Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fall In Line

Are you ready? The holiday season is upon us. Lights are being strung, trees are being planted in living rooms, carols are being sung, and as I type this...snow is predicted to fall in Louisiana sometime Thursday. Snow-- sent on cue to pit my new coat against the harsh elements of a normal winter—maybe I’ll even get to use my scarf. Snow!? The timing is perfect, and as they say, timing is everything.

The all-knowing, fail-proof wisdom of the universal clock has also bestowed upon me the duty of organizing the office Holiday Treat Swap. It’s of little consequence that this event has never before taken place, that this is its inaugural run, and also that I was drafted into it because “I’m crafty” and also happen to possess the “list-maker OCD gene” required to manage such a task. Never mind any of that. What’s important is just as I was tapping my fingers on the desk, scrambling for an idea for this week’s recipe post, viola! The idea dropped into my lap like a big, sloppy, wet, Louisiana snowball. It’s no secret that the holidays seem less appealing to me this year, sans mom, or that I was fully prepared to just skip it altogether, but... well, now I’m obligated to fall in line with everyone else and don the gay apparel, sip the eggnog, hang the stockings, and well, be merry. It’s just as well. I wouldn’t have made a proper Grinch; that shade of green never looked nice on me, and I doubt my pug could pull a sleigh's worth of anything, unless of course there were cookies dangling in front of her.

As organizer of the aforementioned swap, I feel obligated to contribute more than my share of the holiday goodies, and as a result copious amounts of organic powdered sugar and unbleached pastry flour will be flying around here for a good while. We will most likely be knee-deep in softened butter and cream cheese, perhaps even melted chocolate. But can you imagine a more glorious way to fight the disgusting, wet, freezing temperatures, or the sleet the news will no doubt be passing off as snow to get ratings, than wading in warm chocolate or diving into a box of warm spice cookies fresh from the oven? No, I didn’t think so. And so, it is with great holiday cheer and Iron Chef-like authority that I say unto you: let the holiday baking begin! Or at least it is with sincere obligation and hope that the Christmas Blues be washed away that I say unto you: fall in line and join in the Festivus with the rest of us. 

The first installment of this year's holiday baking festivities, I will admit is not that eventful, but you know,  some of us Who's need to be eased into the jingling of bells and hall decking...and it is for you, I present, are you ready???....taa...daa:  Candied Orange Peel.

I know what you're thinking..."Whoopee!  Ingredients? Thanks alot, Christy."

It's understandable. I almost NEVER make things I can easily buy at the store:  soymilk, nut butters, vanilla extract....who has the time, or in my case, the interest?  I'd rather make something "real".  Something I can actually eat without having to continue on with another recipe. Sometimes though, dear reader, you get what you pay for.  I have never EVER been satisfied with a pre-made candied orange peel I've purchased, and it just so happens that almost every holiday season I find myself in possession of way too many clementines than I am willing to eat, as they only seem to be sold by the case. Do you ever find yourself with such dilemma? The solution is pretty simple: make candied orange peel.  

It's the sort of activity that gently eases you into the holiday baking mode, and provides you with not only a nice addition to your grandma's fruit cake recipe (ick) or  your favorite shortbread recipe, but you also get these fine bonuses at no extra charge:
1.) It's completely edible as is.  Candied Orange Peel after all is candy.

2.) You will most likely have enough from one batch to last you pretty much all year, unless you are baking enough orange-scented shortbread to feed an army.

3.) The infused sugar syrup left over as a by-product of the candy making process can, and should be, saved and used to sweeten iced or hot tea, or as a replacement anywhere honey or agave nectar is called for.

4.) You can add "candy-making" to your culinary repertoire with minimal effort. 

5.) It's pretty and sparkles, like little chewy shards of snow-covered sunshine.

6.) It's vegan and all natural.  


7.) It's totally giftable: just put it in a nice jar with some sugar, tie a pretty ribbon around it, and presto, chango: you're Martha Stewart, with a better wardrobe.

That's a one hundred and twenty dollar value! Do you really need more reasons?  Well...what if I were to tell you there is a top-secret recipe calling for said peel on the brink of being completed that will soon be showing it's beautiful little face around here in a couple days?  Still not convinced?  Well, then, bah humbug I guess.  I have a sneaking suspicion you'll change your mind once the Reveillon Truffles appear, but by then you'll be two days out of pocket, seeing as there's a 48 hour curing window on the candied oranges, and then what will you do?  Best to start now, so fall in line

Happy Holly-days

Oh yeah... one more thing before I go:  the usual Thursday recipe posting schedule is hereby lifted until the holiday baking ceases.  New recipes will be posted every day or every other day so check back often for new goodies. :-)

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