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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bah Humbug

The holiday season is upon us.  The stores are all busy, the Christmas music is playing on the radio, in the mall, and at the dry cleaners.  Yes, the holidays are here, and I can no longer put off thinking about them.

It used to be that the winter holidays didn't make an appearance until the day after Thanksgiving.  That's just how it was.  The day before Thanksgiving, everything had sort of a harvest theme and then magically the day after Thanksgiving everything was covered in fake snow and tinsel.  Now, we can shop for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all at once starting sometime in September.  What happened?

All of this early celebration has caused me to become somewhat of a Scrooge.  I mean, for how many months do I have to celebrate?   A couple of weeks of tinsel and good cheer is plenty for me.  

My real problem this year is my general lack of ideas about what to buy everyone.  Honestly, can't we all just agree that we have everything we need (and more)?  Truthfully, do any of us need more stuff?  I can only speak for myself when I say that I actually need to get rid of stuff instead of collecting more.  I can remember a time when I actually thought my behemoth of a house was too large for us.  These days, despite having a full basement and a third floor that no one lives on, I am starting to consider off-site storage as a way to get some of this stuff out of here.

So, in an effort not to add to everyone else's stuff, I'm thinking of going the consumable gift route this year.  I'm not talking about those tired Christmas cookies, but instead some really special food items, both homemade and purchased, that can be enjoyed and then finished.  

It all seems like a good idea but as always, motivation on my part could be an issue.  But, it's only the beginning of December.  I still have plenty of time to get to the mall if it all falls apart.

French Chocolate Bark
(Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics,  2008)


1 cup whole salted, roasted cashews
6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 to 7 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried crystallized ginger, 1/2 inch diced
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots, 1/2 inch diced
1/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Using a pencil, draw a 9 x 10-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper placed on a sheet pan, then turn the parchment paper over.

Spread the cashews in one layer on another sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Place the semisweet chocolate and half the bittersweet chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high for 20 to 30 seconds.  Stir with a rubber spatula.  Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted.  Immediately add the remaining bittersweet chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth.  Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.

Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly into the drawn rectangle.  Sprinkle the top evenly in the following order: first the ginger, then the cooled whole cashews, the cherries, apricots, and raisins.  Set aside for 1 to 2 hours until firm.  Cut the bark into 18 to 20 pieces and serve at room temperature.

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