Only a few days left 'til Christmas—but don't panic. I have good tips for all things 'Christmas' including gifts!
I've learned that the world won't stop turning if I don't finish everything on my Holiday To Do List. No one even notices. It seems that we're all trying to do too much, so I'm asking myself more often, 'what really matters today?'. That's Tip #1. Ask yourself, and then listen quietly for the answer.
I remember the year we made all our tree ornaments. That's all we could afford, and they mattered. The homemade ornament year was followed by several years of homemade gifts. When I spot one of those hand crafted treasures, and some are still hanging around, it takes me back to a much simpler time. Then came a string of Santa Claus years when the absolute thrill of believing was most important, even if it meant driving half way across the state to make it happen. I loved those years, and I'm told they'll come around again.
A bunch of years have passed since the Santa Clause era, and I'm ashamed to admit I can't really say what mattered from one year to the next. We were busy. We did it all, but I don't remember much about what 'it all' was. Here's Tip #2: Try not to let that happen to you. Whatever you're doing this year, whatever matters most to you, take the time to acknowledge it, and really enjoy the moment!
Tip #3: a Pecan Bar from Martha Stewart that can replace pecan pie in a snap, or be wrapped for a lovely gift.
Tip #4: David Libovitz Spiced Glazed Nuts and Pretzel Mix—quick, easy and delicious as a party snack or for a gift that will be appreciated by everyone.
Tip #5: Artichoke Spread—again, serve it yourself, or put it in jelly jars and share with your friends and neighbors (must be refrigerated).
Have a very Merry Christmas, and enjoy each precious moment!
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food, December 2004
Prep: 15 minutes Total: 1 hour
FOR THE CRUST:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
FOR THE FILLING
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (about 2 cups) pecans
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg; pulse just until a dough forms.
Transfer dough to prepared pan; with floured fingers and an offset spatula, press firmly into bottom and 3/4 inch up sides. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
Prick bottom of dough; bake until lightly golden, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool while preparing filling.
Make the filling: In a large saucepan, bring butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly, until smooth; continue boiling, without stirring, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cream and salt; mix in pecans.
Assemble and bake: Spoon hot filling evenly over crust, using spoon to arrange and press in nuts so they fit snugly (create as flat a surface as possible).
Bake until bubbling and amber-colored, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
Using foil, lift cake from pan; peel off foil. With a sharp knife, trim edges (if desired). Cut into 6 even strips; cut each strip crosswise into 4 even strips to make 24 bars.
Spiced Glazed Nuts and Pretzel Mix
2 cups (200 gr) mixed raw nuts (untoasted); any combination of cashews, whole almonds, peanuts, pecan halves, and hazelnuts
1 tablespoon (15 gr) unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons (45 gr) dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or another red pepper)
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt
2 cups (100 gr) small pretzel twists
1. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and roast in a 350F (180C) oven for 10 minutes, stirring once for even toasting.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and maple syrup.
3. Add the warm nuts, stirring until coated. Then mix in the salt and pretzels, and stir until the nuts and pretzels are completely coated.
4. Spread the mixture back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Remove from oven and cool completely, separating the nuts and pretzels as they cool. (12 min. was plenty for mine)
Once cool, this mixture can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
2 cups packed artichoke hearts, drained
zest of half a lemon
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoons sea salt
2 generous tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (or curly if that's all you can find)
1 cup toasted pecan pieces (you can substitute almonds or pinenuts)
One and one-half cups shredded parmesan cheese
4 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In a food processor, pulse artichokes, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic clove, salt and parsley until combined and artichokes are coarsely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spoon. Add pecans, and pulse just until chopped. Scrape down again. Add parmesan cheese and olive oil, and pulse several more times to combine. Add more olive oil if needed.
Store in refrigerator for two weeks, or freeze in freezer containers.
Use as spread with crackers or crostini, or you can add to hot pasta as a sauce.