Monday, December 30, 2013

Wait. It's Over?

 But, what about all those Christmas intentions I intended to post.  I had so many ideas in my head this year, mostly unprofound ideas about how profound reality really is, as if reality is a real thing.  Even at Yuletide.

 Well, at least let me put up a few pictures representing portions of our Christmastime activities.  It was pretty low-key this year for us.  And a little odd, in some ways, as well, which is actually right up my alley.  If I am nothing else, I'm all about "odd."  



My big Gift this year?  These two. Right here at home.

Katy grew up in the Bay Area where we went to the beach on Christmas day, a regular event that began when we first moved there and had no community, yet.  Christmas was taking a long time to get to us, so we inched it up a day and then when it was Christmas for everyone else but pretty much over for us, we needed something special to do.  We went to the seaside, which tradition she is sharing with her son.  I think he likes it.

Lights, Wonderland walk, tree hunting on the inlet, harbor time, chocolate orange cake, Christmas-cracker pulling, Santy, packages in the mail, chocolate-peppermint shakes at a newly discovered burger joint, making stockings and hats, marzipan pigs, Swedish pancakes, phone calls, friendly visits, thoughtful inexpensive gifts for each other, fake fireplace heater, life in a forest at Christmas!   The end of a year that required of us much energy.  An endearing and peaceful time.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sugar Ghosts of Christmas Past


A few food-related Christmassies (which doesn't really look right spelled out like that.):  Tastes without which it just doesn't seem like the holidays to me, but without which I will spend Christmas this year, anyway.  Mostly.  And still have a wonderful Christmas time! 
Number One on my list is the ever-so-iconic Orange Slice Cake.  It's a heritage recipe from so far back I hardly remember how it originated.  Deep in Appalachia, but before that, I don't know.  I'm not much of a recipe cook and people are always saying that baking is a science so you have to follow a recipe, but the best cinnamon rolls and bread and orange slice cakes I've ever baked have been pretty much thrown together according to my food intuition.  I guess it could be true that I just did it so much for so long, I had recipes memorized and had incorporated the science somehow, and somewhere I do have the recipes written down, however loosely I may follow them.  Anyway, I'm not posting recipes for any of these merry wonders.  They would be easy enough to find online if anyone really wanted to make them.
The recipe for Orange Slice Cake calls for the candy slices, dates, coconut and probably walnuts.  I use the candy slices, even though that's my least favorite taste (and texture--gumdrops in a cake?!) in the cake, but it's my daughter's favorite and it is Christmas, after all, so you make for others.  I use other dried fruits (not candied fruits used in fruit cake,) such as cherries, sultanas, apricots, figs and maybe something else that happens to strike my fancy at the time I shop for ingredients.  I also stick to the traditional use of coconut and walnuts (black walnuts if I can find them.)  

Before taking the cake out of the pan, I poke holes in it and pour the orange-juice-powdered sugar glaze over it and let it soak in for at least a couple of hours.  The batter itself is pretty straight forward and not heavy, but substantial enough to hold up to all the additions.  Katy loves this cake so much, we used to eat only half of it during the Christmas season and freeze the other half for her birthday in July.  I haven't made if for a few years now and don't plan on making it this year.  My mother made one the other day and even though she's in a completely different state, it feels right now.  Someone in the family made a Texas Orange Slice Cake from my "recipe," and that strengthens the connections over the miles!
I think probably my next favorite is wassail.  The best apple cider you can find, preferably unfiltered and local, if possible.  I then mix in probably not equal parts pineapple juice, orange juice, lime juice, and lemon juice.  Sweet spices, of course.  Mulled and marvelously festive!  I've also spiced and heat-mulled home-canned grape juice which was very nice.  And good.  And tasty.

Even if we had plans to go to a family member's home for a Country Christmas Breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, gravy and biscuits, Katy and I would always begin our day on Christmas morning with Swedish Pancakes or Christmas Crepes.  I usually have a store of jams and jellies that I put away earlier in the year during canning season, but this year we will use some jelly I brought back from Alaska.  Completed with a good dollop of sour cream and a shiny slather of butter.

Finally, a nod to my homeland, New Mexico.  (See what I did here?  I called it homeland as if it's a different country than where I'm living.  Lots of innuendo here.  First, when we left New Mexico, most people we talked to didn't realize we came from just another state.  Also, I feel very far removed right now and not just a little nostalgic and I wish we could be in Roswell with my mother for Christmas. The passing of so much time has made it seem like I'm in a very different world than when I lived in New Mexico as a child.)
Biscochitos are sort of like little short bread cookies but not so short, but plain looking like shortbreads.  They are usually flavored with anise and cinnamon, but I also like to add orange zest and a wee bit of orange oil or sometimes cardamom. 
My mother used to make a lot of candy for us at this time of year.  Peanut brittle, fudge, divinity, chocolate-peanut clusters, and my ALL TIME FAVORITE...well, next to fudge...FOURS!  They are a cube-shaped turtle-like confection.  Walnuts or pecans?, caramel, chocolate, butter and long-time love.  She got the recipe from a magazine oodles of years ago that featured a story of the Roswell Women's League who got together and made this candy for fund-raising.  Fortunately for her collector-daughter, she kept the magazine (with lots of others) and I now have that article in my kitchenalia box.  Somewhere.  Why are they called Fours?  I don't think anyone really remembers why. 
I don't make candy, except once in a great long while, fantasy fudge and once I tried Turkish Delights.  Rose-flavored.  Interesting.  I used to make honey and molasses taffy, but that was a really, really long time ago when I thought it was fun to pull it. 
There are other holiday-themed sweets I used to make like plum pudding and trifle, lemon sugar cookies, gingerbread and molasses cookies.  This year, I bought packaged crepes at Costco for our Swedish Pancake breakfast and I think that's all the holiday baking this household is going to get.  It's enough for me to remember and think about others eating all that sugar.