Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Food, The Food!

We're one week and one day away from Christmas!

My impulse is to start craving the food I associate with the holidays, some of the foods I've known and loved since I was a little girl.

The Old:

Cottage cheese pie~~Even thinking about this pie warms my stomach, my emotions, my heart. I see the pies sitting on the stove where my mother placed them to cool. They never lasted long--maybe a day or two at most. My Grandma Zobrist brought this pie recipe from Switzerland.

Pomegranates~~The holiday fruit! The bright red tendrils were ordered by Santa himself. Pomegranate bushes grew well in Las Vegas and Mom always had this fruit through the holidays. It must be a part of my food DNA too.

Cherry Rice:~~Mom brought this recipe home from Denmark after visiting her brother. It's slow cooked rice in whole milk, then chilled and mixed with cream, almonds, and cherries. My sisters and I were wee little ones when she started making a big batch and placing it in a decorative glass bowl. The white, white rice and cream contrasts so beautifully with the bright red cherries. It's the quintessential snow-white and red combo of the season.

Grandma M's carmel cookie balls~~I knew I was marrying into the right family that first Christmas when I tasted these cookies. There has never been a Christmas when my dear mother-in-law has not made these cookies. She starts with a shortbread type cookie dough, wraps it around a walnut, carmel-ly nougat, cooks the cookie, then dips the cookie in caramel and nuts. Heaven!

Gingerbread: One year Mom went to Relief Society workday and was introduced to making gingerbread houses. Mom's artistic flare and the possibilities of houses and even villages was ignited! For a hundred years, Mom made gingerbread houses for everyone. Each morning I awoke to the aroma of fresh gingerbread. After Mom cut the pattern for the walls, roof, door and trim, there were leftover scraps for dipping in milk. I love the smell of gingerbread.

The person who got the biggest kick out of those houses was...Dad. Mom made them for his colleagues. Those gingerbread houses graced the tables of hotel magnates and the janitors at Dad's warehouse. He used to have the biggest grin as he carried another one out the door.

My little sister with gingerbread houses in the background~1969

This year one of Tony's teaching assistants brought him a miniature gingerbread house. Its construction is rather simple compared to Mom's past creations, but the minute I smelled it, I was back in childhood Christmas land again. I placed the house on my nightstand, and last night I woke up several times to the smell. I loved it, but it's not worth waking in the night.

I'm so excited about this year's food, I've thought of publishing (for my children) a schedule of what I'm going to be making each day, with an invitation to join me for the specific food celebration. Fortunately, I've narrowed the foods down to three. Or four.

The New: A few years ago, Christmas in Kauai, a daughter discovered toffee macadamia nuts. Since Mom loves spending her birthday in Hawaii, it's become a tradition. I haul a dozen bags back for family and friends. I had to hide them this year to keep Tony from opening a bag.

Hidden away in my pajama drawer

For at least five years, our new Christmas Eve dinner tradition includes Kung Pao chicken (I pick out the chicken). Christmas day is nachos with jalapeno cheese sauce based on a recipe from Miguel's on Coronado Island.

Each year, I like to add a new delight and it either passes the test or not. So many dishes have gone by the wayside, mostly because there's not enough Christmas days to eat all the celebratory food the world has to offer. So we've said good bye to eggs Benedict, Kris Kringle coffee cake, because it never turned out like it used to, and sugar cookies I like to save for Valentine's Day. Crepes have moved to anytime of the year because I love crepes!

This year, I'm quite curious about a New York Times Thanksgiving recipe for a grape dish...yes really, and will add the Four Seasons Meyer Lemon Ricotta Cheese Pancakes. Yum, can't wait! I've included the recipe in case you're feeling Christmas-food-tradition adventurous too!

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 c. ricotta cheese
  • 8 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon zest (about two lemons)
  1. Pre-heat griddle on medium low.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. With a rubber spatula fold the dry ingredients into the ricotta mixture.
  3. In another mixing bowl beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold half the egg whites into the ricotta mixture, then fold in the rest of the egg whites until just combined. The egg whites will lighten the mixture.
  4. Melt 1 Tbsp. of butter on griddle heated to medium low. Pour the batter onto the griddle. I used a 1/4 c. measuring cup for this.
  5. Cook pancakes for 4-5 minutes, or until the tops begin to bubble and the undersides are nicely browned. Flip and cook the other side for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Dust with powdered sugar!

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