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Winter Warmth, Missing Santa, Native Insights, and Comfort in a Bowl

I am so happy our real winter is back! I know it is not the popular view: I love the rain for many reasons. It is cold but not too cold, and when I walk out the door I smell the trees, the sea, a whisper of smoke from someone’s fireplace… I can smell the place we live and I love that! I also love the sound of the rain and the only thing I don’t love is the cold rain hitting my head and face. (Sidenote: We really need a breezeway from the back door to the walk-in door at work, if anyone has some spare time and that sort of talent!) Plus, when we do have one of those gorgeous, sunny and cold days, I appreciate the beauty of it even more. This time of year I want stews and soups and one-pot dishes like risotto more than anything. Comforting, warm, simple and hearty.

Last Saturday was two of my favorite holiday traditions: Story time with Mrs. Claus at the cafe (Mrs. Claus is phenomenal!) and the Gig Harbor Lighted Boat Parade. For the past few years we have been invited to watch from the yacht club at Arabella’s Landing. We all bring food for a potluck, some wine to share, and we can watch from the warmth inside, or step out onto the deck for a chillier, albeit livelier view. It is the only non-family holiday party that we are always invited to and we thoroughly enjoy! I was disappointed though because we never did see a real Santa out there. I don’t think they had one this year, because I waited out there in the freezing cold and he never went by. I was very pouty about it! I admit to being a Santaphile (did I make that word up?) and ever since he stopped his route in Olalla every year I really miss him! sigh.

Ok so I have to sidetrack here and ask if you have seen the Travel Channel show “Meet the Natives”? It is about 5 tribesmen from a remote South Pacific island called Tanna. They are traditional hunters and farmers, wearing grass skirts and penis sheaths. Per the show: “They have no electricity or TV, and a very limited idea of the world beyond their tiny island until now.” … I guess someone with lots of money and time convinced them to come to the US and stay with different people across the nation. Mark and I stumbled across it and we could not stop watching. It is tabloid television, to be sure, and yet these men have a mission to learn about the state of our nation, and they truly want to help us find a better way of life. They speak of peace and mutual care. They think it is odd when in Peoria the food for Thanksgiving comes from cans. They look at the canned yams and whisper ‘does she know this food has no life?’ They are shocked to find a homeless man in Central Park, and do not understand why the rest of us do not build him a house. That is what they would do on their island, after all. What a ridiculous notion to go homeless when there are plenty of people who can help you out. If everyone would work together and respect each other, treating each other at least as well as we treat our pets, the world would be a more peaceful and more advanced place. I think they consider themselves more emotionally and spiritually advanced than we are in general, because we refuse to see how easy it is to take care of each other and set aside, or even celebrate, differences. Hmm. I have heard some say that their way of life would be Socialism. I disagree. The definition of Socialism is generally having to do with economics and government, while the definition of Democracy generally has more to do with power coming from the citizens (or our elected officials) and majority rule. So actually I think they are a better example of Democracy than we are at times. If you watch the show, focus on the tribesmen and their questions, as well as their answers. It is an interesting insight into their culture, as well as our own.

I am going in this morning and I have a couple of new things I want to make-hopefully I have time to get those recipes in! I will ‘twitter’ when we put them out so you can get them fresh (hint: one project is soft pretzels!) Next Saturday we are joining my parents at Benaroya to see Messiah, which I have wanted to see there for years so I am very excited! After the show we will probably go get some great Italian at Via Tribunali(I have yet to get there and hear so much about it!) or Trattoria Merendeand I can’t wait to report back about that food! On Sunday we have Mark’s extended family (maternal side) Christmas party, and then on to the holiday! So fast! We have the tree up and even decorations out, though I did only about half of what I used to do. We don’t have the time or the energy to set it up OR take it down these days. I know I will get back to my Holiday House some day, where I clear out almost every room and decorate with Christmas, Hanukkah and Solstice decor. It is fun, and it takes a lot of time! Most of my Santas are out, and they are my favorites. Do you have a favorite holiday decoration? I would love to hear about it or see it!

So what recipe would you like this week? How about a comforting breakfast dish that you can actually mix up the night before, combine in the morning and bake to keep it super simple. It will work for guests as well as a warm weekday breakfast. Here you go:

BAKED OATMEAL

4 cups rolled oats
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup chopped almonds
2/3 cup raisins or other chopped dried fruit
2 apples, chopped
3 cups whole milk
4 large eggs
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 TBS canola
4 TBS honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 and butter an 8 inch baking dish.

Mix together oats, baking powder and salt. Stir in nuts, fruit and apple (you can do this the night before and set it aside)

In a separate bowl pour in milk, whisk in eggs, brown sugar, oil, honey and cinnamon. (you can do this the night before and put it in the fridge.)

The next morning, or whenever you are ready to cook the dish: Combine dry ingredients with wet and stir together. Poor into the baking dish.

Bake until liquid is absorbed and top is golden brown (about 45-1hr?) Serve warm in bowls.

Maybe we will offer this at the cafe… what do you think?