A Kind of Pause

Archived | December 26, 2013 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It was a Christmasy show, and I loved that Mr. Keillor sang “Silent Night” and the audience sang along with him. I sang along too, even the German part though I don’t know it completely — I simply made up a few words. I do that sometimes, make up words. They function the way guttural utterances do, conveying a message for which a word does not exist. A gasp, a giggle, a sigh.
Hard to find words to describe Christmas, on the day after The Day. It was…sigh…it was a lovely time, all of it. The kids loved their gifts, the ham was just right, the array of cookies quite splendid. The faces of the people I love are fresh in my mind, the voices of those far away who called with good wishes linger in my ear. The music, the lights, that feeling you get sitting in church on Christmas Eve, part of a gathering, the feeling of divinity, the Holiness of the Night. And, surrounding all of it, the keen presence of the past, the memories of Christmases come and gone. Not sad, but a bit wistful thinking back to What Once Was.
And now we look to What Will Be, on the home stretch to the New Year, the eager push toward January, a sense of shedding this year and rising up into the next. I’ll admit I’m grateful for these few days of a kind of post-Christmas limbo — the kids on vacation, a dinner party or two on the calendar, some shopping (fruit is #1 on the list), cleaning up the house, a nap here and there, a few good movies. Time to catch up, center oneself, think ahead to what the New Year might bring.
Consider these days a kind of Pause, and take them, and do the things you didn’t get to do this year, or maybe put off, or simply didn’t think of doing but want to now. Once 2013 goes, it’s gone. Finish it off in your own personal glorious way, whatever that may be.
Here’s a new recipe, something different and rich and a bit on the healthful side. Makes a nice treat to wrap up and deliver with good wishes for the New Year.
Dark Chocolate Coconut Bars
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup coconut oil
¼ cup honey
12 ounces dark chocolate
Warm coconut oil just until it is liquefied. Add shredded coconut and honey. Combine well. Line shallow baking pan with parchment paper and press mixture into baking pan. Freeze or refrigerate until solid.
Melt chocolate and spread over coconut.
Cut into squares and keep refrigerated.

The Condition of Being Human

Archived | December 19, 2013 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It’s been something of a crazy month so far with school activities and concerts and shopping and shoveling and baking and sending things out in the mail which I forget whether or not I’ve sent after I think I sent them. Not crazy in a certifiable way, but crazy wild and rather beautiful. Like how the stars look on a clear night, or a pure meltdown with tears and a rant and the blessed calm after, or how chocolate and peanut butter swirl together and then you add the marshmallow. Crazy like everything happening at once, and each of the every things is good and right, but together it’s something else, and then one more thing happens.
I lost track of what the one more thing was. There were several “one more things” this week. “I just want life to be simple,” one of the kids said this week, the youngest, as she struggled with her own array of crazy things. You said it, I thought. Simple. “Life” and “simple” don’t go together, I was about to tell her, but I didn’t. Last thing a kid studying for a big test needs is a mother flinging pithy statements her way.
But I got to thinking about simplicity, and how life really is simple, and we just complicate the heck out of it. I remember reading a quote a long while back about how stress is simply the condition of being human. Makes me smile. We kind of set ourselves up, really. We go buy alarm clocks that ring and flash a blue light brighter and brighter until we have to get up and turn them off. We put calendars on the fridge where we keep our food. We organize the hall closet. We plan elaborate celebrations with amazing food and a myriad of personalities on the guest list and we festoon the house with garlands and spice and when the time comes to celebrate, one more thing happens.
Someone gets the flu. The Big Storm hits. The furnace dies. The dog runs away. A man sets the garage on fire while frying the turkey. A woman slips on the ice. One of the kids decides to go rebellious. Someone brings up health care reform at the table. Another of the kids calls and can’t get home. Someone bled on the carpet, and something peed in the garage. It’s one more thing. One after another. Stressful. But we’re human, and we can choose. It’s snowing again, and what do you see? All the shoveling you’re going to have to do later on today? Or those crazy beautiful flakes of snow falling thick from the sky?
It’s Christmas time. Take a big ol’ deep breath, everyone. Simple as that.
Here’s one for the relatives to ooh and ahhh over. Halved jalapenos make for a lighter snack, and there’s just enough spice to get it all going.
Jalapeño Kickers
20 whole jalapeños cut in half & seeded
1 lb jimmy dean breakfast sausage
⅓ cup onion, chopped
1 8-oz package cream cheese
⅓ cup Parmesan
Sriracha sauce to taste
Brown sausage with onion and cool. Add cream cheese and Parmesan, and mix well. Stuff halves of jalapeños, and sprinkle a little extra Parmesan cheese over top. Add siracha for an extra kick.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 min.

All Warm Things

Archived | December 10, 2013 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I don’t know about you, but I have gained a new appreciation for underwear. The long ones. I’ve been wearing the purple thermal knits Mr. S gave me for my birthday, and I’m thinkin’ I’m gonna need a new set soon. Not because these are wearing out, but a person can wear long underwear only so many days in a row before a refresher is needed, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to go without long underwear in what we refer to as this “ass burn cold” weather. Really. It’s an important thing, underwear is, and if you’ve got a pair of the good stuff, it’s a real comfort, too.
And so are appetizers. Went to a party the other night where appetizers were the event, and there was a contest. I made buffalo ranch dip (see forthcoming recipe book) and I think it was a hit. I didn’t win, though. Someone made some delicious stuffed jalapenos which did, and rightfully so. They were wonderfully rich and satisfying, filled with what appeared to be a bit of sausage and cheese and maybe some stuffing. Mmm. My son has been on me to make some deep fried bacon wrapped cheese stuffed jalapenos, and I’m thinkin’ I may give it a shot.
But not today. I’ve got five pounds of butter, seven pounds of cream cheese, bacon thawing in the fridge and fifteen pounds of flour in the pantry. And real hankering for what will hit the spot today. Deep fried cheese curds are wonderful, but that’s not it. Neither are Nut Goodie bars (too rich) or a mug of hot chocolate (warm, but not filling like bacon). I’m thinking that the answer to what hits the spot is different for everyone on a given day, and today I’m thinkin’ it’s soup. Soup is hot, there are a mazillion different kinds, and it fills you up without giving you that feeling of having been beached. I like that about soup. Think I’ll make some for lunch. Tomato, with a side of grilled cheese. And eat it while my long underwear dries in the dryer and, after, make a batch of wild rice soup, with bacon. For dinner. All warm things, on an ass-burn cold day in December.
Here’s a recipe not for soup, but for something to follow. A snack. Caramel corn, and enough to wrap half up in plastic and tie on a bow and take it to the next party you attend. As a nod to decadence, and to the spirit of sharing whatcha got.
Grandma’s Caramel Corn
2 cups brown sugar
2 sticks butter
½ cup white corn syrup
6 quarts popped corn
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp butter flavoring
Nuts (optional)
Place brown sugar, butter, syrup and salt in 2½ qt pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes to 234 degrees. Remove from stove. Add soda and butter flavor. Make popcorn and pour into a large bowl. Pour caramel over and stir well. Add nuts if desired. Spread over a foil-covered cookie sheet. Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour, stirring gently every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool; break into chunks. Store covered.