Orange You Glad It’s Almost 2021?

Orange isn’t a holiday hue, but it’s my favorite color. (Not that you could tell from my wardrobe or our house — there isn’t a speck of it to be seen.) No offense to red and green, but I love orange’s vibrant cheerfulness!

Above and below are a few favorite holiday foods a L’Orange

Plus, a must have book for 2021.

First up are/were these sweet potatoes that graced our Thanksgiving table. They made a repeat performance on Christmas Day, too. Easy, peasy — and orange.

Maple & Pecan Roasted Sweet Potatoes

1 Tbsp. butter or extra virgin olive oil

2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and sliced into 1/4″ rounds

1/3 – 1/2 cup pecan halves and/or pieces (the more, the merrier!)

2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or oil a baking dish and layer with sweet potato slices. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour or until a fork easily pierces sweet potato slices. Remove from oven and remove foil. Sprinkle pecans over the top, drizzle with maple syrup, and return to oven uncovered. Bake 15 minutes more. Enjoy!

Then, these beautiful citrus fruits from Texas arrived — a gift from a beloved Aunt in Minnesota. (Thank you!) Originally there were more oranges, but I juiced and zested a few to make her Apricot Nut Bread pictured at the top, plus a batch of my favorite Southern pecans below. Sorry, no photo… but, here’s the recipe:

Orange-Glazed Pecans (courtesy of former pecan grower and fab cook, Linda Lamb)

1 Tbsp. grated orange rind

1/4 cup orange juice

1 cup granulated sugar

4 cups pecan pieces or halves

Combine first three ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Add pecans. Stir until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and stir until pecans separate and glaze. Pour onto waxed paper to cool. (Ditto on easy, peasy!)

As for the Apricot Walnut Bread, I’m awaiting clarification re: how much sugar to add before I share the recipe. Recently I punted and added the “right” amount (to me) with rave reviews from The Man Of Few Words:

“Now THAT’s some good bread!”

Sometimes he actually speaks. :)

Last, but not least, is a book I ordered from Marc Ensign, whose skill with words (and the bass guitar) I’ve admired for a long time. Please don’t judge his book by its cover, “Dick” is Marc’s neighbor who inspired him (and many others, including me) to brighten the world with kindness, humility, forgiveness, and much more.

Plus, it’s my favorite color!

In just over 100 pages, Marc’s succint writing, storytelling, and humor touched my heart. Everybody needs to read this in 2021! You can order it by clicking here. But, with shipping delays, sell-out stock, and hardcover copies hard to come by these days, you might have to wait awhile for delivery. (Be patient!) It’s well worth waiting for — and reading. “Be A Dick” is a treasure.

I don’t often recemmend things on my blog, but Marc’s book (and the recipes above) are sure to bring you a Happier New Year, or at least a happier outlook on life. We all need that in 2021. Happy New Year!

Enjoying orange at The Lake,

~ Kim

In My Kitchen ~ December 2020

In My Kitchen… this fish trio ended up on top of our freezer to make room for the Christmas tree. (I couldn’t help but dress them up a bit to include them in the festivity.) Although the freezer isn’t located In My Kitchen per se, it’s an integral part of our daily meals, faithfully storing stock, vegetables, meat, and more at sub-freezing temperatures. I’m so grateful for its silent, stalwart convenience.

The hostess of In My Kitchen (Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings) encouraged us to include curveballs now and then — things beyond the usual cooking goodies and gadgets. My contribution is “O Fish-mas Tree…” :) For more holiday kitchen fun around the world, please click on her link (in bold) above.

Merry is as merry does.

In My Kitchen… it’s out with the old and in with the new… coffee-maker, that is. Our “modern” one quit on Thanksgiving Day, and my ol’ stovetop percolater came to the rescue until a replacement could be acquired. (It also comes in handy when the power goes out.) Yay for coffee-making alternatives!

In My Kitchen (or nearby)… is my lil’ Charlie Brown Christmas tree. This year I added lights and set it in a window to brighten up the world. Hope it did yours.

We could all do with a lil’ more merry!

Enjoying holidays at The Lake,

~ Kim

In My Kitchen ~ December 2017

In My Kitchen… Gumby (my alter ego) lives on via a repeat photo I’ve posted through the years whenever I have less “gumb-tion” than time. ;) December is my busiest month “musically” and I thank you for bearing with me. I LOVE that lil’ green guy and his inherent enthusiasm; he mirrors mine about life, the forth-coming holidays, and FUN in general. Every day deserves the “Gumby wave!”

In My Kitchen… are more blessings than I could possibly count. A lil’ over a month ago a surprise “Boho” box arrived from my friend, Ally, of Ally’s Kitchenand I’ve been enjoying every goodie she sent me ever since. Table linens, towels, aprons, kitchen gadgets, and more. (Photos forthcoming soon.) What fun!

In My Kitchen…  holiday festivity is ensuing. Between practicing the piano, attending myriad rehearsals, volunteering to help those less fortunate (I feel SO blessed), and attending to family (isn’t that what it’s all about?), my days and nights are oft mixed up but I’m grateful for the inspiration and opportunity to “sleep in” whenever my creative limits exceed the clock. Plus, my son is about to grill his infamous burgers. Oh my! Did I mention blessed?

For additional merriment (or summer fun in the Southern hemisphere), please visit Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings for more IMK posts spanning the globe — or add your own kitchen doings by the 10th this month. Merry Christmas!

Enjoying every “Gumby wave” moment,

~ Kim

Boxing Day Memories

Memories or Memorabilia

When I look at the mementos I’ve tucked away through the years — gifts from family and friends, or reminders of special occasions — I realize they aren’t the memories themselves. The process of remembering is aided by them, but memories are intangible — and some are clearer than others.

Boxing Day some thirty-odd years ago was one of those occasions that left an imprint on my heart more than my mind — an overall “feeling” rather than total recall. What I do remember is warmth… hospitality… generosity.

After my whirlwind tour of England and Scotland, I was ready to settle down for a long winter’s nap and assimilate everything I’d seen, heard, or done. The guest room was quiet, cozy, and adorned with knickknacks and objects d’art twice as old as America (a fact that still boggles my mind) and it didn’t take long to drift off to dreamland under a layer of quilts with a heater at the foot of the bed.

The next morning, I awoke to the sounds and smells of a bustling kitchen. (Don’t you just love that?) The aroma of potatoes and onions mingling with sausage and bacon prompted me to dress quickly and join the muted conversations below. Coffee, tea, scones, eggs — a veritable repast — awaited.

Boxing Day brunch was a tradition the host family relished. As guests arrived at the front door, they were greeted with a heartfelt “Merry Christmas!” and directed to the dining room to indulge and imbibe at will. Champagne corks began popping and lively conversational banter continued throughout the day. The conviviality of it has stayed with me for life.

I learned that Boxing Day is so named because gifts are “boxed” and dispatched to household staff members on their day off (December 26th), having worked Christmas Day. The very thought of it brings to mind the over-sized turkey Mr. Scrooge took great delight in delivering to Bob Cratchit’s home — a sincere thank you for services well-rendered. Boxing Day is also designated as a day to donate to the needy, a tradition that hearkens back centuries.

Meanwhile back at the brunch… one dish that stood out in my mind (funny how I can always remember food) was a cheese soufflé the hostess described as: “not your classical soufflé, but reliable.” I describe it as: “cheese-flavored air.” Sigh…

In between sips and bites, I fielded queries from guests wondering about “the young American woman in England at Christmastime.” Their candor and humor was refreshing and I had to smile when someone asked: “Are you one of those liberated women?” Traveling alone wasn’t as commonplace then as it is now and I guess my adventurous streak was showing.

Another appetizer I enjoyed tremendously (recipe graciously shared by the hostess and later adapted by me) were Cheese Straws. Perfect with champagne — and Christmas. Sometimes simplicity is the ideal backdrop for festivity.

Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws

1 1/3 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
3 oz. cold butter*
4 oz. grated cheese**
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/4 c. cold water, divided

*Grate the butter first, followed by the cheese. Easy clean up!

**Per original recipe: “Use a highly flavoured cheese such as aged sharp Cheddar.”

Preheat oven to 450° F. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Rub in butter and cheese with your fingers until evenly distributed.

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk with two tablespoons cold water. Work the liquid into the flour, then add enough remaining water (as needed) to make a stiff, yet pliable dough. (Best to do this with your hands so you can “feel” the consistency.)

Roll out dough thinly on a lightly floured surface; trim and cut into “straws.”

Bake on ungreased baking sheets until golden brown, about 7 minutes.

Note: I bake the trimmings as a “trial batch” to judge the amount of time. (They make a delicious snack with a glass of wine while you’re baking the rest.)

These can also be made in advance. Bake until just golden, about 5 minutes. Cool completely, then freeze. Reheat 2 to 3 minutes at 450° (watch closely) until browned.

Serve warm. Makes 4 dozen.

Boxing Day continues to be one of my favorite memories, and the lessons I learned about hospitality are ones I’m pleased to share in my own home.

 

Wishing you many delightful memories and a very Merry Christmas!

Enjoying reminiscing,

~ Kim

The Trip of A Lifetime (Memories of Christmas in England)

Boxing Day Memories

It was Christmastime and I was twenty-one. It was also the first time I’d traveled anywhere by myself, let alone internationally. A childhood chum had extended an invitation for me to visit while she was on break from university in London and when you’re twenty-one anything is possible.

With visions of A Christmas Carol dancing in my head, I stepped onto a plane with a passport, hiking boots, and a backpack — my suitcase got lost in Iceland en route, but that’s another story — and set off on the trip of a lifetime.

Once my plane landed at Heathrow, I tried to contact my friend but the number she’d given me was busy, or so I thought. I hung up and tried again. After repeating this process myriad times she finally answered, breathless from dashing down three flights of stairs every time the communal phone in her dorm lobby rang. Apparently ‘busy signals’ in the U.S. and British phone-rings at that time sounded remarkably similar. We laughed at my naivety and chalked it up to live and learn. The adventure had begun.

During the following week I did everything I’d ever dreamed or read about… toured the Tower of London, ogled the Crown Jewels, rode red double-decker buses, sipped High Tea at Harrods, whisked about on The Tube, traveled on trains, dined at a pub in Exeter where I had my first taste of Devonshire clotted cream (sigh…), hiked to Stonehenge, marveled at the Minster and made a side trip to Edinburgh, including an accidental foray over the Firth of Forth and back with bagpipes in the background.

Basking in history centuries older than the country I’d left days before obviously made a lasting impression on me.

Souvenirs

We were scheduled to arrive at our host family’s home the afternoon of Christmas Eve, but our train went missing (never did find out an explanation for that) and after waiting what seemed hours, a replacement provided by BritRail chugged into the station — an antique collection of cars attached to an engine reminiscent of “The Wild, Wild West.” Settling onto the leather-covered bench seats opposite three distinguished-looking gentlemen, my friend and I chattered excitedly while our compartment mates did their utmost to ignore us by immersing themselves in their newspapers.

Ten minutes from our destination, I reached into my coat pocket and discovered a sprig of mistletoe I’d tucked away during an entertaining evening at a club in Exeter a few nights prior. Nudging my friend, I nodded at the sprig covertly hidden in my hand; she followed suit and palmed her mistletoe. Grinning at the prospect of a surprise attack, we waited for the train to come to a stop.

When the compartment doors opened, we sprang from our seats, held our respective mistletoe over the gentlemen’s heads, and planted a good-natured kiss on their cheeks. The previous disdain they had displayed toward “giggly tourists” quickly dissolved into surprised smiles, and as I stepped onto the platform I was tickled to hear one of them exclaim: “By jove, my luck has changed!”

Following a harrowing car ride to our host’s home (apparently there was no speed limit and our young escort seemed to relish that fact), we drove under a brick-walled arch toward a quaint two-story cottage. I can only describe it as transplanted out of a fairy tale. Gables. Ivy-covered walls. A formal garden around back. Leaded-glass windows. Wisps of smoke curling upward from tall chimneys perched above a slate roof.

Inside we were welcomed warmly — like family — followed by an invitation to gather in the the study for cocktails. For some reason, sherry came to mind. Alhough I’d never tasted a drop in my life, it seemed like the befitting beverage for such an historic occasion and our host was happy to oblige. Strolling to a closet adjacent to the hearth, he swung open the heavy door to reveal Waterford crystal goblets and decanters lining the shelves, with rows of wine bottles in the recesses. Then he invited us to be seated in the wingback chairs surrounding the fireplace to get acquainted.

I don’t know which thrills me more — experiencing it or remembering it.

Our Christmas Day celebration included champagne and wine (before, during, and after dinner) followed by additional fireside glasses of sherry. Merriment was a high priority and imbibing was part of the deal. Who was I to question English hospitality? When you’re twenty-one…

Dinner was a formal affair (thank heavens I packed one “dressy” outfit in my backpack) and the antique crystal, china, and silver gleaming in the glow of candles on the linen-covered table was absolutely lovely. Each dish was carried in from the kitchen with great fanfare, one at a time, with hearty appreciation expressed to the cook amidst oohs and ahhs. Roast turkey. Chestnut stuffing. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Chutney. Plum pudding. I felt like I was a guest at the Cratchit’s and I can still “taste” every dish.

Gifts

Our hosts were mindful that my friend and I were having our first Christmas away from home, and following dinner, they thoughtfully surprised us with gifts to open as their family opened theirs. Although my paperweight and trinket box are a lil’ worse for wear (three decades later), they’ve found a permanent place in my home — and heart.

But, the event that stands out in my mind is Boxing Day December 26th — the British extension of Christmas replete with brunch, hors d’oeuvres, tasty leftovers — and yes, more cocktails. That aside, Boxing Day is best known for its benevolence — a time to bless the less fortunate — and y’all know how I feel about giving.

In the next week or so, I’ll be sharing appetizer recipes from my English hosts, along with my first-ever attempt at “flaming” a plum pudding. It’s been steeping for weeks — have your fire extinguishers at the ready!

Merry Christmas, sweet friends. And God bless us every one.

Enjoying the joy of memories,

~ Kimby

Have you been away from home during the holidays? What do you remember most?