- Member for
- 1 year 3 months
What was the absolute favorite thing you ate in 2011? When Amy Ephron, publisher of an online food magazine called "One for the Table," asked me that question, I didn't hesitate before answering. I have no trouble recalling the favorite food I ate in 2011. It was the evening of Oct. 8. My husband and I were in Chicago that weekend to watch our son join a group of 45,000 ambitious human beings in one of the largest marathon races in the world.
Some of the best times during the holiday season come when friends gather together to share food, play games, sing carols, nibble sweet Christmas treats and sip on special beverages concocted especially for the occasion. My mom was known for the hot buttered rums she served to holiday guests. Well before friends were due, she blended together a thick, rich mixture of butter, vanilla ice cream and lots of sugar, all seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon. She stored the batter in the freezer. At serving time, the sweet goop went into mugs with hot water and rum.
How easy can holiday entertaining be? Extremely easy when someone else plans the menu, provides tried and true recipes complete with tips for success, and offers suggestions for wine and beer pairings. That's exactly what Minneapolis cookbook author Carmela Tursi Hobbins presents in her newly published cookbook, "Celebrations with Carmela's Cucina." "In the cooking classes I teach, students often tell me they have a hard time putting a menu together for a special holiday meal," Hobbins said during a recent phone interview.
The day after Thanksgiving, when many people have shopping in mind, I enjoy a relaxing day of holiday baking. I sleep in that morning. As I sip my first mug of hot, dark coffee, I chuckle about the silly people who wake up before the crack of dawn to be sure to get in on all the bargains of the day as they wait in long lines and fight their way through crowds. I gather ingredients, mixing bowls and my favorite wooden spoon for stirring up cookie dough. I turn on the Christmas music.
When I was growing up in a suburban neighborhood of St. Paul, Minn., we had neighbors who didn't eat meat. The couple had a black-haired little girl with dark brown eyes and glowing pink cheeks. She didn't eat meat, either. This stirred up much curiosity among the people who lived along our street. My parents just couldn't understand it. What in the world did these people eat? How did they stay healthy? Their questions were answered when the couple invited us to their house for dinner. Mysterious aroma greeted us at the door of their home as it wafted from their modest kitchen.
One sunshiny day last summer during a car ride with a few of my grandchildren, we all got a little silly. We'd just made a stop at the local chocolate shop for some candy treats. Giggles escalated to hardy belly-laughs as we sang nursery rhymes opera-style with brief pauses for licks of Sugar Daddy caramel lollipops (the grandchildren) and bites of a thick dark chocolate-dipped apricot (me). Our wacky fun turned livelier when 10-year-old Emily referred to her sweet treat as a shoogie dadder. She was as surprised as the rest of us when those funny words came out of her mouth.
The sweet smells of fresh-pressed apple cider and warm cinnamon-spiced apple doughnuts are fall pleasures that I must experience every year. My favorite season of the year would not be complete without a traditional trip to an apple orchard. This year's orchard experience came near the end of apple-picking time. As my husband and I headed northwest on the toll road from Chicago toward Minnesota, my fingers flew furiously over the touchpad keys on my phone as I tried to Google apple orchards in Wisconsin.
Fall is slowly settling in. As I write, the sky is charcoal gray with ribbons of white bleeding into the darkness. The sun poked through a break in the clouds for a few minutes, trees bare of leaves casting shadows on the dormant grass. The outdoor thermometer reads 38 degrees. I can see the last blooms of my perennial flowers outside, adding contrasting color of deep yellow beside the lavender-colored mums flowering right beside them. Brown pine needles and dry leaves are scattered over the grass.
Every time I pull my slow cooker out of the hall closet, I lament my decision to give up my old crock pot. When I got married, the Rival Crockpot, introduced to the purchasing public in 1971, was changing the way women cooked. Every home cook wanted the new small electric kitchen appliance that "cooks all day while the cook's away" as advertised.
Kelly Larson of Bagley, Minn., calls herself a fanatic forager of fungal fruits. She's not kidding. When we met at the third annual Fall Mushroom Camp recently put on by White Earth Tribal & Community College (WETCC ) Extension Service, Larson was shocked. "What are you doing here?" she asked. "I thought you didn't eat mushrooms." Again, the wild mushroom wizard was not kidding. Although we'd never met in person, Larson clearly remembered a column I wrote several years ago about morel mushrooms, confessing I'd never developed an appreciation for edible treats from the forest floor.