Bib: “Die Wanna Wanga!”
3-PO: ”Oh, my! Die Wanna Wauaga. We, we bring a message to your master, Jabba the Hutt.”
Artoo lets out a series of quick beeps.
3-PO: ”… and a gift. (to Artoo) Gift, what gift?”
Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
I just read about the new book, The Cult of LEGO, on Evil Mad Scientist. This has my brother’s and my oldest nephew’s names written all over it.
Anakin Skywalker: [via hologram] The Separatists have been taken care of, my master.
The Emperor: It is finished then. You have restored peace and justice to the galaxy.
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
I don’t want to burst Anakin’s bubble, but a few Separatists survived. Here’s how we’ve celebrated the mid-winter holiday (also known as Winter Solstice, Christmas, Yule, *insert your term of choice here*) the past few days — but mostly yesterday and today. Since our Festivus pole was out for repair and our grievances had already been aired, we went the traditional route of lighting lots of candles, listening to beautiful music, gorging on way too much sugar, watching favorite films, opening presents, and relaxing with each other.
“Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
Lovely, glorious Banket.
Almond paste-based filling in a flaky pastry shell.
A compact, triangular area in central West Michigan (in case you aren’t aware) was a hotbed of Dutch immigration from the late 1800s through the post-WWII era. You’d be hard-pressed in these parts to go a day without finding a town, a couple of roads and more than a few companies with Dutch monikers. Moving in, people joke about having to add Van, Vander or De to their last name to find a job. And while it’s not really THAT bad, it is obvious that an historically Dutch lineage prevails in this region, from their hard-core religious fundamentalism (most moved here as religious dissidents, the Netherlands becoming much too liberal for their tastes) to a decided tendency toward being… um… well… ok, there’s not nice way to say it… hard-core cheap. On their behalf, however, I must admit that the decidedly day-to-day cheapness often translates into being remarkably generous to the charities and non-profit organizations of their choice.
A few of the Dutch culinary specialties are still in full-force in these parts (for better or worse), from the unfortunate Hutspot (or the kale version - Stamppot – if you want extra nasty) to the borrowed Nasi Goreng (colonial-era Indonesian) to the utterly divine Christmas delicacy, Banket. While I’m sure you could eat this year-round, I mean there’s not a LAW against it or anything, it’s really a Christmas only treat in my husband’s family’s book. The start of the Christmas season equals Banket, and Banket equals the start of the Christmas season.
This is my mother-in-law’s Banket recipe, which she got from her mother-in-law, who was born in The Netherlands. So there.
(makes 8 sticks)
1 pound butter (yes, 1 pound of real, honest-to-goodness unsalted butter)
4 cups white flour (no, this is not the time to try to sneak any whole grain flour into your life)
1 cup milk (2% is ok if you can’t bring yourself to use whole, but use whole – trust me)
Blend all together. Form into ball. Wrap well in waxed paper. Refrigerate 24 hours.
1 pound almond paste (usually found in tub or brick form in the refrigerated section)
3 eggs (no, Egg-Beaters won’t work – why are trying to ruin the Banket???)
2 cups sugar (yes, good old fashioned white sugar that will kill us all in the end)
Blend all together. Wrap up in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 24 hours.
Have on hand:
1-2 egg whites, beaten
white sugar (yes, more sugar, get over it already)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Divide the dough and filling into 8 parts.
- Roll out dough into very thin rectangle (approximately 6 x12). Store extra dough & filling in freezer, until needed.
- Spread filling, in a long tube, across the center of the rectangle.
- Fold one long edge of the rectangle over the filling.
- Fold both short ends of the rectangle towards the center.
- Using both hands (to keep first piece of the long rectangle folded over the filling), tightly roll the covered filling until it is completely covered by the remaining side of the dough rectangle. (Yes, it makes sense when you do it.)
- Set on parchment paper-lined baking sheet, with the dough edge underneath the Banket stick.
- Repeat above for 2nd Banket stick, leaving 3 inches between each stick.
- With a pastry brush, lightly coat the top of the Banket sticks with egg whites.
- Sprinkle sticks with sugar.
- Grab a fork and poke a few holes in the sticks to release some air while baking.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown all over. Do not over cook.
- Let cool for 20-30 minutes before cutting into 2-3 in pieces.
- Banket sticks can be frozen, unbaked, for up to 6 months if tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. Do not allow sticks to be smooshed, bent or twisted in the freezer, as the dough will crack into pieces and the filling will maintain a semi-gooey consistency. Thaw approx 10 minutes before baking.
- Cupcake tins are really useful for keeping the individual dough and filling parts separated in the freezer, during assembly.
I know something you don’t know. I know something you don’t know. I know exactly how many cars turn both left and right off a southbound exit ramp and turn left onto a southbound entrance ramp at a certain road on a US highway, between noon and 12:30 p.m. on a typical Saturday. How is that? Because The Boy and I went counting cars this weekend with The Dad. Oh, yes, it’s true. Our lives are completely crazy. As it turns out, a fair number do but the exit ramp does not backup excessively, even though the wait can be a couple of minutes sometimes. It’s really a perfect place for a roundabout…
After that adventure, we headed off to find a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree. The one Christmas tree to rule them all. Ok, maybe not to rule them all, but definitely the best one to dominate a corner of our living room for the next several weeks. I think we succeeded. In our quest to incorporate the brightly lit evergreen into the dark, and only getting darker winter season:
The Boy tested out the all-important huggableness factor (huggability?) of different trees.
We agreed to take this little number home. Thanks to the anonymous stranger that took our picture.
The Dad gave The Boy some tips and held the tree as The Boy worked the handsaw.
After setting up our new friend, and having a little discussion about how friends don’t let friends run out of water or drop needles all over the floor, we gave the tree some time to settle in and shed any extra ice or snow still clinging to its branches before moving in for the decorating session.
Ah, yes, the decorating session. I plugged in all the strands to make sure they were operational. We were go for lighting. The Dad hung the first set of lights. We plugged them in to see how they looked. And then there was… no light. He took them down and we tried various methods of reviving the strand: check for loose bulbs; check for missing bulbs; check the outlet; shake strand vigorously; swear under breath. Nothing. Hmm, how odd. Hmm, soldier on.
I checked the second stand and we were once again operational. The Dad hung the second set of lights. We plugged them in to see how they looked. Again, no light. This time, however, we did find a bulb that had fallen out while they were going up onto the tree. Eureka! Back up they went and this time they worked perfectly. Ok, we were on our way with the lights – right up until the point where we ran out with still a full third of the tree to go. Conveniently, we live within walking distance of a store that sells tree lights. After finishing the lighting, we dug out our tree garland, ornaments and tree skirt and went the distance. With all three of us hanging things, it took no time at all.
When all was said and done, we turned out the rest of the lights, turned on some Christmas music and relaxed in the glow of our happy little Christmas tree.
Let the baking begin!