Friday, 17 December 2010
A Season of Giving . . .
This is the season of giving. All over this country, and indeed . . . all over this world, in just a few short days, people will be exchanging gifts with their loved ones, and friends held most dear. Stores will be racking up record profits, and if they are not, they will be wondering what changes they can make in the year to come, so that next year will be a bumper year.
Children all over the world are busy tallying up their Christmas lists, and posting them to Santa Claus in hopes that he will take note and bring them what their little heart desires. My children were no different, they had Christmas lists, and as parents we tried really hard to get them at least one gift on their list every year. Some years it was a much loved doll or truck . . . others it might have been a game or a book. One gift we did give them every year though, wasn't something they could hold or touch. It was . . . the gift of giving.
We always tried to teach our kids that Christmas was not only about getting . . . it was very much about giving, and so, every year we would as a family, pick another family that we felt were in need. This was not a decision that was undertaken without a great deal of thought. We would spend the month before Christmas taking note of those we felt needed help, and then decide on the one that needed help the most. A big box would be gaily wrapped with our finest wrapping paper, and then, throughout the month . . . we would gather together gifts of food and trinkets of joy to put into the box.
We tried to put in everything one would need to cook a Christmas Dinner and some extra special treats that people enjoy eating during the Christmas Season. There would be a toy for each of the children. Maybe not an expensive toy, but a toy nonetheless. A bit of cheer for a family that might not be feeling alot of cheer at this special time of year. On Christmas Eve, after church, we would bundle the box into our car and then drive close to where the family we had picked on that given year lived. We would park close enough so that we could see, and then my husband would quietly drop the box on the doorstep of the chosen family , knock on the door and then hurry away before they could see who had done it.
As a family we felt joy at being able to do something to help someone in need. In that box was more than just tasty gifts of food and toys . . . in that box was the gift of love . . . and more important than that, it also held a gift for my children . . . the gift of giving and of compassionate service.
One year, we had a particularly bad year ourselves. My ex husband had gotten yet another transfer and we'd been forced to sell our home in order that we could be together. We lost quite a sum of money when we sold the house, the housing market having taken a big downturn at the time. We were living in a rented farmhouse out in the countryside surrounding the beautiful Georgian Bay. It was an old and drafty house, the only source of heat being the old fashioned Mennonite cookstove in the kitchen.
Because of the large sum of money we'd lost on the sale of our house, we'd been forced to declare bankruptcy, much to our shame . . . and there was not alot of money to go around . . . but we did our best to ensure that the children would have the best Christmas they could possibly have. It was doubtful that we would be able to enjoy our annual tradition of giving a box to someone that year. About a week before Christmas we got the news that a good friend of ours had lost his job, and that their family . . . devastated by this news, was going to have a very bleak Christmas indeed.
My children eagerly decided that this family would be the one they would give to this Christmas, and so we went about putting together a box for them. I didn't have the heart to tell them that we, ourselves, had little to give. Into the box went the small turkey I had bought for my own family, all the while saying a little prayer to myself that somehow I could cope. We filled that box with all that we could, and went off to deliver it to our friends, anonymously of course. The joy in my children's faces made my heart swell with pride and love for these precious babes of mine that indeed knew and understood the spirit of giving.
Afterwards when we got home, they all trundled off in to the living room, and started to watch a Christmas movie with a big bowl of home-popped corn as I sat at the table in our kitchen, looking out onto the snow that was now falling in big fluffy flakes, and wondering what I had that could be rustled in to a Christmas dinner on the morrow . . .
Imagine my surprise when I saw a car struggling up the drive, only to stop in front of our door. It was Rob, a special friend of ours from church, and he strode up to our doorway with a huge box held aloft. Inside the box were all the things needed to produce a Christmas dinner and some treats to enjoy . . . and an envelope containing a card and four crisp twenty dollar bills. Tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks and I said a silent and humble prayer of thanksgiving . . . We enjoyed a lovely Christmas that year, and in many ways, for me at least, it was the best Christmas of all. Despite our own need, we had been able to give and in doing so had received the most precious gift of all. Kindness does matter . . .
This is the season of giving. Is there someone that you know is going to be alone, or someone that might need a helping hand? Extend the hand of friendship and love . . . and give . . . be it a pot of soup, a basket of cookies, or a few hours of your time . . .
Compassionate Service . . . it truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow man ye are only in the service of your God."
Here's a delicious recipe for a turkey dinner that you can make ahead. I know most American's don't have turkey for Christmas lunch because they have only just had one for Thanksgiving, but as a Canadian and now a Brit, we always have turkey for our Christmas Dinner. This recipe results in a moist and tasty turkey, cocmplete with a delicious stuffing and gravy, and the best part is . . . all the hard work is done ahead of time!
*Make Ahead Turkey Breast With Herb Stuffing*
Makes 6 servings
A delicious make ahead meal that may help to take away some of the stress of the Holiday meal. The Turkey remains really moist because it is poached the day before in stock and then gently reheated. Tasty, yet very low in fat.
4 quarts of water
1 cup sliced carrot
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
2 tomatoes quartered
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 (6 pound) whole turkey breast, skinned
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
For the stuffing:
1/4 cup butter
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
16 cups cubes stale bread
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp rubbed dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
Combine all of the stock ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to the boil. Add the turkey breast. Return to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for about an hour and a half. Carefully remove the turkey from the stock. cover and refrigerate.
Strain the stock, discarding any solids. Bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced to about 2 quarts. This will take about an hour and a half. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning skim off any hardened fat and discard.
Preheat the oven to 130*C /250*F/ gas mark 1/2. Rub the turkey breast with the oil. Combine the dried thyme, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Sprinkle over the turkey breast. Double wrap the turkey, wrapping it first in parchment paper and then in foil. Bake for 2 hours, or until thoroughly heated.
To prepare the stuffing, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Saute for several minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in the bread cubes, seasonings and 2 1/2 cups of the reserved stock. Place into a rectangular baking dish. Place along side the turkey in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 55 minutes along with the turkey.
To make the gravy, melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 15 minutes over very low heat, cooking until lightly browned. Gradually whisk in 5 1/2 cups of reserved turkey stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until reduced to about 2 cups (will take about 2 hours)
Serve the turkey breast sliced along with the stuffing and gravy.
Cooking in The English Kitchen today, easy and scrummy Christmas Crispie Cakes!