Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Traditions, Recipes and A Special Request

Holidays | Christmas | Gingerbread House

Christmas: Recipes and Traditions

The celebration of Christmas takes place on December 25th every year. It commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, whom Christians consider the Son of God and Savior of mankind. Favorite Christmas traditions include exchanging gifts with family and friends, lighting and decorating Christmas trees, singing carols, drinking eggnog and baking all manner of sweets and treats.

Favorite Christmas Treats Around the World


(Mexican warm cornmeal beverage)
Beverages | Atole ImageAtole (ah-TOH-lay) is an ancient Mexican beverage with origins in pre-Columbian times. Similar warm drinks, thickened with cornmeal, are found throughout Central America and are especially popular for breakfast. Mexican atole is traditional atdia de los muertos celebrations, and it's chocolate version, champurrado, is popular at Christmastime. The consistency of atole varies anywhere from almost porridge-like to a thin, pourable drink. 

Baked Country Ham

(American Southern roasted ham)
Meats | Country Ham ImageCountry hams are an old tradition in the American South. Fresh pork legs are salt-cured, sometimes smoked, and then dry aged for several months. Because the meat can be very salty, country hams must be soaked in water for a time to remove excess salt. Baked country ham is the perfect centerpiece for any family celebration. Leftovers are great for breakfast with red-eye gravy or served as a sandwich in buttermilk biscuits.


(American fish and seafood stew)
Fish | CioppinoThis tomatoey fish stew is perhaps the iconic San Francisco dish. Italian fishmongers in North Beach developed a flavorful broth studded with the best of the day's catch. The name most likely comes from the Italian dialect word ciuppin, for "to chop." But at Fisherman's Wharf, a favorite story you hear is that Italian cooks would ask fishermen to "chip in" to that day's pot. 


Ingredients | Coconut Image(Puerto Rican coconut-rum beverage)
Coquito is a popular Christmas beverage in Puerto Rico. It has similarities to American eggnog, but the use of creme de coco or coconut milk gives it a unique island flavor. A version with eggs, known asponche crema, is a favorite in Venezuela.

Cranberry Pudding

Desserts | Cranberry Pudding Image(American steamed Christmas pudding)
This steamed pudding is popular on the American Christmas table. Flame it with rum and serve it with eggnog sauce for an extra treat. 

Cranberry Sauce

(American cranberry condiment)
Sauces | Cranberry Sauce ImageCranberry sauce is an essential part of any American Thanksgiving meal. Many families serve it for Christmas dinner too. Some people have to have cranberry sauce in the shape of a tin can; others prefer this more naturalistic version. A less sweet cranberry sauce is served with game birds in northern Europe. Don't limit cranberry sauce to the holidays. Cranberries are a "superfruit" with amazing antioxidant qualities. Use as a side dish at summer picnics or as a spread on your favorite sandwich. 

Desserts | Dresdner Stollen ImageDresdner Stollen

(German Christmas fruitcake)
Dresdner Stollen is the famous fruitcake from Dresden that is sold throughout Germany during the Christmas holiday season. Stollen is made from a rich yeast dough mixed with candied fruit and almonds. Loaves are folded to symbolize the Christ child in swaddling clothes. 


Beverages | Eggnog(American egg and cream Christmas beverage)
Although descended from European winter restorative beverages, or "noggins," eggnog is an American invention that appeared in the late 1700s. Over the years, this rich and creamy drink, spiked with rum, has become an American Christmas tradition. 

Gingerbread Men Cookies

(English spiced Christmas cookies)
Desserts | Gingerbread Men CookiesSpiced breads have been popular in Europe reaching back to the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks. Germans have their lebkuchen and gingerbread houses. The English have traditionally shaped ginger-scented dough into men, animals and Father Christmas for the holidays. This recipe is always a favorite with kids. 


(Norwegian potato flatbread)
Breads | LefseLefse is a flatbread from Norway — similar to a flour tortilla or chapati — that is generally made with a potato-based dough and grilled on a flat griddle. Traditionally lefse is rolled out with a grooved rolling pin that prevents air pockets and is turned with a special wooden paddle. Lefse is not as common in Norway as it once was, but it has retained its popularity among Norwegian Americans, who often serve it around the holidays. Variations include hardangerlefse, or krotekaker, made with wholewheat flour and dried for long storage. 

Ingredients | Cinnamon ImageMulled Wine

(English spiced wine)
Mulled wine, as this warm spiced wine is known in England, is popular throughout northern Europe around Christmas. In France this warming winter beverage is known as vin chaud, in Italy as vin brûlé. Germans drink Glühwein. The Swedish name for it isglögg. 

Breads | Nacatamales, TiedNacatamales

(Honduran, Nicaraguan meat and vegetable-filled tamales)
Nacatamales, are popular steamed corncakes from Nicaragua and Honduras. They are similar to Mexican tamales but are larger, filled with meat and vegetables and steamed in banana leaves.Nacatamales are special occasion food and are most often served as a Sunday morning meal or at Christmas, weddings and other large celebrations. 

Soups | Oyster Stew ImageOyster Stew

(American shellfish stew)
This soup is delicious in its simplicity. Oyster stew is a traditional Christmas Eve dish in some American households, a custom said to have originated with Irish immigrants. 

Pan de Jamón

(Venezuelan ham, raisin and olive bread)
Breads | Pan de JamonPan de jamón is a traditional Venezuelan Christmas bread, but you can enjoy it any time of the year. A sweet, soft dough is rolled up around savory ham, sweet raisins and pimento-stuffed olives. The result is like a gift from heaven. 

Breads | Pasteles ImagePasteles

(Puerto Rican savory cakes in banana leaves)
Pasteles are Puerto Rican special occasion food. The whole family usually gets together assembly-line-style to make large numbers of these starchy parcels and get them ready for the boiling pot. No Boricuan Christmas is complete without pasteles.


(Australian meringue with whipped cream and fruit)
Desserts | PavlovaBoth Australia and New Zealand lay claim to the birthplace of this heavenly dessert, created to honor the great Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova during her visit in the 1920s. Often called "pav" for short, it is a baked meringue, crispy on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside, that is spread with whipped cream and topped with fresh fruit. Pavlova is a favorite for Aussie Christmases, and in New Zealand, it is often a stand-in for birthday cake. 

Ingredients | Wild Turkey ImagePavo Salvadoreño

(Salvadoran roast turkey with sauce)
Pavo, or turkey, is a popular Christmas meal in El Salvador. Salvadoran immigrants to the U.S. often serve it for Thanksgiving as well. The Salvadoran version of roast turkey has a variety of vegetables and spices that are roasted along with the turkey in the roasting pan. This tasty mixture is then pureed and served as a rich sauce to accompany the turkey. Cold leftover slices of turkey with a little sauce are served in sandwiches called pavo con pan. 


(Mexican pork and hominy stew)
Soups | Pozole ImagePozole is a special occasion dish in Mexico, especially in Guerrero State. Restaurants called pozoleríasspecialize in it. This dish is a well known cure for hangovers and is often eaten in the wee hours of the morning as a preventive. Pozole is also popular in New Mexico, where it is usually spelled posole.

Meats | Roast Prime Rib ImageRoast Prime Rib

(English roast rib of beef)
Originally an English Sunday dinner made with a cheap cut of meat, prime rib these days is more often a special occasion meal made with top-quality cuts. It is commonly served in American steak houses or on buffets, often from a cart where it is carved to order. Yorkshire pudding is the traditional accompaniment to roast prime rib. Other favorite side dishes include baked potatoes, Brussels sprouts or creamed onions. 

Poultry | Roast Turkey ImageRoast Turkey with Pan Gravy

(American holiday turkey)
So central is turkey to American Thanksgiving that the holiday is often referred to as Turkey Day. This two-step roasting method  produces a golden brown turkey with moist breast meat. Roasting the turkey breast-side down forces juices into the white meat of the breast that would otherwise dry out. Roast turkey is a also a traditional main course for an English Christmas dinner. 

Desserts | RumtopfRumtopf

(German rum-soaked fruit dessert)
Begun in the spring, boozy Rumtopf, or "rum pot," is a German Christmastime favorite. Fresh seasonal fruits are sweetened with sugar, layered in a pot and soaked with rum. New fruit is added as it comes into season. The luxurious results are enjoyed as a holiday dessert. 

Sorrel Punch

(Jamaican hibiscus flower beverage)
Beverages | Dried Sorrel FlowersSorrel punch is a traditional Christmas beverage in the Caribbean. Dried hibiscus flowers — known as sorrel in Jamaica and not to be confused with the pungent green — can be found in most Caribbean or Latin markets. In Latin markets hibiscus flowers are known as jamaica, and so is the beverage. In West Africa the flowers are known as roselle or bissap and in Nigeria the drink is called zobo. 

Stekt Gås

(Swedish roast Christmas goose with pan gravy)
Poultry | Stekt GåsRoast goose is a favorite Christmas dish in many countries. This version, with its apple stuffing, comes from Sweden. Unlike other poultry, all goose flesh is dark meat and roasts up like a lean roast beef. Geese are fatty birds, like ducks, but prepared correctly the meat won't be at all greasy. The typical goose serves just 4 to 6 people, so for large parties, roast two or more. A bonus with roast goose is its crispy skin — a special treat.

Tamales de Pollo

(Mexican steamed corncakes with chicken)
Breads | Tamales de Pollo ImageTamales are a staple of Central American cuisine. At their simplest, they are masa corn dough wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves and steamed in a large pot — the tamalera. Most tamales have some sort of stuffing. There are thousands of varieties of tamales, and each region has its own specialty. This simple recipe makes tamales stuffed with chicken in tomatillo sauce. Feel free to experiment with your own stuffings. 


(French Canadian pork pie)
Meats | TourtiereWhen the French migrated to the wilderness of Quebec, they brought with them their favorite recipes from home. Tourtière was one of those recipes. These savory meat pies are traditionally served at Christmastime accompanied by homemade tomato ketchup and pickled beets. There is no one true recipe. Each family has their own version passed down over time. 

Yorkshire Pudding

(English savory puff pudding)
Breads | Yorkshire Pudding ImageYorkshire pudding is the traditional accompaniment to a roast prime rib dinner. Popular not just in Yorkshire but throughout England, Yorkshire pudding was traditionally made by pouring the batter into a roasting pan and cooking it along with the meat. Baking it in the same pan after the roast has been removed captures all of the flavor, but lets you cut out a lot of the fat. Yorkshire pudding is often topped with a gravy or pan jus.

In my family, our typical holiday meal is a wonderful turkey, a ham (usually a Honeybaked ham), traditional stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and veggies. Along with that, we also have several desserts and cookies. The turkey is the favorite in my home. It is a closely guarded secret of my husbands. Everyone wants the invite so they may have the turkey.
We usually begin our day with Egg Strata. If you have not had this, it is a must try, in my opinion. It basically an egg and bread base and most people add a meat (such as breakfast sausage). We use 1 pound of breakfast sausage and 1 pound of bacon.
The rest of the day we graze on appetizers. We have a crock pot set up with cocktail weenies in BBQ sauce. That has always been a favorite of the kids’. We have another crockpot setup with a cheese dip and tortilla chips, corn chips and crackers, as well as a crudite tray and we always have a batch of Bacon-Wrapped Cocktail Sausages. I am sharing the recipe for this below.

I have a special request. I would love for everyone to share their favorite cookie recipe and any tips for the cookies. I would love to know how far in advance you start and the best way to freeze, refrigerate,etc.

Bacon-Wrapped Cocktail Sausages

We serve these treats on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. This is a family favorite!
Bacon-Wrapped Cocktail Sausages

1 14-oz. package Lit'l Smokies
1 12-oz. package lean,quality bacon
3/4 c. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (I wouldn't skip this. It helps keep the mess to a minimum). Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut  bacon into thirds.

Wrap 1/3 of each slice of bacon around each sausage and secure with a toothpick and place on the baking sheet.

Repeat with remaining sausages and bacon. Sprinkle brown sugar over sausages.

Bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes or until bacon has cooked and is starting to brown.


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