Mixing it up
“Well, what do you believe in?” was the usual question following the revelation that I’m a religious half-and-half. Sometimes I’d hear that I wasn’t a real Jew because my mother isn’t Jewish. Sometimes I’d be told my dad was going to Hell and I’d be there with him if I didn’t get on the right side of the Jesus issue. After years of that idiocy, my answer became, “Nothing. I’m an atheist.” If those folk were God’s friends, I wanted nothing to do with any of them.
Nobody liked that answer either. Then I’d hear what Marilyn Manson referred to as Satanists Anonymous. Everyone had a story about a life of sex, drugs, and/or rock & roll until they found their combination of God and/or Jesus. Too many people tried to make me out to be some sort of lost child because I didn’t have one doctrine drilled into me since birth. I prefer to think of myself as a hybrid. My amount of sex, drugs, and rock & roll has always leaned to the boring side. My “Come to God” moment was inspired by George Washington and Bender Bending Rodriguez. What I do believe in is still a question that is answered in hybridization. But that’s alright because hybrids are awesome.
Holidays in our house are a mix of traditions and our own twists. Typically, the Jewish holidays were religious observances, while the Christian holidays were the gift-giving ones. Our traditional Passover celebration involved the annual viewing of The Ten Commandments. Usually it aired on a school night, which meant we got to stay up later than usual. There was no Seder, but we still learned the story. On Easter we’d get dressed up for the family book hunt. Sometimes our parents would hide small toys too. On Hanukkah we’d light the candles and pray. Christmas was a month-long celebration of music, decorations, and food, culminating in the Christmas lasagna.
Sometimes old traditions have to be revamped to keep up with new requirements. My family has a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe — killer because I’d be dead if I shared it. What I can share is an almond flour version I modified from Paleo Plan.
Ingredients (contains nuts, coconuts)
- 3 cups almond flour
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted
- ½ cup maple syrup (they use honey, but I hate honey. I also think maple syrup tastes closer to brown sugar.)
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups chocolate chips (or other favorite mix-ins)
- Preheat oven to 375℉
- Combine dry ingredients; set aside
- Beat the eggs, syrup, and vanilla extract
- Pour wet ingredients slowly into dry ingredients and beat with mixer or fork until combined
- Add the melted coconut oil and continue to blend until combined; stir in chocolate chips
- Drop tablespoon size balls of cookie dough onto baking sheet
- Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes
I hate washing dishes so I do this whole thing in my food processor. Wet ingredients go in first, then the dry ones, then the coconut oil. Depending on the mix-ins, I’ll either mix them in by hand or leave that to the processor as well. I’ve tried this with shredded coconut, nuts, and dried fruit. The only mix-in that didn’t work was some super-bitter dark chocolate. These don’t caramelize the way traditional cookies do so they’re fairly soft when they come out of the oven. I find it really helps to let them cool a bit before taking them off the cookie sheet.
Out of all the recipes I tried for my low-carb Thanksgiving, the only one that didn’t suck was Rachael Ray’s Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. It’s two trendy foods in one bowl that can be put together on the stovetop quickly. It’s a great way to use up some extra chicken broth as well. I bought shaved brussels sprouts from Trader Joe’s to save some time. My mother has a trick where she minces garlic and preserves it in olive oil. Not only do you have the convenience of minced garlic ready for the pan, but it also adds more flavor to the mix.
One other tradition my family has on holidays is to adopt “orphans” for dinner. The extended family isn’t nearby, nor are they good company for various reasons. Instead, we make our own extended family by bringing in people who either didn’t want to go to the trouble of cooking for one or didn’t have the means to celebrate. This was fun as a kid because you never know who’s going to be at the table. As an adult it’s fun because the company is always good and we don’t have to listen to Uncle Joe repeat the same story he’s been telling for the last ten years. My family might suck at rituals, but I think we manage the points that matter. What better way to celebrate Christ’s birth than by sharing joy?