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The Christmas Grocery Shopping Lists; A Guide for Men

man in storeLet’s face it; it’s always one person who bears the brunt of domestic planning. In my home, it’s me. I have lists for groceries, lists for toiletries, lists for separate stores. It takes time, and effort, so trust me when I say that if it’s on a list, there’s a reason.

At this time of year, the last thing I need is someone arbitrarily deciding what we don’t need. What I need is a housekeeper and two months off and exactly what’s on the damn list.

Unfailingly my better half asks me for a grocery list whenever he’s popping into the store. It’s very thoughtful and I appreciate it more than he knows. There is one problem however, quite often he arbitrarily decides that one or two items just simply are not necessary.

This is the core of the secret to executing the list and I’m about to share it with all of you lovely gentlemen out there. The items on the list are dependent on one another. They are a team you see, each playing an important role in a recipe.

rotten zucchiniWhat is a zucchini without eggplant when making ratatouille? It is simply a lonely zucchini, waiting to weep it’s sticky brown death juice into the bottom of the veggie crisper because it’s calling has not been fulfilled.  When that happens, it becomes part of another list; clean out the fridge and likely, get-your-arse-back-to-the-store-and-get-what-we-needed-in-the-first-place.

It’s not just about handing over a checklist of items to be purchased and brought into the house. The food that we share creates an atmosphere at home, whether it’s a cozy night in for the family, or an evening of hosting guests. It takes time and energy to dream up what might be pleasing and enjoyed. When you decide that the list isn’t important, you’re essentially diminishing the significance of the homemaker. It’s a way of telling them  that their work is insignificant.

A long time ago, a spiritual mentor spoke these wise words; “Our partners do really do just want to make us happy.”

If this is the case, buy what’s on the list.

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Christmas Burnout; Adapt don’t Change

bull-dog-christmas-lightsThis  year I gave up.

I gave up a lot of Christmas traditions that have become burdensome, and not joyful. Quite often when people expect you to do things it becomes less about enjoying it, and more about feeling pressured to do it.

So I gave up making my Christmas cake, I gave up buying gifts for friends, and I gave up my annual Christmas party (way too much preparation).  All of these things stress the clock and the wallet, and frankly, all of that stress over a long period of time can wear on a gal’s fabulousness. And I’m nothing if not a shining beacon of wonder.

What-the-hell and a giggle have been my signature move for years.

Not giving a crap has never been my modus oparandi, but appears to be the most freeing way to be in the world. I’m learning that from the people around me who are kings and queens of, ” I could care less about how you feel”.

I thought about faking that shitty attitude until I make it. But I can’t do that, because it’s just not who I am. I care. I’ll always care, and I’m proud of it. The rest of the apathetic world can just choose which side of my butt to kiss first and carry on. I will hang with goddesses of ethic and compassion.

Rather than giving up doing things that bring me close to my family and friends, and letting the burnout I’ve been feeling creep even closer to my bones, I decided to change.

Change? Yes – it’s as scary a word as morninghair (yes, it’s a word).woman-silly

Ok, so change is a big word. Perhaps I should say I’ve chosen to adapt rather than change.

I will continue to bake, but not necessarily what everyone else wants. Sure, I have a soft spot for my kiddo’s favourites, but I also have a hankering for some new mocha eclairs and candy cane fudge.  I’ve asked for a little more help with Christmas dinner, and instead of cooking myself into a coma, I’m doing my Christmas party way more casually. I’ve opted for an open house with chili and beer.

For those of you who care, but need a break too, consider adapting instead of changing the traditions that you hold dear. Leave enough time to lean in to your own sense of personal flair, and enough room to allow your giggle to bubble up and over into the mood of every day.

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The Magic of Christmas Appeared in the Form of Ambrosia

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" ~Charlie Brown~
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
~Charlie Brown~

The magic finally happened for me this year.

I had just put the tacky Christmas goldfish ‘sunshine-Jello-salad’, into the fridge and was stirring together the tacky ambrosia, when I felt the first sparkly jolt.

Christmas?! Yes!

Perhaps it was going through the motions of tradition that brought it about for me this year. On the eve before Christmas Eve, I found some magic. It started with a kind message from one of my oldest friends who helped  me realize that I don’t have to constantly be strong for everyone else.

Just in time for Christmas Eve: my favourite part of Christmas.

To say that it’s been an anti-climactic lead-up to Christmas is an understatement. In fact it’s been a Christmas time to remember. Often these are the years that build character and help us empathize with others who struggle through the holidays.

One well-meaning soul typed a comment about having expectations too high at Christmas time.  This Christmas has not been Christmasy, and it’s not because of any expectation, it’s because of loss. Expectation is an interesting concept, and one worthy of discussion.

We live in a hurried world where sadness and empathy take time none of us want to take. I believe that encourages platitudes about ‘no expectation’ and ‘not being attached to outcome’. Hogwash and pith my darlings.

It’s right up there with; having a stiff upper lip, not crying in front of the children, and keeping yourself busy. I’m a ‘loss’ professional, and I firmly believe in having to fall apart sometimes in order to pull your refined-by-trial soul back together. Sometimes things suck, and it’s ok to say so.

If you think that having rainbows and lollipops poof out of your arse all day long is normal, please send your unicorn to fetch me for your next seminar.

Certain expectations are healthy; to be treated fairly, to be compensated fairly for work, to be able to live freely without discrimination and most importantly, to feel validated when you feel every emotion, including the ugly ones like fear, anger and sadness that make most folks uncomfortable. These are healthy, and necessary expectations.

For anyone who has experienced loss, Christmas can be a really tough slog, regardless of expectation.

As we near the midnight hour, and our corner of the world slows down, I think I will take some time to stop and consider what expectations are helping me move forward or holding me back. Discerning between the two is where the magic happens, because as much as our human brains would like the world to be black and white, it isn’t.

Christmas magic appeared unexpectedly as I went through the motions of making the traditional food that goes on our Christmas table, and I am grateful. Happy even. I’m looking forward to tonight and tomorrow, and am thankful for having people to share the day with.

Wishing you joy this Christmas. Wishing you a soft landing if  you are among those who have experienced loss at this time of year.  Wishing you the wisdom to discern between healthy expectation, and hokey platitudes. If you’re having none of that, I’ll send over a dish of ambrosia for your narwhal.

 

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The Elusive Christmas Rutabaga

rutabaga
“No Christmas dinner is complete without rutabaga.” ~Andshelaughs~

At 11:30 p.m. one Christmas eve, long, long ago, and about ten kilometers away, I almost tossed away one of the most cherished traditional foods to grace our Christmas table; the elusive Southwestern Ontario Rutabaga.

Had it not been for a squash turned bitter-el-yucko from being grown too close to the gourd patch, I may not be telling you this story.

That evening I had given in to my lovely British boyfriend’s aversion to turnip in favour of squash. I had also ensured that we had his cherished brussel sprouts and enough potatoes to make our mashed and his roasted, along with a sure-thing bread sauce mix for the turkey. Anyway, the squash tasted like bitter-el-yucko (that’s Spanish slang for; it-tasted-like-shit).

So, literally at the eleventh hour, I hustled my chubby bustle to the twenty-four-hour grocer across the street, who would be closing at midnight for Christmas. What was I hoping to find? Not a squash which may have also been contaminated, but  the elusive Christmas Rutabaga. I learned my lesson that year; stick with rutabaga, because it never let’s you down.

You may have read my last post, Caring Less That It’s Christmas. To say I’m not in the Christmas spirit is putting things mildly. So, tonight, unlike most years, I ran out to get the Christmas groceries before the parking-lots become a UFC event tomorrow.

This is not like me. I’m usually el-finito with the Christmas groceries at least two weeks in advance, except for staples like milk and red wine, our pantry is decked out like we’re ready for nuclear holocaust by November 30th.

This year the only items I had stocked up on were sour cream and coloured mini-marshmallows (for my retro 70’s squares). Those darn marshmallows sit on the shelf all year, and then go MIA every year right after Thanksgiving.

I had everything I needed paid for and packed carefully in shopping bags; the orange jello for our tacky jello dish, the pineapple and mandarin oranges for the traditional ambrosia, a thousand pounds of butter for our thousand pounds of sweet treats, five cases of soda, bags of chips, frozen pizza for the teenagers to eat during their lazy days at home, cat food so little Willie Nelson doesn’t starve, tangerines, brown sugar, icing sugar, white sugar, flour, not to mention our every-day groceries that have nutritional value.  But I did not have the rutabaga.

So I stopped at the next store over. No rutabaga.

It took me three stops before I finally got my gnarled up little paws on a rutabaga. Three stores!!!

I like to think that it’s worth the effort. That my son will remember our traditional Canadian food, and that our guests feel like it’s Christmas when they join us on Christmas day. So tonight, I can put my feed up safe in the knowledge that everything I need for our Christmas dinner, and my Christmas baking trays is ready to go.

Once I had successfully captured the elusive Christmas rutabaga, I could cross the last thing off my Christmas shopping list, and there’s no greater feeling. Well, maybe a pedicure and the undivided thorough and proper attention of a good man, but I digress.

Tomorrow is baking day; snickerdoodles, gingersnaps, shortbread, whipped shortbread with chocolate nougat, my 70’s retro squares, a batch of fudge, pineapple squares, biscotti, maybe some caramel corn, and the last drenching of the fruitcake with rum.

Now I bet you’re wishing that bitter-el-yucko squash hadn’t been grown so close to the gourd patch aren’t you? You’re kinda wishing I kept my trap shut and switched to common squash. But I’m not common my darlings. I’m a country girl at heart who loves tradition even more than she actually enjoys the rutabaga.  Go figure.

Wishing you a peaceful and relaxing weekend before the fat-man in the red-suit shimmies down your chimney next week.

 

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South Pole Santa Squares

Feeling the bite of the first snow fall? Already dreaming of your winter-sun-get-away? Here’s something yummy and sweet for your Christmas tray.

Be sure to click on the link below to warm up the ambiance in the kitchen!

 

South Pole Santa Squares

Ingredients

Base

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter

1 cup flour

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

 

Filling

1 TBSP rum

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup coconut

1 egg

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup chopped maraschino cherries (red or green)

1/2 cup well-drained crushed pineapple

 

Method

Base

Mix ingredients together until crumbly. Press into a 9″ square baking pan. Bake at 35o for 15 minutes and remove from oven. Have filling mixed and ready to spread over hot base.

Filling

Beat egg, add brown sugar. Combine well.

Stir in rum extract

Add flour and baking powder, stirring to combine.

Stir in coconut, cherries and pineapple.

Spread mixture over hot base layer.

Return to over and bake 35 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cut into squares after cooling slightly

***

 

 

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The Cynical Elf

Christmas 2011
Christmas 2011 (Photo credit: jreifegerste)

Part and parcel of being an old-fashioned-I-like-to-digest-my-news-in-print-form-darling is getting the really great advertising inserts that proliferate this time of year.

Quite frankly, they beat the heck out of the recent spree of front page ogre-inspired images  of our mysoginist-drug-adled-personal-black-hole-of-ethics-and-dignity mayor. But I digress….

Today, I brought home the LCBO ‘Give Cheer’ insert. I opened up the 41 page glossy mini-mag with the eyes of cynicism. “Beer & Cookies: Surprisingly Sweet Matches”, seemed like another annoyingly magnificent effort to appeal to the glamping/foodie crowd.

Pul-eaze, I thought as I sipped my bourbon. Beer and cookies? Really?

Spare me the obvious effort to be avant-garde and just give me shortbread and eggnog. Even I, the culinary-Christmas-cook thinks that anything other than butter or chocolate added to shortbread is a little too far-fetched.

I can’t say I was convinced by the beer-cookie pairings. I would likely give it a try if someone put any of them in front of me; Dark Beer and Coffee Toffee Shortbread or Winter Ale and Gingerbread Cookies aren’t likely to be on my top ten must-serve selections this holiday season. But if they’re yours, I’d love an invitation and wouldn’t mind having a swig and a nibble.

What did catch my attention were some of the delicious sounding cocktails like the Winter Spice Sour with Cinnamon syrup and deluxe whiskey. Espresso with Sortilege Maple Cream Whiskey  kind of lit my fire as did the Golden Cider (main ingredients are Goldschlager and Canadian Cider).

I’ll be cheeky and let you know that the ‘Snug Sailor’ kind of made me warm in my girly bits just thinking of getting snug with a sailor, but I think that may be the bourbon talking.  Unfortunately the cocktail does not involve a sailor, cock or tail. It does however involve Crabbies Ginger Beer which I love, love, love, and Sailor Jerry spiced rum.

So, as I flipped through the beautifully presented advertising piece from the LCBO, once again it became apparent that I am not a ‘leading-edge-consumer’.

I am not a trend-setter.  In fact, I think that trend-setters lack the deep-rooted self-confidence and grace that define classic style and taste.

I also happen to like to think I fit into the self-confident-classically-styled-individual category.  On occasion, I also like to think that I fit into a size zero and look like Marilyn Monroe, but that’s usually the bourbon cheering me on.

Although it is rare that I ride the edge of seasonal style, whether it be fashion or food, I do like to know what’s current and trending. Trends are fads, and fads are fun.

Fun, my sweet sugar plums is a big part of what this season of giving and sharing is about.  Heck, you may even find me at home serving up maple cream liquor lattes and shortbread spiked with something nutty….

Happy Holidaying to you. I’ve gotta run and get a bottle of that maple cream whiskey before it’s sold out!

 

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Savoury Apple Strata

strataI’ve made this dish a number of times throughout the years, preparing the ingredients to be quickly cooked up and then stored in the refrigerator overnight for a quick and delicious Christmas morning breakfast.

Paired with a nice fruit salad, coffee and juice (a mimosa or two if you don’t have to be responsible for little ones), it’s a great way to start such a merry day!

Ingredients

3 Tbs Butter

3 medium Granny Smith apples peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)

4 cups cubed firm bread

2 cups shredded old cheddar

2 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp dry mustard

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp each salt and pepper

5 eggs

 

Method

Grease a 9×9 baking dish.

Melt butter in a pan, and add apples. Cook until tender-crisp (approximately 3 minutes)

Reduce heat to low and stir in brown sugar

Cook through until apples are tender (just a couple of minutes more)

Using half each of the bread, bacon, apples and cheese, layer in the baking dish, and repeat using the remaining bread, bacon, apples and cheese.

Whisk  together the milk, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and eggs.

Pour liquid mixture over cheese.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but no more than 12 hours.

Pre-Heat oven to 350, and bake for 45 minutes (uncovered)

Let stand 10 minutes before serving

Test  by inserting a knife. If it comes out clean, the strata is ready.

And of course…what you may wish to listen to as you cook….