Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Holidays: Where Food and Tradition Make Memories

Cheryl Tallman

The holiday season would not be complete without thoughts of great dishes being served to friends and family. Family food traditions draw us to the season, and the dining room table. Whether you carry on the traditions of your family or invent new ones, these on going traditions provide your family with something to look forward to, talk about, and of course add to the memory of the season. 
In addition to serving traditional recipes from your grandmother at a holiday feast, there are many ways to celebrate with your family. Here are a few ideas for starting food traditions that may remain with your family for generations: 
Pot Luck Dinner Party: This type of party is an easy and economical way to get friends together in celebrating the holidays. Here is how: Invite each family to the Pot Luck party and ask them to bring a dish. To get a good variety and enough food, specify the type of dish (i.e. pasta, veggie, appetizer, main dish, etc.) and how many people it needs to serve. Before the party, set up a buffet-style serving table and as guests arrive add their dish to the table.
For more fun and memories ask your guests to bring recipe cards for their dish. Collect all the recipe cards and send each family home with a "mini" cookbook of the evening.  
Make homemade gifts: Preserves, salsa, relishes, and candies make thoughtful gifts. Find one of your grandmother's famous recipes and bring it back in her honor. The kids can help cook, decorate the package/cards and deliver a homemade gift made with love. 
Volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen: The holidays are a time of giving and volunteering your time is a great way to help those who are less fortunate. Your children may not realize how many people go hungry in this country. Helping out at a food pantry or soup kitchen is great way to enlighten them, and can be a great bonding experience for everyone. 
Winter Outdoor fun: Playing in the snow (if you have it) or just playing outside for a while can sure build up an appetite. It creates the perfect atmosphere to start your own food tradition. Try bringing along a thermos of thick, creamy hot chocolate with plenty of whipped cream when you take off on outside adventures. Or simply have a nice pot of the warm soup ready when you come inside from your winter activities. A new jigsaw puzzle, firewood, hot spiced apple cider and cheese fondue (recipes follow) are a great way to celebrate the first snowstorm of the year too. 

Traditional Recipes from my mom’s kitchen:

Hot Spiced Cider
½ gallon apple cider 
1 quart cranberry apple juice 
½ cup orange juice 
Juice of a lemon 
8-10 whole cloves 
4 cinnamon sticks 
¼ - ½ cup sugar, to taste 
It’s best to make apple cider a day ahead. Heat all of the ingredients in a large pan and stir them in until the sugar melts. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, reheat and ladle into cups. Cloves and cinnamon sticks are only for flavor, so avoid putting them into the cups. 

Cheese Fondue:
8 oz of each Emmentaler and Gruyere cheese
1 ½ cups white wine
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. butter
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp apple juice
½ tsp salt
Dash pepper

Crusty French bread cut into cubes
Fondue pot and fondue forks

Shred cheeses and set aside. Mix corn starch and apple juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside

In a stock pot (5 Qt), simmer wine, garlic, butter, nutmeg and lemon juice until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add cheeses 1/3 at a time while stirring with a wooden spoon (use a back and forth motion do not stir in round circles) until cheese is melted. Stir in the corn starch mixture
Pour into a fondue pot 

Make 4 cups (serves about 4-6 people) 

About the Author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at for more delicious tips.

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