Growing up Jewish, I never really “got” Christmas. I always liked the tree- so pretty! smells so good!- but never really noticed the gifts underneath. I like stockings- small gifts and candy are totally up my ally. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I learned about what an extravaganza Christmas can be. The first year we were together he bought me something like 15 gifts….really over the top and overwhelming! Over the years, he’s remained pretty generous around Christmas and sort of uses it as a get-out-of-jail-free card for other occasions. We’ve been working on balancing that out a bit- I mean, I don’t know about you but I’d rather be spoiled all year long than just one day.
The last three years or so, we’ve made a bigger shift. We have much less money now due to the economy and our career choices. We’re thinking more about how we want our daughter to grow up and how we want her to view holidays and other gift-giving occasions. While we want her to have everything her little heart desires, we also want her to learn about giving to others and the importance of the thought, not the thing. As a result, we now do a lot more homemade or “experience” gifts (activities or events like tickets to the ballet or dinner out).
Last year we made a cookbook of recipes collected from our friends and family. My husband wanted to be sure that he was a part of it so he helped me make two of the recipes so he could say he helped. While he’s not a huge fan of cooking, he will pitch in and help me if I ask and if I give him very clear, concrete directions. If I let him use some of the cool kitchen gadgets (like the food processor or actual tools (like a hammer), he actually gets pretty into it.
Chocolate Bark (from Ina Garten)
9 ½ ounces good semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 c. whole roasted, salted cashews
1 c. chopped dried apricots
½ c. dried cranberries (“Crasins”)
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a ruler and a pencil, mark out a 9 x 10 inch rectangle on the paper. Turn the paper over so that the pencil marks are on the face down side.
Allow to sit for 2 hours or until firm. Break into pieces and serve at room temperature.
12 ounces good white chocolate, chopped
24 hard peppermint candies (I used candy canes)
Special tools: a hammer or heavy rolling pin
Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler over medium heat. Stir until smooth, be careful not to burn.
Place the peppermints in a zip-loc bag and using a hammer, rolling pin or other heavy utensil, break the candies into varying sizes, from dust to small chunks. Stir about ¾ of the pieces into the melted chocolate. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and pour the melted chocolate/peppermint mixture onto the paper. Use a rubber spatula to smooth it to a thickness of about ¼ inch. Press the large peppermint pieces on the top and place in the refrigerator to cool. When firm, break into varying sized pieces. If storing for more than an hour or so, keep in refrigerator.