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When I was growing up we always strung popcorn for the Christmas tree. It was a family tradition from my mother's childhood.
My father would pop a huge tub (as in laundry tub) of plain popcorn; my mother would distribute needles with long, sturdy threads and we would make popcorn garlands for the tree. Some years, when cranberries were plentiful and cheap, we would intersperse the snowy popcorn with bright red cranberries. When Christmas was over, my mother would take all the ornaments and lights off the tree, then set it out in the front garden, with the popcorn garlands still on: to feed the birds.
In keeping with such a lovely tradition, one year my roommate and I decided to have a popcorn stringing party. We invited a few friends over, popped the popcorn, made a few festive snacks and prepared to trim our tree. We had taken the trusty hatchet and gone to the woods the day before to chop it down, in the true spirit of a traditional, old-fashioned Christmas.
Well, you all know what they say about the road to hell and good intentions.
One cannot (normally) have a group of 20-somethings at a party during the holidays without having something bubbly to drink, although in our case it was beer, not champaign. What with everyone having such a good time and all, the next thing we knew Saturday Night Live was signing off and our friends were having contests to see who could throw the popcorn with the most accuracy at whatever the designated target was.
We all decided it looked rather festive and proceeded to toss the rest of the popcorn on the tree.
"It's snow!" we cried, laughing merrily!
We finished decorating the tree about 4 am; some friends left, some crashed on the floor, those of us with beds found them.
The next morning, after a healthy breakfast of coke (as in Coca Cola – get your mind out of the streets; we were good girls!) and cold pizza, we surveyed our creation.
Then roomie and I carefully took off all of the ornaments and lights. We took the tree outside and shook off all of the popcorn, swept and vacuumed the floor, and brought the tree back inside. We re-decorated the tree, sans popcorn; and much more soberly than the first time, although with not as much fun.
As we finished decorating the house that evening, we paused with a bottle of bubbly each (beer) and surveyed our handiwork.
We were pleased.
And yet, something was missing.
We had laid white cotton batting on our bookshelf. It was meant to be snow. We had carefully placed the nativity scene on the 'snow'. And yet – it didn't look 'finished'.
Ah! Eureka moment! We both had dogs. With dogs one gets yellow snow. There was no yellow snow in our little scene.
We ran off to find some yellow food coloring.
We proceeded to make yellow snow.
"It's yellow snow!" we cried, laughing merrily!
Once again, the next morning we realized that our fantastic idea was, well, somewhat less than brilliant.
At least the yellow snow was easier to fix.
Thank God we didn't know about caganer…..
To my mind not much is healthier than a bowl of soup brimming with vegetables. And, while it may not be quick to make, it needs very little attention as it cooks and one can have it for 2 or 3 meals that require almost no time at all!
Our very talented food photographer, Ilva, of Lucullian Delights is hosting this month's event. Visit her blog after December 18th (or 20th) for all the heart-healthy, holiday-quick recipes!
Barley is an incredibly healthy and underused grain. It's high in fiber and antioxidants; is as good if not better than oats for healthy heart and blood; and has copper which is thought to ease arthritis sufferers.
Besides, I like it!
You could use purchased stock – but this is for 'Heart of the Matter' and this stock is so easy to make…
2 chicken thighs and legs with bone in
1 chicken breast – bone in or not
the tops from a bunch of celery if you have it
2 – 3 stalks (ribs) celery
enough water to just cover everything
1 tbs chicken base or 1 chicken stock cube or salt to taste optional
Cut the vegetables into large chunks. If you are using the tops to a bunch of celery use them all – including the leaves. Put chicken, vegetables and herbs into a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add water to cover. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for an hour – or 2 or three; the longer the better. If you're using an uncooked whole chicken cook at least 2 hours. Can be made anytime during the day, cooked for 1 – 4 hours unattended and finished before dinner. It's best to cook it early or the day before, strain the stock and chill to remove fat. Pick the chicken off the carcass, cut or tear into bite-size pieces and set aside. Discard skin, bones and vegetables.
3 – 4 cups cooked chicken, more or less
4 – 5 carrots
3 – 4 stalks (ribs) celery
1 – 2 onions
1 can sweet corn, 15oz (450gr)
1 can whole tomatoes, 15oz (450gr)
1/2 cup uncooked or 3/4 cup partially cooked (Ebly) pearl barley
1 1/2 – 2 quarts (1500 – 2000ml) fresh chicken stock
Bring stock to a boil over medium high heat. Cut carrots in half, the long way then thinly slice. 1/8" (3 cm). Add to stock. Thinly slice celery, add to stock. Chop onion, add to stock. Open and drain sweet corn and add to stock. Add barley to stock. Cover and simmer – may need to reduce heat a bit. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Open tomatoes and drain. Chop tomatoes and add to soup. Add chicken to soup. Cover and simmer 15 minutes longer.
Now: too thick? Add more stock or water. Too thin? Add 1/3 cup vermicelli (cooks fast and thickens nicely)
Finally: Don't forget to search your closet/pantry for skeletons. Remember, confession is good for the soul. It can, but doesn't have to, be an actual recipe, or just the description of the, um, food or any food and holiday related debacle/story/mishap…. Really, any dirty little secret you feel like sharing! You have until Christmas to post – the round-up will be just before Dec. 31. The usual rules: post, link to me, send me an e-mail with permalink. Click for details! I'll be doing an interim round-up next weekend.
Come on, tell! Share the pain…you'll feel better! And so will we!