Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Goodies

Karen: It's that time of the year when it seems like food is everywhere. People bring goodies to work, there's stuff at home, there are parties and other activities where food is around. So let's discuss favorite holiday food and treats.

Karen: Who doesn't love a good, juicy turkey? And yet, preparing that bird so that it comes out just right is no easy task. I recall my parents getting up repeatedly Christmas Eve to tend to the turkey as it sat in the oven, the tantalizing aroma permeating the house. They would be a bit bleary-eyed the next day, but it was worth it when the turkey came out plump and moist. And the stuffing! I personally prefer the stuffing made inside the bird; I think it has more flavor. I have to admit, my own efforts at making a great turkey have been hit or miss, and most of the time, it's just me and my hubby, so we're content to buy a pre-cooked turkey breast, and that's fine. One thing I don't get is the deep-fried turkey. Not only does it seem like it would not taste as good as a slow-cooked oven  turkey, it seems dangerous. Don't believe me? Just listen to what William Shatner has to say about it:

Karen: I already mentioned tamales in our winter wonderland thread, so I won't expound any further on them here, but  come on - meat, corn meal? What's not to like?

Karen: Of course sweets are a big part of this time of year too. One of my favorites is the chocolate orange. Not only does it combine two great tastes -chocolate and orange, duh - but it gives you the visceral thrill of whacking it hard on a counter to break it open. That's nearly as good as a pinata, which is another holiday pleasure for those of us raised out west. 

Karen: My Mom used to make a ton of cookies when I was little. I really liked the snickerdoodles, which had cinnamon, and of course sugar cookies were great because we got to decorate them. But I also enjoyed snowballs, which were almost more salty than sweet (keep it clean). She also made divinity, which I can only describe as solidified corn syrup -it was mind-numbingly sweet -I could never eat it now. But I loved it back in the day. I've never been a big one for traditional flavors like peppermint or gingerbread, and you can keep your eggnog to yourself, thanks. But I'll gladly take a thermos of hot chocolate when I go looking at neighborhood decorations.

Karen: So -what are your favorite goodies this time of year?


Redartz said...

Cookies, cookies, cookies; it's all about the cookies! Family tradition has my wife making her incredible sugar cookies in a dozen different shapes, and the rest of us decorating and icing them. And, of course, testing our work by devouring some.

To finish off a winter's day, there's nothing like a hot cup of tea; cinnamon or mint (sorry Karen) are fine, but I also love getting a variety sampler as a gift so each night can feature a new flavor...

dbutler16 said...

I would definitely take turkey over ham or any other Christmas meat.
Cookies would be the other big traditional Christmas food for me (maybe red and green M&M's too).
I love chocolate, and certainly Christmas is yet another excuse to eat extra chocolate, but I HATE the chocolate orange (sorry Karen) and in fact, while I love chocolate and like fruit, I hate the mixing of chocolate and fruit together. Just because two things are wonderful does not mean they belong together. Give me nuts, peanut butter, caramel, nougat, butterscotch, coconut, or rice with my chocolate, but please keep my chocolate and fruit separate!

Doug said...

For several years, on my wife's side of the family, we went through a trend of not doing a big all-the-trimmings Christmas dinner but instead filled ourselves up on all different kinds of hors d'oeuvres. The dessert menu was about as gluttoness (is that a word?). This year my family is hosting and we're doing a more traditional meal.

Of course, watching the smaller kids open their gifts is still the best part of it all.


david_b said...

For years my wife and I made chocolate covered peanut butter balls, using confectionary chocolate bark and frozen PB balls, all homemade. Typically we made 400-500 over a 3-day period (evenings..). Yeah it was hard to crank up our assembly line, and my back would be sore after standing over the stove top those evenings, but we gave them out as presents to siblings and co-workers.

My old favorites..? Yep, old fashion fruitcake. VERY hard to find, but starting to come back into vogue now.

Doug said...

David, fruitcake will NEVER be in vogue in my house -- the ULTIMATE Christmas YUCK! My mother, however, loves it. I recall vividly the time when I was around 4 years old and she asked me to try a bit. As you can tell, I've been scarred for life by the experience!

So you can have my portion, brother. Enjoy!


Edo Bosnar said...

Not big into (pepper)mint myself, and you're on the same wavelength as my wife, Sanja, about chocolate and orange (personally not my favorite, but I can like it well enough).
As to other sweets, here in Croatia there is an entire rainbow of different types of pastries, cookies and other sweets that are prepared for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. My favorites are one that, loosely translated, is called 'white pie', but is actually a fluffy cake with vanilla frosting, served in little bite-sized pieces, and something that is basically cross between an applie pie and apple strudel: it looks like strudel, but the dough is thicker and chewier, like a pie crust. And there's a ton of different types of chocolate pastries combined with all kinds of fruits and/or nuts.
I'm also with you on the turkey, but since there's only two of us, we never bake the whole thing. Usually what we do is get one, or maybe two, turkey thighs and just slowly bake those - it's more than enough meat, and still quite tasty. Roasted goose (or duck) is popular here for both Xmas and New Year's dinner (which I love), and for the latter another popular choice is suckling pig (which I pretty much can't stand).
Another really popular winter holiday dish here, and throughout the Balkans, is called sarma: minced beef and pork, rice, and seasoning (salt, pepper, parsley, chopped garlic) wrapped into sour cabbage leaves and then cooked like a stew. It can be served with bread or mashed potatoes. I like this well enough, but the tradition here is to make a gigantic pot full of it (to feed all those relatives and guests), and I have to admit, after having it for at least one meal a day for a few days in a row, I get a bit tired of it...
And since it came up in another thread, there's nothing better than washing it down with an ice-(and I mean almost freezing) cold glass of Coca-Cola - forget the wine and/or beer that everyone here prefers. I prefer my tea (Indian black) in the morning or (green) in the afternoons, not in combination with any meals.

Bruce said...

This may just be a Southern thing, but does anyone else like sausage balls? Very simple recipe - breakfast sausage, bisquick and shredded cheddar cheese, mixed together and baked. A holiday favorite in my family!

And I'm with Edo - nothing beats an ice-cold Coke with your holiday goodies.

Doug said...

Does anyone, speaking of drinks, enjoy a warm cup of spiced apple cider? My wife has a recipe that includes the cider, a few orange slices, a teabag-sized net of spices, and a couple of cinnamon sticks. Simmered for about an hour before consumed, it's a great warm-me-up!


Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, I love warm apple cider (also the cold variant during the summer), as well as cooked wine, white or red - and yes, spiced with cinnamon, cloves and lemon or orange slices. Another favorite is cooking up a pot of black tea (Assam or Orange Pekoe) with lemon rinds.

david_b said...

Well, Doug, you have to have GOOD FRUITCAKE, not that cheap brick stuff they doled out years ago. Like most snack cake treats, their shelf life lasted a half century or so.

Actually, toasted with butter, it's pretty good. Just an old-fashion guy, I guess.

Living in Germany for a few years, I got to really enjoy 'gluwein' on those cold shopping days walking around the downtown areas.. Such a delightful wine/cider treat.

Yes, Edo, I mentioned the Coke previously. Like Nancy Sinatra said once, it's always been her favorite drink and I see why.

Another Christmas tradition is going over to the home of one of my Mom's siblings and it's that ONE tradition you have to attend or it's 'just not christmas', y'know..? My aunt there is 100% polish, so the kelbasa flows like manna from heaven. ALL the cookies, ALL the treats, ALL the family (now with kids who you NEVER know 'em by name anymore..). When I was in Germany or Kuwait over Christmas, I'd be the one calling there, then the phone would be passed around to everyone. Close families are wonderful.

Rip Jagger said...

Love the fruitcake.

I don't treat myself too often, once a year is enough. But I like it good.

I was turned onto for real it when several years ago my wife and girls knowing I always had some little bit of it ordered a really good one from Gethesmene Monastery. It was awesome.

I then moved it onto a shelf to save for later and promptly forgot about it for a year. Thinking I might have wasted it when I rediscovered it, I tried it and it was even more awesome.

It's expensive (for me anyway) but so very very good.

Here's a link:

Rip Off

Doug said...

Rip, I can recall a time in high school when we went into the football locker room for the first time that year. A track athlete had left a cheeseburger on the shelf of one of the lockers back in May. Yeah, it didn't have the same shelf life as your fruitcake -- it was covered in green hair-looking mold!

So I'm thinking fruitcakes would have been required stocking in all of those bomb shelters built back in the 1950's, huh? Because people just didn't know how long they might have to be down in those things...


Tony said...

My mom makes Nanaimo bars, mmm good. Something that I will miss this year are my grandmother's chocolate rum balls, since she passed away in October. She used to make the most awesome treats. And shrimp rings..yummy. Of course Bailey's and coffee is always good.

david_b said...

Are chocolate rum balls similar to Chef's Chocolate salty balls..?

Ah, a hot Baileys and coffee after a morning of heavy snow shovelling.

Nothing beats it.

J.A. Morris said...

My favorite Holiday junk foods are probably homemade cookies (my mother & I are making some this weekend) and Reindeer Corn:

William said...

Nothing says Christmas to me like Tollhouse Cookies baby!!!

Karen said...

wow, put up a post about food and everybody comes a runnin'!

I will forgive DButler for expressing hatred for the chocolate orange because otherwise he's been a swell guy. But I'm watching you now.

Actually I also like to have Pillsbury orange danish on Christmas morning -that was a tradition in my family and I started it up again a few years ago as it reminds me of my late mother.

Coke goes with everything, seeing as how it's the perfect drink, and another tradition of ours is to get some of the little glass bottles of Coke to have for Christmas eve.

I'm with Doug on fruitcake. Keep it far, far away!

humanbelly said...

Boy, the good posts always happen on my "busy" days!

First of all, really nice, engagingly-written post there, Karen. It reads very much like a commentary-type reminiscence from a magazine or Sunday newspaper supplement. (And I mean that in the best possible sense-!)

Man, so many terrific food-oriented traditions out there with all you folks! Liking the international contributions a lot, too-- this is very cool.

Those that know the HB household from other venues know that chocolate always has a prominent role in our treat-choices-- and the holds true on Christmas as well. But we are definitely laden w/ a bajillion food traditions across the board-!

My wife always makes these UNBEARABLY labor-intensive fruitcake cookies that she gives to the mailman, the neighbors, friends, etc. We always make sugar cookies that we frost and decorate by hand. Christmas Eve dinner has always been a fantastic Roast Beef w/ creamed pearl onions on the side-- and a rich chocolate bundt cake for dessert. Christmas morning invariably has different folks filling each others' stockings w/ (mostly) dark chocolate treats (we do that 'cause my Mom, who is supposed to NOT eat chocolate, doesn't like the dark stuff at all.). The dark chocolate oranges, oh my Sainted Moses, Karen, those are the BEST thing ever. . . and I can't find them in the DC area anymore!! With the stockings, we always have homemade nutmeg muffins and oranges & maybe boiled eggs. EVERY year under the tree one of my "gifts" is a tin full of potato chips that HBWife & HBGirl have hand-coated w/ chocolate. Always a big, fine, locally-raised turkey dinner on Christmas Day.

And those are just the food traditions! The "stuff we do" traditions would make up an entire chapter of a book. Amazingly, all of these things have developed w/in the span of our own immediate family unit. . .and woe be to the parent or individual that might consider altering or possibly omitting one--! Even as the kids are getting grown up, one can see that these things represent a kind of a foundation for happy memories, and provide a surprising amount of comfort and affirmation.

Man, it's a lot of work, though- let me tell ya-!


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