Originally published in the Greenwood Daily Journal Saturday December 10, 2011
My mother always told me to write important things down or I would forget it later. This may be how and why I am quite a list maker. Furthermore, this may have been the Genesis for my need to keep a journal. From a first tooth, a good report card to riding a bike for the first time these little milestones seem very significant at the time. Don’t get me wrong, they are, but what about the little memories that you can’t associate with any one specific event?
Last weekend as I unpacked ornaments to decorate our tree, I felt like I was re-visiting my families past with every bobble I hung on each branch. I flashed back on so many things, so many little memories with each handmade ornament.
Every candy-cane reindeer and popsicle stick Santa my kids made for me meant something. Pieces of leftover paper chain, the recipe for reindeer food and laminated cut outs of my kids hand prints litter my ornament storage boxes. Bits of that and this that singularly may not amount to much but collectively, hanging proudly on my holiday tree all add up to a happy and full life, well lived.
I may not remember why I saved each piece but I know that is was made with me in mind and believe it or not I will probably hold on to these little ‘treasures’ forever. They are like snapshots of their creativity at the time, a little snippet of their personalities. I have a few items on my tree that my mother gave to back to me that I made while I was growing up. My favorite is a piece of pottery I made in the third grade that hangs on a red silk ribbon. It still looks good after all these years and I still remember the day I made it. I am holding onto these kind of memories for my kids, on loan, until they need them back.
So with little memories and little treasures in mind I am reminded of how easy it is to get swept up into over planning and over scheduling around the holidays. We may tend to over commit ourselves to bringing a dish to this or that function and we hardly even have time to enjoy the actual event. I have done this myself. I have been known to decide that Beef Wellington should be on the menu for a family gathering only to find that I spent the whole time buzzing about, busy and fretting over the details.
Now, after many trials and errors, I have adopted a Tapas way of thinking when it comes to entertaining and sharing a dish as a dinner guest. Small, individual portions that pack in a lot of flavor. I make 3 or 4 of what I like to call ‘Little Bites’ , a bowl of spiced nuts and a stack of small plates and let guests pick and choose what they want. I think this allows for a little more creativity and takes the mundane meatball in a crock pot of barbecue sauce to the next level. One of my favorite appetizers that I make and certainly one of the most requested items that I bring when I am a guest at a holiday dinner is my stuffed mushrooms. But this Thanksgiving I wanted to give them a face lift a bit so I put the filling in a won-ton cup.
With the extra time I have now , skipping the full course dinner menu and not over-cooking, I have time to enjoy my guests and make a few little memories of my own.
Spinach and Feta Cups
8-10 ounces of washed and dried Cremini, Baby Bella or button mushrooms, chopped
1 10 ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of excess liquid
1 8 ounce package of low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 5 ounce package of Feta Cheese
1/2 cup of finely chopped green onion
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 package of won-ton wrappers, found in the produce isle of most grocery stores
salt/fresh pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all of the ingredients (except the won-tons) in a large bowl. Using 2 mini-muffin pans, insert a won ton wrap in each hole by laying it on top of it. Add 1 heaping tablespoon to each and insert it into the opening. It will resemble a cupcake. Do this for all of your won-tons or until your filling is gone. You may also use a standard sized muffin pan if you so choose. Sprinkle the completed cups with the Parmesan cheese and bake until golden, 6 to 8 minutes.
And my other favorite Holiday appetizer is…..
Meatballs filled with Feta and a Zesty Orange Glaze
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 C ketchup
1 small onion finely chopped or shredded
1/2 C soft bread crumbs
1/4 C minced parsley
3 tsp paprika
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 lb of lean ground beef
2 1/2 oz of Feta cheese, whole, cut into 16 small 1/2 in cubes
1 jar (12 oz) orange marmalade
1/4 C orange juice
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
In a large bowl, combine the first 9 ingredients. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Divide into 16 portions, flatten. Top each portion with a Feta cube and close the beef mix around the cheese to hide it.
Place on a greased rack sitting on a cookie sheet and bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until no longer pink.
In a small sauce pan add all of the glaze ingredients and heat until warm. Place all of the meatballs in a shallow dish and pour the glaze over them. Garnish with a bit of reserved jalapeno and green onion.