Given the fact that we are nearly full throttle into the holiday season, it occurred to me some of you might start feeling just a wee bit stressed about all the activities and projects that sneak up on us this time of year.
Well, stress no longer! We here at Feeding on Folly have your best interests at heart — and honestly, you couldn’t have found a better place to find help. With all due respect, I am the Queen, King, and All Royal Subjects of the Land of Organization.
This is because, dear friends, I have a vast amount of experience with making To-Do Lists. After all, I started writing them at a very young age. Yet even then I showed remarkable astuteness with how they should be done. I wasn’t even aware of how astute I was, but I’m telling you, I astuted early in life. I was practically bathing in astutement.
Here is a primary example of how astutious my typical 8-year-old self would write her to-do list:
- Wake up
- Get out of bed
- Get dressed
- Brush teeth
- Do stuff
You see the genius of this list? By the time I’m out of bed, I immediately check off two items! Plus, by including both specific (‘Brush teeth’) and vague tasks (‘Do Stuff’), it was an easy matter of going to bed satisfied that I had completed my list in its entirety. As in, “Did I ‘Do Stuff today? Why, yes! Yes, I did!” *check*
So for instance, when thinking about the various things you want to accomplish this season, which of these two items has the greatest chance of success:
- Make 8 dozen cookies and 2 pounds of fudge, prepare goodie plates for all the neighbors and deliver to their homes
- Pour a glass of wine and read a good book
You don’t actually have to answer that. I know you already poured the glass.
However the holiday season requires a special touch when completing a to-do list. A bit of flair, if you will. And given the amount of pressure we feel during this time of year (much of it self-inflicted, if we are honest with ourselves), then it is of the utmost importance that we get started making our to-do lists now, before things get out of control.
Which is why I’ve decided to share with you some of the items on my holiday list. Feel free to use any you might find helpful.
- Buy all baking supplies/gift wrap/tape/etc. before Thanksgiving, before the stores start playing insipid Christmas music. (Does anyone else miss Muzak? Instrumental music is fine, even elevator music. But I swear, if I hear “Wonderful Christmas Time” by Wings one more time … ) If I run out of anything mid-way through, my baking and gift buying ends. Those are the rules. I shall etch them in stone.
- When in line at a grocery store, I will ignore all magazines showing perfectly decorated Christmas trees and articles promising “105 easy ornaments to make at home!!!” Better yet, I will cover all magazines with issues of Scientific American. The world can use more knowledge.
- Do not put tinsel on the tree! Don’t even think about it. Do you really want to clean up after Cat hacks it up all over the sofa again? Just. Say. No.
- Pull out Christmas cards and check mailing list. Cross off anyone I think would appreciate being able to cross me off their list. That’ll leave about three. Mail three Christmas cards.
- Make list of excuses for not accepting party invitations. Include impromptu, “Oh gosh, I’d love to, but I have a bit of a sore throat — rather not risk it,” and planned, “Darn, that’s the evening I’m volunteering at the soup kitchen.” (You don’t actually have to volunteer at a soup kitchen. If your friend finds out you didn’t do it, just say you had a bit of a sort throat and didn’t want to risk it.)
- Plan evening for driving around town to look at lights, but plan on getting lost. Stop kidding yourself. This time, just continue driving until you spot a little cafe and treat everyone to pie and hot cocoa, while you check your phone for directions. On way home, find a well-lit house and claim it was the one you were looking for the whole time.
- Eat soup. Lots of soup. And cookies. Homemade cookies, if at all possible. Homemade soup and cookies. The ultimate comfort food. Screw the diet. You need cookies.
Honestly, I wish you all a very happy, relaxing holiday season. I hope you enjoy every moment of it — and with that in mind, I’m giving you a bonus recipe for each week leading up to Christmas. Consider it my gift to you. These will be some of my favorite cookies or treats that I like to make for the holidays.
But along with that, I’ll be giving you soup recipes, so you can be comforted. I love making soup this time of year, as it goes together fast, you get the pleasure of smelling it as it cooks, and you usually have plenty of leftovers to enjoy for lunches during the week.
This first recipe I’m sharing is a bit of departure for me, as I usually do things from scratch. But this one is so great I don’t mind cheating. Added bonus: it makes a great gift. Really! Just put the ingredients in a gift bag with the recipe, add a crusty baguette and maybe some homemade cookies, and leave it at a friend’s door. They’ll be overwhelmed with gratitude and you’ll have spent less than 10 bucks. Score!
Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Chicken and Black Beans
- 1 carton (32 oz.) Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup (I used Pacific brand, but others will do)
- 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained
- 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with green chilies (I used Muir Glen, you can also use Rotel), drain slightly
- 1 can (12 oz.) chicken, drained, or use leftover chicken
Open all containers, pour into medium saucepan, cook over medium heat until hot. Serve.
Seriously, it’s that easy.
Optional toppings: Chopped green onion, cilantro or basil, sour cream, grated cheese
These little bars are super easy to make, but also super delicious. People will be begging you for the recipe. No kidding.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
- 1 and 1/2 cups pecan halves (sliced almonds are a nice variation)
- Toffee topping (recipe below)
- 1 cup milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use more than a cup because, you know, it’s chocolate.)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and butter, mix until fine crumbs form. Press into 13×9 inch baking pan. Sprinkle pecans over crust.
Make Toffee Topping: Put 2/3 cup butter and 1/3 cup packed brown sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil. Continue cooking and stirring for another 30 seconds.
Drizzle toffee topping evenly over pecans and crust. Bake for about 20 minutes, until topping is bubbly and golden; remove from oven. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips on top, pressing gently onto surface with a spatula. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.