Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Celebration Odyssey

This all started back in the late summer/early fall, when I pressed my long-idle crock pot back into service, began an active trolling of the food.com site, and found my past-midlife passion of cuisine.

Spurred on by personal circumstances, and a frustration over "what to get" various people on my holiday list, I've decided to make this a "merry little Christmas" with gifts from my kitchen. It's been quite a process, with some unexpected new insights and private thoughts.

The Cranberry Nut Bread was simple enough, and went over well at the family Thanksgiving dinner. Last Saturday, I was up long before sunrise, producing this recipe for its encore serving at a party of high school friends.

What was a test of my skill and patience was the Savory Tomato and Bell Pepper Bread. At 6 AM, I gave the downloaded recipe my usual cursory glance, and, fueled with several cups of black coffee, cranked up the opera volume on my kitchen radio, and started the process. How hard could it be?

Several steps in, I was shocked to realize I had everything but the sun-dried tomatoes. Also, skipping to the end, I was reminded that this bread called for a spring form pan, not the usual loaf-shaped one, of which I had several. Ransacking the cupboards did not produce the familiar old spring form pan. Did I foolishly get rid of it during one of my springtime cleaning frenzies? No matter, it's probably around here somewhere...

First, I called my next-door neighbor, a sweet Italian lady who routinely bakes and cooks from scratch, even for everyday meals. When that SOS did not yield the goods, a frantic run to the local store did, even when the obstacles of a non-functional automatic front door and a clueless shelf-stocking clerk. I was back at home in less than ten minutes.

I kept watching the kitchen clock, as if I could slow down the passage of time. Forty minutes for the first dough rising...thirty more in the pan...and then forty-five to bake. Cooling, then wrapping, and maybe, hopefully, I'd get to the party, which was more than an hour's drive away, on time. And where the hell was that spring form pan?


The dough was sticky and tacky, like a mix of wallpaper paste, Superglue, and flypaper. Kneading it was like an aerobic exercise. My housemate came out for more of her own breakfast fixings, giggling, and saying, "I really should have a picture of you right now." I love this friend dearly, but when she said that, I shot death-rays out of both eyes. Why do I get myself into such complicated projects when I'm going to a party, or having guests over? Why, why?

Time to call my neighbor again. This time, I snagged one of her spring form pans. Bless her.

Long story even longer, as my brother would say, I transported both breads to the party. I would have left the tomato and bell pepper bread home, but after the ordeal I went through, I wouldn't have been able to live with myself. It got eaten, but I was privately not satisfied.

Early the next morning, I was at it again. I've gotten so I can knock out the cranberry and nut bread without much thought, but wanted a second go at the tomato and bell pepper one. The latter turned out higher and fluffier. I sent both home with my gentleman friend, who said that his mother and brother made short work of them at their dinner time.

Encouraged by the second-time-around success, I'm going to use these recipes as gifts, presented in lovely, festive baskets.

And yes, I got a new spring form pan, in case I can't locate the original one.

The biggest surprise is that, while shopping for it, I got a look at some Kitchen Aid standing mixers. I was flooded with nostalgia, remembering my Mom's old white one, and the creations she whipped up with it. All of the sudden, I wanted one. The price for the mixer was too high for now, but on Amazon they're somewhat cheaper. So, it's on my wish list. And where else can you get a Kitchen Aid in 28 colors, including Bayleaf and Persimmon?

AND...I want to start wearing a pretty apron in the kitchen. Maybe I could have two, or even three. Goodness, at this stage in my life, I'm becoming a regular little domestic nester!






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