But the best moment of the night for me was when the girls opened the gifts I brought for them, especially little E. You see, E is a girly-girl. She LOVES pink. She loves purses (I gave her one with the Disney princesses on it last year). And recently, she has gotten into "cooking" (preparing simulated/plastic meals for her family...tee hee). So I found the most fabulous thing for her this year--something so awesome, I wanted to keep it for myself. It was the Barbie Dream Kitchen, and you have to know that Barbie's kitchen is PINK! This is E, admiring her gift rather worshipfully (and I don't blame her). However, I think I made out pretty well, too, as Lee Ann will be taking me to see "Hairspray the Musical" in Montreal in April. YIPPEE!
Of course, before we opened our gifts, we FEASTED. The family tradition is that everyone gets to choose one favorite food to be included in the Christmas meal. Happily, someone else already requested shrimp as a pre-function and ribeyes for the main course, so two of my favorites were already on the menu. Therefore, I asked if Evelyn, Lee Ann's precious mom, would make the same treat that she made me for my birthday. The recipe is called Pecan Puffs, but it should be called Pecan CRACK! It's really very simple--basically, meringued pecans--but they are SO yummy and downright addictive! This recipe, friends, is my (belated) holiday gift to you--though it may interfere with any weight loss resolutions that you've made for the new year. ;-)
(Source: Evelyn Thomas)
1 egg white
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Whip the egg white until stiff. Mix in the brown sugar, baking soda, and salt and beat until smooth and glossy. Gently fold in the pecans, making sure that each pecan half gets completely coated. Spread in a single layer on a large, greased cookie sheet (I used a half sheet lined with a Silpat). Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on the pan before removing and breaking the pecans apart. Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container.
Notes: I used two cups of pecans in the batch pictured, but I wish I had used closer to three cups. I did not anticipate how much the meringue would puff up around each nut, and I prefer a greater nut-to-meringue ratio in each bite. Then again, two cups' worth just barely fit on one pan, so if you push it to three cups, be advised that you'll probably have to use two pans. Also, good luck smoothing that sticky stuff out into a single layer! At some point, I gave up and fished each pecan out one-by-one and placed it on the prepared pan, which took roughly forever! If anyone has a better idea, please share it in the comments section.
Once we had stuffed ourselves and sung carols together and opened our gifts, the girls began preparing for bed and for Santa to arrive. First, their daddy took them outside to sprinkle some sparkly reindeer bait around on the ground, and most importantly, up on the roof. Back inside, they chose some special cookies that they had decorated themselves to leave for Santa, along with a glass of milk for the jolly old elf to wash them down with. As you may have already gathered, K and E are both big animal lovers, so along with treats for Santa, they also left carrots for Rudolph and the gang, along with a dish of water for the reindeer to drink. How thoughtful was that?
When the girls had jammies on and were heading to bed, I said my goodbyes, and headed a couple of blocks over to my friend Janice's house to catch the end of their annual Feast of the Seven Fishes. I didn't make it in time for any of the fish dishes, but I came right as they were tucking into an amazing spread of desserts, mostly prepared by Janice's daughter, Dominica, a gal after my own heart (though she has that Martha gene and can make everything much prettier than I ever could, including her baked goods!). Of course, I was already stuffed to the...ahem...gills, but that didn't stop me from indulging in a few special Italian Christmas cookies! My favorites were the ones that were like Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes (buttery, nut-filled balls rolled in powdered sugar) and this pistachio wreath creation that was basically a whole bunch of roasted pistachios held together by a tender innuendo of dough. Yum!
After a good bit of fellowshipping with the Padula Family, it was time for the "midnight mass" (11pm) at the local Episcopal church. It was a lovely service, marred only by an annoying dog that barked his head off all through the new rector's sermon. Afterward, as I was coming out of the church, I was amused to note that the pesky critter actually belongs to the good reverend, and was sitting dejectedly out in the snow by the rectory gate, obviously trying to say "Shut up, Daddy, and come home and see me now!" Ha ha.
I'm afraid that I don't have much to report about Christmas Day proper. The dogs and I spent a quiet day at home. Cyd sent them each a special chewie wrapped in lime green tissue paper which, of course, I let them open themselves (except for Rosie, the ancient basset hound, who was too dumb to figure it out on her own!)
As for me, I spent the day watching a marathon of the first season of "The Big Bang Theory" that my wonderful friend, Kurt, sent me for Christmas (I LOVE that show!) and fiddling with the TomTom (GPS) that Cyd got me. (Yeah!) And because I was completely worn out from all of the holiday cooking and baking, and because I only had to answer to myself on Dec. 25, I had the most shameful of guilty pleasure Christmas dinners. In fact, if it weren't so delicious, I would be too embarrassed to tell you about it. But it's so good, I simply must recommend it to my loyal readership.
Recently, when I was shopping at Hannaford, I spied a box of something called "Bubba Burgers" in a freezer end cap. They had two flavors--sweet onion and jalapeno--and they made me giggle because they were Texas-shaped! Normally, I make my own burgers and eschew the pre-fab frozen varieties, but these sounded awfully good, especially the jalapeno ones. Plus, they were third-pounders, which is my personal preference on proper patty proportions (alliteration intended). The Bubbas were a bit pricey at eight-something a box (of six), but considering how much a fast food burger will set you back these days, they didn't seem all that extravagant--plus, it was my choice for my private Christmas feast (cheaper than the traditional roast beast, that's for sure!). So I splurged and bought a box of jalapeno Bubbas with the windfall of cash that I got from returning all the cans and bottles that had been piling up around here since this summer. (Yes, that's the kind of wild shenanigans that I get up to on my winter break--returning cans and bottles and then coming home to give the rabbit's cage a thorough scrubbing. Whoo-hoo...crazy fun!)
Anyhoo, to prepare my special Christmas meal, I toasted a thick slab of roasted-corn-and-jalapeno sourdough that my brick-oven buddies, John and Keith, sent me from Oregon (but any rustic, chewy loaf will do). I spread the toasted bread lightly with mayo, then laid on some slices of ripe avocado that I had sprinkled with lime juice and granulated garlic, then many slivers of red onion, and finally, the juicy, jalapeno Bubba burger with two slices of cheddar melted on top (leaving it open-faced and thus, easier to eat). HEAVEN HELP ME, it was among the best burgers that I've ever had! Burger lovers, listen up. You gotta try the Bubbas! I know, I know. You've probably moved from feasting mode to fasting mode by now, but remember them for your Superbowl menu.
YIKES! Are we talking about the Superbowl already? Sheesh! Next stop, 2009!