How We Holiday
As we gather for the holidays, we're taking time to reflect on our holiday traditions and those of our friends in the Allrecipes community.
Allrecipes Allstars Share Their Holiday Traditions
The holidays mean so much to our diverse community of home cooks. And the season really begins with baking. No surprise, right? When the leaves start to scatter from the trees and the weather turns chilly, Allrecipes bakers fire up their ovens, tie on the holiday aprons, and let the baking begin. Cookies and cakes, quick breads and pies, "Holidays are the time for baking!" says Kim, an Allrecipes Allstar.
This year, loads of holiday cookies will be travelling by mail to far-flung locations or being hand-delivered to the doors of grateful friends in the neighborhood.
Kim sets into baking early. "We bake all kinds of Christmas cookies to send through the mail, and to give as gifts. We also make gingerbread houses every year. There's usually a theme, and we work together to make all kinds of gingerbread creations corresponding to that year's theme. It's become a fun holiday party, and is now a tradition."
Family traditions shine bright at the holidays. For fabeveryday, the highlight of the holidays has always been making pasteles with her family. "When we have the chance to get together with my parents' side of the family, the best part is making pasteles together," she says. "Pasteles are a Puerto Rican version of a tamales made with plantains and yuca (instead of corn masa)."
It doesn't take long to slip into the familiar comforts of family. Like tamales, pasteles are a little labor intensive, so preparing them is a team sport. "It's a family affair the night before the big meal," says fabeveryday. "And the assembly line process is always full of laughs and memories with our loved ones. The icing on the cake is that we get to eat these delicious Puerto Rican pasteles the next day and enjoy the fruits of our combined labor." Get fabeveryday's recipe for Pasteles a la Papa Cruz, along with how-to tips.
For Carol Castellucci Miller's family, the holidays are an Italian-inspired affair. "Holiday's are at my mom's house," says Carol. "She still does the Christmas Eve cooking. And it won't be the holidays unless we have homemade spaghetti. I tried to change it to homemade ravioli because I think they're better than homemade spaghetti. And there was a revolt from all of the grandchildren. Spaghetti and meatballs is one of the main staples."
As the hectic days bring us closer to the big day (or days), it's time to unleash the holiday's heavy hitters, the family standards, without which the holiday just isn't a holiday. For Lisa Lynn, the most essential holiday dish is simple enough. It's gravy. And lots of it. "Tons of gravy," she says. "There absolutely has to be gravy for weeks afterwards, and there has to be tons of leftovers. And just with the two of us, my husband still insists on an 18 to 20 pound turkey." She makes her homemade gravy totally from scratch with turkey drippings and cream and/or milk and Wondra flour. "No canned stuff, no packaged stuff."
Of course, a boatload of gravy requires ample amounts of mashed potatoes and stuffing or dressing. For Allrecipes Allstar CookingWithSheila, dressing was the go-to recipe that she learned to make growing up in Louisiana. "My mother sometimes made turkey dressing," says Sheila. "But we would also do a seafood dressing. She would put shrimp, crawfish, fresh crab meat, and then a red-eye gravy to go on top of it."
Most every family has a holiday tradition that centers around food. Sometimes it's one particular dish that absolutely positively has to be on the table or else the holiday's a bust. The dish doesn't need to be fancy or extravagant either, just comforting...and meaningful. Allrecipes Allstar Angela Sackett has a couple rotating holiday must-have dishes: Her grandma's famous mac-and-seven-cheeses and..."the Pink Stuff."
If you know what the Pink Stuff is, you might hail from the South or the Midwest. "It's this crazy weird combination of Jell-O and Cool Whip," Angela explains. "It can't even be real whipped cream, which just hurts my culinary soul. But you know, it's Jell-O, maraschino cherries, Cool Whip. Crushed pineapple out of the can."
Sometimes a favorite recipe sparks a brand new food tradition. Maybe it's something the kids crave and request. That's certainly the case with the Pink Stuff. "It wasn't something that I grew up eating," Angela says. "But my kids. You gotta have it."
When we say a holiday tradition doesn't need to be fancy or glamorous to delight, we mean it. Take Howard's holiday food tradition, for example. His family's must-have dish is…turnips. "First and foremost, it's turnips, believe it or not," he says. "We have a saying: 'Turnips once a year, like them or not.'"
For the kids, you can believe it's mostly not. But the tradition endures. Every year, the kids get a small serving of turnips. Polish off the turnips, and it's off to the races with the holiday roast and other true favorites.
Turnips may be an every year thing on Howard's holiday table. But there's also room for establishing new traditions, including Chef John's Tartiflette, a fancy French side dish, which has made the holiday menu for the past couple of years. "It's potatoes, sliced very thin, in a pie-type dish and you're adding brie on top. It is very fancy and beautiful with a roast."
Sometimes the holidays offer a hodge-podge of comforting, savory delights — great for casual entertaining or watching holiday movies in the holly-patterned pajamas. "Christmas eve, I always make deep-fried Italian rice balls with marinara sauce and have a pot of cocktail sausages in BBQ sauce going" says LaDonna. "We also love Velveeta queso and onion dip with chips. Christmas morning is always tons of coffee and sweet orange rolls!"
The holidays can also be a time to splurge a little on something fancy or to prepare a dish that's more complicated than the typical meal. A time to get creative in the kitchen! "We often do seafood like sea bass or lobster," says BitesWithApplewhite. "It's our time to splurge or try out a complicated recipe where we have time to devote to it. One year for Christmas I prepared a halibut with white wine beurre blanc sauce and it was delicious. I enjoy the holidays for the creativity I can have, and I'm always searching for how unique it can be compared to traditions."
The holidays can also be a time to go for broke and expand horizons. For BitesWithApplewhite, the holidays are a chance to explore new flavors. "We are a small family with only my Mother and myself gathering," she says, "so we take the opportunity to try different foods and cuisines. I like Thai and Chinese foods."
For Diana71, a New Year's celebration isn't complete without a feast of her favorite Okinawan recipes. "I will prepare traditional Japanese foods called osechi-ryouri to welcome the year," says Diana. "I am from Okinawa, an island prefecture of Japan, and our New Years foods will include an Okinawan soba noodle dish made with a pork and dashi broth, small oranges called mikans, a shredded daikon and carrot side salad, rice balls (onigiri) with a pickled plum in the center, various sushi rolls, and a stewed sweetened red azuki bean dish with sticky rice flour dumplings (called mochi dango). These New Years foods carry symbolism for the New Year, and my favorite to make and eat will be the soba dish because long noodles symbolize long life ahead!"
Holiday traditions take us from turnips to tartiflette, pasteles to pasta sauce — we celebrate the season in innumerable ways. What we've seen here is just a small slice of how we holiday, of course, from a few of us in the Allrecipes community — home cooks, sharing and exploring our recipes together, and doing the holidays a little differently each of us. And no matter how you choose to celebrate yours, have a Happy Holidays!
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