Friday, November 27, 2009

Messing with Holiday Traditions

Happy Black Friday!

No, we will not be venturing out for a stressful day of consumerism today. It may surprise many of you, but Simon and I completed our Christmas shopping last weekend.

Some may view our rebellious shopping habit in the same light as they view stores that play Christmas music the day after Halloween. We view this as a way to reduce the stress of the holiday season. I find the crowds more tedious than festive. The long lines make the process oh so inefficient, and because we also shop with a list and a budget, the objective of getting a fabulous deal on anything is not a huge priority in our shopping equation (however, we did find a few very good deals this year, just the same!)

It wasn't always this way. Growing up, this was what the women of my family did the day after Thanksgiving. My mom and sister and I piled into a car (or two) with grandma and aunts and girl cousins and spent the day shopping at the mall. I don't know for certain if Black Friday has become more aggressively marketed and sinister today than back then, but it did seem more tolerable when I was younger..spending time with cousins, not really having a budget or an extensive gift list to adhere to, and living in a smaller town may all have contributed to the carefree shopping day I fondly recall.

As we grow older, it is just a part of life that our holiday traditions change. I think it is imparative that we do allow the old to shape the new. We should hold onto those traditions we cherish. We should accomodate the traditions of the new people in our lives, and we should not feel bad for creating new traditions that are more in line with our lifestyles.

For us, these changes mean shopping before the Christmas rush,sending out Christmas cards (it is an English thing) and, more often than not, actually being in England on the blessed day. Foodwise, Christmas now means mince pies and trifle, and watching the queen's speech...but I still like to have Grandma's cream puffs and to make divinity on those years we stay home. The orange and nuts in the bottom of our Christmas stockings is still required.

One modified tradition that I regret this Thanksgiving holiday is that we did not spend it with family. For me, I think this is one of those holiday traditions that should not be messed with.

We have had several changes over the past year - loved ones passing away and our son moving out of the house. Simon and I started the season with several plans for Thanksgiving: It started with hosting the event...then we decided that we were going to visit Jake in Boise...then we found out that Jake had to work and would not be available to us during our stay in Boise.

Resigning ourselves-reluctantly- to a dinner for two, we decided, first, that we would go to Palisade Restaurant.

Then one of us came up with a hairbrained idea that a four day holiday from work might be a great opportunity to detox and feel lousy for a few days. (The other person is much too accomodating for his own good, don't you think?) So we didn't make the required early reservation at Palisade.

Thankfully, while taking a quick trip to the grocery store on Tuesday to grab JUST an onion, Simon and I came to our senses and decided to prepare a romantic banquet for two. We left the store with $150 worth of groceries and enough food to feed both of our families and, I think everyone in our small town.

Lesson: It is not easy to make a small Thanksgiving feast.

There is another diversion from holiday tradition that I do not regret this year (apart from the shopping one, of course). Instead of pumpkin pie for dessert, I made a Bourbon Chocolate Macadamia nut tart. (I can't believe I ever thought about doing a detox!) It was so good, but it saddened me that I did not have family around to share it with.

I don't know why, but I have always been a bit intimidated by tarts...after making this one, I am over that fear. It was so easy!

This recipe is from Martha Stewart's Holiday 2009 special issue (on newstands now, and filled with some really great sweets!)

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart
Makes one 11-inch tart

1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Pate Sucree (or use your favorite pie crust recipe)
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon bourbon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 cups unsalted whole macadamia nuts, (10 1/2 ounces)

1.Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll pate sucree into a 14-inch circle. Fit pastry into an 11-inch tart pan; trim dough evenly along edges. Use trimmings to patch any thin spots in shell. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, and bourbon until combined. Whisk in flour, salt, and butter; stir in chocolate. Pour mixture into chilled tart shell. Cover top with nuts, pressing them halfway down into filling.
2.Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. and continue baking until crust and nuts are golden, about 35 minutes. If tart gets too brown, place aluminum foil over top for remainder of cooking time. Cool on wire rack.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bake N 4 Jake: November Cookie of the Month - Dangerous Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

This month's cookie is a Dangerous Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookie.

I found this recipe in a Redbook magazine years ago, and made them for Jake quite often when he was younger. It is a chocolate and peanut butter cookie base with chocolate chips and chopped peanut butter cups in every bite. These have the texture of a peanut butter cookie and -with 3TBS of batter per cookie- they are definately big enough to satisfy a hungry college student. Jake is home this weekend, so I thought I better whip these up so he can take them home with him.

After tasting one of these again, I must say I had forgotten how very good they are. These definately are a not something that you want around your house if you are suffering from an empty nest and a slower metabolism. If this sounds like you, I recommend that you file these under your "dangerous" recipes and bake them only when you know you will have people around to help you devour them!

(See the "nutrition" information at the bottom of the recipe- I think this is why they taste so good!)