Holiday Goodies

dreidelcandies.jpgI was recently roped I…I mean asked to participate in Canter’s Chanters Chanukah Extravaganza at my Temple. When it was first presented to me, I thought, ‘Great, our Canter is a cool guy and is probably open to doing some improv or something with the kids. That’s got to be why he’s asking me. This’ll be fun.”

But, no. He griped that the kids were positively incapable of doing improv and that was why he prevailed on my services as well as other Temple members who happened to be performers; to write and perform small vignettes that would be done eight times, as eight groups were led through the Temple. The motif was to be “You want to know what Chanukah is all about? I’ll tell you what Chanukah’s all about…”

Each group was to represent one aspect of the celebration. My friend Amy Simon, writer and performer of the wonderful show Cheerios in My Underpants, volunteered to create some sort of wrap-around to feature ‘latkes’.  She had the run of the Temple kitchen and would be making real latkes to give to the kids. Her idea was to create a Bubbie personae.

Dreidels were up for grabs so I decided to take a whack at it. I love games and this is a mindless game much like Yahtzee, only you win pennies or chocolate. 

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whiskeyFor the holidays, old favorites are entitled to special love. Case in point, apple pie. Nothing is more American and no dessert is more satisfying than apple pie, hot from the oven, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Delicious as it is, special occasions call for special ingredients.

Whisky's smoky sweetness seems like a perfect companion for apple pie's richly comforting wholesomeness.

My mother made apple pie for Thanksgiving and Chanukah. Her recipe was the essence of simplicity. One of those dishes that intuitively adheres to the principle of "let the ingredients speak for themselves."

At a time when farmers markets didn't exist in cities, my mom would pack my sister and myself into her Dodge and we'd head out to the farms in the areas surrounding Banning, California, the small town on the way to Palm Springs where we lived during my high school years.

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pecan-pie_sm.jpg Every Christmas I used to cook a pecan pie from a recipe I found in one of Ann Landers holiday columns sometime in the sixties.  Since I was thinking of making it again this year, I was thrilled to learn that Dear Abby also had a pecan pie recipe.  Hoping to combine recipes to create my own distinctive version of the dessert, I got a copy of each. 

After studying them carefully, here are the only differences that I could find:  Ann tells us to use white corn syrup; Abby suggests using light corn syrup.  Although both women's recipes call for a cup of dark brown sugar, only Abby wants us to make sure the cup is firmly packed.  Ann tells us to use a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla; Abby, clearly wanting to leave nothing to chance, recommends using 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Otherwise, the recipes are exactly the same.

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chewing_gum.jpgThe first thing I ever stole was a piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum. I lifted the small, red, white and blue rectangle out of the glass canister on the counter, wrapped my fist around it and shoved it in my pocket. My heart pounded against my chest with fear and excitement as I glanced around the store making sure no one had seen me. It was a rush. Taking it. Not getting caught. Pulling something off. Putting something over.

The person I put it over on was Grandpa Sam and it was his store, adjacent to the white Victorian house he and Grandma Sarah lived in in Greenwich, in which the robbery took place. Grandpa Sam was not our real Grandfather. That was Grandpa J.J. my father’s father, who died tragically and too young, shortly before my parents were married. I don’t remember much about Grandpa Sam except that he was laconic, not particularly huggy, and was often the reason that followed many of the no’s in our lives as in "No, you may not have a Christmas tree. It would offend Grandpa Sam." 

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icecream sundaeThanksgiving is next week. I am in amazement as to how quickly this year flew by. Last year at this time I was starting to clean out our pantry in preparation for experimenting with a gluten free diet. That experiment turned into a way of life and everyone in our home has greatly benefited from it.

With the change in diet and lifestyle, I promised myself that I would savor the little moments(Levi and I walking hand in hand to school), embrace my accomplishments, no matter how great or how small, and to try and be in the moment as much as possible.

I have been gradually planning my Thanksgiving menu. Gradually, because I am in denial that it is next week. Pie has never been my dessert of choice. It wasn’t something I enthusiastically raised my hand to make. In the past, when I did indulge in a piece of pie, it was always the center that I savored, discarding the crust.

Having 5 egg yolks on hand, with a day left before they had to be tossed, it was this cinnamon ice cream recipe that inspired me to create, what I am calling, a deconstructed apple pie – a la mode. A big bag of raw pecans and some homemade graham cracker crumbs were incentive to help this idea grow.

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