Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Making Christmas: Food

The goods are an important part of the holiday season. Weight loss programs get more recruits in January than any other month. I'm a big fan of culinary creations myself, though as I've thought about this topic, no certain dishes stood out as traditions or must-haves for me. But food does play a part in many of my Christmas memories. Kat's holiday parties in Colorado come to mind - full 4- or 5-course meals of amazing decadance. Candy dipping and sugar cookie making were also favorite things to do at Kat's house (miss you, man.)

For as long as I can remember my Aunt Janet has brought us a homemade coffee cake sometime the week before Christmas, and we always ate it with hot grog* Christmas morning during present opening, help-yourself style. I wonder how many of those she makes each year. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be the final post in this series, but we can still talk about the food. Last year I was delighted to partake of Aebleskivers, a High family tradition (my sister-in-law.) One year Maren made some serious stuffed french toast I wouldn't mind having again.

My sister Tona's family has a middle eastern meal Christmas Eve, along the lines of what the shepherds may have eaten - pita, olives, dried fruit & nuts, lamb. I myself am a big fan of a Honey-Baked Ham, but I'm not picky.

Food is a great gift to give, especially for co-workers and neighbors. I was always happy when the home teachers would bring by a sampler plate of goodies. One year my visiting teacher brought me a little cellophane bag of homemade bark - pretzels and peanuts in dark chocolate. Totally simple, cheap and easy but I got a little addicted for awhile there. This year one of my friends worked at perfecting Williams Sonoma's peppermint bark, and did a fine job of it, I was happy to receive.

Every year I get Food Network's 12 Days of Christmas Cookies emailed to me but I've never made them for some reason. Also I love Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate, or any hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane that melts into it - yum.

This Saturday is our ward Christmas party and I signed up to bring a dessert. Easy, right? I mean, how do you pick? So many options. Well I'm drawing a blank so suggestions are welcome. (I don't make pie crusts and I don't work with yeast. I do love a good Bûche de Noël, but I'm not up to it.)

What are your Christmas food plans, traditions or memories?

*Grog recipe: orange juice, apple cider, mulling spices, lemon or lime juice, honey. Combine to taste and warm on stove in a big pot - serve in mugs with a ladle.


Just Katy said...

My family always had a "Shepherd's meal" Christmas Eve, probably like Tona does. Cheese, olives, dried fruit, flat bread. I liked how it brought a spirit of humility and reflection in the midst of all the hustle and bustle.
One year my mom tried to go more authentic by introducing goat's milk. She made us all try it. Blech! She had pure mutiny on her hands.

Disco Mom said...

Yes, I was wondering how you got such loathing for goat's milk. I will keep that in mind just in case I ever think of trying it, or worse, giving it to my family.

tona said...

one of the things I like is seasonal food that only shows up at Christmas time. Maren's blog had a great post on the clementine recently. We PIG out on those at our house. Chocolate mint everything. We tried sugar cookie egg nog at Thanksgiving, it was interesting. I can't think of others, but you know what I mean when you walk through the store. I think that's fun.

Maren said...

Of course, the best thing is to live near Trader Joe's and partake of their marvelous seasonal items. I just opened a box from my sister-in-law in California and I'd be happy to forego my part in the gift certificate to Barnes & Noble if everyone can agree that the peppermint Joe-Joes are all mine. Not likely, though. I also like their cinnamon almonds. Dave, are you reading this?

We tried a leg of lamb two years ago when the Hangens came up for Christmas Day. It was pretty good, but there were a lot of leftovers to work with later. We don't have any set traditions as far as food on the actual holiday. I like to have clementines available at all times. Sometimes I make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. I haven't made the (very rich) stuffed french toast for number of years, but it's good.

We had a dessert contest at our church party- there were four categories. I made bread pudding, winning honorable mention in the "Rich Enough for Kings" category. (I was beat out by a truly great chocolate dish made by a 12 year old boy.) It was fun. Quinn and his councilors were the judges (with the teachers' quorum helping out) and they had to dress up as the three wise men to present the awards. I digress.

This year the neighbors are getting tins with molasses cookies, butter cookies (bought), and no-bake cookies (oatmeal, chocolate, peanut butter drop cookies). A few people got a loaf of homemade bread with a container of whipped honey-butter.

I was also going to do fudge, but it looks like I might not need to. That's something I make almost every year. I did make one batch which I brought to the church party- it was regular fudge with walnuts and those new cherry cordial hershey's kisses in the middle. Yummy.

Disco Mom said...

I LOVE those candy cane Joe-Joe's! As if the regular and vanilla ones weren't good enough. Trader Joe's is one of the things I am MOST excited about in our move. Can't wait to actually buy and take home stuff from the freezer section. I too digress.

Dave, Mom gave me a preview on your planned Christmas Eve dinner and I'd love for you to fill us in - sounds rather British!

Michelle said...

Dave checked out the meat section at Whole Foods and is super excited to make us Beef Wellington with Yorkshire pudding. I'll let him tell you the details. My family never did anything special for dinners around the holidays, but had a big breakfast after the presents were opened Christmas morning. I myself love hot chocolate and hot apple cider this time of year. Recently I had two different types of trifle, one was all chocolate and amazing. The other one had lady fingers and pistachio pudding and other things, that made it look very Christmasy and fun. And of course it tasted good too.

Disco Mom said...

Hmm, Michelle, we may have found my ward dessert. I love a good trifle, and the pistachio pudding may be just the festive touch I was looking for. I have an awesome trifle dish somewhere in storage but a regular bowl will do as well. Thanks!

dave said...

To clarify, we're having a rib roast, not beef wellington (beef wellington is wrapped in pastry). The Yorkshire Pudding is basically just batter that gets poured into the roasting pan after the roast is done and gets some of the yummy flavor.

You need cinnamon almonds, Maren? we'll try to bring some with us for new years.

tona said...

The kids decided this year to have a French Christmas day dinner. So we're having crepes stuffed with chicken, asparagus, pate, and rolls. For dessert I need to find a bakery that will do a chocolate Yule log since there's no way I'm making one myself.

kat said...

hey man -
of course i need to weigh in on food. this year i was more calm - not as much time with my helpers right now. i did get talked into dipping some chocolates, toffee and peanut brittle, and i made 'chews' - caramel and nougat rolled together - all by myself. much more fun with helpers to wrap the candy. sugar cookies are also more fun with helpers. i went to a cookie swap for the first time in forever and i don't need to do it again for at least another decade. so many yucky kinds. i maybe got one new one to try.

the reeses, as you well know, are food people. christmas eve is seafood and cheese fondue, quiche, and lots of snacking of crackers and such. christmas morning is coffee cake and hot chocolate, with christmas dinner usually being a ham dinner. this year we're going for prime rib. or a rib roast - not totally sure which one carol bought. there will be dinner rolls and i'm going to throw in some sweet potato concoction for rog.

tonight i'm trying out a cheesecake recipe. i'll let you know how it works out - the fruit compote for the topping smells divine!

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