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Simple Holiday Recipes Make Memories

Christmas isn’t complete at Kathi Hall Vincent’s house without Cherry Yum Yum, an easy-to-prepare dessert that her grown children ask for whenever they come home for the holidays.

Vincent’s life was calling in 2007 when the last of her six children left the nest. Her passions for cooking and antiques led her to open The Cotillion Southern Café in a historic building in Wildwood. The theme was built around old-family recipes, especially desserts.

A ninth-generation Floridian, Kathi says that her holidays include traditional, yet uncomplicated meals.

"The secret to a successful holiday is keeping food simple so that the cooks can enjoy the celebration, too," says Vincent. "Holidays are nostalgic for us, and it's the simple traditions that take us back to those happy times."

Vincent shared three of her favorite holiday recipes with AARP Florida that are featured in her cookbook, "Miz Kathi's Cotillion Southern Cafe Cookbook," now in its fourth printing.

Cherry Yum-Yum

2 (8-oz.) cream cheese, softened
2 cups heavy cream or 1 16-ounce tub Cool Whip
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cans cherry pie filling
2 cups graham crackers or other cookies, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted

Whip cream until stiff peaks form and set aside in another bowl. Whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar. Fold in whipped cream. Layer 1: Combine melted butter and graham crackers/cookies and layer one-half in clear glass Trifle dish or bowl. Layer 2: Spread a layer of cream cheese filling across the crushed crackers/cookies. Layer 3: Spread one can of pie filling. Layer 4: Spread remaining cracker/cookies. Layer 5: Spread remaining cream cheese filling. Layer 6: Spread second can of pie filling.

Cotillion's Florida Ambrosia

1 cup Navel oranges, sectioned
1 cup red or pink grapefruit, sectioned
1 cup fresh pineapple, chunks
1 banana sliced
1/4 cup confectioners' Sugar
Shredded coconut
Maraschino cherries

Mix bite-size chunks of the fruit together, including juice, with confectioners' sugar. Scoop into individual pedestal dishes and sprinkle with coconut. Garnish each dish with a cherry and add sliced bananas around the side.

Plantation Gingerbread

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup molasses
3/4 cup hot water
Whipped Cream
Fresh nutmeg, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease well and flour a 13 X 9-inch pan. In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, set aside. In mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar, and eggs until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. At low speed, beat in molasses and hot water. Add flour mixture, beating until smooth. Bake on middle rack in oven, 35-40 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Find more of Vincent's recipes.

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