Feasting

 

Today I’m joining in with my sweet friend, Katharine Barrett, as we continue to celebrate Christmas in July on her blog  http://www.katharinesthoughts.net

When I start thinking about preparing for Christmas Celebration with my family, food is one place where I pull out all the stops. In short, we feast.  

More important though are the feasts for our souls. Participating in Christmas musicals, going caroling, watching our children’s programs, and attending services that celebrate the birth of Christ like “The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” feed our souls with warmth, hope, love, joy and gratitude. 

 

Especially so when we attend the Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. When we arrive we each receive an unlit candle and make our way to our seats. The children are fidgety in their Christmas outfits. They want to light the candles. There’s no nursery for the babies, they come to the service with the families. Most of them are enthralled with the decorations and the singing. 

 

The pastor sits in a chair at the front and the children who can be trusted to not wander off are escorted to sit at his feet.  He begins the familiar reading “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree…” 

We settle in, absorbed in the story, thinking what it must have been like. Watching the children’s faces caught up in the telling.

 

The joyful carols ring out and fill the room. The strains of “Immanuel”, “Joy to the World”, “Away in a Manger” and more remind us how He has Graced us with His Holy Presence. 

 

Then-

 

 Silence.

Darkness.

A faint glimmer appears at the front and the sound of Silent Night, Holy Night begins with a single voice. Slowly drifting toward the back, gaining volume as each candle is lit from another and another voice is added. By the end of the song, the room is filled with light and the echo of the last notes hangs in the air. The pastor breathes the benediction and we leave silently, the hush still holds us. 

lightoftheworldweb

 

This. Is. Christmas.

 

The celebration of the birth of the Redeemer, the Lamb of God, the Holy One, the Savior of the world. Messiah. Immanuel. God with us. 

 

We go silently to the car and are quiet on the drive home. 

 

At home, the kitchen is the center of my world for the next few hours. Final preparations for Christmas Celebration at our home.  I’ve made the cookies with the kids, and determined the menu. Now, with music flowing, the baking begins!

 

There are rolls to be made, muffins to be prepped, a chocolate torte and a Meyer Lemon pound cake waiting in the wings.  I may even have time for a few truffles and  who knows what else I’ll come up with! 

I’ve added these old standbys and my kids’ favorites below  Questions? Clarification needed? Please add to the comments and I’ll clarify for all!

 

(just click on this: link to my recipe page and scroll down to find these)

 

Nathalie Dupree’s Quick and Easy Rolls

I remember watching her make these on her show on PBS when my youngest was little- the cooking shows were his favorite to watch at lunch time.

 

Pumpkin Muffins

Although these may seem more suited to Thanksgiving tables, there was almost a revolt in the family one year when they discovered I was not planning to make these for Christmas. I gave in and made them even though they didn’t go with the menu!

 

Blueberry Muffins

I’ve made these for years for breakfast Christmas Morning and on weekends. I usually buy a large amount of fresh blueberries and make a batch or two; then I freeze the remainder by spreading them out in one layer on a cookie sheet (with sides) and freeze then transfer to a freezer bag and use them in this recipe. If I have guests then I make it as a bread using a bundt pan {think “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” where Harry(Harriet) brings a bundt cake to the family party} The neat thing about this one is that it can be modified into other kinds of muffins. 

 

Monster Cookies: 

so called because they are so big. I use red and green M&Ms for these at Christmas time. I started making these because there were a kazillion teachers I worked with and only one of me and I wanted to give them all a Christmas Present. Every year they would start asking me as soon as we got back from Thanksgiving: “When are you bringing Monster Cookies?” I would make a batch and place them in the break room with my hot cider concoction and they would be gone by 1 o’clock!

 

Blueberry Muffins or Bread {and more}

Blueberry Muffins/Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups pastry flour or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

 1/2 cup sugar

1 or 2 eggs (1 for muffins; 2 for bread)

1 cup milk

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries.

 

Instructions:

Place rinsed and drained blueberries in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the flour over berries and set aside.  

Sift remaining flour and other dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl.  In another bowl, beat egg(s) and milk together well then pour in melted butter while stirring. Then pour the liquid mixture over the dry mixture stirring only enough to dampen the flour. Dump the berries in and fold into the mixture.

 

For Muffins:

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and Bake at 400 degrees Farenheit for 15-20 minutes- until browned on top- they usually will crack open on top as well.

For Bread: 

Pour mixture into a well-buttered bundt pan and bake approximately 30 minutes at 400 degrees farenheit. Test for donness with toothpick.  When done, remove from oven, let sit 5-10 minutes in pan then turn out onto rack to cool. Once plated sprinkle the top (lightly) with superfine or caster sugar.

 

This recipe can be used to make other types of muffins:

Bacon Muffins:  leave out the berries. Use bacon drippings in place of butter, reduce sugar amount to 2 tablespoons and add 3 tablespoons cooked and crumbled bacon to batter.

Other Berry Muffins: use 1 cup any type of berries, fresh or frozen, well rinsed. 

Date or raisin Muffins: add 1/2 cup chopped dates or 1/4 cup raisins instead of berries.

Pecan Muffins: Reduce amount of sugar to 1/4 cup. Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans to batter. After filling muffin cups, sprinkle with a little sugar, cinnamon, and more nuts(finely chop these).

Whole Wheat Muffins: substitute 3/4 cup coarse whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose flour. DO NOT SIFT IN WITH OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS. Add to dry ingredients after sifting. Reduce sugar amount to 2 tablespoons.

Chicken Breasts in Lemon Cream Sauce

Thought I’d share this one. Tweaked it a bit from a recipe I found .

After the chicken cooked in the pan, removed them; slipped the mushrooms in and sautéed them (if you don’t have mushrooms- skip this step); then added the seasonings, wine, peel and juice.  I used less cream (a lot less) only a generous splash, cooked it down to where the volume was about half, tweaked to taste with seasonings/cream; then poured over the chicken breasts resting on a bed of pasta then sprinkled with the cheese and drizzled(lightly-too much sets the teeth on edge) lemon juice on the top. This is not a heavy sauce like Alfredo, a generous couple of  large spoons ladled over are sufficient.

CHICKEN in LEMON CREAM SAUCE

1/4 c. butter

4 whole chicken breast, split, skinned and boned

1 c. sliced mushrooms

2 tbsp. dry white wine-may use up to ½ cup depending on volume of sauce desired

1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel

juice of ½ lemon- try Meyer lemon for a nice flavor

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. white pepper

 generous splash of heavy cream

 grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add chicken. Cook, covered, turning after about 5 minutes, until chicken is brown and tender. Remove chicken to serving dish. Add mushrooms to the skillet, brown(just skip if not adding mushrooms). Discard excess butter from skillet. Add wine, lemon peel and lemon juice to skillet; cook and stir over medium heat 1 minute to deglaze pan.

Stir in salt and white pepper.

 Gradually pour in cream, stirring constantly, until hot; do not boil! Plate chicken over pasta if desired, otherwise I’d suggest serving with grilled asparagus (recipe to follow); sprinkle with

cheese and drizzle a bit of lemon juice on top.