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Holiday Gift Giving and the True Meaning of Christmas!

My oldest daughter, Kylie, will be 26 this January and she 'officially' moved out into her own place a little under a year ago. Recently she and her beloved, Matthew, bought their first house and they are scheduled to move in mid-January 2015. It's a very exciting time for her and I couldn't be prouder. But, as wonderful and satisfying as it is to see your child embark on their own journey, I still get a little sentimental realizing my baby girl is all grown up. While she was raised not wanting for much, as a single parent, we weren't rolling in the dough either. She worked to one extent or another since she was 16. Even while attending college full-time, she worked 4 nights and every Saturday and Sunday. Now, even though she's successfully working in her chosen career, she still works a shift or two at what was once her part-time job. She is strong, hardworking, focused and determined with a precise idea as to the life she wants to live. But between working two jobs, her relationship and friendships, I don't get to see as much of her as I use to. We talk either via text or phone every day and I jump at any and all opportunities I get to spend some time with her. So when she asked me if I could help her put something together for her two workplace Christmas potlucks plus make some Bourbon Bacon Jam for her to give as gifts to her co-workers, of course I gave her a resounding, 'YES'!!

When deciding what to make for her potluck, we considered several options but decided that the easiest thing to make, transport and serve was Sweet and Sour Meatballs. She needed enough meatballs for 16 people at one place, and 18 at another. I decided, seeings how I was making a big ole batch of meatballs to meet her needs, I might as well make enough for dinner too. In a very large bowl, I combined 4 lbs. of lean ground beef with diced onion, Italian seasoing, garlic powder, salt and pepper, two beaten eggs and enough panko dry bread crumbs to hold it all together. While I put the meatballs together, Kylie painted her sister, Mackenzie's, fingernails in bright festive colors. At one point, I paused and took it all in. Christmas songs were playing, Stephen was putting his twist on White Russians by using egg nog instead of milk, (I decided we should call the cocktail 'White Christmas'), Kylie and Mackenzie were laughing and chatting while I was in my element in the kitchen. You could just feel the love, happiness and peace and finally, the Christmas Spirit crept into my heart.

After I had rolled out some 100 meatballs, I diced up 3 lbs. of maple bacon, (which I got on sale for an amazing $3.99 a pound!), and had two frying pans going at the same time, cooking up the bacon in one and the meatballs in the other.


Now isn't that just a carnivore's dream! After all of the meat had been cooked, I got to making the sauce for the meatballs as well as putting everything else together for the Bourbon Bacon Jam. In a large pot, I combined all the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce, brought it to a simmering boil and then added the meatballs into the pot to simmer and absorb all those delicious flavours of the sauce. In a large skillet, I combined minced shallots and garlic, ground mustard, chili powder, (I actually ran out of chile powder two days prior and forgot to replenish so used some of my homemade Taco Seasoning instead...I don't think anyone noticed), ground ginger and sauteed that for a few minutes before adding in Jim Beam Bourbon and pure Canadian Maple Syrup. I brought that to a boil and let it cook for about 4 minutes before adding in sherry vinegar, (out of necessity, I had to improvise here too! I was 1/2 c. shy of the amount of sherry vinegar I needed so I topped it up with balsamic), and brown sugar. When the sauce for the bacon jam started to boil again, I added the bacon back into the skillet. I then sat back and sipped on the White Christmas cocktail that Stephen made me while both the Sweet and Sour Meatballs and Bourbon Bacon Jam simmered away on the stove.


I have two things to say about this picture: one, Stephen's White Christmas packs a punch, and two, the cloudiness in this picture is steam....not the result of White Christmas cocktails! When the Bourbon Bacon Jam was like a glazze, I removed it from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes before pouring it into the food processor and giving it a few pulses until I got it to the consistency I wanted. Kylie and I then went about filling the jars she bought for the jam.


Just look at those little jars of yumminess! While the jars of Bourbon Bacon Jam were cooling, I divided the Sweet and Sour Meatballs into two containers and kept those for our dinner warm until I was ready to serve them over some rice. When the jars of Bourbon Bacon Jam were cooled enough, and it didn't take very long, we closed the jars, cleaned up any stickniess, labelled them and then Kylie, Mackenzie and I wrapped ribbon around each jar.


The most expensive ingredient in all of this, believe it or not, was the lean ground beef. It wasn't on sale and in fact, I think the price was a little inflated from the norm. I paid $19.54 for 4 lbs. of lean ground beef and $11.97 for 3 lbs. of maple bacon. I estimate the total cost for enough Swet and Sour Meatballs for two workplace potlucks plus dinner for four at under $25 and 18 little jars of Bourbon Bacon Jam, including the jars, labels and ribbon, at $37, or just over $2.05 per jar.

Despite the fact that cost was nominal, the experience for me was simply priceless. Nothing brings people together more than food, in one way or another, which is precisely why food is such an important part of Christmas. Christmas isn't about the gifts we get or give, or how perfectly our home is decorated. Christmas is about love, happiness, peace, joy and family. I wish each and everyone of you the happiest of holidays, surrounding by the people and food you love! Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad and Joyeux Noel!

#appetizers #beef

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