True Colors

I thought a holiday blog about holiday colors – Christmas’s red and green – or Hanukkah’s blue and white – was perfect. I would tie it into food. Then I started to analyze my food options. Blue food? I don’t think so. White frosting, maybe…or cooked egg whites? Even red and green all of a sudden seemed challenging. Tomatoes are out of season. A true Christmas green might be in a salad – but what else?

Got it! True Christmas colors!

It didn’t take long until I was going around singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Andy, upon hearing Kermit’s song – over …and over…and over – started thinking about other colors…anything but green. Yup – see today’s Andy’s Corner. He’s doggedly determined to write about brown.

After I got Kermit’s song out of my mind, I fixated on Cyndi Lauper and her 1986 “True Colors” (the video is probably not rated for small children 🙂 – but it’s kind of cool. )

Show me a smile then
Don’t be unhappy
Can’t remember when
I last saw you laughing
This world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear

Sounds to me like Cyndi was foreseeing 2020’s pandemic with those lyrics!

“True colors” led me to The Secret Language of Color, a book published in 2013 by and written by Joann and Arielle Eckstut. Why were red and green the colors of Christmas? Maybe you all already knew this, but I didn’t realize that holly – and ivy too – had a lot of impact on that. Though Christians adopted the colors and assigned meaning to holly’s bright evergreen leaves and intense red berries, holly’s association with winter goes back to the ancient Celts. It was believed that holly in the home in the middle of the cold, dreary winter would bring good fortune and a prosperous new year.

But here’s my favorite holly and ivy story. It’s one that will now be a part of our Christmas Eve – forever. 🙂

Holly has traditionally been associated with males and ivy with females (I might add that ivy’s “clingy” and “soft” nature and the “support” provided for ivy by the “rigid” holly contributed to that – but that’s all too sexist to think about :). 

There is a tradition in some areas of England that says whichever plant (holly or ivy) enters the home first on Christmas Eve will dictate whether females or males will rule the roost in the year to come. Trust me, I’m aiming to get in first with my ivy (which BTW I happen to dislike – intensely – and which covers way too much of our streetside perennial bed). Andy will have to put up a pretty serious fight to beat me into the house (plus, we don’t have any holly in our yard, so he’ll be at a real disadvantage!).

Ah, yes. Back to Christmas colors.

My failed attempt a making Christmas-y green cupcakes (which had matcha in them) with Christmas-y red frosting (which had strawberry sauce)

Though my green cupcakes with red frosting were a miserable failure Christmas-color-wise, I had high hopes for my red and green peppers – before cooking, that is. I chose a recipe from The Breath of the Wok by Grace Young, our daughter’s friend in NYC. It’s easy, delicious – but isn’t great at keeping its Christmas colors post-stir-frying.

After I gave up on a true Christmas green in anything cooked, I settled on our new all-time favorite sauce – strawberry. Even after cooking and freezing, it stays a Christmas-y red. It’s perfect on waffles or French toast or pancakes or ice cream. And it’s wonderful to defrost in the midst of a dreary, cold winter – and enjoy the fruit of a bright and cheery warm summer. Or maybe make it, freeze it, and give it as holiday gifts – a little lagniappe – for your friends and neighbors. As Kermit and his friends sang in 1987, “We need a little Christmas now.”

Homemade Strawberry Sauce

Stir-fried Steak with Onions and Peppers

Stir-fried Steak with Onions and Peppers

  • 12 oz flank steak, placed in the freezer for 30 minutes
  • 4 tsp plus 2 1/2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T dry sherry, divided
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 3 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and julienned
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and julienned

Cut the beef along the grain into 2-inch wide strips. Rotate the strips, and slice each against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack four or five of these pieces at a time, and cut into 2-inch long matchsticks.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together four teaspoons of soy sauce, one tablespoon of dry sherry, the black pepper, two teaspoons of cornstarch, and one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the beef and toss well. Set aside for ten minutes or so.

In a small-sized bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, one tablespoon sherry, one teaspoon cornstarch, and the sugar.

Heat a large wok over high heat. Add one tablespoon of vegetable oil and swirl around. When just starting to smoke, add the beef, spreading it out in to one even layer with a wooden spoon. Cook the beef for 20 seconds without touching it. Then stir-fry until the beef is completely cooked, about two minutes. Transfer beef to a plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil to the wok. With the heat still on high, wait until the oil just begins to smoke, and then add the onions. Stir-fry until they begin to soften, about two minutes. Add the red and green peppers, and cook until they are tender, one to two minutes. Add the beef back in, and then pour in the sauce. Stir well, and cook until sauce has thickened, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a clean plate and serve with white rice.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.
Plattar (little Swedish pancakes) with Homemade Strawberry Sauce

Homemade Strawberry Sauce

This can be made with store-bought frozen strawberries – but won’t be quite as d-lish.  Nonetheless, it’s an easy go-to.  You can chop up the frozen strawberries in a food processor before adding the sugar and cooking.

  • 3 pints of strawberries (close to 6 c), chopped
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla (I love pure Mexican vanilla in this)

Combine the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries break down – about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Refrigerate or freeze.  We suggest freezing it in small-ish amounts that you’ll use up within a few days, once defrosted. 

Use the sauce on waffles, pancakes, French toast, ice cream, cheesecake, panna cotta – you name it.

brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

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