Christmastime is Here

My favorite Christmas T.V. Show is Charlie Brown’s Christmas. I think I like it because it explores how Christmas isn’t always merry and bright, but sometime sad and lonely. Anyway, this Holiday season I’ve experienced a bad case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). It’s ironic, because in a normal year if an event gets cancelled, I secretly rejoice at having an evening to do nothing, but this year, I’ve heard of parties and get-togethers that I haven’t been invited to. And it makes me sad.

Shivers Rib and Chicken Combo with collard greens, baked beans and Texas toast. So good!

” I think there must be something wrong with me Linus. Christmas is coming but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” Charlie Brown.

I suppose COVID complicates matters. My friend that normally has a big Christmas party, is now doing small dinner parties at her house. And I did have a Birthday lunch, with another one planned, but when I proposed a Zoom Happy Hour with a text group to celebrate birthdays (including mine), I was met with dead silence. This group is usually up for any event involving cocktails and fun, so I had to wonder: Had the universe shifted in ways I wasn’t privy to? So after that experience, and after hearing about these other events, I thought: “Why wasn’t I invited?” and “Why don’t people like me?”

I felt as unlovable as Good Ole Charlie Brown.

And my fantasy about getting vaccinated and life going back to normal is apparently just that- a fantasy. The vaccine doesn’t actually eliminate the possibility of contracting the coronavirus, it just reduces its effects. And, even after you’re vaccinated, you can still be contagious, so we need to continue wearing masks for the foreseeable future. Even worse news, there’s a new strand of COVID that’s even MORE contagious than the old one. How is this possible?

As I was feeling sorry for myself the other day, I looked out the gym window and saw two ladies in the parking lot, exchanging pleasantries. One was wearing a festive, red- trimmed Kaftan and both had presents and centerpieces in their hands.

“So people are still going to Holiday parties?” I thought. “Like out in the open?”

I was under the assumption people weren’t doing that this year. And then, when I went to lunch with Zeke (Crab Salad in an avocado), I saw a table of elegantly dressed ladies sipping wine at a Holiday luncheon, outside on the patio under the bright Miami sky. Even though I didn’t know these people, I felt jealous and a bit resentful. Nothing like a couple of the seven deadly sins to put you in the Holiday mood. Ho, ho ho! I feel ya Charlie Brown!

A Tale of Two Quiches

My meals this weeks were nothing to write about- take-out, leftovers or whatever I could throw together quickly. Probably the best meal was Monday night, when I made two quiches out of leftovers. I had a ton of sautéed green pepper and onions and a couple shrimp leftover from Señor Frijoles, so I thought it sounded like a good basis for a quiche. I added some sautéed sausage, which I seasoned with Cajun spice and then just made a traditional quiche, subbing sausage and shrimp for the bacon, with shredded cheddar, mozzarella cheese and the peppers as fillings.

The second quiche was made with leftover smoked salmon we’d had with the latkes. I found a recipe online for a Goat Cheese, Smoked Salmon and Dill Quiche (by Simply Recipes). It called for more milk, less cream, than the traditional quiche and the goat cheese and dill were perfect flavors to complement the silky salmon. It was lighter than the Jambalaya Quiche. Lauren, Emma and Guiermollo ate with us and we all pronounced the Jambalaya Quiche the winner. I served it with an arugula salad and some fruit.

Jambalaya Quiche Gina Guilford

  • 1 Green or Red Pepper, deseeded, sliced and sauteed
  • 1 Onion (any kind), skin removed, sliced and sauteed
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • 1 link sausage, Cajun preferred, chopped
  • 10 cooked shrimp, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 partially baked Pie Crust
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups of light cream (sub one cup cream, one cup of milk if needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Cajun Seasoning
  • dash of Hot Sauce, like Tabasco or Crystal (or to taste)
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Refrigerated Pie Crust, Pillsbury preferred (in red package in Dairy section)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Follow pie crust directions and place in quiche pan (or use a pie pan). Bake pie crust for 12 minutes. Remove. Saute pepper and sliced onion in a little butter or olive oil until soft. Remove from pan and saute sausage until browned. If shrimp is uncooked, cook that as well, until barely done. Combine the eggs, salt, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning and hot sauce in a bowl and beat to mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the sausage and shrimp evenly over bottom of partially baked pie crust and ladle the egg mixture all over. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then lower the heat to 350. At this time, you should cover the crust with pie guards or tin foil to avoid burning the crust. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes more, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve in wedges, hot or cold. Serves 6

While I didn’t cook much, I did bake quite a bit this week. Wyatt and Lauren decorated the Christmas Tree cookies we’d baked the week before. I found it much easier to pick one color (green), one cookie cutter (tree) and one decoration (candied sunflower seeds), than messing with a lot of colors, shapes and decorations. Who has the energy? Lauren has a very good frosting technique where she spreads the frosting from side to side and Wyatt sprinkled the colored sunflower seeds (that look like little lights) onto the cookies in a free-style manner. We went to Pinecrest Nights of Lights after this, with Gracie and Kelley; the kids got to run around in beautiful Pinecrest Gardens and see Santa.

We made the Christmas tree cookies so Wyatt could have a little present to give the people who will be giving him presents. I think it’s important for children to learn that Christmas isn’t just about getting presents, but giving them as well. It’s actually not about the presents at all, but try and tell that to a four-year old. When Zeke asked me about what I wanted for Christmas, I just shrugged. I’m grateful I have a healthy new grandson and my health this year. My favorite gift is actually a trip, but that’s not happening anytime soon.

As I started to wrap presents, I realized I have hardly any gift boxes. I seem to remember doing a major purge of boxes last year, which has left me quite short for wrapping presents. That’s okay, it turns out I have a whole garage full of Amazon boxes. I figure, a box is a box. Amazon boxes don’t look as pretty as gift boxes, but they get the job done. Like many things this year, I’m letting go of perfection and realizing good enough will have to do.

There’s this Santa app you can get on your phone for kids to call and Wyatt loves it. He calls to tell Santa what he wants (with a list that changes daily), check the weather at the North Pole and hear the names of the reindeer. It’s also an effective disciplinary tool, as you can call Santa to put a misbehaving child on Santa’s Naughty List. Wyatt has called to put himself on the Nice List and once called to put Zeke on the Naughty List. This really cracked him up.

Tradition, tradition!

I tried two cookies out of the New York Times food sections; they were twists on traditional cookies. One was a Toasted Almond Snowball made with almond flour (essentially ground almonds), the other was a Honey Roasted Peanut Butter Thumbprint cookie with grape jelly. The conclusion? I should have listened to my own advice. This is not the year to experiment with new recipes. This is the time for the tried and true! If I’m going to spend the time, energy (and calories!) on cookies, I want them to be ones that I know and love. Give me my Mom’s Butterballs or my Italian Thumbprint cookies any day over these newfangled twists.

Italian Holiday Cookies (Thumbprints)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • Fruit preserves

Crea together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour to creamed mixture and blend throughly. Chill dough for at least 1 hour.

Shape dough into 3/4″ balls and dip into slightly beaten egg white. Roll balls lightly in coconut. Place on an uncreased cookie sheet. Press gently on top of each ball with your thumb to form an indentation. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until coconut is slightly browned. Cool. Fill centers with preserves. Makes about 30.

Oh the traffic outside is frightful…

Friday they were working on our walkway at the Sanctuary, so I was unable to get into our unit for seven hours. I drove down to the Outlet Mall in Florida City to do some last minute shopping at Carter’s. The traffic, especially around Cutler Ridge Mall, was terrible. A couple times, drivers honked at me (not my fault, of course!) and I just observed it. I watched them gesticulate in my rear view mirror and thought: “They must be having a bad day” and that was it. This reaction really surprised me.

There was no blood pressure rising, no heart racing, no face turning red or profanities screamed (F**k you, buddy!) in the privacy of my car. After this happened a second time, I realized I can only attribute this change in behavior to Meditation. I’ve been meditating, off and for more than five years and it’s finally paying off. So if you’ve tried meditating and think it’s not working, hang in there!

My meals this weekend were horrifyingly bad. You know how you’re supposed to eat good 80% of the time and bad the other 20? I did the exact opposite this weekend. We’re talking Green Curry Crispy Duck (Num Thai), Baby Back Ribs (Shriver’s) and Sausage and Onion (Tower of Pizza) pizza bad. Not to mention the Christmas cookies I’ve been sneaking! I handed little cellophane bags of my Toasted Almond Snowballs out at our Happy Hour at the Sanctuary; they seemed to be appreciated. Santa even made an appearance Saturday night and handed out candy canes.

Down in the Islands…

We went out on the boat Saturday, a last hurrah before our renters come in January and happened to run into friends Doug and Heidi at the Tiki Bar. Heidi called and said “Are you guys at the Tiki Bar?” They recognized our boat, ‘Bout Time as they passed by in their boat. After they found a place to park, we went upstairs for another drink. The Postcard Inn has a list of 12 Days of Cocktails with some funny names and enticing choices. I got the Merry-Mosa, a mimosa with cranberry juice. Zeke and I split some Conch Fritters (which were excellent) and a Blue Cheese and Onion Burger, which was very good, but a little overcooked. It came with Waffle Fries; may God forgive me my many dietary sins!

As I drove down to the Keys the other day, I thought of a recording A.J. had sent me a couple months ago, in October. She’d asked Wyatt what he did in school that day. He said: “My teacher told me to think of something lovely, so I thinked of Gigi.” I have saved this recording to my phone, so I can listen to it when I’m having a bad day. I thought: “O.K., I can die now a happy women.” Write that epitaph on my tombstone, because I am loved. To love and be loved, what else is there in life?

Up Next: My Aunt Josie’s Pickled Eggplant

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

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