Category: Family Classics


For enduring my ramblings, I will bestow unto you two baking projects bound by a shared frosting.  So you get two and a half recipes for the price of one!  You can’t afford NOT to read this!

I love Christmas.  It is essential to note, however, that I use “Christmas” as a lump term meaning “celebration on or near the winter solstice involving lights, singing, feasts, and acts of generosity and kindness.”  It is a socially expedient shorthand, though I understand if other non-Christians choose to call their particular celebrations by other, more precise names.

What is hard for me to understand is people who hate the holidays in their entirety: the Grinches, Scrooges, and Burgermeister Meisterburgers of the world.  A lot of people are disappointed as they grow up and find that a cold, aphotic December can come and go without Christmas magically sweeping them up in merriment and joy.  In this regard, I come from a place of privilege.  My parents also love Christmas immensely, and by way of teaching my brother and I to love Christmas, they also showed us how to MAKE Christmas, because the making is the most important part.  It’s the point.

The universe is much like a northern winter.  It is overwhelmingly vast, dark, hard, and uncaring.  Life is an act of audacity.  Abstractions like hope, joy, and love are even more so.  They do not exist on their own.  They exist because we make them.  The most perfect encapsulation I’ve found of this idea is in Terry Pratchett’s “The Hogfather”, in a conversation between Death and his grand-daughter, Susan.

Saturnalia/Yule/Christmas/etc. are about magic: the amazing act of making light in the longest night.  The joy of Christmas is not a thing that happens to us.  It is a thing we bring into being, an attempt to be the best of all of our ideals, in spite of everything.

Be the spark in the darkness.

Anyway, for less abstract values of “making”, this post I bring you a cake, some cookies, and a wonderful frosting for both that also stands on its own as an insanely buttery fudge.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Pantry Soup

Once upon a time, one of my friends was battling a long, drawn out case of bronchitis.  I made him and his husband a huge batch of this chicken and veggie soup, and they demolished it in one night.  When they asked me for the recipe, I was stuck.  “Uhh… there isn’t one?”

As I’ve fed it to more and more people, I’ve gotten more and more recipe requests.  So this is me, attempting to quantify magic.

Still the only way to get me to eat greenbeans.

This is another of my mother’s concoctions, born of an expedition into the depths of the pantry and freezer to try to make space for new groceries.  I know I’ve never made it exactly the same way twice, I would be shocked if she has.  We’ve used one of those pre-roasted chickens you pick up at the grocery store, or boneless/skinless chicken breasts, or leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  You could use duck, or a family of quail (although I can’t imagine why you would want to, all those tiny bones…) or any other bird that strikes your fancy. My personal favourite was when I used an *entire* frozen chicken, giblets and all.

There’s something about pulling meat off bone by hand, and chopping up a heart, that helps you appreciate the animal you’re about to eat.  Personally, I’m also inclined to believe that it gives the soup’s healing power a little extra oomph.

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil/1 tbsp butter OR a nonstick pot
1.5 – 2 lb Bird Meat (or a 3 lb whole bird)
5 – 6 c. chicken broth/stock/bouillon
1 bay leaf
1 c. rice
14 oz. can diced or crushed tomatos, strained
6 oz. mixed frozen vegetables
recommended seasonings: black pepper/rosemary/thyme/basil/cilantro/salt only if needed/a superteeny pinch of cumin if using white meat only

  • in a large pot, sweat onions and garlic with oil, butter, or nonstick surface
  • if Bird Meat is frozen or raw, add to pot now.  If using precooked, wait.
  • add stock/broth/bouillon, 1 bay leaf, black pepper, and other seasonings to taste
  • bring pot to a boil, then hold boil until Bird Meat is cooked through
  • remove cooked/precooked Bird Meat from pot/refrigerator, and set aside
  • add rice, tomato, and frozen veggies, return to boil and set timer to rice’s recommended cook time
  • stir and sample the broth, add more seasoning if needed
  • remove and discard any bone and/or skin, then chop Bird Meat into bite sized bits, about 1/2″ – 3/4″ chunks
  • return Bird Meat to pot, until heated through and rice is done

Resist the temptation to eat straight from the pot.

There are eleventyone ways to tweak this, and almost all of them are just fine.  Only have fast-cook rice?  Set the timer for the veggies instead.  Only have an “italian herb” can of tomatos?  Adjust the other seasonings accordingly.  It is, by its essence, practical.  Use what you have.  Taste often.  Don’t stress.  Feel the love.

Lemon Tea Cookies

This is a recipe my Mom started making for the holidays when my brother and I were little, and I’m keeping it going.  After a gut-busting, gravy-and-cheese-laden feast, there may not be space for cake or pie right away, but these little guys have a biscuit fluffiness and fresh lemon zing that makes them nice and light.

I promise to get better at food photography.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp fine lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
1-3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
(Glaze)
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice

  • preheat oven to 350°F
  • stir 2 tsp lemon juice into milk, set aside to let curdle
  • stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  • moosh butter in a large mixing bowl until softened.  Add 3/4 c. sugar and beat until fluffy, then add egg and lemon zest and mix well.
  • add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately, beating until well mixed
  • drop rounded teaspoon-sized globs onto an ungreased cookie sheet, bake 12-14 minutes until pick test comes out clean
  • stir together glaze ingredients, and brush over cookies while still warm

The glaze makes it tricky to transport these in small packages, so they’re better suited to being put out at a party than given as gifts.  Make sure you snag a couple for yourself before they disappear!