Merry Christmas!

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Here’s wishing you and yours a peaceful and loving day! We are celebrating quietly at home. Last night we had a feast of three fishes, which ended up being two because we were so full. Shrimp cocktail–because I think I’ve loved shrimp cocktail since I was five–with a glass of prosecco. Then, after noshing on a cheese plate with spiced nuts and olives, we had brandade de morue on toasts fried in olive oil. That is one rich treat. And so simple! We had a nice French chardonnay with that. I think we watched The Grinch twice. My son had crackers for dinner because he just couldn’t be bothered with eating. There was too much to anticipate!!

We watched Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (on Netflix! such a star-studded cast–Charo!! Grace Jones!!)  after our son went to sleep and the presents were all under the tree. We had my latest favorite drink: rye with a splash of Barenjager, a cherry and lemon peel for fun. And then I looked at the clock, as my husband snored on the couch–it was 10:20. Our son is an early riser, especially on Christmas morning. Indeed, he woke at 5:15, rustling in his sheets. We managed to keep him snuggled with us until 5:40, and then we relented, the poor thing, bringing him downstairs to glory in the abundance under the heretofore empty tree.

He is now building a Lego cargo truck, as I type, and Steve is back on the couch. And I’m thinking about my small cache of treats, several excellent books: Prune, Tartine Bread, and Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry. And a really large bar of marzipan which I can’t wait to bite into (okay, I bought that one for myself). The sockeye we were supposed to eat last night is this morning’s breakfast, simply roasted in butter and capers with scrambled eggs and toast. Maybe some home smoked bacon too? Of course we started with cinnamon rolls and coffee. We haven’t opened up the homemade coffee liqueur a friend gifted us, but it might come in handy soon! Dinner later on will be roast  beast, of course, at the request of our son. Finished with a gingerbread house (will we really eat it?) and a backup raspberry Linzer tart. Ice cream. Fizzy cherry juice. More wine. More chocolates.

But before dinner, we’ll go for a Christmas walk in our nearby woods, contemplating and feeling thankful for the abundance we are blessed with. It’s a beautiful day, clear and blue skied at the moment, after a few days of heavy rain. We don’t mind no snow, and feel fine that it’s almost 50 degrees. Joy!

I hope you are having a wonderful day as well! Merry Christmas!

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On Being Prepared

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With the impending holidays, instead of joy, I begin to feel in my heart a little seed of anxiety. As the days go by, I know it will grow. I’m an anxiety-prone person, I will admit. Worry, worry, worry! I have a deep furrow between my eyebrows that some will point to and tsk at: you’re making wrinkles! I’ve had the knit-brow wrinkle long before wrinkles started knocking on my doorstep. With all this worry, I try to spearhead it by being prepared. As I write this I am making dinner. It’s 1:30 p.m. Prepared!

When I was a teenager I had a job at a restaurant and catering company. I was a prep cook (and server) and come the holidays I practically lived in the low-ceilinged cement basement below the restaurant. I had lists of things to prep: huge amounts of crudités,  tons of frozen shrimp to peel, dips to puree and chicken tenders to deep fry. We made many pies, roasted many hams, and I think I may have sliced thousands of loaves of bread. Perhaps the fear and anxiety started there: I would stand by waiting for orders as my bosses fretted over yellow legal pads filled with endless scribbled lists.

My catering days are over, thankfully, but the prepping is not. These days, I’m preparing for the holidays by having food prepped. Not for the holiday feasts, but for the busy days that seem to fly by before the big days. For those lunches and dinners when you are so hungry that you will easily eat something unhealthy just to have a quick meal. My biggest downfalls: grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of pasta.

The easiest plan is to have a large pot of brown rice made in the beginning of the week.  Rice can be breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Sweet or savory. Two favorites for breakfast: an egg on top, with avocado and kimchi, or pudding style, pureed with milk and maple syrup. There are numerous variations. When you get sick of brown rice, I make jasmine coconut rice (substitute some coconut milk or coconut cream to your rice when cooking) and it still goes both ways.

PSA: I recently made brown rice in the pressure cooker. It makes the most delicious brown rice ever. It also doesn’t seem to get hard in the fridge. You may thank me later. 

The other day I made a jar of coconut curry sauce based on this recipe. It used up some coconut cream from making coconut rice. It makes a staple in the fridge, like rice, that much closer to a real meal: just add some vegetables and tofu, see above photo.

Another good thing to have on hand, especially if you have rice on hand: beans. We eat a lot of burritos around here, so black beans and small pintos are a must. Lentils and chickpeas are also favorites. Sprout chickpeas a few days before you cook them in a pressure cooker. When I do this, the beans have this smell that I can only describe as cheesy and umami-rich. It’s the sprouting for sure. It made an amazing chickpea stew, and now there’s hummus in the fridge. So prepared!

These are just a few ideas from this week. What about you?