A little Christmas story…

Every year we read this essay at Christmas time and it makes us immeasurably happy.  We wanted to share the joy and hilarity with you... With Christmas love, Rebecca and Val.   TRADITION A Trapp Family Christmas Shouldn’t this year be more spiritual? Good luck! by: ALOÏSE BUCKLEY HEATH   One of the reasons — I say one of the reasons because I could think of several others if I put my mind to it — that I kept on having babies for years after all my classmates were taking turns being president of the Planned Parenthood Association was that I always thought a big family would be such fun at Christmas. Which who doesn’t, including people like me, who know? I know why Ben Heath, who is tied to me by the bonds of marriage, has the spirit of Christmas around Thanksgiving and the spirit of Ash Wednesday around Christmas. I keep telling him I know. “I know,” I say. “I know. I know. I know.”   I know we always get more glitter and glue on the floor than on the candles, and that I never remember to wipe it up until the dining-room carpet (new last January) is permanently (though not uninterestingly, I always think) spangled. I know I look absolutely insane crawling around in the snow for weeks before Christmas, putting candy canes on window sills and then galloping madly off in the dark, jingling sleighbells and shouting, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” I know the newsboy would rather have two dollar bills than a $1.95 flashlight wrapped in green paper and silver ribbon with … {Read on...}

Apricots, Almonds and Chocolate: Foodie Gift #23

In rounding up the bits and pieces from all my Christmas Baking (See Foodie Gift #21), I find that I have a couple dozen pretty dried apricots, half a cup of toasted slivered almonds and a half bag of semi-sweet chips. I also have a few minutes, so I'll do a very quick and easy gift to pass on to a couple friends and family members. These make a really lovely addition to a Christmas cookie platter as well.   Chocolate-Dipped Apricots with Almond Clusters   8 oz. dried apricots 1/2 c. toasted slivered almonds 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips 1 T. shortening   Place the chips and shortening in a glass bowl, and place over a pan of lightly simmering water. Stir and melt the chocolate and shortening together till smooth. Taking one apricot at a time, dip one third into the chocolate and place them on waxed paper to cool and dry. Once the apricots are done, stir the almonds into the remaining chocolate and drop by small clusters onto the waxed paper as well, till they are set.   It's easy to do these with other fruit and nut combinations as well, and it's a wonderful way to not let anything go to waste.   Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays! … {Read on...}

Bacon and Horseradish Dip

From as far back as I can remember, Christmas Eve was all about snacking--we would have a table loaded down with various cold meats and cheeses, special dark and light rye and pumpernickel breads, my mother's Christmas punch, lots of chips and crackers with accompanying dips and spreads, and of course, platters of cookies. While we had a bit of time when we were all gathered for the evening meal of Christmas Soup, it was the prolonged evening of grazing that we really looked forward to as children. to be honest, as adults as well!   One of my favorite dips was one that was bought, already prepared, Heluva Good's brand of Bacon Horseradish Sour Cream Dip.  I would zero in on where that dip was placed, and once we were given the go ahead, I did my best to ensure a healthy (??) helping made it to my plate. Others could have their fill of onion dip, liptauer cheese, etc.--it was bacon and horseradish for me every time!   So imagine my dismay, when shopping for our own quiet Christmas eve meal this year, when I could find no such item in any of the upper MI grocery stores we frequent. I went from store to store, finding plenty of sour cream, and plenty of variations on the French Onion dip theme, but nothing else. To say I was distraught is understatement. However, necessity being the mother of invention, I grabbed the onion dip and decided I would dress it up myself and see if I could come close to my Christmas Eve favorite.   Well, needless to say, I have found … {Read on...}

Spicy Glazed Nut Mix: Foodie Gift #21

Okay, we're getting down to the finish line here, and if you are like me, you have found that you have missed a couple of folks you wish to gift, and today is NOT a day you want to spend going shopping. So, you have to take a look at what is left from all the cooking, baking and preparing you've done so far and see what is left.   This recipe is great for all those leftover nuts that you may have on hand from preparing various cookies and candies, and is very flexible regarding the mix of nuts you can use. AND it's darn good as well!  I know I found it on the web, but for once I have not remembered to keep the site info, so my apologies for not being able to credit the source. When I find it, I'll be sure to add it here!   Very quick to fix and very tasty, here is the:   Spicy Glazed Nut Mix About 4 cups   2 cups mixed nuts (untoasted); any combination of cashews, whole almonds, pecan halves, and hazelnuts1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional if you don't like this kind of spicy) 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt (kosher is best, but regular salt will do) 2 cups small pretzel twists (or other pretzel bits, crispy cereal, whatever)     1. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for 12 minutes, stirring once for even toasting. 2. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted … {Read on...}

Honey Caramel and Coconut Chocolate Bars: Foodie Gift #20

coconut-caramel-bars-2

I think this might be a case of saving best for near the last, except that I didn't know they'd be so dadburned good when I made them last night.  I didn't even really plan on making them, but I had to play with some coconut I had in the pantry.  My sister's kids have some serious dietary restrictions and I was trying to come up with a really decadent Christmas treat that I could give them.  My aunties plied me with sweets and I'm nothing if I'm not a slave to tradition.  Corn syrup was out so I boiled honey for long enough to begin caramelizing it, threw my bag of unsweetened dried coconut in, stirred vigorously, pressed it into a pan and waited with baited breath.  Actually I waited with pizza breath, but really, that just doesn't sound good. I'm not usually a real coconut lover so I figured if I found it palatable the kids would lurve it.  I sliced the slab-o-coconut and honey caramel into blocks that were roughly one inch by two inches.  I melted dark chocolate, dunked away and stashed the tray in the fridge for an hour.  The peanut gallery hovered around the fridge waiting to see if the candy was even edible.  (This from my six year old, Ty, who said, "Do people even eat this stuff?" while dangerously waving my open bag of flaked coconut.)  They were hopeful because, as Ty also said, "If it's in chocolate, it can't be half bad, right Mom?  I can at least lick off the chocolate even if the inside's nasty."  Such a ray of sunshine, this child. The tray came out of … {Read on...}