When I first moved to the Midwest, people would often ask me what I was doing for Christmas. When I said, “I’m Jewish,” the response was often, “Yes, but what are you doing for Christmas?”
Coming from New York, that response always amazed me. Nevertheless, I’ve come to enjoy being here in the vast minority. When life was more hectic, I appreciated the enforced chill out day. It was a day off work in which nothing was open except the movies and Chinese restaurants (That stereotype is totally true. We all love Chinese food.) so we were forced to relax.
Now that my life isn’t as busy, I don’t need to chill out as much. When we lived in Painesville, Ohio, our whole congregation volunteered. My husband and I volunteered at the local hospital in a group effort to give our neighbors a day off on their holiday. I’ve always looked back on that as a great idea.
In a larger community, that kind of group effort isn’t possible. Nevertheless, there are a lot of opportunities to volunteer for those who want to. In Chicago, the Tov Network has many volunteer opportunities during the Christmas Season www.juf.org/tov although none on Christmas day itself. Being curious, I googled volunteer opportunities on Christmas in Chicago and got too many possibilities to mention all of them. The first two that I came across were www.FeedtheChildren.org/Christmas and another one I found was www.Volunteer.christmas.org. There are many things to do on a local level if you're interested. And remember, a lot of people volunteer on Christmas but there’s need all year. All these organizations have many opportunities if you want to volunteer in 2011.
This year, I’m volunteering at home by being on call for the Red Cross disaster Mental Health team. While I’m home hoping that the phone doesn’t ring because someone has suffered a terrible disaster, I’ll be doing some cooking. Winter weather always makes me want to stay in and cook. Arghhh! As Toad said to Frog in the memorable children’s book by Arnold Lobel, “Wake me up about half past May.”
I tried this recipe yesterday from Peace de Resistance. This book was written by busy women. Most of their recipes are quick, tasty, and nutritious. If you try this one, you’ll have plenty of time left over to volunteer and help make the world - or at least your corner of it -a better place. Preparation time was 15 to 20 minutes. Clams and spinach serves 8. It’s good served over spaghetti.
Clams and Spinach
4 packages frozen spinach chopped
1 can mushroom soup, undiluted
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cans minced clams, drained
4 tbsp. Butter
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper
¼ cup slivered almonds or pine nuts
garlic powder, oregano, and basil to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°. Either cook the spinach per directions or defrost in the morning. Fully drain the spinach. Add the mushroom soup, eggs, clams, butter in small chunks, salt, pepper, and other seasoning. Mix and put into a shallow casserole. Sprinkle with nuts and bake in a 350° oven for about 30 or 40 minutes. It’s very easy and tastes good. Now I think I’ll try some other recipes. There’s plenty of time leftover.
Merry Christmas everyone!