Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiday Soiree: St. Nicholas Day


The Holiday: St. Nicholas Day(Countries all over the world)
St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th in western European countries and on December 19th in eastern European countries, but it is celebrated all over the world as well.

Santa Claus, the man, the myth, the legend, was actually, apparently, an ordinary man who did exist at one point in time. He was a Greek man, born in what is today known as Turkey. He lived in the 3rd century CE. He was orphaned at a young age, and raised in the Church by his uncle who was a bishop. He was said to have lived his life helping the poor and downtrodden. Over the years and centuries, several miracles were attributed to him. According to this, he was canonized well before the current practices for canonization were introduced. No actual date for his canonization is known, it seems as though, he just always has been a saint.

I know there is currently some "controversy" about a particular mall in America that has hired an African American man to portray Santa this year, and some people are even calling for a boycott. When I learn more about St. Nicholas, the more I am convinced that he probably wasn't white. A man of Greek heritage, raised in Turkey? He probably looked Middle Eastern more than anything. Although, I'd like to imagine he looked like this guy:
I think my point is, does it really matter what Santa Claus looks like, when we're supposed to follow his example to be kind to one another and to help each other out? Maybe Santa will bestow us all with open hearts and minds this year for Christmas, I think that's the gift the world truly needs right now!
The Food: Cookies 
I looked for meals to make, but nothing stood out to me. What I came across over and over again, however, is cookies! In many countries, St. Nicholas Day is the day children leave out cookies for Santa Claus, and the night he delivers presents. I'm not sure if they do this again on Christmas Eve, or not, but whatever you generally do for Christmas Eve, is fine to do for St. Nicholas Day! I picked out two recipes to try. One of them I loved, one of them, not so much. I will post the link to the recipe I didn't care for, so you can try it out for yourself if it interests you.

Pineapple Cookies
This is the recipe I didn't care for. There was nothing wrong with it, I just found it too sweet for my tastes. It sounds odd to describe something sweet as "bland," but this is how I found it. It was just sort of one-note. I don't know if I had cut down on the sugar if that would have helped, but it just didn't work for me.

I have a pineapple that I was trying use up. Between that and the pineapple macadamia nut bread I made on Friday(another fail, sadly,) I am having to conclude that baking with pineapple is just not meant to be for me. Cooking with pineapple might work for some things, but baking just doesn't seem to turn out right.

And now, for the one that did work! You know them, you love them! They're called Snowballs or Mexican Wedding Cookies or Russian Teacakes, or in this case, Hungarian Holiday Butter-Nut Cookies. It seems as if every nation claims ownership of these cookies, but they can't all have invented them. I did some research on these cookies, and the consensus is this: Nobody knows where these cookies originated, or when. So, call them what you will, just make sure you make them and eat them!

Hungarian Holiday Butter-Nut Cookies(source unknown)
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup ground pecans(Actually ground, not chopped. I used a food processor to get it as finely ground as I could without it turning into nut butter.)
Powdered sugar

1.) In a large bowl with electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, and egg yolk until smooth.
2.) In medium bowl, combine flour and pecans.
Gradually beat into butter mixture. Wrap dough in plastic; refrigerate 1 hour or up to 2 days. (Please note that if a cookie recipe like this says to wrap and chill, it can also be frozen at this point. Just thaw it out when you're ready to finish the process. That's what I did with this. I made one dozen and froze the rest of the dough for Christmas.)
During this time, the flavors blend and develop, bringing out the butter flavor of the dough.
3.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1" balls. Place cookies 1 1/2" apart on ungreased cookies sheets.
4.) Bake 12-15 minutes. Immediately place in a bowl with powdered sugar and roll cookies in it to coat thoroughly.
(I didn't take a picture of the finished product by itself, but if you scroll back up to the pictures of the pineapple cookies, the last picture has a shot with them in it.)
Makes about 4 dozen

I had leftover ground pecans and rather than use it for something else or forget I had it until it went bad and then composted it instead, I mixed it in with the powdered sugar that I rolled the cookies in. It gave it a darker color than the usual pure white, but it did make it taste extra pecan-y. I really liked it that way and so did my sister.

I don't know about you, but I think cookies is one of the best parts of Christmas. I usually do a few types, a blend of tried and true, and brand new. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don't! But it's fun to try them out, regardless! Make sure to make some this year for Santa! He'll enjoy them for sure!

Until next week!

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