'Tis the Season......

To start, a big Thank You to RJ Scott for providing the space for this post.

Christmas is just around the corner and all sorts of things are happening. Whether it's because of the way things are set up in the US were the adverts on television and the setups in the different stores have "stuff" set up for Christmas before even Thanksgiving comes around (as of this writing, I have seen Poinsettias being sold - which I've associated with Christmas for a long time - already for sale and, quite frankly, living in Florida? Way too early to see them unless the plan is to keep them indoors) has made me a little bit of a Scrooge around this time of year. I steadfastly refuse to listen to any carols before Christmas week and tune them out whenever I hear them.

 My reading list around this time of year is.....eclectic....and not necessarily season/holiday specific. It also varies from year to year and has a tendency to include books and authors that give me the 'warm and fuzzies' that get me in the proper mindset as opposed to being seasonal (the exception to this is A Christmas Carol, but not necessarily read every year). Some (but not all) authors that make for holiday reading for me include Andrew Grey, Andrew Q. Gordon, Amy Lane, Mary Calmes, RJ Scott (naturally :)), and a few others. If I feel too Scrooge-like, then I read either Steve Berry or David Gibbins. Thriller writers, yes, but do the trick for me to get over the "Bah, humbugs."

Having said that, this time of the year is one of my favorites. I love the traditions that go with it, the greenery, and, yes, the cooler temperatures. (On a side note, even after three-qaurters of my life spent in Florida, Christmas still isn't quite Christmas without snow, but that's another issue.)

I love the time spent with family and the blending of two different tradition styles that is in our home. We put up the outside lights and tree and decorate it last weekend of November as opposed to right before Christmas the way Mom grew up with in Poland. Opening any gifts is usually done Christmas Eve and not on the traditionally December 6 (if we visit Poland around that date, we usually do a little something with whichever close friends we might be with then - that depends on how things work out as we know a few different families).

The dinner setting for Christmas Eve is semi-traditional too. A traditional Wigilia (Polish for Christmas Eve) has about 12 courses from appetizers to dessert. Usually being just me and my folks, we pick some of our favorite foods and have that and not the full dinner. Our setting usually has barszcz (pronounced bar-sh-ch and is beet soup) with uszka (ooshka, Polish mushroom filled tortellini) which we usually make at home (though we cheat with the dough for the uszka and use won-ton wrappers). This is usually followed by either fish or another dish picked that does not include meat (in Poland, Christmas Eve eating does not involve any meat).

 Dessert is usually a wonderful walnut torte Mom bakes. Naturally, we have all sorts of other baked goods, but those vary from year to year depending on what everyone feels like having. As far as table setting goes, sometimes we follow Polish tradition and have hay underneat the tablecloth (to denote the stable), sometimes we don't, but, despite there usually only being just the three of us, we always set an extra place setting at the table. Later in the evening we watch Midnight Mass from the Vatican.

Christmas itself we usually have ham. Dad usually finds a nice ham in the store which Mom cooks further (and, to our tastes, it tops anything we've ever bought in the store) and assorted side dishes that depend on mood. We do try for something different than the usual here and 'fancy' things up a little bit.


All in all, what I really enjoy about the holiday season is spending time with family and enjoying each others company.

Yvonne's recommendations


Andrew Grey
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7265386-simple-gifts?from_search=true
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13030902-a-present-in-swaddling-clothes?from_search=true

Andrew Q. Gordon
GR author page - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6445917.Andrew_Q_Gordon?from_search=true

Amy Lane
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12846365-the-winter-courtship-rituals-of-fur-bearing-critters?from_search=true
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18591068-christmas-kitsch?from_search=true
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9797527-christmas-with-danny-fit?from_search=true
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18068416-cocklebur-s-christmas?from_search=true

Mary Calmes
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13134204-cherish-your-name?from_search=true
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18885728-where-you-lead?from_search=true

RJ Scott
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15979878-new-york-christmas?from_search=true
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18007851-jesse-s-christmas?from_search=true
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18962086-deefur-and-the-great-mistletoe-incident?from_search=true
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18620395-christmas-in-the-sun?from_search=true

Steve Berry
GR author page - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3621.Steve_Berry?from_search=true

David Gibbins
GR author page - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/133505.David_Gibbins?from_search=true




Mom's Walnut TorteCake

8 eggs, separated
8 3/4 oz. (248 g) powdered sugar
8 3/4 oz. (248 g) walnuts, finely ground
juice from one lemon
3 Tablespoons (44mL) bread crumbs
Baker's Joy spray and bread crumbs for pan
Spray pan with Baker's Joy and spread the crumbs on the sides and bottom of pan (round form preferred).
Turn over on to 350 F (about 177C) degrees.
Beat egg yolks and powdered sugar together at high speed until thick and white in color.
Gradually add lemon juice and beat.
Change to low speed and add ground walnuts and bread crumbs.
In separate bowl, beat egg whites into stiff peaks and fold into batter.
Pour mixture into pan and bake for 35-40 minutes (time dependent on oven, might take longer in some). Check center with toothpick and if it comes out clean, the torte is done. If not, bake a little bit longer.
Cool torte in pan for about 10 minutes, then take it out of the pan and cool completely on wire rack.
Wrap torte in plastic wrap and store overnight in refrigerator.
Cut into 2 layers the following day and pour two tablespoons of cognac on the inside of the torte.

Icing

1 cup (237 mL) of finely ground walnuts
4 egg yolks
8 3/4 oz (248 mL) powdered sugar
8 3/4 oz (248 mL) unsalted butter
1 Tblspn. (15 mL) dark rum
2 Tblspn. (30 mL) cognac
1 tspn. (5 mL) black walnut extract
Walnut halves for decoration (preferrably dipped in chocolate)
Beat egg yolks and powdered sugar until white in color.
Gradually add softened butter and beat well.
Slowly add ground walnuts, rum, cognac, and walnut extract
Refrigerate the resulting mixture for an hour.
Ice the torte between the layers and on the outside and smooth the icing with a hot knife.
Grind one cup (237 mL) of walnuts and cover the icing completely.
Add the chocolate covered walnuts on the outside edge of the torte.
Freeze torte overnight and serve it the next day.

This recipe is a base for any nut torte.

Where the recipe calls for finely ground walnuts, just exchange with finely ground almonds, hazelnuts, or any other nuts you might wish, and substitute extracts accordingly.

This torte can be stored in the freezer for up to one week, but has to be tightly covered with plastic wrap.

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