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My husband and I  “unplugged” our Christmas tree last year.

But for the grands and  nieces, who will receive their perennial gift of money —  and a few others like my aunts — gifts no longer play a major role in our Christmas gatherings.

No gift buying keeps life simpler, especially in the days leading up to Christmas.  No longer do we go through the motions of buying something that the other doesn’t really need — or want — since everyone in our family is fortunate enough to tend to their own needs and wants.

However, not everyone in our family unplugged; not desiring to let go of tradition, my kids and their mates kept on plugging.  Last year, everyone drew a name and met at our house to unwrap their “Secret Santa”  gift.   I think Santa’s identity was pretty much unwrapped before the gifts were… though the knowledge only heightened the fun.  In fact, everyone had such a grand time that the kids agreed to keep their new tradition going;  and their fun was so contagious, that my husband and I decided to give it a go and plug-in two lights of our own.

Today we invited all our favorite not-so-secret Santas to our second annual unwrap party.  Thanks to much help from my husband, we unwrapped the party with fajita wraps.

Chicken fajitas with all the fixings takes time to prepare for a crowd (it was a triple recipe for today); but the second nicest part of this meal is that it can be prepared in advance.

The fajita meat stays nice and hot in a foil-lined ice chest, the caramelized onions and bell pepper strips are easily reheated while the guacamole, grated cheese and sour cream can chill out in the fridge until serving time.

Of course, the nicest part of the meal is all the happy smiles it brings.  Parting gifts of home-made Chocolate Biscotti — a lovely recipe from the first blog I ever visited — kept the kids smiling as they walked out the door.

And here’s the bestest part:  After all the good food, including Amy’s Ambosia Cake, and the two hours of playing a old family card game with the kids…

…..I’m still smiling.

Chicken Fajitas

Serves 4       1 hour (includes 30 mins marinade time)  Does not include time for fajita fixings

Ingredient List:

12 flour tortillas
3 chicken breasts, sliced horizontally  into 6 thin breast cutlets

Your favorite fajita toppings (can be prepared several hours in advance)

Grated Cheddar Cheese
Sour Cream

Caramelized Onions: (30 to 45 mins to prepare)  1 large onion, peel and sliced in 1/4 inch rings — saute in 2 Tbsp oil in skillet over low heat until softened — add 1/2 tsp salt and  1 Tbsp butter and continue to cook until golden — if watched closely, may turn up heat once softened.

Bell Pepper Strips – (30 mins to prepare) Wash then cut pepper in half, remove seeds.  Slice in 1/4 inch half-rings.  Saute in 2 Tbsp oil in skillet over low heat until soft .

Guacamole – 2 small ripe avocados, 1/2 to 1 tsp Cavenders’s Greek Seasoning, 1/2 cup Pace Picante Sauce.  Scoop avocado into bowl and mash with fork; mix in seasoning and sauce.  Place avocado seeds on top to keep guacamole from turning brown.  Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Fajita Marinade

1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup canola oil
2 medium pressed or minced garlic cloves
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper.

Mix above ingredients.  Set aside 1/4 cup to dress cooked chicken.  To remaining marinade, add another 1 tsp salt.  Pour on top of chicken, cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 30 mins.

To Cook:

Heat 3 Tbsp cooking oil in aluminum skillet over medium to medium high meat.  Take chicken out and discard marinade; remove excess marinade from chicken with paper towels.  Add chicken breast to oil and fry approximately 5 minutes on each side.  Remove when chicken is fork tender and golden brown on both sides.  Store in foil-lined ice chest for 10 minutes before slicing; then on a cutting board, slice chicken in 1/2 inch strips and dress with reserved marinade.  Remove tortillas from packaging, place between two microwaveable dinner plates (one inverted on the other) and warm in microwave for 60 seconds on high setting.

Serve buffet style.