Chicken salad made special for Christmas, spiced with cardamom, studded with cranberries and brightened with fresh dill, bound together by a light orange-scented dressing. Perfect for a quick sandwich before an school Christmas concert, a light salad to fuel an afternoon of shopping, even tucked into mini tarts for a cookie swap.
So will Christmas cards fall to the wayside like hand-written letters and picture postcards from far-away lands? If so, call me in the vanguard for the last time I got to sending Christmas cards was ten years ago even if some years I did harbor good intentions. "January would be a much more sensible month," I'd bargain with myself, "when life isn't so busy."
Still, the dog likes the mid-day break, even in winter. "Wanna check the mailbox?" I ask and she usually beats me to the back door, where we take the long way around just to breathe in unfurnaced air and stretch our faces to the low angle of the sun. But each year, those December mailbox treks yield fewer cards. It's not all me, I fear, the world's really a'changin'.
Lady has it better. She gets a card personally paw-printed to her, has for years. It's from Elliott and Beasley, now over the rainbow, and the young pup Harry. Dogs, they really know how to sniff out and keep friends.
For we humans, sure, there's e-mail and Facebook and most certainly, "there's an app for that" too.
But I so treasure my dad's annual epistles that mark the transitions of his life, always thoughtful, often prayerful. Even during periods of sadness, he closes with "Keep the Faith" and means it literally.
My favorite holiday cards are the family photos; I save them all, have for years and wonder if there isn't some crafty way to turn the pictures into flipbooks, watching babies turn from toddlers to teens, parents from young and sleep-deprived to slightly gray and mostly content. Even friends who live in town, I don't see often enough; reading their rambling Christmas letters, it keeps me caught up.
So given this fondness, even longing, for an out-of-fashion method of connecting with far-apart family and friends, I may well again pen addresses and apply stamps to envelopes. January, it's a quieter time.
COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY THROUGH DECEMBER 8th 2011 Don't forget, I'm giving away a copy of Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies, the award-winning cookie cookbook by Alice Medrich.
HERE's HOW TO ENTER Three ways to enter and win, see Holiday Baking Tips. Open to readers from across the world - hello, Canadian readers!
CHRISTMAS CHICKEN SALAD
Time to table: 24 hours (see TIPS)
Makes 4 cups chicken salad, enough for 8 sandwiches
- 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
- 4 tablespoons buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons good mustard
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- Zest of an orange
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 pound (about 3 cups) roasted chicken or turkey, diced small
- 1/2 green pepper, diced small
- 2 tablespoons red onion, diced small
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped (see TIPS)
- 4 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped fine
CRANBERRY CREAM CHEESE
- 5 tablespoons Neufchatel reduced fat cream cheese
- 3 tablespoons cranberry sauce
- Good bread
- A little mayo
- Lettuce leaves
DRESSING Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
CHICKEN Stir ingredients into the dressing, stirring well to really distribute. Important, for the flavors to meld, cover and refrigerate for 12 - 24 hours. Stir again before making sandwiches.
CRANBERRY CREAM CHEESE Mix cream cheese and cranberry sauce.
SANDWICHES Spread bread with a thin-thin layer of mayonnaise (see TIPS). Spread one slice with Cranberry Cream Cheese and chicken salad, top with a lettuce leaf. "Close" the sandwich, slice and chow down!
ALANNA's TIPS This chicken salad really needs time for the flavors to meld. Four hours isn't enough. Twenty-four hours worked for me and I suspect twelve hours would be enough too – mix it in the morning, have sandwiches in the evening, say. Run dried cranberries through a mini food processor, they'll go further. Cardamom might seem like an unusual choice for chicken salad, I wasn't sure at first but then totally loved it. A thin-thin layer of mayonnaise (or soft butter) on bread prevents the slices from getting soggy.
Per Half Cup Chicken Salad Only: 138 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 49mg Cholesterol; 213mg Sodium; 8g Carb; 1g Fiber; 6g Sugar; 18g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 3 & PointsPlus 3
Per Tablespoon Cranberry Cream Cheese Only: 32 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 6mg Cholesterol; 37mg Sodium; 3g Carb; 0g Fiber; 2g Sugar; 1g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 1
SANDWICH INSPIRATION If there's a sandwich king in your life, you might consider The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: Recipes, History, and Trivia for Everything Between Sliced Bread as a Christmas gift. It's written by my friend Susan Russo aka Food Blogga. Chomp, chomp!
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