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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’


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Oh, misfits, you should’ve KNOWN I’d be a freak for Christmas.  Really, now.

Have you ever noticed that you go into the holiday season with all these expectations?  That you just assume you’ll be able to knit Mom a bolero with ruffled feather edges?  That you’ll–CHYA! of course!–make an authentic figgy pudding?  That you’ll, oh definitely, watch every movie in your 30+ Christmas movie collection. hot cocoa and a The Boy or The Girl by your side, matching Cosby-esque holiday sweaters gleaming in the light of your glowing fireplace, your Colgate-white teeth glinting ever so brightly as you toss your head back to share a hearty laugh over something that incorrigible Donald Duck has done?  Oh, Donald, you and your hilarious hijinx!  Whenever will you learn?

Well, that’s me, and I don’t know what I’m thinking when I wrap myself into this mental giftbox of horrors.

I don’t even have a fireplace.

Nevertheless, the BMG always heads into fall with all these expectations, a mental checklist that grows by leaps and bounds once we pass Halloween, and which has inevitably swollen to fuck-all unmanageable proportions by the time Thanksgiving hits.  By Black Friday, I’m convinced that Christmas for this year is already shot and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

Uh, dramatic much?

That’s why this year I’m taking a different approach.  I’m pencilling in Christmastime on my schedule–like, for really reals.

Now those of you who know that I had a Thanksgiving clipboard may laugh and brand me a control freak (trying to suppress denial rising in my gut), but yes, YES, Bad Mama Genny IS going to make a holiday wish list. And on it, I’m putting all my essential experiences, all the things that will really, truly matter to me in making it feel like I’ve “had” Christmas.

One of those things I’ve always wanted to do and never actually made time for is the ever-elusive, all-encompassing, life-altering, MAGICALLY DELICIOUS….COOKIE EXCHANGE!

For the uninitiated, a cookie exchange basically means that you have a party where every attendee brings a designated number of cookie recipes, with a designated number of cookies of each variety (entirely dependent on how many attendees you have), along with copies of the recipes.  You lay all the cookies out on a table, hand out boxes, and everyone gets to pick up the cookies and recipes that they like.  So you come out of the day with a sugar rush, delicious new goodies to bring home, slammin’ recipes, and all the juicy sexual details you’re too polite to ask for when you’re not high on sugar and champagne.

And dudes, it’s also a super boss way to legitimize going overboard.  (“But, The Boy, it’s the rule!  If I don’t show up with 565 cookies, they’ll strip me down and pelt with gumdrops!”)

Actually, sign me up for that.

Now, I’m a newbie at the Cookie Exchange thing.  I’ve never hosted one before.  But the way I see it, there are a few essentials:

*Alcohol: I’m serving “Bitch.” Keepin’ it classy.

*Hot Cocoa: Yes, with marshmallows and peppermint sticks, I can’t believe you EVEN asked.

*Christmas music: Fa la la la la, la fucking la.  

*OFFICIAL treat boxes: Or you could just have everyone use the tupperware they brought their treats in.  But that’s just so…sensible.  And, you know…not official.

*Festive decor: We’ll be exchanging confections by the light of one of my Christmas trees.

Yes, I said “one of.”  Are you really surprised?

It’s the extra oomph every party needs, like that friend who drinks too much and finally agrees to dance, and then you realize why he never agrees to dance, or the loopy aunt who sells Native American-esque jewelry at the craft mall and tells everyone about her recent experiments with the occult and offers to channel dead uncles for all y’alls.  

Actually, it’s not at all like that.  But it is oomph, I can promise you that.

*Good People: Bottom line: you’re only going to enjoy yourself if you keep this engagement small-ish, low-key, and low-anxiety.  That means no frenemies allowed.  

The negative Nancy who’s always telling you that you’d be so cute if you could just clean up your language and hang out with the boys less?  Not invited.  

The desperate chick who hangs on every word your best misfit’s boyfriend says and thinks it’s funny to try to sit in his lap while said misfit is in the bathroom?  Not invited.  

The very, very sweet girl who is only very, very sweet until she starts to tell everyone they’ll be burning in hell for all eternity unless they take Jesus into their hearts?  NOT INVITED.

*A loose definition of the “right way”:  Don’t get on your friend for bringing vegan cookies.  Don’t berate anyone for decorating storebought goodies with icing and sprinkles.  And don’t ask if there’s high-fructose corn syrup in anything that’s been made.  

This is about fun.  It’s about the holidays.  It’s also about expanding your vision of what fun and the holidays mean.  Everyone’s got something to bring to the table, and your way isn’t the only right way.  

That being said, my way is the only right way.  

Kidding!  Take a deep breath and repeat after me: “I am blessed to have such unique and creative friends.  I am blessed to have such unique and creative friends…”

What are the essential components of a cookie exchange for you?  What are your fun ideas?  Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you in the past?  What would make it your ideal cookie exchange?  Let’s make this fun–there will be an awesome cookie-related giveaway for the best suggestion I receive before midnight, CST, on Sunday, December 19th!

That’s over two weeks to get your misfit juices flowing! Shortly after, I’ll post the winner, his/her suggestion, and the prize!

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Stollen is one of those classic holiday recipes that is perhaps comparable to a mysterious foreigner named Gregor, or Maurice– just approachable enough so that everyone will try it, but also vaguely ethnic-sounding, naturally rendering it impressive.  Many recipes call for candied peel and candied cherries–that’s right, those day-glo bright fruits that only make themselves known on store shelves for the few weeks preceding Christmas.  My recipe uses homemade candied clementine and lemon peel, because your BMG hates her life and wanted to know what it would feel like to be put to work in a Russian gulag.

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You’ll also find plump, dried bing cherries, among other delicious fruity additions.  Some people like to put a rope of marzipan in the middle of theirs, and I was about to myself, but decided last-minute that I liked the stollen just as it was.  You can go your own way.

Go your own waaaaay.  You can call it anoooother lonely da–

I’m done, I promise!

In other words, this recipe bears absolutely no resemblance to the glue-ey brick of fruit and nuts magically held together by high-fructose corn syrup and marvelously capable of holding down even the peskiest of flyaway papers on your desk.  It will, undoubtedly, change your life, give you newfound confidence, cure male-pattern baldness, and get that cute boy in the next cubicle to notice you.

But if those reasons aren’t enough to convince you, consider the free therapy!  I felt incredibly calm as I violently abused dough the day before we were to make a 14 hour exodus by car out of New York and toward our Chicago homeland.  In fact, I exorcised so much of my inherent rage that The Boy could hardly recognize the blissed-out, bovine-eyed, sloppy-grinned Christmas elf who had replaced The BMG.

Behold the power of dough.  Or, you know, the wine I was sucking down.  Could go either way, really.

I recommend giving stollen-making a try when your holiday dose of Prozac just isn’t cutting it, or perhaps just after you remember that going home for the holidays means actually having to hang out with your family.  Stollen is like that–fits in everywhere.

Merry Christmas, you lovely, stressed-out lil’ misfits!

Holiday Stollen
Makes 2 regular-size loaves or 8 little loaves

Go Get:
1 1/3 cups warm, whole milk yogurt (NOT hot); (you can also use milk or almond milk)
milk (cow, soy, almond, whatever) for brushing the loaves
2 T. active dry yeast
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar, plus some for dusting on top
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter (or Earth Balance for you DF misfits)
5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (if you don’t have or don’t want to use this, use bread flour instead of all-purpose; I like it because it gives the bread excellent lift and a beautiful, chewy texture, even with all those fruits weighing it down)
2/3 cup currants
1 cup dried cherries
2/3 cup raisins (can use golden)
1 cup candied lemon and orange peel (I made my own to avoid the junky stuff sold at the grocery store; I used this recipe, using clementines instead of oranges)
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons Jamaican allspice
2 teaspoons Saigon cinnamon

Go Do:
Dissolve the yeast in the yogurt and let it sit until it’s a bit frothy, maybe about ten or fifteen minutes.

Cream the butter, salt, and sugar together, then beat in the eggs and the yeast mixture.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour, vital gluten, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon.  Throw about five cups of that mixture into the yeast mix, and beat it until the flour is incorporated.  Slowly add the rest of the flour mixture in small amounts, beating well after each addition.  Once you’ve got a workable dough, flour a work surface and knead it until it’s smooth.  Spread the dough out into a rough rectangle and fold in one of the fruits.  Fold the dough in half and press to seal the ends and “trap” the fruit in the dough.  Then knead as usual.  Repeat with all the other fruits and peel, and knead thoroughly until everything is well-distributed.

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Place the dough in a lightly-buttered bowl and cover it with a damp kitchen linen.  Set it in a warm place and…you know what to do.  Let it sit there for about two hours or so, until it’s doubled in volume, while you go do something else.

I recommend running into the street while holding your half-consumed bottle of wine and screaming “I’M MAKING STOLLEN, BITCHES!” at the passerby.  But that’s just me.

When the dough is ready, punch it down to deflate it, and plop it onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into two halves (or, into 8 mini loaves).  Place the dough pieces onto a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment, and shape them into loaf-like beings.  Cover these guys with another damp cloth and let them sit in a warm place until they double again, probably another 60-90 minutes.

When your babies are ready, brush them with some milk and sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar.  If you don’t like this part, you can leave it out, or you can sprinkle them when they’re hot out of the oven.  Alternatively, you can wait until they cool and use powdered sugar.  My family always preferred the crunch of the grainy stuff.  Preheat the oven to 350, and when it’s ready, put the loaves in and bake them for about ten minutes.  Then drop the heat to 300 and bake them for another half hour to forty-five minutes, until they’re golden.  Watch the bottoms on these–they will generally be the best indicator of how done the bread is.  Of course, the bread should also sound hollow when you tap it.  When you’re there, take them out of the oven and remove them to a cooling rack.  Voila!

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Christmastime always makes your BMG think of Chinese food.

Now I know what you’re thinking–wow, her family probably never cooked; they probably ordered in Chinese for the holiday, what abuse, what misery, poor Bad Mama Genny!

Au contraire, my sweet misfit poppets, au contraire.

You see, I came from a family that dedicated itself to crafting the perfect holiday. Thanksgiving with 15 sides (3 different kinds of jello, but of course), Christmas with a family-style spread that required an extra 8-foot folding table to accommodate the selection, and a traditional Polish Christmas Eve Wigilia meal the night before–for a grand fucking whopping total of FIVE PEOPLE OH MY GOD WHY ARE WE WORKING SO HARD MY FINGERS ARE BLEEDING INTO THE FIGGY PUDDING OH THE HUMANITY.  So where does the Chinese food fit in?

Well, somewhere between my mother’s 3 AM panic attack over getting the house clean enough, my brother’s emotional breakdown at the tear we’d managed to rip in the universe which sent all the world’s dirty dishes to his sink, and my impromptu nap at the kitchen table, vegetable peeler still in hand, five pounds of potatoes down, only three more to go…well, irony of fucking ironies, we all got hungry. My aunt would pull out the Chinese takeout menu, and forty bucks later, we were a united front once again, happily chowing down on Moo Goo something-or-other and wondering how the hell we had ended up in this gelatinous, technicolored, gumdrop-studded, whirling, twirling gingerbread house of horrors. That, my friends, is why, as I was decking my halls and ho-ho-ho-ing my way through my cookie list, I was hit by an overwhelming–NAY–insatiable desire for Crab Rangoon. Enter today’s recipe.

I recommend eating these with the Christmas lights on, “Jingle Bells” playing in the background, and a sobbing family memb–but wait; that’s my house, not yours.

So indulge your mother’s compulsive need to include the three primary jello colors. Peel potatoes ’til you pass out (fine, so there MAY have been some gin involved, I can’t really say…).  Embrace the dog when she eats the blinking angel tree-topper (she looks kinda cute with her tummy periodically lighting up like that). The love will get you through. If not, well, there’s always that gin.

Crab Rangoon
Makes 48

Go Get:
1 package (48 count) wonton wrappers
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
6 oz. flaked crabmeat
2 green onions, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. each tamari or soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce
approx. 1/4 cup cooking oil (I used grapeseed)

Go Do:
Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except for the wonton wrappers and the cooking oil.

Lay out a won ton wrapper with one of the points facing you.  Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper, and spread it out to make a horizontal, log-like shape.  Resist the urge to overfill, as this will cause them to burst while cooking.

Using your finger, moisten the edges of the wonton with water, and fold the bottom half to the top, pressing all the edges to seal.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers.  Place the finished rangoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and, using a pastry brush dipped into the oil, lightly brush both sides of all the rangoon.

Put the rangoon into the oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until both sides are pleasantly browned, flipping once halfway through cooking.  Allow them to cool for a few minutes before biting into them.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauces and sides.

 

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