Christmas and chaos should not be paired together. Christmas is peace, love and celebration, and for my family and friends, Jesus' birth.
Webster defines chaos as "complete confusion and disorder, a state in which behavior and events are not controlled by anything."
Chaos is my world when we drag Christmas tree, lights, arrangements, dancing Santas, candles, and, yes, angels and the manger scene from the attic. Earlier this week, Lilly had three Hallmark animated snowmen and their dogs and penguins and a dancing Mr. and Mrs. Santa playing at the same time.
My husband was the first to cry "uncle." He couldn't take the noise. Elyssa was gritting her teeth, trying to be patient, and I just sat there thinking we should turn off the television and let Lilly play.
We had the yearly debate: ditch the fake tree and get a real tree, or spend less money and use the fake one for the umpteenth time. Frugality won, but I splurged on blue net lights for the bushes even though to my chagrin we have five other sets of net lights. Can one have too many outdoor lights?
Allen delegated hooking up the lights on the fake tree to Elyssa. I am the perfectionist when it comes to lights and ornaments. They must be placed just so. My grandmother's spirit is still alive in me. I was making just a few lighting suggestions when both husband and daughter said, "We thought you had to write." I was banished to my office/"no place else to put this stuff" room.
Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. This week is crammed with too many activities, writing assignments, baking and cooking, Women of Wisdom's holiday marketplace, tablescapes and luncheon today, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church's annual bake sale and bazaar, First Assembly of God luncheon, Disney ice show and putting up all the decorations we got down.
My husband tells me that I need to add a
word to my vocabulary -- "no." But, who can say no at Christmas? Not me, I might miss something.
Since three awesome cookbooks crossed my desk, gift-giving for my foodie friends is easier. If readers have professional or home chefs or food aficionados on their list, these books are good ideas.
Foodie friend Vivian Jensen suggested two of the books, "Smart Eating Made Simple" and "Bread Matters." Due to space limitations, I will review "Bread Matters" in the Dec. 17 column.
The third is a Coast cookbook "Zonta Cookz" by the Zonta Club of Pascagoula Area in Mississippi.
This Coast cookbook is a good reflection of the foods we love. Another plus is recipes from Coast restaurants past and present. Cookbook chairman and president-elect Wanda Born shares the now-shuttered Jocelyn's Southern caviar salsa, and member Lynda Howell, LaFont Inn's seafood casserole. There are others, and, of course, there are old-time family recipes handed down through the generations.
The hard-cover, ring-binder-type book is easy to use. I loved browsing through these pages, imagining the hard work behind this book, which is divided into eight categories. I love the eighth category called "This and That" that includes recipes from bug spray and mosquito traps to marinades, pepper jelly and seasoning mixes.
This book, which sells for $15, works for the professional chef or the novice cook. All proceeds benefit Zonta Clubs' community projects and scholarships. Books are available by mail for $5 extra for shipping to Zonta Club of Pascagoula Area, P.O. Box 1842, Pascagoula, MS. 39558-1842, by contacting Zonta Club at 228-497-9533.
Here are a couple of recipes that many longtime Coastians may remember. Both would work well for a Christmas buffet or party.
LAFONT INN SEAFOOD CASSEROLE
1 pound crabmeat
1/2 cup bell pepper, finely chopped
1 pound shrimp, cooked, shelled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup melted butter
JOCELYN'S SOUTHERN CAVIAR SALSA
5 green onions, chopped
2 cans Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can Allens field peas with snaps, rinsed and drained
2 (10-ounce) cans white shoepeg corn, drained
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (16-ounce) bottle Zesty Italian dressing (fat free)
Mix all ingredients together and marinate at least 4 hours before serving. Depending on how much liquid you want. You can use a slotted spoon to put into serving dish. Makes 13 1/2 cup servings.
-- Submitted by Wanda Born
"Smart Eating takes the reader from a meat-based diet to a predominantly plant-based diet. She explains not only the nutritional benefits, but also ones that help prevent diseases. I loved her instructions on low sodium diets, sugars and water intake. She offers 120 pages of instruction and 122 pages of recipes, plus pages of charts and definitions.
This truly is a guide to healthier eating and eliminating most of the processed foods from the diet.
Since Christmas is near, I thought I would share a recipe that would be good on any holiday table. The author said, "Gold-colored potatoes such as Yukon Gold tend to require less salt or butter. They are moist, tender and naturally flavorful."
Yukon Gold contains vitamin C, potassium, iron and antioxidants. Sweet potatoes provide vitamin A and antioxidants.
GOLD AND ORANGE SCALLOPED POTATOES
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes
1 large sweet potato
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons organic sprouted spelt or wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
11/4 cups rice milk, scalded (recipe follows)
Garlic bread crumbs (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a 1.5 quart baking dish with olive oil spray. Peel and slice potatoes into 1/8-inch thick slices.
Spread half of the Yukon gold potato slices, then half the sweet potatoes in a layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle with half the flour, salt and pepper mixture and drizzle with half the butter. Repeat with second layer of Yukon gold and sweet potatoes, flour and seasoning mixture and butter. Pour the heated milk over the potatoes.
Cover and bake for 40 minutes, then remove the cover, top with bread crumbs and bake another 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Makes 10 servings.
HOMEMADE RICE MILK
1 cup long grain brown rice
8 cups filtered water
Additional filtered water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons organic expeller-pressed "high-oleic" sunflower oil
4 to 5 tablespoons maple syrup
Rinse the rice. Bring water to a boil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, add the rice and reduce heat, simmer covered with a tight-fitting lid for 3 hours. Do not remove lid during cooking. The rice will look soupy. Add the sat, then fill high-powered blender with half the rice mixture and half-filtered water blending until very smooth. Strain twice through a fine mesh strainer into glass jars. Continue with the rest of the rice mixture and more water until finished. At this point, you may want to add more water to the milk depending upon desired consistency.
Add the sunflower oil and maple syrup to the milk stirring until mixed. Makes 1 gallon. Store in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days. Use the leftover pulverized rice to replace part of the cooked hot cereal in certain cookie recipes.
GARLIC BREAD CRUMBS
Use the coarse crumb of naturally leavened crusty breads such as sourdough, ciabatta and levain, but about any leftover bread will work.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the bread into thin slices, toss with garlic oil as you like and place on a baking sheet. Bake until very crisp and golden, about 12-15 minutes, and then allow cooling. Pulse in food processor leaving the texture a little coarse; and then store in the refrigerator or freezer.
Wanted: Stuffed mushrooms
"Do you or any of your readers have a good recipe for stuffed mushrooms?," asked Carrol Fletcher. "Preferably not just using seasonings and bread crumbs. I would like to find a recipe that has seafood or maybe a spicy sausage flavor. I have tasted some stuffed mushrooms that had a sauce on them and some without, either way is OK."
Readers, send me your stuffed mushroom recipes ASAP. Christmas parties and family gatherings are at hand.
Eunice Van Loon is looking for fresh yeast. Readers, do any of you know where to buy fresh yeast? If so, please let me know.
Coming next week
Barbara Marcel shares her Wisconsin grandmother's no-bake fruitcake.