Tori asked me why I hadn't done the cooking part of my Looking Ahead posts for the holidays. The truth is I was running out of time! The other reason is that cooking in December varies widely from culture to culture so my getting ahead may be far away from yours.
For example, my Cleveland family does both Hanukkah and Christmas (and I wish I was down there for the latkes!). I'm not really up on those food traditions, apart from what I read in the same magazines you probably do. One year I did make this Cooking Light cinnamon apple cake, which was in a Hanukkah article and it was delicious!
In an off-blog correspondence with another blogger from England, she mentioned that their traditional Christmas dinner is framed around an incredibly abundant salad. While we might think of English Christmas food as plum or Yorkshire pudding and roast beef or turkey, that isn't always the case!
I suspect the same things happen round the world -- traditional dishes of your country that come out at the holidays even if you never see them at other times of year. (Share some in the comments if you choose! In fact, no matter where you live, share your holiday faves!)
Often times we go to the family tree for our holiday recipes, and in larger gatherings find that there are a collection of those recipes from the various branches of the family tree. In the past, our Christmas Eve dinner has always been that of Rick's grandfather -- roast beef, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and salad.
Christmas morning breakfast is the same, too. My mom's sausage and egg strata recipe, which I make the night before and put in the fridge. It only takes 45 minutes to cook, so while we are doing presents it goes into the oven. We'll serve it with mimosa and maybe fruit salad or coffee cake.
And who knows what this year will bring? We will be celebrating with Kevin and Molly at their home. Will we do the same, add some of Molly's family traditions or new ones they've decided? Stay tuned for that!
I know a number of people who have fish on Christmas Eve as part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes and some for other reasons of faith. I'm all for fish -- a few years ago we introduced friends to Shrimp and Grits on Christmas day. I'm not sure if we'll do that again this year but to be honest, I could eat Bobby Flay's Shrimp and Grits recipe any day of the year!
|The year we introduced shrimp and grits as a Christmas favorite!|
Cookies are another huge part of the holiday season. We have always spent Christmas Eve frosting cookies. This started out as a "cookies for Santa" thing and developed into one of my favorite traditions. Those and peppermint stick ice cream make Christmas day dessert a snap!
(If you are into something that is pretty easy but takes a bit more time, try this peppermint stick ice cream cake roll recipe. I made it for Cork Poppers and it was a hit with hot fudge, whipped cream and crunched up peppermints on top!)
I know people who have been baking cookies and freezing them for weeks. I salute you. I just can't live up to you! I usually do cookies and baking in one fell sweep over two or three days, making enough to give away (because I really do not have to have dozens of cookies in my house!).
|My favorite shortbread recipe is decked for Easter here. At Christmas I use peppermint or dried cherries.|
Small bread loaves (like this blueberry bread) or crackers or scones are always a treat to include. My Italian neighbor always has these little glazed donuts that I snap up as soon as I get her cookie plate! They're the best!
(If you are interested in adding any of these to your recipe collection, include what you would like in the comments and make sure you are either a no-reply blogger or include your e-mail address!)
I'll often include my favorite nut recipe from former blogger-still friend Anno, which are peppery and spicy versus sweet. Those are always a crowd pleaser!
I have fond memories of my friend Stephanie's cookie party, long discontinued but like yesterday in my memory. We would bring 13 dozen cookies, packaged individually in groups of six (and packaging counted -- people were extremely inventive!). We went home with 12 dozen (there was one dozen for the table) and didn't have to bake all season! And boy, did everyone bring out their best.
Here are some quick tips for a cookie exchange -- I've done my share.
- Figure out the number of guests and get firm commitments so you can tell your guests what to bring.
- Allow for a half-dozen to take home for each guest. Stephanie was bold to have so many guests -- and 13 dozen is a lot to make (I recommend bar cookies!) -- but everyone loved to participate so no complaints. You might want to keep the crowd a little smaller!
- Ask guests to include at least a half dozen for the table.
- While sharing the recipe isn't a must, it's nice for guests to have the recipe to take home. Years ago at a Schweddy Balls cookie party Jan and I threw, we asked each person to bring their recipe on the cards we sent them. (This was just a party, not an exchange.) The cards were pre-punched and I had covers made in advance. We just put them together with a binder ring and everyone had a party favor with good ball-shaped cookies!
No matter which holiday you celebrate, I wish you a great season of delicious dishes, family traditions and lots of fun.
And a gym membership for 2016!