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Addendum to MC Veggie Puffs … :)


Well … I added 5 eggs (whipped), about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1 cup of coconut flour (slowly – add a bit, mix … etc.), 1/4 cup quinoa flakes, 1 tsp. salt and for some reason I had the idea to add 1 tsp. of baking powder.

1st photo – the consistency you want to have – the wooden spoon stands up and you can make a definite hole in the mixture without any of it running in. Dryish not too dry. Still quite wet when you are rolling it but does stick together.
IMG_2469
You then proceed to roll them into little balls and flatten out a bit, placing into the pan with the coconut oil. Oven is at 350℃, ready to go. I made 48 in the second pan and 35 in the first – just jammed them a bit more in the second pan, (was getting tired of rolling!).
And here we are:

IMG_2471
Five are already missing … must do a taste test … 😉

They will be a perfect grab and go snack!
The rest – yes, there was MORE mix … I put into an 8 x 8 pyrex dish and it is cooking now. This is the one I will be sampling for the next few days!
Definitely a keeper recipe as they smell delicious, taste divine – puffy, spicy but not too much, just a hint of warmth and notes of curry and will go well with any number of dips/sauces or just a quick bite, straight out of the fridge when you are on the go.
Next time, I will reduce the amount of coconut flour and add mashed potato and cauliflower, see what the difference would be. When I do, I will let you all know!

These would go well with a Salsa Verde, Tsatsiki (made with Toffuti Sour Cream), or a Mango Chutney/Salsa.
Wine pairing: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Rosé, Beaujolais Nouveau.
Happy Cooking!

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Multi-Cultural Veggie Puffs?


Christmas is coming and so is company, one being a vegetarian … What to make?
Made my list of food must haves and requests. Placed a couple of coolers outside (it’s cold enough for them to sub in for the refrigerator), to hold the extras, such as the turkey and the 25 pound bag of carrots (a deal I couldn’t resist) and have begun cooking.
Here’s the list for your inspiration:

Miso soup (to warm the belly upon arrival – it’s chilly here)
Turkey with stuffing and gravy (my favourite!)
Sweet Potato Pie (with mini marshmallows – a request made in a pleading tone which I couldn’t resist … against my better judgement but oh well, marshmallow topped sweet potatoes, once a year, isn’t going to hurt … right?)
Broccoli and Cauliflower salad (easy and delicious – also a request)
Peas and Carrots (a standard)
Roasted Beets (requested with cloves/garlic/vinegar)

Kourambiedes – (Greek, almond shortbread, covered in icing sugar that takes all bloody day to make – but well worth the effort. Even though I can’t partake). Don’t have a choice here … it’s a must!
Melamacarona – (more Greek cookies – not as labour intensive as above but still a lot of work!). Also a must.
Chocolate cake – There’s a Birthday involved as well as the Holiday meal. (Gotta feel sympathy for those born right at Christmas time … )

A lot of food for Christmas dinner, yes and probably enough for leftovers the next day. But … what to have on hand for grazing/snacking? Something simple to make, easy to grab and eat, straight from the refrigerator/cooler (wherever it will fit – I’ll get to that later), and healthy?
Houmous, always good in a pinch, very easy to make – it takes more time to clean up than to make the dip. It’s on the list.
Devilled Eggs? Nope. Too much work – not enough time to enjoy the company and they don’t stay fresh for long.
Hmmm …
Gigantes? Greek style, Delicious giant white beans in a flavourful tomato sauce. Lasts for days in the refrigerator but does need warming … Nope, they’re  off the list.
Pakoras? Okay, I’ve never made them but they’ll go well with the houmous and … they will last and can be frozen beforehand, thawed as needed! Bingo!

And so, this is how this recipe which was supposed to be Pakoras (recipe isn’t quite done yet … I’ll keep you posted today as the making of the “puffs” progresses), began …

Shopping at the grocers’, I spy a 1 kilo bag of baby zucchinis on sale for $1.00! Steal of a deal! But what to do with 1 kilo of zucchini? I can’t eat all of that … In the food processor it goes, mushed zucchini poured into a freezer bag and then popped into the freezer …
Okay, so it’s not going to be Pakoras … but I do like the idea of the Indian flavours instead of plain zucchini puffs … Hmmm …
What do I have on hand? Onions – check, Red Peppers – check, Garlic – check, Indian spices – got them. Off to buy a bag of Red Split Lentils, eggs and cilantro – sounded like a good combo … No?
This morning:
Not knowing exactly what I am doing, I pour the thawed zucchini mash into a pot – it’s very liquidy … so I pour in the lentils and turn the stove on to low … add more lentils, stir … add more lentils, stir (all told, about a cup and 1/3) … Turned off stove and let sit.
Finely chopped the carrots – about a cup, 2 large red peppers, a large head of garlic and the cilantro … the onions have just come out of the freezer where they were placed to cool off a bit before chopping (it prevents teary eyes). Added the carrots and peppers to the zucchini and lentils. Placed the garlic in a pan with about 2 tbsp. of olive oil and a whole lot of turmeric, cumin and coriander. This is what it looks like so far …
Oh God I hope this works …

The photo on the left is the zucchini mash (what else would you call it?), and the one on the right is a mound of spices with garlic waiting to be fried – for 20 seconds and then added to the pot.
So … here’s my next steps …
Quick fry spices/garlic and to mash.
Finely chop onions and toss into the pot.
Finely chop cilantro and figure out how much to add to this mix? mash?
Whip 3? 4? eggs and add in (hope the mash in the pot has cooled enough!)
Melt coconut oil onto a cookie sheet (one with sides), it’s chilly here and the oil hardens … the perils of living up north …
Add coconut flour or quinoa flakes until mixture firms up enough to roll into small burger shapes – a flat “meatless” ball.
Bake in a 350℃ oven … cross fingers and hope for success …

For a list of accompaniments (sauces/salsas and wines), see the excerpt or Facebook.

Will keep you posted on my Facebook Page – simplyyummy123.
https://www.facebook.com/SimplyYummy123-139865369835/
Wish me luck!

Melamakarona – Greek Christmas Cookies


My favourite cookies … I began making these cookies with my Yaya (Greek grandmother) and Mom when I was a little girl.  Although they are traditionally dairy-free, they are not gluten-free.  This year I am taking a leap of faith and making them with a gluten-free, cake & pastry flour … will post results – good or bad!  These cookies can be made up to two weeks in advance, stored in the refrigerator, in a tin, with wax/parchment paper between the layers.  This recipe makes lots of cookies – up to 6 dozen – and they disappear quickly, which is why I make two batches.  One batch two weeks before the 24th and one the week before!  If possible make these with a friend/family member … They do take a while to prepare and company always helps the time go by … 🙂

Melamacarona:
6 Cups Cake & Pastry Flour
1 Cup Crushed Walnuts (crushed to a flour consistency)
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
2 Tsp. Baking Powder
1 Grated Orange Rind
4 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon (or more)
3/4 Tsp. Ground Clove (NO more)
Pinch of Salt … 1/8 Tsp. (or less)

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

1 1/2 to 2 Cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 Cup Warm (Room Temperature) Orange Juice
1/3 Cup Brandy
3/4 Cup Sugar (Berry Sugar)

Mix “liquid” ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly begin adding dry ingredients until a soft but not sticky dough is formed. Form cookies by rolling a small amount in your hand and shaping into a short, plump, sausage looking lump. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. When all the cookies are rolled, delicately pinch the ends and squeeze gently toward the middle of the cookie. Now you will have a somewhat diamond shaped cookie. With the fork tines gently flatten the tops of all the cookies – only the top, not the whole cookie. Bake for 15 minutes in a 350° oven.

Set out wax paper (or parchment paper) sheets on the table. Crush 1 to 2 cups of walnuts and sprinkle over the sheets of paper.

Consistency of crushed walnuts.

Consistency of crushed walnuts.

Syrup:

1 Cup of Fragrant Honey
1/2 Cup of Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
1/2 Cup Maple Syrup (my Canadian addition)
2 Tablespoons Brandy
1 1/2 Cups of Water
1 Whole Navel Orange, small one – sliced
1 Whole Lemon – sliced
4 Sticks of Cinnamon
10 Whole Cloves
4 Whole Nutmeg

Bring the liquids (including syrups), to a boil and immediately remove from heat.  Add in the orange/lemon slices and whole spices.  Cover and simmer on low heat for at least 1/2 an hour and no more than 1 hour.  Must be quite warm for cookie dipping!  When cookies are ready to be dipped, with a slotted spoon remove the fruits & whole spices.

Walnuts:

Crush 1 1/2 cups of Fresh Walnuts in a food processor.  Sprinkle liberally over several sheets of wax paper.  I spread the wax paper, overlapping each piece, over a 4 x 4 foot (1.1 x 1.1 metre), square section of my kitchen table.

Once cookies are removed from the oven and have cooled for 2 – 3 minutes, dip them in the syrup ,

Simmering syrup - remove oranges, lemons & whole spices before dipping cookies!

Simmering syrup – remove oranges, lemons & whole spices before dipping cookies!

roll them over, remove and place on walnut covered sheets of wax paper. Sprinkle more crushed walnuts over all. When cooled arrange on a serving dish with more crushed walnuts under and atop the cookies (use the walnuts left on the wax paper).  Save remaining walnuts and syrup (in separate containers) to use on other desserts – Apple Crisp, Honey Cake, Walnut Cake or as a topping for Sweet Potato Pie!

Melamacarona!

Melamacarona!

That’s it … Enjoy!

ps. after all this work, when clean up is done … have a brandy with tea and a cookie. You deserve it! 🙂

Why Turkey?


Ever wonder what we would be dining on at our Christmas dinner if the Pilgrims had “found” a deer … moose … duck … fish … instead of a turkey … Yep, you get where I’m going with this …

Festive holiday dinners are for family, friends … sharing time, food and stories together.  A time of cheer, fun, love and laughter.  Stressing out over the cost, presentation and “perfection” of a holiday meal drains the spirit!  Whether you serve up a roast beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, lasagna, mousaka, ribs, fish, tofu, … a meal made with joy is one remembered by all.

After many years of large turkey dinners, that took at least 3 days to prepare (leaving me exhausted and a little cranky) … I changed tradition … egads!  The first Christmas we enjoyed a roasted chicken (roasted in the grocery store and spiced up and re-cooked by me), sweet potatoes, peas & carrots, green salad, a tomato salad and a store bought pie – it was relaxing, tasty and FUN!  Instead of waking up at 6 a.m. and stuffing a huge bird, we slept in – as much as possible when young children are a part of your life – opened gifts together, visited friends in the afternoon, revelled in the company of friends at dinner – and … clean up was soooo easy!  The following years were a mix of going to the mountains with friends/family,  dinner shared at a friends home or dinner at our table with guests bringing a dish to share – the dinner options are endless.  Make it simple, relaxing and fun!

This years’ menu for 10 will be a roast leg of lamb with potatoes – sweet and russet, broccoli & cauliflower salad, peas (must have!), pickled beets, tomato & avocado salad … maybe carrots, maybe a green salad – depends on what the day brings, another dish or two supplied by guests … add music, a few candles and voilà a celebration.  I am looking forward to enjoying the time with family and friends!  Beats stressing out over dinner and table settings … 🙂

Enjoy!  The perfection of a meal is in the love added by those who make it and the enjoyment of the loved ones sharing it.

Photos will be posted on Christmas Day!

Leg of Lamb

Lamb
Fresh squeezed lemon juice
Red wine
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh garlic
Mustard
Oregano or Thyme
Black pepper
Cumin

Poke lamb and stuff with garlic cloves – as many as you like!
Pour lemon juice, wine and oil over – in this order – making sure that all areas are covered
Spread mustard – Dijon or regular – all over – except bottom
Sprinkle on herbs & spices
Start roasting, time depends on size and your oven!

Potatoes

Potatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice
Garlic
Paprika

Cut up potatoes into bite size pieces.  Mix in the remaining ingredients (be liberal!)
Add to lamb roast.
Depending on size of pieces, cooking time is usually one hour.

Broccoli & Cauliflower Salad

Broccoli & Cauliflower – fresh
Lemon juice
Black pepper
(Is there a theme here?)

Place cleaned cauliflower head (take off leaves and cut out center – from the bottom) in a pot with approx. 4 cm. (2 inches) of water.
Arrange Broccoli “trees” around cauliflower
Steam, covered, medium to low heat, for 5 – 10 minutes.
Drain and cut up in pot by running a sharp knife through the veggies in a checked pattern.
Drizzle oil, juice over all and sprinkle pepper.

 

Keep posted … More holiday recipes coming … with photos!

Easter


Growing up in Canada with a Canadian mother and a Greek Father made for the best of both worlds during Easter.  We celebrated “Canadian Easter” by painting eggs, hunting for the goodies the Easter Bunny brought and a wonderful family dinner.  For Greek Easter, Orthodox Easter, (which was almost always on a different Sunday), we had a feast with lamb as the star dish.  There was church too … a lot of church services during the week before Easter.  The Friday before Easter was the celebration of the Epitaphio – a cloth, decorated with the image of Christ after he was removed from the cross – displayed on a bier with many, many flowers.  For a complete explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epitaphios_(liturgical).

The following evening, Saturday before Easter Sunday, EVERYONE went to church.  This was the celebration of Christ arising from the dead and is really quite a beautiful liturgy with all the lights going out at midnight and everyone sharing the light from the one lit, blessed candle on the altar.  A wave of shared light, making it’s way to everyone, even those latecomers who stood outside.  As the light is passed from one to another we say “Christos Anesti”, meaning Christ has arisen, the response to this is “Alithos Anesti”, “Verily He has arisen”.  Lots of chatter and happy smiles, then the procession and then FOOD!

Before anyone walks into the home, the holy light which has been kept lit (I once drove 10 K home, alone, holding a lit candle in my hand, hoping it would not go out! Silly but that’s how important this light is!) is used to draw a cross, actually blacken the underside of the top door molding, on every outside door in the home.  A light meal of soup, cracking of the red eggs (and eating them, with the blessings of Christos Anesti/Alithos Anesti) – the one whose egg remained uncracked was said to be the lucky one for the year, (Greeks like to mix superstition/mythology with religion – quite fascinating really). Bedtime at 2:00 a.m. and up at 7:00 a.m. to help with the preparations for the Easter Feast.

The period of Lent was once a very strict fasting time, nothing from an animal for 40 days, with the exception of shrimp, shellfish or crab on certain days.  During the last week of Lent there are days with no olive oil – can you imagine a Greek not eating olive oil?  Nowadays with 9 to 5 jobs, kids in school all day, busy people with busy lives, the church has relaxed a bit and asks us to follow the Lenten restrictions during the last week, if possible.  Some do, some don’t, but this was one of the reasons the Easter Feast was so important, a celebratory breaking of the fast.  Butter, Cheese, Eggs, Olive Oil and of course, the sacrificial Lamb, were mandatory items for the Feast.  Tsoureki is the traditional Easter Bread, Koulourakia (a mix between biscotti and shortbread), the cookie favoured by ALL children and dish after dish of delicious food.  Traditionally the whole lamb is stuffed and roasted on the spit – the men’s job – but today a roast leg, chops or souvlaki would do, as long as lamb is presented, all is well.

A few photos …  A recipe at the end.

Image  Koulourakia – not gluten free or dairy free but I will be posting the recipe on the website.

Tsoureki served with butter.

Image

Lamb roasted on the spit.  The lamb on the spit is stuffed with lemons, garlic, onions, and sometimes feta cheese.  Olive Oil, Lemon, Oregano, Garlic, Pepper & Salt are used to baste the lamb, any lamb, whether it’s chops, souvlaki or roast.

Image Lillies, Holy Light & Red Eggs on the table, with greek salad, chees pies, spinach pies, cheese, meatballs, potatoes, beans, roasted veggies and much more!

Greek Salad, Egg Salad (I make Devilled Eggs using the cracked eggs – everyone loves to crack them, it’s fun and dressed up eggs taste better than plain, hard-boiled!), Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Vine Leaves), Pastitsio (Greek Style Lasagna), Tiropita, Spanakopita, Meatballs, Bread, Egg & Lemon Chicken Soup or Euvarlakia (Meatball Egg & Lemon Soup), Lemon Roasted Potatoes, Cheese, Fish, Stuffed veggies (Peppers, Eggplant, Zucchini, Squash Flowers …), platters of roasted, grilled, baked vegetables.  And of course, Ouzo, Wine, Retsina before, during and after the food is consumed and many, many sweets and fruits offered at the end of the meal.  Truly, one rolls away from this feast, thank goodness for the dancing – traditional dancing, belly dancing – that is incorporated throughout the day!

Image Red Eggs, Koulourakia, Tsatsiki, Lamb & Potatoes.

Image Vegetarian Pastitsio (one of my daughter’s is vegetarian) with a meat patty on the side for those who would like it with meat.  Pastitsio is usually made with a mixture of minced lamb & pork and sometimes just beef (hamburger).  This one I made meat, dairy and gluten-free.

THE RECIPE:

This dish is called Anginares me Araka (Artichoke & Peas), if you can’t find artichoke use leeks or zucchini cut into 3 cm. (1 inch) thick rounds.

Chop up tomatoes (3 small to medium sized), garlic (1-3 cloves), 1 small dry onion, 1/2 cup sliced carrots, a few small pieces of potato (1/2 cup?), 1 tsp. fennel seeds and begin frying in Olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Stir in one small can tomato paste and 1/2 tsp. sugar (I use 1 tsp. honey).  Add 1 cup of either artichoke hearts/leeks/zucchini (chopped in bite sized pieces/circles, pepper and salt to taste (1 tsp. & 1/2 tsp. respectively). Stir in well, add 2 cups peas, reduce heat and cover for 5 min.  Sprinkle with fresh dill (1 Tbsp. or more) and mix in.  Great side dish for the lamb!

Kalo Pascha to all!

Valentine’s Day Menu!


This dinner will leave you feeling light, sated, relaxed and full of energy for the night ahead … The foods used for this menu are flavourful, nutritious and are said to have aphrodisiac qualities … Perfect for a romantic meal!

Watch the video!

Here’s what you will need:

1 Squash; either butternut or acorn
2 Halibut Fillets
8 Spears of Asparagus
1 Ripe Tomato
Salad Greens
1/2 Cup Dairy & Gluten-Free Chocolate Chips or Chunks
1/4 Cup Frozen Blueberries
2 Tbsp. Frozen Raspberries
Parsley or Fresh Basil
4 Scallions/Green Onions
1 Lemon
1 Orange
Balsamic OR Apple Cider Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Spices/Herbs
Paprika
Cinnamon
Black Pepper
Cayenne Pepper (or pimento)
Dry Mustard Powder
Thyme, Oregano OR Basil
2 Cinnamon Sticks
Vanilla

White Wine
3 oz. Grand Marnier
1 oz. Amaretto

METHOD

1. Wash the squash on the outside and cut in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard.  Place cut side up on a pan and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon.  Flip over so cut side is down.  Place in oven at 350° for approx. 45 minutes.  It is done when you can easily press it with a spoon.  Remove, scoop out “meat” and any liquid  remaining in pan, place in bowl and mash/whip until light and fluffy.

Cooked Butternut squash

2. Cut Tomato in half (not through stem part but through the middle).  Place in a small pan, cut side up.  Sprinkle a little water on the bottom of the pan – not on the tomato!  Place in oven with the squash for only 20 minutes.  Remove and set aside (still in pan!).

3.  Snap off woody ends of Asparagus and save in a freezer bag, (great for soup broth!).  Wash and lay in a pan – single layer.  Place in oven at the same time as the Halibut.

4.  Wash Halibut, arrange in a pyrex or corningware dish that just fits it – not too big of a dish.  Pour approx. 1/2 cup (or more) white wine over all.  Drizzle about 1 Tbsp. olive oil, sprinkle liberally with paprika and add a light dusting of mustard powder.  Chop up the parsley and green onions, sprinkle over each piece of fish.  Place in oven with asparagus when the squash is almost done (10 minutes of cooking time left).  Fish and asparagus will cook for approx. 20 minutes.

      

5. Before removing and mashing squash, add approx. 1 Tbsp. frozen raspberries to 2 Tbsp. olive oil in an ovenproof dish and set in oven for 2 – 3 minutes.  Arrange salad greens in a pretty bowl.  Remove raspberries from oven and mash – carefully, add at least 1 tsp. or more of thyme, basil or any herb you like, add 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt/pepper (if desired) and pour over salad greens just before serving.

6. Mash/whip the squash.

7.  Remove the asparagus and place in a serving dish, a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, shake of black pepper and a sprinkle of oregano or thyme.

A few slices of peppers added but not necessary!

8.  Place tomato on top rack, 4 inches from broiler.  Move halibut to very bottom rack.  Put broiler on high for 3 – 5 minutes – watching carefully, don’t want to burn the tomato halves, just brown them!  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with a little fresh garlic before or after cooking (or not), or a little pinch of salt & pepper.

9.  Serve!

This dinner takes less than an hour to prepare, from start to finish, which gives you time to set the scene and pamper yourself!

Dinner is served with the remaining wine – plenty to savour.  Dessert is served with a Blueberry Tea – in a cup or large brandy glass, pour 1 1/4 oz. Grand Marnier and 1/2 oz. Amaretto.  Add one slice of fresh orange – rind and all, and one cinnamon stick.  Pour orange flavoured tea slowly over the cinnamon stick.  I like to drink a bit and add more tea – keeping it warm and flavourful for a long lasting night cap!

Speaking of Dessert … 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks, 1/4 frozen blueberries (or fresh if available), 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier, a 1/2 tsp. of vanilla and a small pinch of cayenne pepper.  All in a small pot, set on low until it all melts and blends together.  This can be poured over dairy-free ice-cream or a baked banana.  Make it the night before and spoon into small cups lined with parchment paper or muffin tin liners.  Leave to set and enjoy a lovely, soft, creamy, libido enhancing treat … Enjoy!  Chocolate mixed with pimento is a true aphrodisiac!

A small velvety smooth, soft, chocolate delight!

True meaning of Santa Claus …


A friend sent me this and I thought it would be good to share at this time of year.  Enjoy!

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma.  I was just a kid. 

I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb:  “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered.  “Even dummies know that!”

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been.  I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me.  I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her “world-famous” cinnamon buns.  I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so.  It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm.  Between bites, I told her everything.  She was ready for me. “No Santa Claus?” she snorted….”Ridiculous!  Don’t believe it.  That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad,  plain mad!!  Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”

“Go? Go where, Grandma?” I asked.  I hadn’t even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.  “Where” turned out to be Kerby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked  through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars.  That was a bundle in those days. “Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it.   I’ll wait for you in the car.”  Then she turned and walked out of Kerby’s.

I was only eight years old.  I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself.  The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker.  He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat.  I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter.  His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough; he didn’t have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement.  I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it.  It looked real warm, and he would like that.

“Is this a Christmas present for someone?” the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. “Yes, ma’am,” I replied shyly. “It’s for Bobby.”

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat.  I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, “To Bobby, From Santa Claus” on it.

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy.  Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa’s helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.”

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open.   Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker’s bushes.  That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were  —  ridiculous.  Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

May you always have LOVE to share, HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care…

And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!

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