It’s December! For many of you, that means that Christmas is in the air. In the Philippines however, Christmas season officially start when the months end in “-ber”. That means, for us, Christmas starts in September, when the shopping malls and their ilk let the first decorations out and the first strains of carols can be heard over their PA systems. By December, the season is in full-throttle, steam-rollering its way over us, both guns blazing.
Before you throw eggnog and Scrooge McDuck at me, hear me out. In truth, I DO like Christmas! It’s the hyper-consumerist roller-coaster ride it has become over here that I am not too fond of. And all the over-bright wrapping and trappings that, more often now, overshadow everything else. Plus the growing number of people that seem to be more stressed then celebratory. Is something stressing you about Christmas? Take a good and honest look at what that thing is and perhaps (I’ll bet) you can skip it this year. Or at least part of it. Really. Do what you want! It’s Christmas! ;)
December is, in actuality, my absolute most stressful month at work with year-end reports, transitions, and trying to keep business going while everyone else is rushing off to holidays. Scurrying to buy Christmas presents? Choosing between holiday parties? Cooking up a storm? Christmas cocktail hangovers? Oh, how I would much rather be doing all that! Christmas is my respite, my reward.
It is also the season when you can buy freshly roasted castañas (chestnuts)…so it can’t be all that bad ;)
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup steel cut oats
- 1 apple, chopped into small dice
- 1/2 cup peeled roasted castañas/chestnuts, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons raisins
- A couple of dashes cinnamon
- A pinch of nutmeg
- A pinch of ground cloves
- Heat the milk and water in a pan until tiny bubble appear on the side and the milk is hot but does not come to a boil. Add the oats and stir. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After 10-15 minutes add the apple, castañas/chestnuts, raisins, and spices. Stir and cover. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until oatmeal is to your preferred consistency. Add more water if it becomes to dry.
- Serve warm.
One of the things I love about this time of year is when the castañas vendors come out, stirring their huge vats of nuts. A warm, freshly roasted chestnut is true bliss – and, at this time of year, bliss that is easily had. I’ve infused this oatmeal with what I think of as Christmas flavors***. This is perfect to have on a cool December morning, although the weather does not seem to be cooperating these days.
Christmas does not have to mean a trillion lights and over-organized parties, and spending until your wallet whines (unless, of course, you want to…that’s fine too). It can be about your own traditions, your own ways of celebrating, with the people you want to celebrate. It can be the time of year when you give everyone an extra hug, or tip the waiters more than usual, or enforce pajama weekends and air guitar competitions, or just add a little spice in your morning oatmeal. It’s really up to you. Just do it with joy in your heart and everyone around you will be better for being in the presence of a joyful person. Happy December everyone!
***I've used some of the same Christmas flavors, like the castañas and the apples, in my column in the December issue of Yummy magazine which is out in newsstands now. If you are hereabouts, you can pick up a copy!