The first time I noticed the sapling, it was about two feet tall. I had passed that way twice daily for several months, but it never caught my eye until that afternoon...the tiny tree was decorated.
I slowed to get a better look. A strand of red and gold tinsel wound neatly through the branches, twinkling in the rustling breeze. I smiled. How cool that last night's wind had blown it just that way. The tinsel stayed on all through the holidays until one night in early January, the tinsel was gone.
I gave it no more thought until the following winter. Then one night, the little fir was again dressed for the holidays. This time it had red bows tied on the branches, and a gold star on top. Okay, the wind didn't do that. Again, the finery disappeared after the New Year. I was delighted. Every year since, and probably for many before, the little tree has been decorated. I never found out who decorates the tree. Actually, I never asked. The fantasy of Christmas magic is just too much fun.
Each year at this time, I would begin watching, waiting for my sure sign of the Christmas season. One year, there was nothing. Thanksgiving weekend came and went, and the first weekend in December. Nothing. It had never gone as late as the 10th before. I was beginning to worry.
Then, one morning, I thought I caught a glint of tinsel in my headlights as I came down the hill. Too dark to really see, I hoped I was correct. Sure enough, in the light of day the small tree was covered with glass balls, red bows and silver tinsel. It brought a smile to my face, and brightness to an otherwise dreary, rainy day.
I hope the tradition continues for many years to come.
Here are two hot appetizers, nice on a cold winter night. Fresh seafood makes these just heavenly. Both can be done in the toaster oven.
Pre-heat the broiler to 450°
1 dozen fresh oysters, shucked or 1 jar small fresh oysters
1 lb. thin sliced lean bacon
Cut the oysters into bite size pieces. Cut each bacon strip into thirds.
Roll the bacon strips around the oyster pieces and secure with wooden picks.
Place on an ungreased broiler pan or baking sheet. Grill under broiler until browned. Turn over and broil the other side. Watch carefully as it will cook fast and may burn .When bacon is done, drain on paper towels.
Transfer to serving plate. Serve warm with cocktail sauce for dipping.
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
Use extra large mushrooms
Heat oven to 325°
20 fresh Crimini mushrooms (or white button)
¾ cup Dungeness crabmeat (or 1 - 6oz. can)
3 tbsp. red onion, diced fine
Dash of cayenne
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 - 3oz. brick of softened cream cheese
2 tbsp. Italian seasoned bread crumbs
½ tsp. dill
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Fresh parsley for garnish
Wipe mushrooms with paper towel to remove dust. Do not rinse with water. Pop out stem, leaving cap intact. Hollow out cap slightly, if needed.
Lay caps hollow side down in a baking dish. Bake at 325° for about 15 minutes until mushrooms are cooked but still firm. (Alternately: Line a microwave safe dish with paper towels. Arrange caps, hollow side down, on paper towels. Microwave on high, covered loosely, 30 seconds at a time until mushrooms are no longer raw, about 1½ to 2 minutes total. Do not over cook or the mushrooms will start to shrivel.) Allow to drain on paper towels for a few minutes.
Chop stems finely. Coarsely dice the crabmeat. Heat the butter and olive oil in a small skillet. Saute the onions until golden. Add the chopped stems, the crab and the cayenne. Continue to cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Remove from heat. Stir in the cream cheese, the dill and the breadcrumbs. The mixture should cling together when molded, so adjust the crumbs accordingly.
Fill each cap generously with stuffing. There should be enough to have a good mound in each. Place back in the same baking dish. Top each with a nice bit of cheese.
Heat at 325° for about 5 minutes or until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot. (You can re-heat in the microwave - about 30 seconds for 6.)