Friday Five: Christmas Soon!

Margaret Fitch's nativity set

janintx writes:

This was the first Nativity scene I ever had. My cousin Margaret sent it to me from France when I was in first grade. I still put it out every year, a tradition I love. (Notice how Mary is holding baby Jesus!)

For today’s Friday Five, choose any five things about this upcoming Christmas that comes to mind, such as memories, traditions, plans, worries, whatever you wish. Add a favorite recipe, song, or tradition that you would like to share as the bonus category.

1. Christmas on Christmas Eve

So, we’re German-ish. And a lot of Eastern European. Mennonite, really. (see below). My mom always thought we did Christmas on Christmas Eve because my dad’s family doesn’t do delayed gratification but there is some cultural justification. My dad has a mental block against opening presents in daylight. True story. Our routine has become that we spend the day together, kids playing, making stuff, watching cartoons, etc. Then we all part ways and go to our respective churches and reconvene for dinner around 7. After dinner, it’s all presents all the time.

2. Food

As previously mentioned, we are ethnically Mennonite, which involves specific foods. We also have lived in the desert southwest for over 40 years. So, as you might imagine, there’s some overlap. For a long time, we were in the habit of having chili, tamales & Mexican Coke for Christmas Eve, but then the retail years came and I wasn’t home on Christmas Eve. My brother is not particularly fond of tamales (I know. Tragic.) so those years when I wasn’t home, he wrangled Mom into making vereneke, a Mennonite dumpling concoction that I absolutely loathe. It’s disgusting, but he’s all about it. Now that I’m local and here on the holiday, we’ve had to combine the two traditions into what I like to call a Mexonnite feast. It’s all really good and everyone is happy.

3. Buche de Noel

I know I just talked about food but this cake gets its own entry. The first year I was home (now 3 Christmases ago – eek!) I was reading through the local food blog and came across an entry for the best holiday desserts. I decided to order this Buche de Noel cake from a bakery in Scottsdale. Oh. My. Gosh. This thing is ridiculous. Just the most delicious dark chocolate, and there are dried cranberries inside. So freaking delicious. 133561_10151174980227201_1262346161_o

4. Movie on Xmas Day

Since we do Christmas on Christmas Eve, my brother is free to go to his in-laws for Christmas Day and it’s all good. This means, the rest of us have nothing to do. We’ve never had anything to do on Christmas Day, now there are just fewer of us with nothing to do. I personally like to sleep in, see a movie, and then join our Jewish brethren for Chinese food. Last year I went do a horrible movie with the parents, but since they created me, I acquiesced. This year, I may actually have a FRIEND with whom I can go to a movie. Alert the media. I’m getting a life.

5. The Children on winter break

I love this time of year because I get some extra time with the kids since they’re out of school. I can’t take a ton of time off this year, but the way the holidays naturally fall I get some good time. Hopefully we’ll work out a sleepover or something.

Starting The Year

I usually don’t do anything on New Year’s Eve. I think it’s kind of a bullshit holiday, like Valentine’s. It’s made up. I mean, the year actually does have to come to an end at some point, but when did it evolve into this pressure to have a major event that sets the tone for the rest of the year and quite possibly THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!!! It’s dumb. Anyway, I usually stay in, watch a movie, go to bed, like any other night of the year. Not a big deal. This year, I actually did a grown up dinner with friends and it was really quite lovely. It all started because my friend T needed to get out of something. She came to me and said she needed plans, so I said, consider yourself busy. I did some looking around and landed on Prospect, one of the best new restaurants in the City. The had a prix fixe 3-course meal for the first service and a 4 course meal plus champagne for the second service. I went for the first service and faxed away a contract, yes, a contract, for dinner and we were off. Along the way we added Leslie to the party and it was a lovely dinner for three.

First, of course, a cocktail. Mine was something blackberry w/ gin and the foam on top was egg white. And there was Meyer lemon in there somewhere, I think.

The meal started with an amuse bouche of horseradish panna cotta with caviar and beets. Normally, I run screaming in the opposite direction of beets but it looked so pretty and cost so much money that I had to dig in. It was amazing! Savory, obviously horseradish but not too strong, the caviar was perfect, and, of course, sustainable.

The first course that I chose was a lobster & sea urchin risotto. Amazing. Slightly al dente, creamy, large chunks of lobster. I accidentally took a couple of bites before I photographed.

The second course was a beef tenderloin. Good heavens it was perfect. There was a potato puree and some roasted root vegetables & crispy greens that were the perfect compliment. The meat was so tender that I didn’t need a knife – the fork went right through it. Heaven.

Third was dessert & it was so beautiful & delicious that I forgot to photograph
it. It was a warm chocolate cake with dark chocolate ice cream, whipped cream and pomegranate seeds & a little pomegranate syrup. I know. It was awesome. All in all, an auspicious start to a new year, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Friday Five on Tuesday: Thanksgiving Thoughts

The Cure
Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I’m not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she’s just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it’s snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn’t been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She’s been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn’t do it, put on a red dress.

–Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

Jan posted this Friday Five last Friday, but I’ve been in the throes of starting a new job and so I just got to this. I wanted to play because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday but I’ve had to do it differently this year. Here’s my stuff:

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she’ll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the “mulleygrubs”?

My mulleygrubs are quickly dispensed by new shoes or some other new piece of clothing. Expensive, I know, but I’m worth it. 🙂 I also love the cooking or just settling in w/ a good book. Going to the gym also works. If none of those do the trick, I resort to pharmaceuticals.
2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?

This year, I’ve already done my Thanksgiving w/ the family. It was super fun and I feel done for the year. On the actual Thanksgiving day, I will be on my couch watching football and eating Indian food. I’m actually looking forward to it, as I have to be at work the next day at 4 am. Ah, retail.
3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?

My dad is an absolute Nazi when it comes to the menu. I’ve tried to do some Martha innovation in years past and he just won’t have it. We have a recipe for cornbread dressing that was my grandmother’s that we HAVE to make, and it’s truly my favorite thing. We’ve changed many a dressing-hater’s mind with this stuff. It was always the job of the youngest person to crumble the cornbread and now it’s become my niece’s job and she loves it. We also do a cranberry fluff that was from my grandmother. It’s kind of Waldorfian but not really. It’s cranberries, baby marshmallows, apples, pecans and red grapes, lots of sugar and folded in whipped cream. Divine. We do one sweet potato dish for dad and the sister-in-law, but the rest of us don’t eat them.

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday?

Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE b/c of the food, the feel, the smells and the Cowboys.

5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?

I’m so far loving the new job, glad to have been able to see the family, love the friends, life couldn’t be better!

Friday Five: For the Love of Trader Joe’s

Sophia writes:
Gals and pals on the West and East coasts, and a few spots in between, may know of Trader Joe’s–a quirky, well-stocked, well priced semi-gourmet store that attains near cult status among some. I discovered it through my Aunt Judy, who always brought a couple of their desserts to holiday parties….The best was a chocolate ganache torte that had my four year olds begging for it (and among the only four year olds on the planet to know what ganache is, presumably).
My family has happily Trader Joe’d in southernmost California, up to the Northwest, and back down to southern Cal. And now we’re really excited because today a brand new Trader Joe is opening up across the street from our apartment. Wahoo! There are sure to be lots of tasty free samples on opening day and from now on we can just walk across the street to get a lot of our shopping done. I have a new spiritual directee coming tomorrow and she has already mentioned that she’ll be stopping in on the way here, leaving me to be jealous cause I’ll be spending that noon hour like, praying and preparing and study-vacuuming and everything, and won’t be able to stop in till the afternoon.
So in honor of the new Trader Joe’s, this week’s Friday Five is all about food shopping.
1. Grocery shopping–love it or hate it?

LOVE it. I love trying new recipes or even planning on the fly in the store. Love it.

2. Who is the primary food shopper in your household?

As it turns out, I am the primary food eater, therefore the primary food shopper.

3. Do you have a beloved store like TJ’s which is unique to your location or family?

Fortunately, I don’t have to live w/o TJ’s. I’m a TJ girl all the way!

4. How about a farmer’s market, or CSA share, as we move into summer? Or do you grow your own fruits/veggies/herbs?

We have lots of farmers markets around here. My favorite one is up in Marin County on Sunday mornings. I’ve considered a CSA but I’m a bit daunted by the quantity. See #2. I don’t grow anything. I can barely keep a cactus alive. And I’m from Arizona.

5. What’s the favorite thing you buy at the grocery store?
Coffee and the various acoutrements associated with coffee. Because I MUST have it. I also love the pre-made salads at TJ’s for my lunches. My favorite one is the B-B-Q Chicken Salad. I am also a fan of the Kettle New York Cheddar and Herb chips. Around the holidays, Candy Cane Jo-Jo’s from TJ’s become my drug of choice. There are no words for this delicious oreo-like cookie with candy canes crushed up in the middle. The only thing better are the ones that are COVERED IN DARK CHOCOLATE.
For those of us who have the Trader Joe’s, you must check this out!

RevGals Mix-a-Lot Friday Five

Songbird writes:

In a minor domestic crisis, my food processor, or more precisely the part you use for almost everything for which I use a food processor, picked the eve of the festive season of the year to give up the ghost. A crack in the lid expanded such that a batch of squash soup had to be liberated via that column shaped thing that sticks up on top.

Can you tell this is not my area of strength?

Next week, I’m hosting Thanksgiving. I need your help. Please answer the following kitchen-related questions:

1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it?

Unfortunately, I do not. It makes no sense, what with the amount of cooking I do, but I’ve just never gotten one. I am, however, taking donations.

2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it?
See above 😦

3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?

I have both. I use the standing mixer for baking and the hand-held mostly for mashed potatoes or things I’m mixing in a larger capacity bowl.

4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much?

I do have a blender, but rarely use it.

5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most?

I use whisks all the time for everything.

Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it?

Funny you should ask. At my house we have “The Fork.” It was my grandmother’s and I believe it possess the whole of her culinary acumen, which was considerable. For a while, my mother thought I just needed a big fork, but she didn’t understand that it’s not just A fork, but THE fork. It’s huge and it’s got notches in the side. It’s my holiday cooking talisman, although I actually use it as well. It makes everything taste just that much better.

Ode to the King Cake

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my thighs can reach!

I love the King Cake. For some reason, we keep getting them sent to our office. I know the seasonal reason, I just don’t know the personal reason. No one in our office is particularly Cajun, but whatever. We have King Cakes. We’ve had 3 sent to us in the last two weeks from here and here. Wow. They are just amazing. I’ve had them before, but they’re better this time. Perhaps it’s b/c I’m on WW and have to control myself. I haven’t gotten the baby, don’t want the baby, just want the cake. Mmmm….cake.