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The Holidays: Where Food and Tradition Make Memories

Posted on December 20th, 2014 by | 3 views

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. The holidays are hectic, and cooking for the masses can cause stress during what is supposed to be a joyful time. A pot luck dinner party is a fantastic way to ease some of the holiday kitchen tension. It’s simple to plan because everyone helps out with the cooking and cleaning!

Setting a theme for your pot luck will give your guests cooking ideas when planning what to bring to the party.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.

A MyPlate theme is a great way to get a nicely balanced fun and healthy dinner. Some of your guests may not be familiar with MyPlate, so this is a great opportunity to share your excitement about eating foods from each food group. 

For your MyPlate pot luck theme, simply assign each person to bring a food that represents one of the five food groups; vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins and dairy.  Include all the courses in your menu when you are planning the dinner. Examples: You can ask the person making the appetizer to use vegetables or dairy and ask the person making the dessert to use fruit. Assign people to make side dishes with grains and/or vegetables and the main course can be protein.

Be sure to let your guests know how much food to prepare based on the number of dishes each guest is making. For example, if two people are making soup and you have 10 people coming to the party, ask each soup cook to make enough for five people.

To limit kitchen chaos when guests start arriving with dishes, keep it simple by setting the dinner up buffet style. Create place cards on your buffet table showing where you want dishes to be placed. Be sure to have counter, stove and oven space available for the folks who will need last minute prep time. For a special touch, have garnishes on hand to dress up the dishes.  Parsley sprigs, lemon wedges and mint leaves are versatile garnishes.

Here is a sample menu from the Fresh Baby recipe files:
Appetizer – (fruit dairy): Stuffed Dates
Soup – (vegetable): Butternut Squash & Roasted Garlic Soup
Salad – (vegetable): Kale Salad with Lemon Dressing
Main Course – (protein, whole grain, vegetable): Teriyaki Salmon with Gingered Vegetable Brown Rice
Dessert –(dairy, fruit, grains): Maple Apple Graham Crisp with vanilla ice cream

To make your pot luck memorable for your guests, ask everyone to bring recipe cards for the dish they are preparing.  Give your kids a fun art project by asking them to decorate envelopes or small boxes to hold the recipe cards and send each family home with a mini cookbook.  

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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