Hundreds of flights canceled in and out of major airports, ice and snow still making any travel difficult, plans changed, trips postponed or given up entirely, it’s hard to recall a Christmas quite so messed up as this one.
If we ever needed a lesson in how the best laid plans can go astray, it was handed to us in no uncertain terms this past week.
Did you have your Christmas festivities all lined up, ready to put into action these past two days? And are you now back-pedaling, trying to figure out who’s going to be where or whether anyone will be going anywhere? Leave it to nature to throw in a zinger just when we most needed something positive to alleviate the overall gloom many people are feeling.
All is not lost, however.
Maybe we’re not with the family members we expected to see today and tomorrow, but we will be with friends and neighbors for our Christmas dinner. I’d be willing to bet that in many storm-plagued parts of this country, neighbors are getting together right now, sharing the food and fun that was originally planned for family members or loved ones who decided not to risk trying to travel.
Oddly enough, it’s almost relaxing to have matters taken out of our control.
Presents didn’t get mailed in time? Blame the weather; they’ll get there eventually, and where is it written that presents are only good on Christmas day? You’re having meatloaf, or soup for Christmas dinner? Blame the weather. No way could you get to the market to pick up a turkey or ham. The kids are parked in front of the TV all day and evening watching Christmas specials? Blame the weather. They can only frolic in the snow just so long without freezing and you’re not about to put them in the car and take them anywhere.
There is one thing about this weather that is really bugging me, however. I don’t want to hear anyone even mutter the phrase “global warming” for a very, very long time.
Hard to know, right now, whether the weather conditions will change enough by New Year’s Eve/Day for partying to go on as originally planned, but just in case, have plenty of finger food on hand.
Personally, I love a drop-in kind of New Years Day, when anyone who is out and about might drop by for a quick Happy New Year and bit of cheer. And most appetizer/finger foods are easily freezable, if it happens that the world is snowed in or iced over. I’ve chosen recipes with ingredients you probably would have on hand at holiday time, should you be unable to get to a market.
SPICY PEANUT BALLS
1 clove garlic, crushed
½-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
¼ t. turmeric
1 t. sugar
½ t. salt
1 t. chili sauce
2 t. fish sauce or soy sauce
2 T. chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ lime
2 cups cooked long grain white rice
1 cup peanuts, finely chopped
Vegetable oil, for frying
Lime wedges and chili sauce, as accompaniments
Process garlic, ginger and turmeric in a food processor until mixture forms a paste. Add sugar, salt, chili sauce and fish or soy sauce, along with chopped cilantro and lime juice. Process just until well mixed.
Add ¾ of the white rice to the processor and process until smooth and sticky. Scrape mixture into a bowl and add the remainder of the rice.
With wet hands, shape small scoops of the mixture into small balls, about thumb size. Roll the balls in the chopped peanuts, making sure they’re evenly coated.
Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a wok or deep skillet. Deep-fry the balls until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels, then pile onto a platter and serve with lime wedges and/or chili sauce for dipping. Makes about
16 balls, depending on size.
Is there anyone who doesn’t love deviled eggs? These are fancied up for the holidays, but I could eat them on any occasion.
STUFFED DEVILED EGGS
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1/4 cup minced cooked ham
6 walnut halves, minced
1 T. minced scallion
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. mayonnaise
2 t. vinegar
¼ t. salt
¼ t. ground black pepper
¼ t. cayenne pepper, if you want to kick it up a bit (optional)
Cut each egg in half lengthwise; put the yolks in a bowl and set aside the whites.
Mash the yolks well with a fork, or push them through a sieve. Add all remaining ingredients except paprika, mixing well. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper, if necessary.
Spoon the filling into the whites, or pipe it in with a pastry bag. Garnish each egg with a sprinkle of paprika (or you could also sprinkle with minced cilantro or parsley). Serve. Makes
12 deviled eggs.
As long as we’re stuffing things, let’s do some celery. Adding the walnuts gives these a special flavor.
STUFFED CELERY STICKS
12 crisp celery stalks
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese, or gorgonzola cheese (my preference)
½ cup cream cheese, softened
3 T. sour cream
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
Trim, wash and dry the celery stalks. Dry well; cut into 4-inch lengths.
In a small bowl, combine the blue cheese, cream cheese and sour cream, stirring together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Fold in all but 1 T. of the walnuts.
Fill each celery piece with the cheese/nut mixture. Chill until ready to serve, then garnish with a bit of the reserved walnuts.
What would be more welcome in this weather than a small cup of steaming soup? If you want to have a big pot of soup on the stove, kept warm on low heat, ready for drop-ins, you can easily double this recipe. Otherwise, this will give you enough for 10-12 small cups of spicy tomato soup, Mexican style.
APPETIZER TOMATO SOUP
2 T. olive oil
2 large onions, chopped (about 4 cups of onions)
3 cups chopped celery
8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. chopped, seeded jalapeno chilies
2 T. ground cumin (I said it is spicy; cut back if you must)
½ t. celery seed
6-8 cups chicken broth
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1½ cups chopped fresh cilantro
4 cups tortilla chips
Heat the oil in a large pot over med.-high heat. Add onion and celery; saute until onions are tender and golden, about 15 min. Add garlic and jalapenos and saute
2 min. more. Add cumin; saute 1 min. Add 6 cups chicken broth, tomato sauce and cilantro. Lower heat and simmer soup for 20 min. Stir in the tortilla chips and simmer until the chips are very soft, about 10 min. Remove from heat and allow soup to cool slightly.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Return it to the pot, bring to a simmer. Add more broth if desired to bring soup to preferred consistency. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve in cups or mugs, sprinkled with a bit of chopped cilantro and a lime wedge.
Note: The soup can be made a day ahead and kept chilled in the fridge until you’re ready to gently reheat and serve. A wee dollop of sour cream on top is also nice.