Cooking + Baking

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Last night’s annual tradition, cuddling together, though this year in front of the most Christmas-y scented tree(!), and reading Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. I read aloud until emotion overwhelms and Greg must finish the story. It never disappoints.

I started the cinnamon rolls last night, a fine use of time, if ever there was, the spicy-buttery scent that filled the house this morning almost as delicious as the taste on my tongue. Later, I will make a southern-leaning feast of ham, cranberries, apple coleslaw, and cornbread.

This is Christmas for us, being alone together, two almost-hermits. We have a wealth of friends and family, engaging, lively, thoughtful, who surround themselves with well-populated groups. I find my person so different and overwhelmed in these spaces. My comfort is to find quiet, alone in observation, or to focus on a single thread or voice.

On Christmas, it is Greg’s, my favorite, without pretense or demand, guilt or obligation. These fine days punctuated by dog sighs and licks. We listen to soul-stirring music. We wear pajamas all day and glide about like the oldest of dance partners, each anticipating the other’s movement and responding in kind – cooking, baking, conversing, cleaning.

This is the great privilege of being grown. Choosing, as much as we can, how life unfolds, filled with the joys of the finest people and places, sights and sounds. It is the best life I know.

Here’s hoping for the best life you know – today and in the year to come.

My nephew was in the neighborhood to check out a car that turned out to be a lemon, but we ALL reaped the benefits! We ate, put up our first Christmas tree in twenty years, and as always, enjoyed one another’s fine company.

During our last days with my Grandpa, my adorable little cousin, who normally keeps to herself, came to visit and was positively smitten with our sweet pup. Juniper was an angel doggy, letting her pet and hug and squeeze. Good girl!

I went a little crazy (at least for me) in the holiday sweets arena – making candied orange peels, biscochitos (but you already knew that, didn’t you?), walnut fudge, salted pine nut brittle, and my peppermint yo-yos. Egads, so good!

Love that face…

In honor of my Grandpa and the last bite he ever took, my recipe for biscochitos. These are a traditional Christmas cookie of New Mexico, and in my version, are heady with anise. If you aren’t as much of a fan as I am of this delightful seed, cut the amount in half, and you’ll still have a pretty stellar cookie. Also, these are traditionally made with lard. As I find sourcing the freshest lard a bit of a challenge, I make the butter and shortening combination for what I think is the best flavor.

3 cups flour (I use half whole wheat and half all-purpose)

1 tablespoon anise seed, crushed

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup shortening (or very fresh lard)

1 egg

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons port or sweet red wine

cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling

Stir together flour, anise, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, beat butter and shortening until fluffy. Add egg, sugar, and wine, beat until light. Stir in flour. Divide in two portions for easy rolling. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll on floured surface until 1/4 inch thick. Cut into your favorite shape(s) and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. You can also gild the lily by adding some crushed anise seed to the mixture (I do!). Arrange on sheet pan and bake at 350 for about 9 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove and cool. Store in an airtight container.

I highly recommend eating biscochitos with a glass of the port or wine used to make them.

Enjoy!

Perfectly painted skies for the beginnings of our Thanksgiving adventure. West to Buena Vista!

Breakfast, mmmmm…bacon.

We followed Cottonwood Creek on foot and by car to its namesake lake; dancing sun pennies, enveloping ice, ruby red rose hips, and the silence of near solitude every bit worth the effort.

Forgoing the hullabaloo of large family gatherings to enjoy a Thanksgiving for two (+ one beloved pup) in a wee cabin in the woods. Stuffing in progress in my favorite cast iron pan: apple, celery, cranberry, minus the onion I left at home. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. True that. The pie, however, was both, my best yet.

Feeling nostalgic for the wooden cabins of my youth – humble dwellings of strong character, flanked by massive tanks of propane.

More humble dwellings and every manner of delight at Cottonwood Hot Springs – fish jumping, lily pads floating, creek rushing, crows soaring. We soaked for hours and hours, sunrise to the waxing crescent of moon and sky thick with a ribbon of Milky Way stars. My love for this life and this place ever-expanding, like the universe itself.

St. Elmo – slipping, not only from the Buena Vista temperatures of spring-like warmth, but more than a century in the past. Sneakers sliding on full winter ice while gawping at Mountain Lion tracks – the wonder of a single day.

Playing with darkness, eager to do some book and youtube learning to capture the wonders of night. How crazy is that green?!

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Hey there, and happy Friday! This early thanks brought to you by sentimental, comfort craving Colleen – because I can eat Thanksgiving all-year-long. Uh-huh. I am the not-at-all ashamed woman wiggling to unstick hot-shorted legs from the naugahyde booth of a chain of comfort food restaurants in high summer. Joyfully proclaiming, “I will have the turkey dinner. Please and thank you.” Only this wasn’t turkey, but chicken. Turkeys are too big and make too many leftovers. For if you know me at all, you also know that I don’t care much for them either, save a few exceptions: lasagna, sesame chicken,  the best sweets. The hubster likes this just fine. Reason No. 1037 our marriage is a match made in H E A V E N. Yes.

And now for the sentimental bits – the napkins are a shade my of my favorite turquoise. The boozy drink is a moscato made absolutely stellar with the addition of Atapino and Wheeler’s Gin, two of Santa Fe Spirits magical infusions of the landscape of my soul. Delicious. Jellied cranberry because childhood and perfect slices. The stuffing serving dish (with snazzy lid that is not pictured) is from my Grandpa, who got it as a prize way back in the 1950s. The little brown jug was my Grandma’s. We used it to pour the gravy with a heavy hand.

And now, for the thanks:

Thankful for my Grandparents, whose treasures litter, in the best possible way, my home. Thankful for how long I had the privilege of knowing my Grandma. Thankful that I know my Grandpa still, that we play, laugh long and hard, and give the best and most tender of hugs. Grateful for my parents. Grateful for their health and caring. Grateful to live in this house in this beautiful city. Grateful for friends near and far. Grateful for the best parts of my family, showing me how to be generous, loving, resilient. Grateful for our favorite four-legger, her joy and tenderness. Grateful for the hubster, his every kindness and sweet love. Grateful for this breath and the one after that. Always.

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