Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Christmas in July

"I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars
and open a jar of it every month."

Harlan Miller

Even though I like to think of myself as an organized girl, I'm not much of an orderly shopper. For reasons I have yet to understand, I find there is cause to go to the grocery store almost every day. I make lists, on paper and in my mind, still there's something I've forgotten.

In the same vane I've never been one of those people who could do my Christmas shopping early. While the lure of extra savings is enticing, day after Christmas shopping makes me sad. I don't do good in crowds and who wants to see the things that they stood in line for at the beginning of the season to assure they'd make someone's dream come true, sitting on a bedraggled, picked-through shelf and marked fifty percent off? Elmos with broken ticklers and Cabbage patch kids who didn't get picked sit in clearance bins like older kids in an orphanage, just waiting to be taken home and loved. Wrapping paper, cards and rolls of ribbon call shoppers to buy now and save later. I don't know about anyone else, but if I haven't bought and sent Christmas cards by Dec. 26th the chances are pretty good that I'm not going to send them at all. Even if I buy them on sale at the end of one year, I'm not going to remember where I stored them come sending time the next.

So, you ask, what's this all about? It's summertime. We should be going to the beach, taking hikes in the woods, eating watermelon, cooking burgers and corn on the cob on an outside grill, making S'mores and catching fireflies. Why talk of Christmases past or future? Well, friends, I've got a plan. It's a little bit convoluted but stick with me.

NaBloPoMo's theme for July is not Christmas (thank God) but food. AntiJen and I talked of making a pact to get us back into regular posting. We agreed discussion of food and our inability to establish good eating habits might just be the impetus to both write and diet! I know it's a far stretch but hey, we were at least having the discussion. I can't remember if we actually agreed to the month long food theme posting regemine, but the idea has been rolling around in my depressed mind. For me, depression and food are a set of bookends. Either I don't eat at all or I eat too much. It's all about control and comfort.

I don't know what AntiJen decided but here's my plan for the month. Since I promised people last Christmas that I would be sending out recipes instead of cookies to lessen my holiday stress, I'm going to use this food posting month as a way to kick-start my 2008 Christmas Recipe Round-Up. I figure if I can copy one recipe a day for 31 days that's doing pretty good in my book. My blog might be kind of boring, because I'm not sure what I can say about food every day for 31 days, but my biggest holiday project will be finished. Woohoo! Depression be damned! I feel the spirit coming on. Fa la la la la la la la la!

Wish me luck.
May your summertime days be merry and bright,
Merry ME
In no particular order:

July 1: Gingerbread Men

(I’ve been making Gingerbread Men with this recipe since Wendy's first Christmas in 1971. I’ve tried others, but always come back to “old faithful.” Perhaps it's just part of the tradition. The dough is user-friendly and can be made into just about any kind of people you want. Cute little boys and girls with decorated Christmas clothes, or more risqué naked people – your call!)

½ cup margarine
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 egg slightly beaten
1 tsp. each lemon and orange peel*
¾ cup molasses
4 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp. each nutmeg, cloves, allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream margarine and sugar. Add egg and molasses. Beat well. Stir in peels. Sift together 31/2 cups of flour, spices and soda. Add to creamed mixture and blend. Stir in just enough of the last ½ cup of flour to make a stiff but not dry dough. Cover lightly and chill for 45 minutes. Remove 1/3 of the dough and place on a lightly floured board. Roll out to ¼” thick. Cut and place on a greased sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, cool and decorate. Makes 3 dozen, 5-inch gingerbread people.

*I find it kind of expensive to buy whole bottles of lemon and orange peel when you are only going to use one teaspoon a year. I often grate fresh peel which adds a touch of citrussy flavor to the cookies.

I never get the stiff but not dry consistency exactly right. The more you make the better you’ll get at juding the right amount of flour.

The cookies will puff up when first baked, then settle back down. Don’t overcook unless you like them crispy. Again, it’s a matter of trial and error to get the right amount of soft vs. crisp (i.e. brittle!)

No comments: