Tuesday, November 20, 2012

HOLIDAY AGENDA STEP ONE: GAIN 5 POUNDS

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I am soooo excited for the holidays this year! Obviously this is a warm and fuzzy time for most people but it really feels like our first Christmas with the Bug as she was only a few weeks old the first year, and last year we traveled to MN for the grandparents with a one year old--not exactly relaxing. This year, we are doing the big tree, the baking, the big home-cooked meal, and Santa will be visiting a very adorable two year old.

First order of business on my agenda. COOKIES. I have been making my Aunt Edith's sugar cookie recipe since I was old enough to hold a cookie sheet. See evidence.

I don't know what it is about this recipe as it is the same butter, sugar, and flour combo as any other sugar cookie recipe. But these cookies are IN. SANE. Ask anyone. Careful rationing must be planned over the month or they will be gone in a flash.  Sorry, can't share this recipe. . . It's too special.

Bug Tested and approved.

This year I'm simplifying the traditional (seriously like 30 years straight) decorating scheme and doing a new snowflake dusted with white frosting, blue sugar and crushed peppermint. Similar to this:

For my tree, I'm going to forgo the traditional multi-colored candy sprinkles and do green sugar crushed with cinnamon candies. Similar to this:
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My mom and I always did the white chocolate dipped pretzels with red and green sugar but I'm thinking of trying a pretzel stick done with dark chocolate this year. That white stuff is mostly paraffin and not actual chocolate.  I want something easy that I can just melt and sling and perhaps sass it up with some random nuts and bits from the pantry.
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I think for our special xmas DINNER we will be trying Beef Wellington. A yummy mushroom paste is slathered on a juicy hunk of beast and then wrapped in pastry. Yes, please.
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For NEW YEAR'S EVE we do Cioppino. With lots of wine and probably Scrabble by the light of the Christmas tree. We are wild and crazy like that.
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This is a tomato and wine based seafood stew that originates in San Francisco, which is where I had it for the first time. We have been perfecting our recipe ever since. I'll share ours here:

BEST FREAKIN CIOPPINO EVER
For Broth:
1 28 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 c. clam juice
1 c. red wine (drink the rest)
6-8 c. chicken broth
can tomato paste
fresh squeezed lemon
1 T. olive oil
chopped fennel bulb
dash of  balsamic vinegar
fresh garlic (great roasted) and fresh shallots

herbs: as a garni or dried..sorry I don't measure
          1 or 2 star anise pods, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, rosemary sprig, couple of bay leaves, black pepper

Simmer until fennel is tender
Add any combination of seafood starting with a firm white fish like marlin or halibut, shrimp, crab, scallops, mussels, clams etc.. 
We buy teeny tiny portions of a bit of everything at the seafood counter and throw it all in. 
You really can't mess this up and if you're missing a few items, a simplified version turns out great. This is the precious version. 

Serve with toasted sourdough or french white bread, and squeeze more lemon over everything. 
SO. GOOD. 

    In all seriousness, I am not condoning gaining weight by stuffing your face, but delicious and special foods are part of the holiday season. I find that I actually lose weight because I am eating such great foods and meals and not eating lots of crap in between meals or take out. The variety of goods at parties and on your table have a variety of nutrients that you probably don't get otherwise. There is so much out there that you get to be ultra selective and eat the most delectable. And if you gain a few pounds...SO BE IT. It gives you something to plan for on New Year's Day.

Happy Celebrating!
Rachel