I just finished reading “The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever,” by Jamie Wright. It’s the story of Wright and her husband, Steve, and their adventures as Christian missionaries in Costa Rica. They were ill-prepared for their jobs as missionaries, and the longer they lived in Costa Rica, the more Wright began to question their place in the country as well as the big-picture role of mission work. While it might seem to be a serious topic, Wright’s writing is literally laugh-out-loud funny and often a bit profane. (She does offer a guide on her blog to what pages to find the naughty words, if a reader wishes to mark them out before sharing the book with someone of a more sensitive nature.)
It didn’t take long to finish the book, just a few reading sessions, and mostly late at night when the house was finally quiet. I haven’t decided yet what to read next, though I have plenty of choices. For Christmas last year, Abby gave me a subscription service offered through Brilliant Books, a bookstore in Traverse City, Michigan, that calls itself “your long-distance, local bookstore.” I filled out a card about my reading preferences, and six times throughout the year, I got a new hardcover book in the mail. It was kind of like the old Book of the Month club, but with more personalized service. I still have a couple of books from that to read, and my family stocked up at the Friends of the Waco-McLennan County Library used book sale last month.
For the past 22 years, I’ve served as an editorial judge for the Benjamin Franklin Awards, an annual competition for book publishers held by the Independent Book Publishers Association. Twice each year — in October and January — I receive a box of books in the mail, and it’s my job to read the books and rate them in several categories. So I have a stack of a dozen or so biographies that I need to work my way through before a new set gets here next month.
And, with the holidays upon us, there will soon be a new round of Advent devotionals that various folks at Calvary Baptist Church write every year that will be added to the to-be-read list. Calvarians, as we’re called, of every stripe contribute their writing talents to the devotionals each year. College students, religion professors, social workers, ministers, retired teachers — everyone is encouraged to contribute, and the devotionals play a big role in the worship experience at Calvary, where we’ve been members for 12 years.
As I write this, it’s 11:26 on a Saturday night, and the house is quiet. It’s the perfect time for reading. I can get in an hour or so and still make it to bed at a reasonable hour. Maybe along with my latest reading material I’ll have a warm beverage — it’s cold outside tonight, 44 degrees and breezy. Hot chocolate sounds good, but maybe hot chocolate with a little kick. And maybe a little snack as well, just to satisfy those late-night munchies.
All the drink recipes below are from “Drinking with Saint Nick: Christmas Cocktails for Sinners and Saints,” by Michael P. Foley, and are used with permission.
Smoky Kettle Corn
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Place a large, wide pot over medium heat. Pour the oil in the pot and add 3 popcorn kernels. When the kernels pop, add the rest of the popcorn and carefully sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Cover with a lid and cook, shaking the pot every few seconds until the popping slows down, about 2-3 minutes.
Pour the hot popcorn into a large bowl and sprinkle with the paprika and salt while stirring. Let sit for a couple of minutes before serving.
Makes about 12 one-cup servings.
- 1 1/2 cups shelled edamame
- 1/2 cup flour
- Pinch salt
- Pinch jerk or Creole seasoning (optional)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or spray with nonstick spray.
Cook the edamame according to package directions. Drain the edamame and place in a large bowl.
Sprinkle edamame with flour, salt and jerk or Creole seasoning, if using. Toss to evenly coat and set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and set aside.
In a separate large bowl, add the panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Stir to combine and set aside.
Using a slotted spoon, add about half the floured edamame to the eggs and quickly remove. Place the edamame in the breadcrumb mixture and toss with a spoon or your hands to coat evenly.
Place the edamame on the baking sheet, spaced evenly and without touching if possible. Break apart any large clumps of edamame.
Repeat the battering process with the remaining edamame and place on baking tray. Not every piece of edamame will be evenly coated, which is fine, as long as most of them are and they’re not stuck together.
Bake for about 12 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Start watching closely after 9 minutes to make sure the undersides don’t become overly browned or burn. Serve while still warm. These are best eaten within a day or two.
Makes about 6 servings.
Sweet and Spicy Pecans
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups pecans
Heat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, cayenne pepper and 4 teaspoons of water. Add the pecans to the sugar mixture and stir until they’re evenly coated.
Pour the pecans on the prepared baking sheet and spread evenly into a single layer. Drizzle any glaze remaining in the bowl over the pecans. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the pecans are crusty on top and caramelized and golden on the bottom.
Immediately slide the parchment off the baking sheet and allow the pecans to cool completely on the countertop. Once cool, remove the pecans from the parchment, breaking apart any clusters if necessary and store in an airtight container until serving.
Makes about 4 servings.
A Rumbling Honeybee
- 1 1/2 ounces Balcones Rumble
- 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 ounce honey syrup (2 parts honey to 1 part water)
Pour Rumble, lemon juice and honey syrup into a shaker filled with ice. Shake 40 times. Strain into a cocktail glass.
Makes 1 drink.
Solitude is Bliss
- 1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth
- 1/2 ounce gin
- 1 ounce ruby red grapefruit juice
- 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/4 ounce chamomile syrup (equal parts chamomile tea and sugar)
- Seltzer water
- Grapefruit wedge or wheel, lightly dusted with salt
Pour vermouth, gin, grapefruit juice, lime juice and chamomile syrup into a shaker and add a small amount of ice. Shake 40 times.
Pour into a highball glass filled with ice, top with seltzer, and stir. Garnish with the grapefruit.
Makes 1 drink.
St. Clement’s Super Rich Cointreau Hot Chocolate Honoring Saint Servulus
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 1/3 – 3 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 3/4 ounce Cointreau
- 1 pinch crushed cloves (or even smaller pinch of ground cloves)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- Whipped cream
Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until melted. Stir in the Cointreau, cloves and lemon zest. Pour into a mug or Irish coffee cup and top with whipped cream.
Makes 1 drink.
- 1 ounce gin
- 1 ounce ruby port
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes aromatic bitters
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- 1 orange twist
Pour gin, port, vermouth and bitters into a mixing glass. Stir 40 times. Strain into an Old-Fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with the orange.
Makes 1 drink.
- 1 egg white
- 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 ounce gin
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1 ounce Cointreau
- 1 dash lemon bitters (optional)
- 1 lemon twist
Use a handheld mixer to beat the egg white and powdered sugar until firm but not stiff.
Pour the egg mixture, lemon juice, gin, vodka and Cointreau into a shaker filled with ice. Shake 40 times. Strain into a cocktail glass and add bitters (if using) and lemon twist.
Makes 1 drink.