Tasting the joy of stillness and creamed onions
In every measure, the praises of Christmas have been sung in the Repnow home during the past 12 days. As many of you have come to know, we enjoy celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. With our extended families a couple of hours from Rugby, this strategy has served us well. We spent Christmas Eve this year with my parents at the St. Benedictine Nursing Home in Garrison, where Jan, Lydia and I presented a musical program-to the best of our abilities-for any willing ears and eyes! We finished in time to travel back to Minot to attend the brilliant and inspiring 10 p.m. Christmas Eve Service at First Lutheran Church. This worship service, like many others presented that evening, was uplifting and had a most joyful message. As we exited the church and descended the timeless brick steps, the pine sprays were gathered on either side of the doors with clusters of copper and teal ornaments. They seemed to whisper “Merry Christmasand now pull your collars up because the north wind has shifted to the south.”
It was off to our home in Minot, where Jan, Lydia and I would open a gift or two. In front of the drawn sheers stood our Christmas tree, adorned in shades of blue and lavender. On each side, a gold wing-back chair. The room is warm and inviting and brings comfort to our tired souls after an extended day. After a repeal of our winter wraps, shoes off, and lamps aglow, we enjoyed this moment as a family of three. Lydia was excited to open her gifts. First was a doll dress in Christmas tartan, which was fashioned from the gifted hands of Helen Laughridge. When a girl loves a doll, there is nothing like it. I sat and watched as her eyes glowed and she dressed her doll. Next was the bathtub for her dolls, complete with washcloths, soap and lotions. Tonight the dolls would be treated royally!
Did you know that since last summer we have had identical twin girls living in our home? Paige and Hope are their names, and they are both two years old. For some time, they have been sleeping under the piano, on the porch on pillows, beside their mommy’s bed-Lydia, that is, and wherever the light isn’t too bright. Prior to Christmas, Lydia had reminded us these girls need beds! Hiding very carefully behind one of the wing-back chairs was Lydia’s third present–a set of pink bunk beds with hearts on the end and a white rail in front (yes, we would not want them to fall out) and very sweetly sewn bedding, made by Jan, in shades of hot pink. Seeing the joy in Lydia’s eyes was the perfect gift to her Daddy. Her extended hug to Jan and words “Thank you, thank you, mommy” made me reflect that joy often comes in simple pleasures.
Christmas Day brought images of Lydia staying in her flannel night gown and being very content with her pink bunk beds and dolls. It was certainly a reflective time for Jan and me as there was a stillness and relaxed feeling in the living room as we listened to Lydia share conversations with her dolls. What a treat to see her play and use her imagination. This backward step on Christmas Day of less noise, less fuss and confusion was a gift that I certainly enjoyed unwrapping.
As we celebrated Christmas with the Thompsons in Ray later in the week, all the dolls-Paige, Hope, Grase (yes, with an “s”), and Savannah-and the bunk beds made the journey. Jan did suggest to Lydia that her dolls could sleep in Grandpa Thompson’s office. She quickly responded that she would then have to sleep in there as well. Once again, we are reminded that a child’s play is so very central to nourishing a young mind which, in time, will take the pathway to adulthood.
There is no need for me to get a hole-in-one on the golf course or ski down the most wicked black diamond run. I am merely happy creating cozy creamed sauces, which are the foundation for many a dish and soup. As I have mentioned before, I do not claim to know all the secrets of cooking. However, this is a recipe that has made me feel that I could possibly whirl a whisk on a national cooking show with some success!
Just a note: The girls did not have any creamed onions during our Christmas dinner; however, the adults enjoyed them!
Peel 6 to 8 small to medium yellow or white onions; cook in boiling salted water until just tender, or pierceable with the tines of a fork. Drain, reserve this liquid for the base of a soup. Arrange the onions, which have been divided into smaller pieces with kitchen scissors. Place them in a generously buttered and attractive casserole. (This is a fine time to show off your vintage Pyrex!) Cover with 2 cups of cream sauce, top with 3/4 cup homemade buttered toasted bread cubes and sprinkle with a scant 1/2 cup of white cheese, and bake in a slow oven at 300 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until well-browned. Serve at once from your favorite casserole.
Medium Cream Sauce
We live in a world where perfection and complete satisfaction often are portrayed in ads and look very reachable. However, once the final frosting is spread upon the cake, we ended up disappointed. Well, no more because once you have mastered the art of making smooth, pearl luster cream sauce all other achievements in the world will be overcast. I may never walk on the red carpet of Hollywood but I can walk proudly about the North Dakota sod because I have from time to time made a perfect cream sauce. I will also admit that I have had to hide out behind the willows sometimes because it has curdled! Here are my secrets for most-of-the-time notable cream sauce.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup of milk, or thin cream
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of white pepper
1 beaten egg yolk
Melt the butter on low heat, stir in the flour a little at a time and blend thoroughly, but do not let brown. Add seasonings, then gradually, while stirring constantly, stir in the milk or thin cream, which has been scalded with a thin slice of onion, bay leaf, and whole clove swimming about. Keep stirring over low heat, until mixture thickens and bubbles. Let it bubble for about 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and briskly stir in the egg yolk. Do not bubble anymore unless you want it to curdle. This makes 1 cup of cream sauce.
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