What are your holiday traditions?
I love the holiday season for all the long-treasured activities. The sumptuous array at the Christmas Eve appetizer party, the Nutcracker Ballet, the zoo and botanic garden light displays, and the lighting of the Yule log. Count your blessings, not your deficits, get out there and celebrate!
Holiday Gifting, So Overrated
Instead of succumbing to the annual onslaught of marketing and charging up your Visa with unnecessary purchases, give a little thought to your gift giving this year and skip the January regret. Instead of rushing off to the mall for the latest deals, think of the person you are gifting and what would really be meaningful for them.
Consider concert or theater tickets. How about a membership to the zoo, the Botanic Gardens, or a museum which provides a year of fun and interest. Remember those coupon books you gave to your Mom when you were little? Or was this only me? How about a coupon for babysitting? Cleaning out the garage? There are also movie tickets, a salsa lesson, massage or a mani/pedi at the local salon. Check out Groupon for the latest deals. If you are always too busy to meet with friends, treat them to a lunch or happy hour date. This will be a more appreciated than some gift hastily ordered on Amazon. Cut down on the waste and bedlam of the holidays. Spend less and give more.
Speaking of gifts; The Herbalist’s Happy Hour – Crafted Cocktails and Tapas from the Garden is out on Amazon. A great reference for cooking up easy, fresh, delicious drinks and appetizers for entertaining and enjoying. For that person in your life who loves to cook and entertain. A great gift for anyone interested in herbs, farm-to-table creative cooking, and artisanal beverages. Get it here.
The Spirit of Giving
With all the misery and hardship in the world it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and just focus on ourselves and our own little world. Every act of kindness, no matter how small, gives light to darkness. Who can you reach out to this season? A homeless shelter? A friend in hard times? A family in need? Give the gift of kindness, it helps us all.
So many fun things to do! Get out of the malls, away from that screen and go celebrate. Tis the season!
Denver Botanic Gardens, Blossoms of Light, nightly through January 1, 5-9 pm. Entertainment and lovely light displays. $13 - $16.
Denver Zoo – Zoo Lights, November 30 to January 6, 5:30 – 8:30 pm. Fantastic lights, ice sculpting, treats and frisky wildlife. $12 - $18 with enhanced programs available involving rhinos and penguins. Reserve online. https://www.denverzoo.org/events/zoolights/
Hudson Gardens, weekend dates through December 31st, 5-9 pm. Wagon rides, Santa, and a one mile illuminated trail through the gardens. $8 - $10.50. http://www.hudsongardens.org/
9 News Parade of Lights, tonight, November 30 at 8 pm, tomorrow, December 1st, at 6 pm. The big guy in downtown Denver. Go early to get a spot. https://www.downtowndenver.com/event/9news-parade-lights/2018-12-01/
Georgetown Christmas Market, December 1-2, & 8-9. An old time mountain celebration, entertainment, hay rides, craft vendors, food, and roasted chestnuts on an open fire.
Check www.colorado.com for more fun things to do.
Care of Fresh Christmas Trees
Avoid a bristly fire hazard by New Year’s Eve with a little care for your Christmas tree. Be sure to make a fresh cut immediately before you put it up, essential for water uptake. The base container should hold a gallon of water and should be checked daily. If the tree base dries out, resin will form and you will need to do another fresh cut. Keep the tree away from fireplaces and heat vents and if you love your tree you’ll put a humidifier near it or just mist it with water whenever you think of it.
If you have a lot of lights on your tree, keep them off when you are not actually enjoying it. Your tree will appreciate the break from the heat. Use LED lights if possible, they stay cool and are energy efficient. I also turn the thermostat down a few degrees; fresh trees will last longer on the cool side.
The Holidays are Killing Me Face Mask
This is a quick skin soother, great for winter dryness. Tastes good too! Take a few minutes to escape from the holiday demands to refuel and relax. Put a slice of cool cucumber or a chilled, used teabag over each eye while your mask tones and soothes.
- Spoonful of plain organic yogurt
- Spoonful of honey
Combine and spread on a clean face. When dry, steam off with a warm wash cloth. Finish with a cold water rinse. You look fabulous!
Recipes of the Month
Chocolate Dipped, Candied Orange Peel – great for gifts
These are super easy but look very gourmet and make great gifts or after dinner treats.
- Orange peel from 3-4 organic oranges
- 1 cup sugar. divided
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate melting chips or shaved baking bar
Cut the oranges into quarters. Separate the peel from the pulp. Use the pulp for juice or eating. With a spoon scrape off most of the bitter inner white pith, being careful not to tear the peel. Cut into strips.
Put the strips in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain off the water and reserve peels. Add 2/3 cup of sugar to 2/3 cup of water in the same saucepan and bring to a boil which should dissolve the sugar, reduce heat and add the peels. Simmer for about ½ hour until peels are tender. Strain off the syrup and use for sweetening drinks and cocktails.Place the peels on a wire rack to cool. Take the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and blend in a mixer or food processor until it is super fine, if you go too long you will get powdered sugar. Roll the peels in superfine sugar and return to the wire rack to dry. These are quite tasty as is.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or heat proof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. The water should not be boiling or touch the bottom of the bowl. Dip the bottom half of each orange peel in the chocolate and place on a baking tray lined with clean parchment paper. Let dry and enjoy!
Olive Pistachio Tapenade
This is nice added as a topping to crackers and cheese, on pizza and flatbread, or added to soups, pasta or sandwiches. It has an intense flavor so use lightly.
- ¾ cup rinsed, pitted olives, I like Kalamata but use what you like
- 1 cup packed baby arugula
- 3/4 cup roasted, shelled pistachios
- 3 tbs good olive oil
- ½ tsp cracked black pepper
Combine and process into a paste in a food processor.
I add this to crackers or crostini, top with a slice of manchego or Irish cheddar and drizzle with pomegranate molasses. You can buy pomegranate molasses or make your own by putting a cup of pomegranate juice in a saucepan and simmering until it is reduced to 1/3 cup.
So dang easy to make and a great accompaniment to soups, salads or anything you want to fancy up. Also nice as a gift for your favorite foodie.
- 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour a heaping tablespoon of Parmesan onto a silicone or parchment paper lined baking sheet and lightly pat down. Repeat with the remaining cheese, spacing the spoonfuls about a 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden and crisp. Cool. You can also do them in a non-stick skillet, same process; just remove with a spatula when crisp.
Wishing you and yours a glorious holiday season.