Merciful God, You are great in compassion and Your tenderness for us is without measure. We ask You to give us today our daily bread, and also provide for the needs of all of Your hungry children around the world. Through Christ Your Son and Our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Surprises

For me, Christmas rarely brings surprises. After all, I'm the mom --
I'm supposed to make the surprises. This year, there were several surprises that I'd like to tell you about.

On Monday, as I was preparing to make the braciole, and trying to get the table set, and thinking there were not enough hours in some days, a florist truck drove up and brought me the most unexpected gift of the season -- a table centerpiece. This year was actually one year when I really gave the centerpiece not one thought. In years past, I have assembled arrangements and gone outdoors to cut evergreen boughs, and arranged a multitude of candles across the dining table. But, this year, I had done nothing. Likely the only adornment to the table would be silver candlesticks. But, almost at the eleventh hour, in came a beautiful centerpiece of fresh red and white flowers, a variety of evergreens, pine cones, red glass balls and red candles. Gorgeous. And the biggest surprise was the sender -- Monsignor Bennett, a beloved friend and teacher. Doug first met Msgr. Bennett when he taught him American History as a freshman in high school. He then again taught him World History as a senior. He was a favorite teacher of Doug's and when we were married, Fr. Bennett celebrated the wedding Mass at the school's Mother of Mercy Chapel. This year, Fr. Bennett is teaching my oldest son World History, and this is something, since Father is of frail health, I was never certain would happen. I am overjoyed that he is teaching Anthony, especially since he regularly tells Anthony "you are much smarter than your father." Needless to say, when we read the florist card, we were deeply touched to know that he thinks so much of us. Of course, his gruff exterior would prevent him from actually saying so, but his actions speak louder than words. When Doug called to thank him, he did say, "tell Anthony that I love him in spite of himself." Vintage Fr. Bennett.

Another surprise this Christmas was the ongoing benefit I received from this gift earlier in the month. I planned a salad using the Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar, and if I do say so myself, it was very good. I usually don't wing it on big holidays, especially with my in-laws coming to dinner, but I was confident the Orange Muscat would make a good salad. My
Francis, who really enjoys food, helped me plan the salad, winging it as we were. We decided that it would include fresh spinach leaves, red leaf lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, sliced strawberries, candied pecans, and feta cheese, tossed with the Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar. It was surprisingly delicious and beautiful.

Orange Muscat Champagne Vinaigrette

2 cloves garlic
1/2 c. Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (Trader Joe's)
1 t. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. orange juice
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
sweetener to taste

Place garlic in food processor bowl and pulse a few times (I use my small one for salad dressing, but if you don't have a processor, mince the garlic and place in a bowl). Pour vinegar, mustard, and orange juice in processor bowl with garlic. Turn machine on, and slowly stream in olive oil until all is added (if you're not using a processor, whisk mixture quickly until oil is incorporated). Add salt and sweetener (I used a little sugar and a little Equal) to taste. Refrigerate for an hour or more.

My third surprise, which was not a complete surprise, as I asked for it, was a potato ricer. The surprise was that is was, as my teens would say, an uber ricer. This thing is enormous and will rice potatoes for gnocci in no time flat. No more pushing those potatoes through a sieve with a spoon -- gnocci may be on the menu much more often now. It came from Williams-Sonoma and while I checked their website, I couldn't find it. Either it's an Internet glitch or Doug found a discontinued item on the shelves.

Hopefully your Christmas had a few surprises. Good ones, that is.



annie said...

Man, I'm all choked up about your 11th hour centerpiece and the story of the relationship with its sender. I'm a sucker for surprises, teachers, gruff but lovely old gentlemen - you pushed every button. Also, I envy you your ricer. And the gnocchi yet to come....

Deborah said...

What a lovely centrepiece! The ricer is a favourite in this house... you know it will peel your potatoes for you too! Awesome!

Glad the dressing worked out - sounds like a wonderful salad!