WRITTEN ON December 9th, 2009 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Cheese, Dinner, Holiday, Italian, Tomatoes

One of the things I love most about my husband? He’s a complete holiday junkie, a perfect mix between George Bailey post-Clarence and Clark W. Griswold (a little sappy and a little funny). By day he’s a finance genius (at least to me he is.  I have a tough time with my 12’s times tables and this guy got almost a perfect score on his math SAT.  That’s enough for me), by night he’s a 10 year old trapped in the body of a 34 year old working stiff.

Last night we went to pick out our Christmas tree. Every year it’s the same.  We see a tree at the first place we pass (rude French guy selling over-priced but gorgeous Fraser firs), and we fall in love.  Then Frenchy saunters over and simultaneously gives us his pitch while making us somehow feel completely inadequate (the French do that so easily, don’t they?), which of course the hubster hates. So we leave, vowing under our breath never to return.  Five minutes later, we’re back, buying the biggest, most expensive tree our apartment can handle, hubby giving pointers on which branches to trim.  Last night we actually ran into a couple I know.  They were buying a teeny, tiny Charlie Brown tree, and as we staggered away under the weight of our own Christmas behemoth, I swore I could hear my spouse muttering something about cop-outs.

Tree trimming night is by far one of my top 5 nights of the year.  We are liberal with the spirits, Sambuca and wine a-flowing, Bing blaring from the CD player.  I always cook something warm and Italian. After wrestling with the lights (somehow there’s always a very important email Kevin has to respond to during that task), we toast each other and the year that’s passed, while laughing at ornaments we’ve forgotten about since last Christmas.  Tacky 70’s Bride and Groom ornament inherited from my parents?  Check.  “Mind the Gap” decoration from our trip to London, right in front.  Myriad golf ball and snowman ornaments from my father and mother-in-law respectively? The tree is groaning under the weight of them. And then of course there’s my personal favorite, the mini-chalkboard ornament on which my darling wrote, five years ago, “I heart boobs.”  Hey, I said he was a little funny, I never said he was high-brow.

We dined on this cannelloni and watched the Audrey Griswold’s eyes freeze over for the umpteenth time.  And, waking up this morning, the whole place smelled like a pine forest and I couldn’t wait to plug in the lights.

Who needs gifts? I already have my most cherished present of all, and he’s sitting right next to me, wearing a 49er’s Santa hat, checking fantasy scores and wondering aloud what “we” should make for dinner.

St. Nick's favorite colors

St. Nick's favorite colors

Christmas Cannelloni (serves 4.  Click on links for pasta and sauce recipes from this site)
8 cooked sheets lasagna (preferably fresh)
1/4 lb ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
1/2 lb fresh spinach
1 handful Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups bechamel sauce
1 pot Sunday Sauce
Preheat oven to 375. In the large pasta pot you used to cook the lasagna, wilt spinach, season with salt. Cool, squeeze excess water from spinach, chop roughly. Mix together ricotta, spinach, parm, and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper. Coat a 9×13 inch glass baking dish with butter then a thin layer of Sunday sauce. Working sheet by sheet, coat one side of cooked lasagna with a layer of bechamel sauce then a thin layer of ricotta spinach mixture.  Roll, jelly roll style. Lie in baking dish, repeat with remaining noodles.  Once there are 8 cannelloni lined in baking dish, pour sauce to cover (you will probably have extra, this is good.  Serve it table side for those who want to top their pasta off!).  Bake in oven about 15-20 minutes until warmed through and bubbly.  Let rest about 5 minutes, serve.

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