Fire of Christmas

Every Christmas our family gets together at my parents home. We've taken to catering the dinner so that my mom doesn't have to spend the afternoon in the kitchen. It certainly makes it easier for everyone. All we have to do is heat it up - which, to be honest, never really works. By the time everything gets heated up and on the table the first dishes are cold... but I digress.

As you probably know , I'm a big fan of The Pioneer Woman. I love her recipes and try them out whenever I can. My favorite guinea pigs are my folks. (My mom loves anything I bring because it means she doesn't have to cook it.) So for an appetizer before our dinner I found a really easy recipe. It needed to be served warm, so I brought the ingredients over to assemble and cook there before my brother and his family arrived. It really is easy.


Puff pastry sheets, defrosted. Using a glass, cut into circles and lay on a pre-greased pan. (I used two sheets and got about 16 tarts)

Put a scoop of pesto on each one.

Slice up a roma tomato and place on top of each tart.

Sprinkle on shredded parmesan cheese.

Sprinkle with black pepper.

Sprinkle dash of olive oil on top of each.

Please in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Easy, peasy right? Yep, you would think so.

The appetizers were in the over about five minutes and the smoke alarm went off! Now, that wasn't a cause for alarm. You see, that happens almost every time the oven is turned on. We just yelled for my Dad to come take the smoke alarm down and went back to watching TV.

But...then... I happened to look over and there was smoke pouring out of the oven!!!!! I jumped up, saying a few choice words I won't repeat here and flung open the oven door. There were flames, actual flames, coming up the sides of the oven! I slammed the door, asking where the fire extinguisher was. Of course, my folks weren't sure. They came up with it, but we're not even sure it hasn't expired....have to check on that this week.

I reached in (with oven mitts on ...I wasn't that crazed to forget those!), pulled out the pastries and slammed the oven door. There we were on Christmas Day and we had the windows and doors open. Luckily there was no snow and it was unusually warm for December. The smoke hung in the air through the kitchen, dining room and living room.

When my brother and his family arrived, I was sitting on a bench outside the front door. And a Merry Christmas to you too!

Shutting the door, cutting off the oxygen put the flames out. Luckily it seems the flames had burned off the grease in the oven. At first we were trying to figure out how to heat the Christmas dinner and thought we would have to rely on microwaves. But my sister-in-law, Mary, and I, wiped down the oven and the racks.

With major intrepidation, I turned the oven back on and heated it up to 450 degrees. When no flames or smoke occurred, I went ahead and put the the appetizers back in. And.....they were delicious.

We also had a warmed over Christmas dinner.

The fire was caused by olive oil dripping off the cookie sheet and onto the bottom of the oven. When I changed the sheet for one with higher sides, it cooked without a problem. Lesson learned.

My mom says I have turned into quite a great cook... which may or may not be true. She may only be saying it because it means I'll bring dinner and she doesn't have to cook! And the other good mom's memory isn't what it used to be. She doesn't remember the whole incident.

Thank heavens for small blessings. But I still have a dad, brother, sister-in-law and nephews who have good memories and won't ever let me forget the year I almost ruined Christmas by setting fire to the oven. Just like I'm still living down the incident when I was 16 years old and backed into the family Volkswagon in the driveway with Ford Pinto (which was like a small tank) and totaled it. I'll be 60 this year and they still bring it up. Well, at least the Christmas story will be a new one.

Ah, family ,.. gotta love them.

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