Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mini-Survival Kit for the Holidays plus a sumptuous recipe

I find that we have only two ways to approach the holidays.

With RESENTMENT, because we don't get to enjoy them each on their own,
before Christmas peeks its little head out at the Department Stores, pushing us to
make gift decisions very, very early...(Hey, what happened to the real meaning of
Give me a break....etc.etc...)


By completely EMBRACING it!  Now by that I mean, you will have to leave
behind your traditional expectations and give yourself and your family some major
breaks. Here are some holiday truths that should help...

If you are not a crafty-type, you are not going to magically turn into Martha Stewart or Rosie O'Donnell.. (That's why there's a Hallmark store)

If you hate to cook, you will hate it even more. If you don't have time, you will have less....
(That's why there are caterers, restaurants serving and selling holiday meals, and Whole Foods Stores etc.)

If you cannot stand shopping malls, don't go...Sure they're pretty right now, but still crazy!
(Small independent shops have better gifts anyway. Better yet, buy it all on the web... get started now)

This last tip was one that I utilized one Christmas and it was a breeze..Did it all at Barnes&Noble.com.
That's right...Never visited one store! Everyone loved their gifts...truly!

You don't have to have a big tree.
(They have really cute tabletop ones these days...Okay, I guess if you have small kids..)

One year I just put a huge Father Christmas on the dining room table, scattered some pine scented candles
about, put an 8 inch "silver" tree on a shelf,  and my boys were quite pleased!

If you have been laid off or just don't have extra money for whatever reason, try to come up with
something special that doesn't dip into your gas bill...

Now this one may be hard for some, but don't give up immediately. Open your mind...

Can you draw or paint? (an original drawing is kept forever)

Can you write a song and play it or record it? (quite special indeed)

Can you write a poem or story that will have specific meaning for the receiver?
Even a small little writing can mean a lot from a loved one.

If you have ANY artistic talent, this is the time to put it to use..

But what if you don't? (Hard to believe but...here's an idea...)

How about that beautiful little necklace of yours that your daughter has always admired?
Why wait until you're dead to hand it over?
(You can't see the smile on her face if you wait until then anyway...Think about it...)
Put it in a small velvet box with a ribbon and surprise her! (you know that you don't really wear it much anymore...)

How about some one's favorite treat that you rarely make?
My "Million Dollar Fudge" comes to mind, but I know that you and your family have their favorites...
It could be a very special loaf of bread or any much loved treat...
Whip it up when no one is around, and put it in a festive tin, or wrap it up in colorful plastic wrap with
a bow...
People eat that up...literally!

Hey, better yet, if you have kids or grandkids do the Christmas cookie thing...(Sadly, I'm not sure that
I ever did that...I'm sure that I MEANT to ...Hmmm....Well there ya go...You can produce holiday "guilt" even years later if you allow yourself!)

Note to self...Do Not Allow!

I truly feel that a lot of what we get Hyper and Disappointed in ourselves about, has EVERYTHING to
do with our own illusions of what the holidays should look and FEEL like...(reinforced by every single
item in the media...Remember...they are ALL advertisements in one form or another...They need to sell
to you...It is their business...)

These hard to manufacture illusions may come from one's own childhood experiences, magazines, or films we've seen and grown up with...(Not to mention Martha Stewart's Crafty Christmas Shows and Food Network Holiday Specials...)
Hey, I love them too, but there's an abundance of  time, money, and help that produces all of that

For me it is comparative with the trap that we allow ourselves to fall into when we are getting married
and having the "Big Wedding"..
We reference all of what we have seen or dreamed about, and WHEN and IF it doesn't line up as we have
perceived it, the disappointment sets in...

I dearly love movies, books, magazines, and fantasizing, but one must resist the temptation of buying into
the whole "Disneyesque" version of life...
These images will always lead to a let down, or worse, you'll tell yourself that you didn't do what you could have done to make it really "perfect"....

(A note about "Disneyesque" life...Everyone should visit Disney World at least once in their life to enjoy the
true "Disneyesque" experience. One is never too old, and I feel that the older you are, the more you appreciate it ..You certainly deserve a complete and total "too good to be true" fantasy...I say leave the kids home, and go and delight in it yourself....but then that's just me...)


Holiday Depression is a serious epidemic, and I feel that a lot of it stems from unrealistic expectations.

Having said all of this, if you find yourself in a position to turn your holidays into a world of homemade crafts,
glistening wreaths, glass balls, silver linings, tin soldiers, golden angels, velvet ribbons, nutmeg candles, along with a kitchen filled with apple cider simmering on the stove, cheese straws dancing on candy cane plates,
layers of smoked turkey and cheddar circling a silver platter, and champagne bubbling in crystal tulip goblets, well...
THAT'S OKAY (and we'll all be over for the party on December 17th!)

I will be posting recipes suitable and delicious for the holiday season the next few weeks.
This week I will start with a simple, yet elegant recipe from the late and great culinary master,
Craig Claiborne. God rest his culinary genius soul.

Sweet Potato Puree with Walnuts and Ginger

Serves 6 -8

6 to 8 sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs) organic is best

1/2 cup ginger preserves (look for it at gourmet groceries or order it online)
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped walnuts (preferable black walnuts)
3/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Put the potatoes in a baking dish and place in the oven. 
Bake 1-2 hours, depending on the size of each potato. Press with the fingers and remove each potato as it becomes soft.
When all the potatoes are cooked, let them rest 
until cool enough to handle. Split each potato in half and scoop out the flesh. 
Put the flesh through a fine mesh or a potato ricer. (you should seriously have a potato ricer as they are so cool...especially for mashed potatoes)
There should be about 3 cups. Put this into a 
Combine the preserves and the rum in a small
saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring. Add this to the potatoes. Add the butter, walnuts and milk;
heat to the boiling point, stirring.(watch and stir
faithfully, so as not to burn...)
The recipe contains no salt, so at the end, I would taste, to make sure that the black walnuts added enough salt, if not, I would not hesitate to add a 
bit to taste. 
I can SO see this mixture piped from either a 
piping bag, or a large Ziploc bag with a small 
snip on one corner (this always works...)
You could pipe this mixture decoratively around
the platter of sliced turkey, ham, or whatever
meat you were serving...
You could also just serve it as you would mashed
Why you could even do your best Martha Stewart impression, and pipe it into hollow orange halves! (somebody stop me!)