Sunday, December 20, 2015

Festive Ice and Pickled Gifts for the Holidays
By Marilyn Michael

Christmas lights, doesn’t every family have a story? My folks turned our house into Disneyland, I swear, vying for that silver bowl top prize in the town decorating contest. The pinnacle was the year Santa kept pulling Rudolph up the side of the house with a pulley…don’t ask. I remember being pretty embarrassed as a teenager having the whole town drive by our house. Looking back, though, I’m proud of my parent’s enthusiasm and willingness to brighten people’s lives at the holidays.

We’ve lived on a boat for years in the shadow of Seattle’s Space Needle. My husband, Hank, wrote a humor/food column for a couple magazines. Below is his take on Christmas decorating followed by a couple of tasty ideas for holiday entertaining and gift giving that he offered his readers one year.

One of my most embarrassing memories from childhood was having kids over to play and trying to explain why our Christmas lights were still up on July 4th. Putting lights on the boat is a real hassle, with the twist ties, tape, tangled bulbs, extension cords and all. Last January 10th I was standing on the dock looking at those colored strings circling my boat wondering if I could pass them off as running lights.

Every year I swear this is the year of no lights but I’m compelled by an unknown force to put more and more lights up. My wife, who’s always right by the way, reminds me that I’m going to have problems with so many. Well, the big moment came and when I threw the switch I swear the Space Needle dimmed for a glorious moment that was punctuated by a popping breaker.

Actually there is a reason why every December I’ll crawl around the deck with twist ties hanging out of my mouth like tooth picks dragging stings of lights. One year a cancer patient I was seeing said to me, “Just think of all those tired people driving home from work down Interstate 5 who look down on Lake Union and see the boats all lit up, I bet it lifts their spirits”. So, up go the lights and onward with plans for having guests on board for the boat parade and other celebrations during the holiday season.

Holiday Ice

Not everyone drinks hot toddies in December. If you are serving drinks with ice, alcoholic or other, why not liven up those ice cubes. Put a twist of lemon or lime in the water before freezing. Gourmet markets sell edible flowers. Adding a flower to each cube before freezing can add an interesting and festive element to drinks you serve. You can add whatever you like, your only limitation is your imagination olives, pieces of fruit, you name it.

If you don’t want alcoholic drinks diluted by the ice cubes, add 2 parts water to 1 part alcohol to keep those drinks lively. Keep those cubes separate from ones the kids may use and party hardy but don’t drink and drive (in boat or cars.)

If you are attending a holiday gathering and want to arrive with a unique and appreciated hostess gift, food is always welcome and home made food is celebrated. I’m always a hit with jars of Pickled Shrimp and Pickled Onions.

Hank’s Pickled Shrimp

If you’re serving Bloody Marys for that New Year’s Brunch, hang a shrimp on the side of each glass.

Tiger Prawn
8 cups white vinegar
3-4 Tablespoons pickling spice
Red onion
Garlic cloves
Small attractive canning jars with lids

Throw the shrimp (I prefer tiger prawns) in boiling heavily salted water for 10 to 15 seconds until shells turn pink. (Heavy salt brings out the shrimps flavor.)
Remove them with a slotted spoon and put cold water over them immediately to stop the cooking. (Overcooking the shrimp makes them tough.)
Peel the shrimp.
Place in a pan:
8 cups of white vinegar
3-4 Tablespoons pickling spice (I like it heaver so I use 4-6 Tablespoons)

Bring the brine to a boil then let it cool down.

Pack small, clean, attractive jars, layering each with:

Thin slices of red onion (some jars with and some jars without)
1 clove of raw garlic

If you like it spicy, add crushed red pepper to taste.
Cover with the brine.
Put lids tightly on the jars.
Chill overnight then gift or enjoy.

Pickled Pearl Onions

Make up some jars as above and fill with raw, peeled pearled onions
one clove of garlic, and crushed red pepper to taste.