It’s official. The holiday season has arrived and already I find myself overwhelmed. From decorating the Christmas tree to buying gifts, there is so much going on that it’s easy to spend the holidays checking off your “to-do” list instead of sitting back and enjoying the season.
The chaos brought on by the holidays makes me appreciate the simplicity of mulling spices. Taking only seconds to make, when simmered in a pot of apple cider or red wine, these fragrant sachets will fill your home with the most wonderful aromas that entreat you to both enjoy the moment and this special time of year.
From the outside, it must have appeared picture-perfect. My brothers and I in flannel pajamas knelt playing in front of a warm fire. A record played Christmas carols in the background and our Christmas tree flickered merrily with lights. The seasonal favorite, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” had been our inspiration. And my mother, wanting our first taste of chestnuts to be authentic, had ignored the oven for the real deal: our happily blazing fire. Playing the role of domestic goddess beautifully, she had carefully arranged about 2 dozen chestnuts near the flames.
It wasn’t until the second loud pop that our scene of domestic bliss became something out of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Like popping popcorn, it began slow, but quickly accelerated. Bits of hot chestnut shrapnel went hurtling across the room as the chestnuts began exploding in quick succession. As our living room became a holiday battleground, my mother screamed for us all to seek cover.
For weeks now, I’ve been meaning to post a recipe for gameday chili. I’m not a big football fan, but give me a bowl of chili and some cornbread and I’ll cheer for all four quarters (provided you refill my chili bowl!). To me, chili and football just go together and there are few recipes for chili that I don’t like. I’ve made and enjoyed a kielbasa and black bean chili, a traditional meat and kidney bean chili, and, of course, the Texas style chili which lacks beans but has plenty of large chunks of beef. Recently, a friend wrote raving about a chicken and white bean chili that she had enjoyed at a dinner party. Her suggestion that I include a similar recipe on my blog got me thinking.
With only three weeks until Thanksgiving, it’s time to start thinking about pies. Pecan, pumpkin, and apple pie are the holy trinity of my dessert world and each year it’s a struggle to decide which one to make. Last year, unable to come to a decision, I ended up making one of each. I know…I’m crazy.
But to be honest it was worth it. I enjoyed every bite of gooey pecan pie filling, scraped my plate clean of pumpkin pie with its dollop of whipped cream, and still managed to enjoy the flaky crust of the apple pie. In short, I was in pie heaven. And while I think that three pies should be mandatory for any Thanksgiving feast, I also realize that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So if there is only time to make one pie, than which one should it be?
If you read my post from a couple weeks ago regarding my purchase of 50 pounds of apples, it will come as no surprise to you that I am also an impulse buyer when it comes to meat. Whenever I see meat on sale at the grocery store, I can’t help but buy it. Ribeyes, pork loins, and leg of lamb all find their way into my cart if the price is right. At home, I either incorporate my recent purchase into a meal for that week or into the freezer it goes for a future dinner.
This method of selecting meat led me to pick up a 4 pound piece of meat a couple of weeks ago. The price per pound was ridiculously low and the fact that it was a large hunk of red meat meant that it would be a hit with my husband. I pulled it out of the freezer this weekend to defrost and spent much time thinking about how I would prepare it and how delicious it would be. What I did not think too much about was what type of meat I had bought. And when I finally took a minute to look at the label, I realized that I wasn’t working with prime rib, but rather a somewhat less exciting bottom round roast. No wonder it was so cheap!