Today, in the spirit of the Winter Solstice, I leave you with a seasonal recipe to brighten up these shortest days of the year.
We know some of my husband’s thoughts on dessert, but ask for his Christmas must-have: “Mom’s peanut butter balls.”
There were literal gasps of disbelief when I confessed that these oh-so-sweet, chocolate-drenched treats were completely unknown to me until trading my last name for his. And during our first holiday with his family it became apparent that — like my mum’s kringle — they’re essential to the dessert table, and relatives practically mutiny if absent.
No doubt hers will forever remain the best in his eyes, but for the years we’re not able to make it home to Wisconsin, it’s up to me to keep Christmas traditions alive.
Back in the Midwest our supper table saw its fair share of ground beef: sloppy joes and tacos, meatloaf, Hamburger Helper. In the round, however, our exposure was limited to Grandma’s occasional porcupine meatballs — beef and rice balls cooked and served in a seasoned tomato sauce. I want to think the secret ingredient was love, but have a sneaking suspicion it was condensed tomato soup. Regardless, wonderful, and a fun little glimpse into my late 80s and early 90s upbringing.
Then, a ways down the road, palates slightly more mature, came the introduction to Totero’s. It was a veritable step out of southeastern Wisconsin and into southern Italy, with as few frills as possible, in the best way imaginable. Sadly shuttered in 2014 after 75 years, this priceless gem and its family’s infallible, no-nonsense red sauce and cue ball-sized meatballs live on in memory to inspire great recipes.
As I continue to climb down from post-travel To-Do List Mountain, it has come to my attention that February arrived.
Phil recently made his highly scientific prediction, meaning the pink hearts and red roses holiday is not far behind. It’s as delicious a reason as any to satisfy our chocolatiest, butteriest desires. I’m talking deep dark chocolate torte (inspired by our wedding cakes) with one special ingredient to set it apart from the rest of the flourless cake pack.
Early this week we felt the first hint of autumn. Moody grey skies gave way to intense winds and ominous storm clouds. Behind those a dramatic chill, seeing 30s at sunrise, afternoons barely doubling. Suffice it to say, the extra blankets came out and slippers went on. Nevermind that it’s 70 now — as soon as the nights lengthen, rainy grey days are on heavy rotation and the air changes from crisp to cool, even once, warm drinks make their delicious return to my kitchen.
There is nothing like a mug of something hot and creamy to comfort and calm. Golden milk, a new staple for me, is particularly welcome of late. The combination of turmeric, cardamom, ginger and coconut offers a richly warming quality that wards off the nip and lifts my spirits. It gave me an idea to make it a hand-held nibble, adding a few nutrient bonuses, for maximum enjoyment on the hoof.
With a vibrant autumnal hue flecked with those same grounding spices, these tote-able beauties are fresh and bright, and taste just like the drink that inspired them. Kids and adults, golden milk newbies and aficionados alike are sure to approve. (And they give a nod to new flickering faces on neighborhood doorsteps.)