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Our Community Focus

Embracing The Season with Others in Mind

Nov 27, 2016 10:47AM ● By Lesley Stiles

The closing month of the year, December, has an ever-changing variety of weekend arrangements to determine how crazy one can get. Sometimes the month has four fabulous and perfect weekends that allow different holiday party celebrations, services, pageants, sales, shopping, visiting and all around madness. But sometimes it gets a little smooshed together, and that can be good or bad depending on how your energy level is or isn’t maintained. Another perspective bender is the fact that Hanukkah actually begins at sundown on December 24, aka as Christmas Eve for some, perhaps creating, I hope, a magic opportunity for communities to celebrate together. As we recover from one of the most contentious elections ever in recent history, celebrating cultures together can’t be a bad thing.

As usual in this column, I would like to bend your ear a bit with regard to giving back and staunching consumer madness. Rarely do I start sentences like that in the public forum, but I have been heading more in the direction of gratitude as of late. Giving generously to others while possibly forgoing a shiny object is a good thing. More importantly, teaching our young people to go this way and having them carry it on through their generation allows more of those in need to have a little brighter holiday. We are blessed with many local organizations that can be the receivers of our love and generosity: Monument Crisis Center, STAND, Juvenile Hall Auxiliary, Shelter Inc., these are just a few. With a slight click of your mouse, you have a zillion more options at your fingertips. Don’t do it by yourself. Take kids with you, even if you have to borrow them. Being a part of something creates ownership, and that is very important when teaching life skills. Compassion coupled with generosity is pretty important this time of year -- and always.

Take time for yourself this holiday season, even if it just means a trip to the farmers’ market to purchase some amazing local citrus to take with you anywhere you mosey, pixie dusting all you come into contact with and showering vitamin C carelessly about. Be reckless in tossing kale and spinach about too (prepared, of course). Take salads and sautés with you to parties so you have life-giving food to partake in, peppering sugar-laden temptations here and there. As we all know, blah, blah, one soda water for every alcoholic beverage. Sorry to nag, but sometimes we get a sweet li’l buzz and forget, and I know I’m not alone when regret hammers down about 3am. Temper it is all I’m yawning on about!

Farmers’ markets do not close in the winter. We have amazing produce to apply to our health in raw or cooked form. Yay! Some of the highlights are citrus of all kinds plus a lot of interesting varieties not found in most stores: pomegranates, persimmons, greens, kales, spinach, onions and leeks, celery and carrots. These are all perfect ingredients for cool (hopefully, rainy) weather stews, soups, and luscious concoctions steaming out of favored pots.

Happy Holidays to all of you out there, and please remember to walk, even in the rain, with heavy sighing about half way through to carry on with your beautiful, fortunate lives.


Lemon Verbena Shortbread Star Cookies w/ Lemon Glaze

Makes about 30 cookies


Chopped fresh Lemon Verbena adds a nice spice and interesting twist to traditional shortbread cookies. The star cookie cutter is really about the holiday season; any shape will do the rest of the year. The herb can also be replaced with lemon thyme or lavender.


18 tablespoons butter (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon verbena

2 teaspoons chopped lemon zest

2 cups white whole wheat flour

½ teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 325* and lightly spray a couple of cookie sheets.

Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and herbs. Sift flour with salt and add to butter and sugar mixture. Beat until flour is absorbed and well blended.

Roll out on a flat surface dusted with confectioner’s sugar to about ½ inch thick. Cut out star shapes and place on cookie sheet. Alternately place rolls of dough onto plastic or parchment and roll up. Chill and slice. Bake about 15 minutes. You do not want the cookies to get brown or over bake them. Pull them out even if you think they aren’t done. Remove to a rack and cool at least 10 minutes and glaze with Lemon Glaze.


Lemon Glaze

1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

Mix all together in a small bowl. The texture should be similar to a semi thick sauce so that you can spoon over cookies covering the surface without picking them up and spreading. You can use the back of the spoon to cover the cookie. This gives the cookies a smooth, poured on look. You can also put it into a squeeze bottle and drizzle over cookies. You can finish with some colored sugar sprinkles if the spirit moves you!


Turtle Beans Baja Style

This recipe was inspired by a trip to the East Cape region of Baja using local vegetables and herbs. As with any bean recipe, you can substitute any vegetables or seasonings to make your own inspired pot of luscious black velvet.

One cup of soaked beans will yield about 2 ½ cups cooked. Turtle beans are also known as black beans.


2 cups turtle or black beans, soaked for at least 3 hours or overnight

About 12 cups water

4 cups stock

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1 large red onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 dried ancho chile, rehydrated, with spine and seeds removed and chopped or fresh pasilla pepper, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bunch fresh oregano or 2 tablespoons dried

2 tablespoons freshly toasted and ground cumin

2 cups tomato sauce

2 tablespoons grated lime peel

Sea salt and pepper


Drain soaked beans and cover with 12 cups of water and bring to a boil. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes and reduce heat to simmer until beans are soft. Drain and put back into pot, adding stock, tomato sauce, onions, carrots, sweet potato, garlic, oregano, cumin, and chile. Bring back to a simmer and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Add lime peel and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 8.