 20 (1-inch thick) slices. Arrange the slices in two overlapping rows.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Beat with a rotary beater or whisk until the custard mixture is blended but not too foamy. Pour the custard over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, prepare the praline topping: In a medium bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, pecans, corn syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg and blend well with a fork. Spread the topping evenly over the bread slices. Bake until puffed and lightly golden, about 45 minutes.

For raspberry syrup: In a small saucepan, heat the preserves, liqueur and 3 tablespoons water over medium heat. Stir until warm and thinned out to a syrup-like consistency.

Serve the French toast casserole drizzled with the raspberry syrup.

Fruit casserole

By coincidence, I received an email last week from my sister, Linda Hewitt in Brecksville, Ohio, after I had already written the fruit salad column of last Sunday.

She says, "I know I don't have your name, (we draw names) but wanted to give you this fabulous, easy, perfect-for-the-holidays recipe! I don't like pineapple much at all, and I loved this! Enjoy!"


Yield: 4-6 servings

1 (20-ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained

3 tablespoons pineapple juice, reserved

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup melted butter or margarine

1/2 cup butter crackers, crushed (approximately 12 Town House Classic by Keebler)

Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Combine sugar and flour in medium bowl; stir in reserved pineapple juice. Add cheese and pineapple chunks, mixing well. Spoon mixture into a greased 1-quart casserole dish (vegetable spray may be used).

Combine melted butter and cracker crumbs, stirring well. Sprinkle over pineapple mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until crumbs are lightly browned.


Who's got the recipe?

Recipe requests are especially welcome now, as we've cleaned out the backlog. If there's any recipe you've lost, been remembering or just wondering about, let us know. Write or call 937-4886.