Holiday Treats: Sinful Eggnog and Chile-Spiced Chocolate “Gorp”

For the winter holidays, I like to spread light and love in the form of hand-created food. In particular, two rich and delicious treats I never make any other time of year.

I reserve these treats for the holidays partly because of the effort involved (that's my big mixer in the photo above, working at top speed to whip 36 egg whites!), and partly because I like the idea of some things being so special that I only make them once a year. Their uniqueness increases the anticipation among the recipients, and also my joy in sharing them.

Since I can't give you these treats, I'm doing the next best thing and sharing the recipes. 

First is my homemade-from-scratch eggnog, famous among my friends and my family. If you've never had real (meaning not store-bought) eggnog, you're in for a treat. (Warning: This eggnog is smooth, but very strong! Drink it responsibly in small doses.)

This hand-thrown porcelain sake cup is the perfect size for sipping this rich eggnog.

Susan's Sinfully Delicious Holiday Eggnog

one dozen eggs (free-range eggs with their orange yolks make prettier 'nog)

1 pound powdered sugar

2 to 3 cups dark rum (if necessary, can substitute brandy or bourbon, but the flavor is different)

1 qt 2% milk

1 qt half 'n half

1 qt heavy cream

Separate eggs, placing yolks in one bowl and whites in another. Cover whites and refrigerate. Beat yolks until creamy. Add powdered sugar gradually, beating slowly. Add two cups of rum (reserving one, if using three), beating constantly. Cover and let stand in refrigerator for at least an hour to eliminate the "eggy" taste. Then add the remaining cup of rum (beating constantly), along with the milk, half 'n half, and the cream. Cover the mix and put it back in the refrigerator overnight (if overnight is not possible, for at least three hours) to mellow the liquor. When the egg mix is ready, beat the whites until they form soft peaks (the peaks barely droop). Fold the whites gently into the egg mix and sprinkle the whole with freshly-grated nutmeg. Serve in a punch bowl with a ladle and small glasses or cups—this is very rich eggnog! A grater with whole nutmegs nearby is a nice touch. (Keeps about two weeks in the refrigerator, but it never lasts that long.)

A large steel bread bowl full of freshly made eggnog, with nutmeg grated on top–yum!

I make the eggnog in batches of three dozen eggs, ending up with  enough to fill Richard's two largest bread bowls. I ladle it into quart and pint-size jars to give away. 

The other treat is the deluxe holiday "gorp" or trail mix I've been making for years. This year's version is definitely the best yet, though I just thought of a small tweak I'll try next year to make it even more addictive… 

Chile-Spiced Holiday “Gorp”

1 cup Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (or another premium kind, 60% chocolate or more)

1 cup Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips (or another premium brand)

2 cups roasted whole pecans (I think organic pecans have the most buttery flavor)

1 cup organic dried sour cherries

1/2 cup organic raisins

1 cup crystallized ginger chunks (I use Reed’s baby ginger)

1 tsp dried red chile powder (I use hot red chile; adjust for your spice tolerance)

Mix ingredients thoroughly in a steel, glass, or glazed bowl (a porous bowl will absorb the chile flavor). Package however you wish; I like to put the mix in pint jars with pretty lids. (A little of this gorp goes a long way, and the chile powder gives a lovely spicy finish that offsets the bit of the ginger and the sweetness of the dried fruit.)

Enough for 3-4 pint jars

May the remainder of your holiday season be full of light and joy, the warmth of love from family and friends, and the goodness of healthy, delicious food. And may you find time to get outside and be awed by the blaze of the stars overhead at night, and refreshed by the beauty and wonder of nature wherever you are. 

Blessings to all!

Solstice Eggnog: Slow Down, Pay Attention

This afternoon, I called my 87-year-old dad to check in, something I do every Sunday. While he told me about the morning's church service, which seems to have featured as much Christmas music as the two pastors could fit in, complete with choir, organ, classical accompaniment, soloists, and the whole shebang, I busied myself with starting my annual batch of Solstice eggnog.

While Dad described the service, and from there segued to the pastors, both new and both female (he approves–they each give a good sermon), I broke and separated 36 local eggs into two large bowls. When Dad went on to politics, I turned on my big Kitchenaid stand mixer and slowly beat 2-1/2 pounds of powdered sugar into the gorgeous orange yolks (chickens that get outside to eat bugs have the most beautiful yolks, not those pale ones like factory-farm eggs).

As I carefully began mixing the first of eight cups of dark rum into the yolk-sugar mixture, I realized I had lost the thread of Dad's conversation (he's smart, reads a lot and has a lot of time to think, so he can pretty much carry the conversationby himself). I tuned back in with just a touch of guilt and paid more attention for the rest of our talk. 

Later, as I whisked four quarts of heavy whipping cream, plus two quarts of half-n-half and a quart of skim milk into the yolk-sugar-rum mixture, I thought that I've been doing that a lot: Whizzing through my days, doing at least two things at once, and not paying my entire attention to any one. It's an old habit, that going full-tilt boogie until I drop, and one I thought I had unlearned. Or at least learned to be aware of. 

Apparently not. Since I didn't notice until after I had spent the better part of an hour on the phone with Dad without giving him my full attention. 

Huh. I guess I get points for noticing, even if belatedly.

And is it so bad to multi-task if I can do two (or three) things at once? I get more done that way. (That's the voice of my ego, who hates to admit I'm wrong.)

As I hefted the heavy bowl of rich and fragrant nog, all three gallons of it, into the fridge to mellow for the night, it hit me: Splitting your attention means missing part of life. Moments you'll never know again.

Dad is 87. Mom died nearly five years ago in 2011, the same year that Richard died. She was exactly two months shy of 80; Richard was just 61, vigorous intellectually and physically, engaged in abstract sculpture–until the cancerous tumor nuked his right brain. 

Did I really need a reminder to be present in this moment, right now, because what's next is a total crapshoot?


So tomorrow on Winter Solstice, the day when I begin my annual tradition of reviewing and considering my writing and life, and coming up with my intentions for the new year, I'm going to start (again) practicing slowing down and paying attention.

Being where I am and inhabiting this solo life. I never imagined I would be a widow at 59, navigating by myself. But this is the life I have, and it's better than the alternative. After helping two of the people I love most in the world die well, I know that much. 

For now, I'm going to finish making a huge batch of delicious homemade eggnog, pour it into dozens of small jars, and spend part of my day tomorrow delivering my annual gift of love to my friends. 

And enjoying the being on this earth. Alive. Present. Savoring my moments, however they come. 

Solstice blessings to you all!