This was the week that we finally broke down the tree, the week that all of the pageantry and ceremony of hanging our Christmas decorations and festooning our house with lights inverts on itself, becomes just one more giant, needle-scattering chore. As I dragged the hulking carcass of our dried-out tree through the backyard to throw in the woods onto the pile of other assorted yard garbage, a trail of needles lay in the path I had shoveled through two snowstorms’ worth of muck and ice. The snow and slush came up and over the tops of my boots, instantly soaking the thick wool socks I had received as a Christmas present from Jillian with freezing water that ran down my ankle and between my toes. I wondered why I hadn’t stopped to grab a hat. I stopped for a minute, gazed back at the house, now stripped of its lights and decorations, and thought about how fleeting and pointless it all had seemed, how nothing good would ever happen, maybe not ever again, or at least not until April.
Might I…be a little depressed? It happens to an awful lot of us every year at about this time, after the thrill of the holidays has come and gone, and all you have left before you is a few more months of a harsh, cold, gray Maine winter. You can battle seasonal depression by sitting under a UV lamp, though that seems like it might make me feel kind of ghoulish. Instead, I’ll revisit one of these recipes, chosen for their pure silliness:
1. “Japanese Big Mac” Momofuku-Style Pork Belly Buns
Roasted pork belly nestles with a wisp of lettuce, a slice of pickle, and a little Sriracha-spiked mayonnaise inside a handmade steamed bun. Delicious and addictive. You can’t be unhappy when you are folding these little two-bite wonders up and gobbling them down as quickly as you can steam the buns.
2. Welsh Rarebit Bites
The longest-running 18th century linguistic burn on the Welsh? Or simply hot melted cheese and bacon made into finger food?
3. Homemade Graham Crackers
From the original post: “The first time we made a batch of wintertime, gas-burner stovetop s’mores using our own homemade graham crackers, we realized that they are a component of the classic dessert that we had been overlooking all this time. The graham isn’t just a vehicle for transporting scorched marshmallows into your mouth; it’s a crispy, molasses-y ingredient that is every bit as important as the char on your marshmallow, or the quality of your chocolate. These grahams made us wonder why we ever eat packaged cookies, because honestly, nothing from a box is ever as good as these simple crackers.”
4. Homemade Sriracha Hot Sauce
Are you hopelessly addicted to Sriracha? Try making it yourself! Be warned: This recipe requires a week’s lead time, which is the amount of time needed to turn “red chiles” into “fermented Thai gold.”
5. Homemade “Magic Shell” Style Ice Cream Topping
From the original post: “Experiment with different flavored extracts as you see fit; chocolate coconut topping would be excellent over pistachio ice cream, or white chocolate and raspberry topping over strawberry ice cream. The possibilities are endless!”
6. Lasagna Soup
Although the folks at the legendary Hoss and Mary’s in Old Orchard Beach have made it famous, it’s possible to cook up this hearty Winter soup right in your own kitchen. What makes it silly and fun? The cheesy payload of ricotta hidden under the hot soup, that you nibble at with your spoon with every bite.
7. “Bacon and Egg” Candies
I published this post just a few days after my daughter was born. Can you tell that someone was in hardcore nesting mode? From the original post: “I‘ve never, ever been drawn in by stuff like this. I don’t craft, I don’t make cute fondant cupcakes that look like Muppets, and I don’t get involved in all of that “bento” business, where what I imagine to be high-anxiety, Type-A people spend hours meticulously decorating a cucumber roll-up to look like surprised kitten, only for their children to trade their painstakingly-crafted Japanese-inspired lunch for a pizza flavored Lunchable.”
8. Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pretzel Bites
By now, Pinterest has spread variations on this recipe onto every food blog on the planet. But we still like ours the best, because there’s a certain satisfaction to throwing whole bags of cookies and bricks of cream cheese into the food processor.
9. Salted Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Crackers
From the original post: “This isn’t really a recipe, so much as it is a really, really good frikkin’ idea.”
10. Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cupcakes
You don’t have to be a stoned college kid in order to appreciate the charms of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Though I’ll admit that it helps. The scratch-baked cinnamon cupcakes in this recipe are delicious on their own, but the real fun is in the buttercream: It’s got crushed cereal mixed right in.
11. Nashville Hot Chicken
From the original post: “Is the ‘Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich’ from Wendy’s not enough to get your heart racing anymore? Have you beaten every hot Buffalo wing eating contest in town? It’s time to graduate to ‘Hot Chicken,’ the regional fried chicken specialty from Nashville, TN.”
12. Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Copycat “Shrimpin’ Dippin’ Broth”
Because if cooking a dish that’s a copy of one being served by a chain restaurant that’s based on a fictional minor character in a Tom Hanks film about Taoism isn’t totally ridiculous and silly, I don’t know what is.