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The Christmas Holidays are just around the corner, and all of the shops and stores reflected this before the kids were out of their Halloween costumes. I don't know how I feel about that. It seems that Halloween is just about one step behind Christmas when it comes to celebrating and excitement.
The first Christmas that I was a member of this family, I got two years worth of presents. Mom and Grandma had been waiting for me for so long, you see.
And I had oranges in my stocking, along with all the other goodies, and walnuts, and apples, because my new Grandma had had those things in her stocking when she was little. Tradition.
This will be our second Christmas in the mountains of Central New York, and we are becoming real country people. The other day, Mom and I were saying that we didn't think that we could ever live comfortably in a town again. For one thing, this is a very pretty place.
We are planning a garden this coming spring, so expect more and more varied recipes fresh from the garden.
Right now, however, the winter with its drear and the bright spot of the holiday season lies before us. Last year, we had so much snow that this year, I am forced to think of hot, comforting dishes -- filling, but probably not fattening -- for us to consume over the holidays, and until spring comes again.
We get a surprising amount of heat from the meat-eating crowd out there, and it is not unusual to be told that we are crazy, and we don't know what we are missing. Actually, we do. We used to be meat eaters ourselves, in fact. Kids are generally what they are raised to be. My mother ate meat until I reformed her when we adopted each other.
Missing? Sure, we are missing cholesterol problems; we are reducing our risk of a number of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, what-have you.
Our complexions are better, too, than our meat-eating friends.
But we have no hard feelings. We are more than wiling to share our delicious holiday dishes with you all. You can even serve them on the same plate as your traditional holiday meat dishes. The table won't collapse. I promise.
We are going to have other things, too, candied yams, apple walnut stuffing, mashed potatoes, both white and sweet, dinner rolls, hot chocolate....
My Mom has a stereo that her Dad gave her for Christmas, the year before he died. We always play carols on it. This year, we might have a Christmas tree again, because the cats have their own, private, heated building, and maybe the dogs will leave the tree alone. We have a 20-month-old German Shepherd who is trying her best to be a lady, and an 8-month-old Lab/Shepherd crossbreed who still doesn't know his backside from page eight. We may have to build a fence around the Christmas tree! I bought them presents the other night, and I've begun to collect catnip toys and other things for the cats of Haven House, which is what we call our operation here.
Anyway, eat and enjoy. Here are a few of the things that we usually have for these special holiday times!
Reserve and set aside about 1/2 pound of the carrots.
Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions and celery and saute over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until golden. Add the carrots (except for the reserved batch), along with 4 cups of water, the juice, wine, and spices. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over moderate heat until the vegetables are quite tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer in batches to the container of a food processor or blender and puree until quite smooth.
Return to low heat and stir in enough milk or soymilk to give the soup a medium-thick consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the soup stand off the heat for several hours before serving.
Just before serving, steam the reserved carrots until crisp tender and stir into the soup along with the parsley and scallion. Taste to correct consistency and seasonings before serving.
2 cups torn chicory leaves (or other strong salad green)
2 cups endive leaves (if large, cut in half)
3 scallions, minced
1 large celery stalk, finely diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, hulled and halved
French dressing as desired
Combine the greens, onion or scallions, celery, and tomatoes in a large salad bowl. Toss together. Add enough dressing to lightly coat and toss again; or pass the dressing around separately so that guests may dress their own salad.