Maple-Chili Cranberry Sauce

Just in time for the holiday season, here’s a twist on an old standby. Lower in sugar, but not low in taste.

1 cup water
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 T. maple syrup
splash of orange juice
1 T. chili powder or to taste

Combine water, cranberries and maple syrup in a small pan and bring to a boil. More water may be required. Boil until cranberries “pop” and tenderize a bit. Add remainder of ingredients and reduce heat to low, and simmer until desired thickness is achieved.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Makes a great gift this Christmas season
Makes a great gift this Christmas season.

This is so easy to make, there is no need to spend money on pre-made Chocolate Peppermint bark at expensive specialty stores.

2 cups chocolate wafers (available in Canada at http://www.bulkbarn.ca/en-ca/index.html)

Chocolate making wafers
Chocolate making wafers

2 large candy canes, crushed

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Few drops of peppermint flavoring

Temper chocolate by placing wafers in the top of a double boiler. Fill the bottom half of the boiler one-third to one-half full with water. Heat chocolate over medium heat, stirring,  until melted and glossy:

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Remove from heat, stir in crushed candy canes and peppermint flavoring.

Freeze until firm, 2 – 3 hours, in a pan lined with wax paper. Remove from freezer.  Using wax paper, so the bark doesn’t melt onto your hands, break it apart into pieces.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark
Chocolate Peppermint Bark

For gift-giving, place in a pretty container, and wrap with seasonal cellophane paper.

Skipping Christmas

I basically grew up in foster homes. I had no family of my own .  After my mother died, my father remarried and abandoned me to an institution and the foster home system.

I think I spent one Christmas with my father and his second wife before being institutionalized.

I don’t remember much about my childhood or teen Christmases.  It’s unlikely they were of the story-book, fantasy kind, however.  In Canada, we celebrate Boxing Day as well, which is the day after Christmas.  I remember one singular visit from my father on Boxing Day when I was in the FHFH (“foster home from hell”). That being said, he could have visited more and I just don’t remember. I don’t even remember Christmases at the foster homes.

In early adulthood, after my first marriage fell apart and I was single, at Christmas I’d “borrow” another family to spend Christmas Day with. No-one should be alone at Christmastime. Other than that, I didn’t put up a tree or acknowledge it in any way. I didn’t really even have anyone to buy gifts for.

Eventually Christmas got a bit easier and I started celebrating it in small ways. A tree, some decorations, like Mr. and Mrs. Claus, antiques I inherited from my mother.

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One year, a guy I was dating took it upon himself to meet with my father. I guess he was appalled at “my story.”  My father gave him a token gift to give to me, I forget what it was.  My boyfriend gave it to me Christmas morning and I burst into tears. Overwhelmed and in shock, I said to him: “You shouldn’t have done that, you shouldn’t have done that.”  [I just remembered this and it happened years ago; seems like I’m pretty good at forgetting anything to do with my father.]

Still, I don’t get too attached to Christmas. More like, I go through the motions of it.  The shopping, putting up a tree and other decorations, celebrations, and attending church services where there’s the usual mundane skit about “How many times can we re-tell the Christmas story in new, fresh & exciting ways.”

I spend Christmas and Boxing Day with my second husband’s family.  I get a bit worn out by all the visiting.  Typically on Christmas morning, the Christmas story from the Bible is read. One year instead I read a chapter from a Brennan Manning book.  The chapter was called “Shipwrecked at the Stable”:

The world does not understand vulnerability.  Neediness is rejected as incompetence and compassion is dismissed as unprofitable.  The great deception of television advertising is that being poor, vulnerable, and weak is unattractive.  A fat monk named “Brother Dominic” is cute and cool because he conquers vulnerability and helplessness by buying into the competitive world with a Xerox machine.

The Bethlehem mystery will ever be a scandal to aspiring disciples who seek a triumphant savior and a prosperity Gospel.  The infant Jesus was born in unimpressive circumstances, no one can exactly say where.  His parents were of no social significance whatsoever, and his chosen welcoming committee were all turkeys, losers, and dirt-poor shepherds.  But in this weakness and poverty the shipwrecked at the stable would come to know the love of God. ~ Shipwrecked at the Stable, from “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus” by Brennan Manning. You can read the full chapter here:  http://thevalueofsparrows.com/2012/12/20/advent-meditation-shipwrecked-at-the-stable-by-brennan-manning/

One year at Christmas we stayed home because it was held a province away and we didn’t want to drive in unpredictable winter weather. Staying home that year was such a relief.

Mostly I’d just like to skip Christmas.  Our massage therapist suggested to my husband we create new traditions of our own like attending the Nutcracker.  Yeah, no.  Ballet? Not a fan.

A tradition of Christmas I’d like to create is the one where I pull the covers over my head on December 24 and take them off on December 26.  Especially this year.  That’d be okay, right?

Gifts from the Kitchen – Chocolate Dipped Dried Apricots

48 – 50 dried apricots
2/3 c. wafers for chocolate making

Melt chocolate in the microwave on medium in microwave-safe bowl. Stir. Coat approximately 1/2 of each apricot in chocolate. (Sample a couple along the way — quality control is important.) Place on baking sheets covered with wax paper to set. Store in a pretty covered container.

How to Decorate a 50′ Tree With Christmas Lights

Guest post by my husband, Randy

  1. Bring a really big ladder.
  2. Take extension pole.
  3. Attach clothes hanger to extension pole (another use for duct tape)
  4. String lights through clothes hanger.
  5. Try and convince a really good friend to climb the ladder holding the extension pole.
  6. After friend gives you a dirty look, climb ladder yourself.
  7. Pray for safety.
  8. Place lights around branches and pray they (or you) don’t fall off.

Black Coffee!

Now that's a coffee - taken at a Canmore, AB coffeehouse last summer

This is cross-posted from my other blog, FibroDAZE, http://www.bignoise-enterprises.com/blog/2010/03/07/abomination/and originally written March, 2010 and entitled “Black Coffee and Other Abominations.”

The Fat Nutritionist http://www.fatnutritionist.com/ is a blog I read. Her tag line is “eating normally is the new black.” I am so down with that. Death to Diets I say! Anyways, her post “Get Out of Jail Free Cards” http://www.fatnutritionist.com/index.php/get-out-of-jail-free-cards/ talks about “largely irrelevant” food labeling. It began with a treatise on coffee and “Canadian style wussy coffee”; that is coffee with cream and sugar. There was a brief introduction which contained a very funny line:

black coffee is an abomination unto the Lord and shall not defile this house

After I finished laughing, made an appropriate comment on her blog about how much we in this house agree with that statement, I started thinking. What other food and/or beverage items are, in our household, “an abomination unto the Lord and shall not defile this house?” I came up with the following list. Note: there’s a bit of a legend:

* = husband’s abominations

***  = my abominations
(no *’s at all means we both agree that these items shall never, ever defile our house.)

List of Foods – Not Exhaustive, although I’m a bit tired after typing now.

  • Offal
  • Head cheese
  • Coffee whitener
  • ***Processed cheese in a jar — my husband says it “adds personality.” I say it’s one step from being plastic.
  • Anything with the word “bean” attached to it [i.e. green beans, lima beans, kidney beans, et al.], with the exception of “coffee bean”
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Octopus
  • Squid
  • Pork Sausage (possible exception: Mennonite Sausage. Good Mennonite Sausage that is)
  • *Chickpeas
  • *Sweet Potatoes
  • *Squash of any type
  • Fruitcake
  • Traditional Christmas Pudding – We do however enjoy this Christmas pudding:  http://www.cranberrycreek.com/ and stock up every year when they come out to our craft fair.
  • ***Raw tomatoes
  • *Porridge
  • *Cottage Cheese (exception: Lasagna)
  • Caviar/Tapioca – eerily similar, visually, don’t you think?
  • *Asparagus
  • Anything with the word “blood” in it i.e. blood pudding, blood sausage.
  • *Pumpkin Pie — Last year my sister in law generously made had the nerve to serve apple and cherry pies at her Christmas dinner.  It’s one of the very few times of the year I can eat pumpkin pie so I was a tad miffed.  (I know, I know, there are people starving in Africa, this is hardly a blip on the radar.)

Holiday Eating Tips

Decorated evergreen outside our home

This was sent to me in an email:

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It’s rare… You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if you’re going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or whole milk. If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people’s food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand and wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”

Merry Christmas!

Citrus Cocktail

6 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate

6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate

5 c. each club soda and ginger ale (one large bottle of each)

 

Put all in a large punch bowl or pitcher.  Makes 18, five ounce drinks.  This would be great for a potluck or Christmas get together.  You could bring the ingredients and container, mix it up and people could serve themselves.

Peanut Butter Squares

Rice Krispy Squares with a twist

 

½ cup non-hydrogenated margarine

1 c. natural or light peanut butter

2 c. chocolate chips

2 c. mini marshmallows

3 c. Rice Krispies

 

I’ve tried to “healthy this up” but this is still a treat!

 

Melt margarine, peanut butter and chocolate chips in a large pot.  Cool and add marshmallows and Rice Krispies.  Press into greased 9 x 12 pan.  Cut into squares.