Getting in the Spirit & Chocolate Walnut Tart

Christmas_StockingHopefully, you’re feeling all warm and cozy after Thanksgiving. There were probably a few not too subtle and not too quiet words spoken at some point between the shrimp cocktail and pumpkin pie. It would not be Thanksgiving if there were not at least one blowup. I’m sure all is forgiven or at least forgotten by now. Anyway, let’s turn that Thanksgiving afterglow into some big old, no strings, no limits holiday spirit. I’m sure you have a few ideas but these will help you get started:

First and foremost, take down any political signs that are still in your yard. Replace them with sparkling lights and a snowman or two. Hang a wreath on the door and fill an old planter with evergreens, holly and more lights.

Drive around town and look at other people’s Christmas lights. Revive an old tradition of a special dinner out after the Christmas lights tour. If your family has never celebrated the lights tour tradition, start it. You deserve a night out.

Dig through all your old boxes of decorations and ornaments. Don’t stop there; look through your mom’s old boxes too. These treasures will bring back special memories. Embrace and revel in the nostalgia of Christmas.

Get a tree and fill it with lights, baubles and bows. If it seems like too much trouble … get one anyway. If it really, really, really seems like too much trouble, cover the mantle with greens and decorate them with lights, baubles and bows. It will get you in the spirit and send you over to the farm for a tree.

Whether you favor Bing or Bruce, crank up some holiday tunes. It’s a wonderful time of year and music is a big part of it. Find one of those all Christmas stations on the radio and let it play throughout the day. Music will lift your spirits on a dark and cloudy afternoon and make any task easier. In the coming weeks, make it a point to attend a community concert, go caroling and hum your way through the supermarket.

Bake something. Anything; it doesn’t matter whether you bake dozens of cookies, a tart or a pan of brownies. By all means, get the children or grandkids involved. They can help you measure and mix and keep you company. If you don’t have any kids available, borrow one or two from a neighbor. I’m sure their parents will be delighted to have some free time to wrap gifts, do some shopping or just sit quietly for a minute.

Baking done; now, it’s time to make something. Craft a tree ornament, knit a scarf or decorate a wreath; the list is endless. ‘Tis the season to take a workshop at the library or community center, search the internet for clever projects or ask your creative friends for help. Remember, when in doubt – a can of gold spray paint can turn almost anything into something magical.

Do you have a favorite book that your parents read you every year at Christmas? Even if it’s been years, hunt it down, cuddle up on the couch and read it again. From the transformations of Ebenezer and Grinch to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, these stories share themes of love and kindness.

Happy holidays and bon appétit!

Chocolate Walnut Tart
A delicious change from the traditional Pecan Pie, this tart is perfect for chocoholics. Enjoy!baking_01
Makes one tart

Flaky Pastry (recipe follows)
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)
Garnish: unsweetened whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough and fit it into a 9- or 10-inch glass or ceramic tart pan. Trim and crimp the edge. Cover and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter and rum. Whisk in the sugar and maple syrup. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the walnuts and allspice.

Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake until set, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours. Pour the glaze over the tart and spread evenly to cover the top. Cool completely and serve garnished with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Chocolate Glaze
8 ounces dark chocolate
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Put the chocolate, butter and cream in a heavy saucepan and, stirring frequently, heat on very low until about 2/3 melted. Remove the pan from the heat, let sit for 5-10 minutes and stir until smooth.

Flaky Pastry
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

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One Year Ago – Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies
Two Years Ago – Peppermint Bark Cookies
Three Years Ago – Mixed Reds & Greens Holiday Salad
Four Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Five Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Six Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Eight Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How do you get in the holiday spirit? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

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