Tuesday, November 29, 2005

No, this is NOT normal...unless you're an author

I know, it's only the 29th of November, but my house is already decorated for the holidays. Little antique Santas everywhere, wreath on the door, most of the presents bought and wrapped. I even have George Winston's December on my iPod.

I am soooo ahead of the game this year.

No, this is NOT normal for me (I'm not sure it's normal for anyone). Usually I finish up all the Christmas prep...oh, right around New Years. But this year is different.

I have a book due February 1...and I have only written twelve pages. Twelve. No excuses... I am just a procrastinator.

But by tomorrow or the next day, the time crunch should be sufficently frightening enough to summon my muse. (Pressure seems to be the only language the wench understands.) Then, no coming up for air until the book is finished.

To do this, I will need to be completely ready for the holidays by December 1 at the latest (does anyone know what to buy a 66 year old dad who doesn't golf?)

This "must be ready" rule doesn't apply to the Christmas tree, of course. We're getting that this weekend. There is no substitute for the smell of real Frasier Fir. I don't even mind it when a pine needle punches through my sock and stabs my big toe. The smell of Christmas in the house is worth it.

So, in the spirit of the coming holidays, and since Shelley Bates mentioned it and has set off a wicked craving--I present my quickie recipe for Peppermint Bark.

Crunchy Peppermint Bark (start to finish, about 15 minutes-my kind of recipe!)

Note: White chocolate scorches easily. So, you can be "Martha" and use a double-boiler --or just check the chocolate's progress in your handy-dandy microwave. Guess which I do?)

Yield: Makes just over 2 pounds or one cookie sheet full


2 bags of Nestles white chocolate morsels (I've tried about every brand there is, and Nestles works best)
12 large candy canes
1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil (oil, not extract--find it at craft or baking stores with candy making supplies)
1 Ziplock freezer bag, gallon size

How to:

1. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a pinch, you can use aluminum foil.

2. Take the candy canes out of the wrappers and drop them into the Ziplock bag. (Freezer bags are thicker--but you can double up on a regular zipper bags if you like.)

3. Hand the closed bag to the kids and let them bang it on the kitchen counter until the canes are smashed into 1/4 inch pieces. (No kids around? Roll a wine bottle over the bag a few times. I like to use a good bottle of red --Pinot Noir is my choice--more festive, you know. )

4. Empty the white chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 60 seconds. Microwave strength varies, so watch carefully. Take the bowl out and stir well. Heat it for another 30 seconds. Stir again. If the chocolate isn't melted, continue at 10 second intervals to avoid scorching. (Note: the morsels hold form until you stir, so you can't just look in the bowl to check if they've melted.)

5. Immediately stir the pieces of candy cane and the peppermint oil into the melted chocolate.

6. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet; spread evenly to about thickness of 1/2 inch.

7. Refrigerate until firm, a minimum of 10 minutes. Break into pieces and eat some to check crunchiness (okay, just because you want to). Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to one week.

Want another indulgence? This one is guaranteed to put a fire in your hearth-- "Good Girls Don't" by Kelley St. John.


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