Thursday, January 1, 2009

As it turns out, Top 5 THURSDAY (holiday edition)

Thursday, January 1, 2009
**Yes, I failed to post my weekly Top 5 until today. This just goes to show you our dependency on wireless connections.

I can’t believe this is happening! It’s Top 5 Tuesday, and I am STRUGGLING to come up with an interesting list. I have to admit not only to feeling a bit uninspired, but also to an intense feeling of inadequacy-many of my favorite blogs have just been so good lately! The goings-on of my mind seem so trivial! Granted, I am on Christmas vacation. There is usually not a whole lot accomplished during Christmas vacation. It’s for relaxing, after all. I say this knowing that I probably have more than my fair share of relaxing time, being semi-retired and everything.

I ran my final and only idea for Top 5 Tuesday by my loving siblings, but they both strongly objected. For some unknown reason, they both felt that talking about my top 5 holiday treats was ridiculous and lame. My brother informed me that he wouldn’t find a blog interesting that discussed such things. My sister did not approve of my final list. Not that we didn’t have a great time laughing, dissecting my ideas, and getting new ones for the future because we certainly did. I decided to write about my holiday favorites anyway, despite the protests, and mostly because while writing about the food that I enjoy is part of my original purpose for my blog, it often evokes warm, comforting feelings of familial bliss and treasured memories. While the five holiday treats that I include here are not necessarily elaborate or fancy, they are still the things that I remember indulging in, specifically around the holidays.

5. Christmas Morning Breakfast. I can see how this might be confusing-breakfast is a MEAL, not a treat. What a way to start such a non-original top 5! All I can say is that my favorite part of Christmas with my family is always our Christmas morning breakfast. It’s the same every year. As Frances the badger would say about routine and predictable favorite foods, (hers being bread and jam-see previous post relating to children’s books), “I always know what I’m getting, and I’m always pleased.” We all roll out of bed, usually around 7:30 or 8:00-it’s grown increasingly later through the years as the youngest in the family have matured past the age of frantically waiting in nervous anticipation to see what Santa brought. After the gift-opening, we all pile our plates with delicious scrambled eggs, fresh biscuits, and spicy sausage (patties, not links!). Cups of steaming coffee or hot chocolate are passed around. I usually pour a decent-sized pool of syrup onto my plate, into which I swirl my bites of sausage. Yes, it’s a simple breakfast. But there is something so wonderful about crowding around the tiny kitchen table in my grandparents’ house or having to seek out a spot amongst the remnants of our wrapping paper and boxes, balancing plates precariously on laps and hoping that the large silver urn of coffee will be constantly replenished. I absolutely love it.

4. Memaw’s Rolls. Memaw is my grandmother, as you might have guessed, from the aforementioned Christmas morning tradition. She is truly the most wonderful and amazing grandmother, like an angel on earth. That may sound trite, but it’s just really the best way to describe her. An angel on earth. As though heaven is where she has belonged all along. She works tirelessly to make Christmas a special time for everyone, taking on far too many tasks, including the making of her famously delicious rolls. Yes, I know that I use the word “delicious” frequently in my posts. It must be my favorite word. These rolls, a basic yeast roll recipe, feel light, but taste buttery and rich. Of course, they’re best piping hot and slathered with butter. The boys usually devour at least 2-3 rolls per meal, so you can imagine what a tremendous job it is to provide enough rolls for 18 people. Someday, I’ll have to attempt them myself, but I feel they probably won’t ever be quite as good as Memaw’s.

3. Queso. Again, I am completely aware of the simplicity of this dish. Every restaurant has a version, there are millions of recipes, in every cookbook for it. All kinds of cheese and mix-ins have been employed, I’m sure. I must admit, the best, and my favorite, queso is my mom’s, and while we have had it on other occasions (besides Christmas), we ALWAYS have it over the holidays, usually on Christmas Eve to accompany a fairly light meal of roast beef and ham sandwiches. My family has always eaten quite a bit of Mexican food-enchiladas, chile relleno casserole (definitely worth a post someday), and concoctions of meat, chiles, and potatoes were frequently on our menu-so we like everything pretty spicy. My mom’s queso is no exception-it’s full of finely chopped green chiles and tomatoes. I like it better that way, spicier instead of cheesy.

2. Chocolate Praline Bars. I’m including the recipe for this sinfully wonderful dessert. See, this post isn’t completely without substance! I’m sharing a recipe! My mom found it in a Christmas cookbook many years ago, and the bars are trooped out every year at holiday parties or just for us to devour when we’re home. She modified the recipe, coming up with the brilliant idea of the layer of chocolate chips herself. Thus, I’ve never tried the original quick praline bars, because they’ve always been covered in chocolate. Which is as they should be. It’s a very simple dessert, and can easily be doubled. I would suggest you run, not walk, to your kitchen to make these, IMMEDIATELY.

24 graham cracker squares, or enough to cover the bottom of your pan in a single layer
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup chopped pecans
chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350. Arrange graham crackers in SINGLE layer in ungreased pan (8 x 8). Heat brown sugar and butter to boiling; boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour over crackers; spread evenly. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake until bubbly, 8-10 minutes. Spread chocolate chips generously over the top. Cover pan with foil; let sit for 3-4 minutes. Uncover, spread melted chocolate chips evenly over surface with a knife (it should be a thick layer). Place cookies in the refrigerator or freezer, covered.

1. Viscochos/Bizcochos. I wish that I had a picture to capture the loveliness of these precious little Mexican wedding cookies, flavored with anise. They’re very delicate, usually in an unusual shape, like stars or hearts, and absolutely doused in cinnamon sugar. Now, if you were to come across a recipe for bizcochos, you might blanch from the inclusion of lard in the recipe. Keep in mind that these are holiday treats-they are all unhealthy, rich, and calorie-laden. The lard is a crucial ingredient-it gives the cookies that “melt-in-your-mouth” quality. My mother attempted to make them once, without the lard, which resulted in a completely ordinary cinnamon cookie. Typically, we’ve had to find a friend or acquaintance who makes them at home, and then buy several dozen for Christmas or any other special event. You won’t find them in stores, in other words. My mom usually arranged to have them for Christmas when I came home from college, and I insisted on having platters of them at each table for my wedding. I would actually rather eat bizcochos than wedding cake (unless my sister made the cake, of course) or any other dessert for that matter. Tiny bites of heaven-that’s how I would describe them. Interestingly enough, when I was searching for a decent picture to include, I came across this article from the New York Times. Not only did the recipes look great (and there is one for bizcochos!), I appreciated reading about El Paso, the closest city to my hometown (and by close, I mean SEVERAL hours drive).

This wraps up my holiday edition of Top 5 Tuesday-make sure to eat some black-eyed peas today! Happy New Year!

1 comment:

J & Co. said...

Ha, your siblings! What sorts of top 5 lists did they come up w for you? Happy New Year!