Merry, Merry

Since I was little, our family has had a tradition of eating only hors d’oeuvre on Christmas Eve. There are always the usual suspects — cheese and crackers, a veggie tray, shrimp, etc., but over the years things have gotten more and more interesting. I think it has at least a little bit to do with satellite television and the Food Network, but my mom’s always been pretty adventurous in the kitchen. She rarely follows a recipe exactly, and it always seems to work out in her (and our) favor. (Really, the only notable exception to this was circa 1987, when she made alphabet soup for us and it didn’t work out very well. She’s a master of improvisation, and it’s totally not genetic).

Last night’s food was almost completely gluten-free, too! I’m in love with polenta, I’ve decided. My mom took this basic polenta recipe, cut out the cheese and added in some herbs, and ended up with these baked polenta squares:

polenta

We topped them with a variety of things — some sun-dried tomatoes, olive tapenade, and a couple of artichoke dips, including one inspired by this recipe. “I really only used the artichoke from that recipe,” my mom said — she added in garlic, spinach, and shallots for a flavorful dip. Another highlight was a tasty crab salad with mango — basically this recipe, less the wonton cups. Look at how beautiful they turned out:

Christmas Eve

And of course there was rumaki — pretty much proof that anything wrapped in bacon is tasty. The pineapple ones even satisfied a craving I’ve had lately for Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza… We had those for breakfast, too. With cookies. And coffee. And a beer may have appeared — apparently they’ve decided we’re not impressionable anymore.

Christmas day is about more food, hanging out, figuring out how to tune guitars and use cameras, getting a little territorial over the “big couch” — the prime place for getting a start on new books. It’s cozy, which is good, because it’s not going to get above freezing while I’m here. I find the cold comforting, if only in its familiarity. It’s a weird place, this valley — consistently cold and dry, just shy of 7,900 feet in my hometown. The sun is almost always shining, but it’s like the air is too thin to hold the warmth. The skies are clear, though, and the mountains, fifty miles away, are clearly viewable across the flat valley. Click on this link for an aerial view:
View Larger Map

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday. Merry Christmas.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Merry, Merry

  1. Oh no!

    I should’ve gotten together with you. For some reason I didn’t even realize you’d be down in the Valley. I guess I wasn’t thinking in general. I just returned from there. I was there with the famously feisty SQuid family from the 22-28.

    Oh well…another time!

    Your food looks lovely. Polenta is great! I should get some today–we have absolutely nothing in the fridge from being gone a whole week. I want to get a variety of fruits and veggies and gluten-free favorites, and some kombucha (do you like kombucha?–it’s a powerhouse beverage with probiotics, antioxidants and other nutrients)

    Actually this was the first Christmas/Saturnalia/Yuletide/Festivus/ETC spent down in the Valley since 1990 when my youngest sister Eve was born. We opted not to go to Texas to see our extended family like we usually do.

    It was good to see everyone. I saw Shane and Mira only briefly for a day because they were headed down to Texas, as her family is there as well.

    Anyway, we had a mostly cozy and lowkey time except for chasing Pele away from breakables (lots of those one-of-a-kind breakables when you have 5 kids who make art) and the cat who did manage to scratch her on the cheek.

    Good gracious…it was cold while we were there but my family was always running around cooking, cleaning and occasionally arguing (though nothing serious), so we managed to keep warm. I hope you all had a nice time.

    Excuse this unnecessarily long note–and thank you for the e-mail!

    XO,

    Uncle Hannah

  2. Pingback: Request Line! Breakfast Polenta « Sweet and Saucy

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