Christmas: The 2014 Edition (Let’s Make Chinese Desserts!)

This is the best Christmas that I have had since… well I don’t know. I think it was better than 2011 and 2012 (but those were pretty great) and it definitely kicks every Christmas’s ass before 2011 and last year, so at least top three. Anyway, Roy’s aunt did a Chinese Christmas meal. I was pretty psyched when I found out, because I love Chinese food. It was what I used to order every night around 2:00am when I lived in Los Angeles and worked 40+ hour weeks at a bank, did another 15+ hours of odd jobs, went to graduate school full-time, basically when 2:00am was dinner because if you think I ever slept, go through my weeks again (to show my priorities were in order, in all fairness I also didn’t date or have any kind of social life). So, anyway Chinese food is my favorite food in the universe. And knowing Roy’s aunt, she was going to go all out (and she did, but I am getting ahead of myself).

So Roy (my husband) and I were tasked with the desserts. I don’t know if this was a favor to us, because I love baking, and the holidays truthfully aren’t the same if I don’t bake something, or if it just worked out that way. But I didn’t care – I was just glad we were doing it. We looked up a bunch of dessert ideas. Roy’s aunt said it should be a Chinese dessert, and who were we to argue. There were so many wonderful choices; the only sad thing was that we actually had to make a choice. Among the desserts we hating turning down, but ultimately did were: ginger ice cream, some type of almond cookie confection, sesame balls (I love making peanut butter balls, they’re one of the few traditions I have from my family that I hold onto, and I make them every year – this year we made them for Roy’s family in lieu of gifts), and chocolate spring rolls. We ultimately decided on two confections: Roy made these coconut balls filled with sweet red bean paste and I wanted to do homemade fortune cookies, so we did both. (Roy suggested both because he’s sweet. He would normally insist on not going overboard, but I detest coconut, and he really wanted to make those balls.)

I wasn’t stressing about the desserts because we had a plan, and frankly I am wonderful with a plan. I believe in plans A-Z, so you just move onto to the next one if the first plan falls through. I think it’s a waste of time to fight to do everything exactly as you want to: I am a “big picture” person. The coconut balls were worrisome because Roy wasn’t sure how to make them (and they were all him due to the coconut), but the lady at the Asian market we went to was really nice and explained exactly how to make them to Roy, and answered all of his questions. She was really sweet. I know Roy was worried, but the exact “why” I don’t know, since they were all him. What I do know is that he got it right with the first batch, and people loved them at our Christmas feast.

The reason I wanted to do the fortune cookies was because I wanted to make the fortunes. We had the recipe for making the cookies BUT we were worried about the logistics of certain parts of the recipe including: A) A lot of the research we did, talked about cookies being rubbery or not crispy enough. Many people went through a few batches trying to figure this out. B) Folding the cookies. Getting that fortune shape was quite possibly our biggest worry. Getting them to bend in that shape was a process and we learned we had a very limited window to do so once they came out of the oven. But then you have to store them in a certain kind of place or they don’t remain formed that way (we used a muffin pan) or if they are too crispy they break. C) Some people warned once they figured everything else out, the fortunes fused to the cookies, making them inedible. So, having no idea if we could pull this off, we made certain provisions. First we bought 24 fortune cookies and extracted their fortunes with tweezers just in case we couldn’t get our cookies worked out. Second, if we couldn’t make the homemade fortune cookies work and we couldn’t get the new fortunes into the store bought cookies, we were going to move on to the chocolate spring rolls.

I had a lot of fun with the fortunes. We wanted to be deep, and funny, and because we’re so decisive we just decided to do both. 😛 On one side of the fortune (in red ink) was something “insightful” and on the other side was something sarcastic or funny (in green ink). I used quotes for insightful because I’m not sure they’re all that insightful. They’re just things I always say or think – I didn’t get them from anywhere, but I highly doubt all of them, or even most of them are completely original. You know, like accidental plagiarism. But with the jokes, most of them came from funny photos, though a few were me, and others I had to tweak for length or appropriateness. I had Roy “okay” the messages, mostly the humor because I didn’t want to offend anyone with content or language. To be honest that’s the only reason I didn’t write any of them myself. My brand of humor about stupid people or choosing chocolate over men would not be appropriate. I also am not afraid to drop a little profanity every now and then for good measure. Not exactly Christmas humor for anyone’s family! 😛

We made twice the amount of cookies in case people wanted more than one, or if anyone else showed up unexpectedly. Only the first batch failed, and a few broke when after they were completely finished (they were fine until right before we were going to leave) but all in all it really worked out. We didn’t need either of our backup plans. A lot of that credit goes to Roy. I found the recipe and the folding tutorial, and took care of the batter BUT besides that I didn’t handle them until they had cooled. So the folding, putting them where they needed to be, timing the oven properly (three at a time for only a few minutes) – you know, all of the actual hard stuff, was all Roy. It’s not that I bowed out, but I just knew if I tried to fold them, we would need to go to Plan B. Also, I was making the peanut butter balls.

chirstmas_dessert

The Finished Products!

 

When they were all done (and cooled) we dipped a few in chocolate, completed covering them. (This was one of the original pictures I saw that made me think “Fortune cookie!”) In my defense, I found out from Roy’s sister, who was reading out of this book assigning a food to each day, that I was born on Milk Chocolate Day. So my love affair with chocolate was in the stars, fated, etc. Then the book had a 12-Step program for chocoholics, but that isn’t for me. Because the first step is admitting you have a problem, and I don’t believe my need to ingest obscene amounts of chocolate in a single day, every day, is a problem. We left a little more than half of the finished cookies plain, in case people didn’t want or like chocolate. (Seriously, how can someone not like chocolate? I understand not being able to have chocolate, due to an allergy or medical condition, but thinking about this reality for some just makes me sad. Chocolate is like water to me: absolutely fucking necessary.) The rest of the cookies we just drizzled some chocolate on both sides.

12_step_chocolate

Anyway, we all had a blast. It was so much fun, and Roy’s aunt and uncle totally impressed with their meal. I ate way too much, so much that I actually turned down chocolate before we left! Everything was wonderful and we had fun taking pictures, talking (maybe not as much fun for those around me, since they had to repeat themselves three times, but they’re always great about it – third time’s the charm 😉 ) and eating. Roy’s uncle is hysterical and dressed up in something that… I don’t know the word for it, but it was an actual thing that made me think he was supposed to be parachuting off a plane or some kind of weird fanny pack suit. He read from a Chinese calendar and when it was time for desserts people read their fortunes and laughed. By luck, with the exception of one or two, people didn’t have the last fortunes I wrote. I say “by luck” because I was really grasping towards the end.

I kind of feel like this Christmas was the best of both worlds. I like hosting and keeping busy, but after this last year I needed to NOT do that. Roy needed to not do that even more. It was so lax, but we still got to do something – like having our cake and eating it too. We didn’t do gifts, but Roy’s family generously gave us gifts anyway. We made plans just in case this happened, with inexpensive gift ideas that we think people will really like or inexpensive gifts to make (calling peanut butter balls!) in case they did. We still have some people to take care of. I know this isn’t much in the spirit of Christmas, and I’m in no way keeping score, but I feel incredibly guilty receiving something, without giving something. If anything I’m used to the other way around (with my biological family for example) so maybe it is just something I will eventually get over, but I’m not sure it’s a bad way to be. Gracious and appreciative enough to accept things, but also aware to give something back. I think giving is a great trait to have, but then again perhaps it is selfish. I have already mentioned how much I love giving gifts (like some sick sort of high).

It was a very merry Christmas! As in it totally set the bar. I hope it inspires 2015 to be kinder. Here is wishing everyone a very happy holiday season, no matter what you celebrate. In the meantime, I am going to keep enjoying what Florida has to offer for the rest of our trip (besides the people, there is the ocean and warm temperatures – back home it hasn’t stopped snowing 😛 ).

-DMW

*Below are the recipes we used. (And the fortune cookie video that saved us – if you try this check out the video to prevent heartache and ensure success!) 🙂

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