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‘Tis the season to be frenzied. Really. Every year, the holiday spirit grabs ahold of me and I add one more DIY project to the list, squashing thejolly out like an ant on a Riverdance stage.

Last night, I finished Griffin’s fourth Secret Santa gift for school – the same school that told us these gifts had to be homemade but every sane parent knew better and purchased, except us. The twelve yearold could barely decoupage one more wooden something from Michael’s. “Mom, no one even knows what decoupage is?” Exactly, those parents are busy sheltering their kids with Suzuki violin lessons and fall baseball, while you are being cultured in Modpodge. Let’s just see who’s working for whom down the road.

Rather than calling it a day with wooden initials that he painted purple and added embellishments to (another word kept from the violists), I threw in miniature initials in the form of decorated cookies. Toothpicks and micro-jimmies were involved.

Tonight I’m up late wrapping presents to Episode 4 of Season 1 Downton Abby. I bet the downstairs people made the Secret Santa gifts in that household. Jolly’s resurfaced.

Something I’ve learned through the years, to help keep the jolly up, is do-ahead entertaining. Meatballs of any sort are a freezer’s and meal planners friends because they dress up for dinner and flirty for appetizers. I’m especially fond of lamb these days because it’s unexpected and oh so savory. The tzatziki we made from the cookbook was tasty, but not as good as others I’ve had. This cucumber/yogurt condiment is essential to the meatball experience, so I’ll point you to an easy rendition by sure-fire recipe guy, Alton Brown.

Before I let you go off to manage your own holidays, I want to share with you that I am a contributor for a local food publication, affiliated with a national group many of you may know – it’s Edible Westside, as in Los Angeles’s Westside because we’re a city too spread out for a publication that celebrates local. I didn’t know that traveling to Loz Feliz might be egregious in the locavore community, but I’m learning. Check it out. The pub is gorgeous thanks to our super groovy editor, Linzy.

Now happy holidays to you all. What are you making for your big dinner celebrations? I love new ideas for the holidays. BTW our 20+ year Christmas tradition of celebrating the Christmas traditions of a different country continues – see here and here. This year’s country was chosen for my dad who will be joining us. We selected a country close to his German roots (Germany was celebrated about 18 years ago). Can you guess?



lamb meatballs (kafka) & mint tzatziki

preptime 40 minutes plus chilling (you can handle this for freezer food) serves 6

cooktime 10-15 minutes

2 onions – finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 c dried apricots, finely chopped

1/2 bunch fresh mint, chopped

1 3/4 lb good quality, ground lamb

1 T cumin

1 t chili powder

1 T dried thyme

1 egg

2 cucumbers

1 1/3 c creamy plain yogurt

6 flatbreads or pita bread

  1. Combine lamb, onions, garlic, apricots, mint, cumin, chili powder, thyme, and egg. Season generously with 1 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Mix together with your hands until evenly combined.
  2. If you want to check the seasoning of the meatballs, fry up a bite size portion and taste. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  3. With slightly damp hands, shape into walnut size meatballs. You should get about 25-30 meatballs.
  4. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days (Yay, do ahead)
  5. Cook the meatballs on a grill, in a pan with some oil, or in a 400° oven (I preferred oven).
  6. Serve with tzatziki sauce and grilled pita.

recipe adapted from Fresh & Easy by Jane Hornby and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com


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