It won’t be long before we bid the old 2016 farewell, and wish a hearty welcome to the new 2017. More often than not this transitioning period is characterized by making new life resolutions and promises for self-improvement and achieving seemingly unattainable goals.
And while you cannot predict what the New year holds, there are certain old customs and traditions that have managed to withstand the test of time. What’s more, they remained deeply embedded in the spirit and psyche of different cultures up until today.
These traditions vary from burning bonfires of Christmas trees on the streets (in the Netherlands) to wearing polka dots (in the Philippines) but for the sake of brevity we are going to narrow our list down to only food-related traditions.
This South American country can boast of having the world’s largest salt flats, Salar de Uyuni and a very interesting New Year’s tradition. Putting coins into cakes and pastries is a common practice in Bolivian homes and the person whose piece contains the coin will be the luckiest one that year.
If you want to implement this as your new tradition, choose one of the many delicious cake and pie recipes from our website, wrap the coin in a foil prior to adding it to the cake and see who is going to be the luckiest in your family.
Another South American country with yet another very interesting New Year’s tradition. Similar to that of the Bolivians, Chileans place a golden ring instead of a coin, and they place it in champagne rather than in cakes, but the idea is the same: ensuring a prosperous year. Another custom that is believed to lead to a successful year is eating lentils when the clock strikes midnight. (Not a bad tradition at all, but let’s face it, the midnight kiss is a way better idea :)).
In the American South, or the old Dixie land, the meal that is typically eaten on New Year’s Day is black-eyed peas. And while one would expect barbecue or alligator meat to be on the menu, eating black-eyed peas is believed to ensure a prosperous year.
Eating meager food is mainly recognized as an act of showing humility, but some also associate this custom with the Civil War. Namely, General Sherman’s Union troops left only the peas (and salted pork) behind, as they were apparently not worthy of them.
But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so The Confederates saw the peas as a means to survive the winter, hence the association of black-eyed peas with good luck.
And while the origins of this tradition are vague, it surely is one that Americans like to observe, and this year you should go for our New Year’s Black-eyed Peas.
Everything that comes from the country of love and fashion must be extravagant. And this goes for their New Year’s Eve celebration as well. The French celebrate the new start with a special feast, called Le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre, translating to Saint Sylvester’s Day. It is actually the celebration of the last day of the old year, rather than the beginning of the new one, but the important thing is they celebrate it with pancakes and foie gras, and of course so typically French, champagne. Good fortune and success are guaranteed to everyone attending the feast.
You can always find some interesting pancake ideas among our collection of Best American Pancakes – Quick, Easy and Delicious Recipes.
Greeks are famous for their love of smashing things. If you thought that plate smashing was the only unusual tradition, then hear this: As soon as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, Greeks smash a pomegranate on the floor just in front of the door. The purpose of this tradition is to break the pomegranate open and see how many seeds are there. They are symbolic of good luck and prosperity, so the old saying less is more doesn’t apply here. The more seeds, the luckier the year!
And while at the topic of smashing and throwing things, an ancient Irish custom is to bang loaves of bread on the walls of the house. The action itself was believed to have the power of chasing evil spirits away from the house and its residents as well as inviting good spirits and good fortune in.
The New Year’s table at Dutch households may be as versatile as ever, but one thing it must include is a ring-shaped treat. Doughnuts or pancake rings are commonly consumed on New Year’s Day in the Netherlands and are symbolic of coming full circle, putting an end to an old year and welcoming the new one with wishes of success and prosperity.
If you too want to prepare a delicious dessert, we recommend the Krispy Kreme Sour Cream Doughnuts (Copycat). Doughnuts so scrumptious, eating them will be enough, and the luck they are believed to bring will be just a bonus.
Much like the French, the Scots have their own name, and take, on what the rest of the world calls New Year’s Eve. “Hogmanay”, as they call the 31st of December, has Viking origins and it goes back to the time when Norse invaders celebrated the winter solstice, by throwing parties in late December. The final result is a mix of various influences (some of the Gaelic Samhain winter festival and some of the Yule).
But the tradition we are more interested in is that of presenting friends and neighbors with shortbread.
So, if you have someone in your life that is of Scottish origin, go ahead and prepare some Funfetti Shortbread Bites decorated with red and green sprinkles, and spread the positive vibes.
The Alicante region of Spain is famous for growing grapes. And it was there that in 1909 this tradition started. Namely, this was a fruitful year and the grape growers wanted to find an interesting way of taking care of the grape surplus. So, prior to the clock chiming midnight in Spain, and later on, Portugal as well, people have to eat 12 grapes (one for each month of the year) with each strike of the clock as it hits midnight, thus ensuring 12 happy and successful months in the year to come. There are some other sub-traditions originating from this one. For instance, if the sixth grape is a bit sour, then June may not be your luckiest month. A very interesting tradition indeed.
The queen of the winter and the land of the Alps has a very interesting New Year’s tradition. Swiss people like to eat ice cream or whipped cream to welcome the New year. These dairy products are believed to represent the richness of the year to come, so after having a sweet treat, the Swiss always drop a small dollop on the floor and allow it to remain there.
Extra, What Foods to Avoid
There are also many superstitions tied to what not to consume on New Year’s day and eve. Lobsters, for instance, are considered not a very good idea because they swim backwards, and that’s not something you want to start your new year with. Along these lines is the belief that eating chicken would result in your luck “flying away”. Another thing you should avoid according to some, are white eggs since in the Chinese culture white is the color of death.
The fact that the above-listed food-related customs and superstitions made their way into modern times makes one ponder on whether there’s some truth to them. But be them true or not, preparing something delicious is always a good idea. Happy New Year!
The Season of festiveness is upon us, and it is high time we started embracing the true spirit of Christmas: Making the people we love happy.
And while we can always buy them the things we know they love, no over the top present or expensive wrapping can replace a genuine gesture or action. This is why this Christmas you should let your children join in the very preparation of your Christmas goodies, be them snacks or sweets, or beverages. This way they will feel like part of that adult world they can’t wait to go into (because no one told them it was a trap), and you will be bonding on a whole new level.
So, without any further ado, here are the options we have selected for you.
Start out with some easy snacks that don’t involve cooking or baking.
Sweet Christmas Snacks
Photo Credit: http://mominspiredlife.com
A great idea would be preparing reindeer out of pretzels, peanut butter, M&Ms and mini chocolate chips. Make sure you get some round crackers, or if you have the square ones in your pantry, don’t fret, place them in a diamond-like position prior to preparing your reindeer, and you are good to go.
It is as simple as ABC, just spread some peanut butter on top of the cracker, place a red M&M in the middle for Rudolph’s nose, or if you go for the diamond version place it in the bottom corner, and add the two mini chocolate chips or raisins to form the eyes. As for the antlers, place them on the two opposite sides and press gently for them to stick in the peanut butter, or add a drop of melted chocolate to act as a glue.
Photo Credit: http://www.leannebakes.com
An even simpler idea would be the one for strawberry Santa Clauses. But mind you, don’t go for a regular whipped cream stuffing, although it seems like a good idea it isn’t. Whipped cream alone is too thin to hold Santa’s “body” and “hat” together. A better option would be beating some cream cheese, honey and vanilla together because a mixture of these would have a tiny bit firmer texture that will hold the pieces together. These will surely trigger a smile on your children’s faces, and what’s more, they can easily put the “hats” above the stuffing, or decorate the Santas with mini chocolate chips for the eyes.
An alternative to the cream cheese would be a slice of banana in between the strawberry “body” and “hat”. If you opt for this version, decorate Santa’s eyes with two poppy seeds.
And if you want an all fruit Christmas version you can always make Grinch Kebabs. Prepare these by adding a green grape, a banana slice, and half a strawberry on a toothpick and finish everything up with a mini marshmallow. Grinch never looked so cute!
Salty Christmas Snacks
Make a salty Christmas snack by using some salty crackers and cheese. Choose your favorite type (mozzarella, cheddar, feta, taleggio) and cut it into triangular shapes. Cut some prosciutto into thin slices and add two slices to make them look like tinsels and then proceed to add a star tree topper made out of carrot slices. Chop some parsley and sprinkle on top. You will get a Christmas tree-looking cheese.
Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com
Another quick and easy savory snack would be one made by adding two pretzels on a cheese wedge and placing some olives or red peppers for the nose. Plate your reindeer cheese wedges together on a big tray or separately on individual crackers.
Baked Cookies in Christmas Shapes and Forms (a Great Base for Your Children to Get Creative)
Now, off to a tiny bit more complicated ideas. The important thing is to focus on the phrase “tiny bit”, so don’t worry, even not so experienced cooks can manage to prepare these.
If you want delicious cookies done in just an hour, then the Merry Christmas Cookies will surely be your cup of tea. You can prepare the dough, but let your kids use the holiday cutters and cut out all the different Christmas-y shapes. Go ahead and prepare the icing and put it into a pastry bag, then let your children do all the decorating. The fun is guaranteed.
And, if you want to have a healthy little Christmas, then you can go for a healthier recipe, like the one for the Soft and Chewy Paleo Gingerbread Men Cookies (grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free). Your children can play the part of the little old woman and enjoy the art of cutting the gingerbread men shapes and drawing some eyes, mouth, and buttons to make them come to life.
A not very complicated recipe, yet as delicious as ever, is the one for the Snowballs. Prepared with white cake mix these snowballs will not give you a hard time, and the best part is: your children will be able to use their imagination and ingenuity.
Photo Credit: http://mariahspleasingplates.com
For instance, you can turn these snowballs into snowmen. Melt some chocolate and give your kids toothpicks so that they can draw the eyes and mouth. You can always plate them in an interesting way, let’s say with some colorful sprinkles underneath them or some silver glitter on top. Use a Rolo chocolate candy for the snowman’s hat, or even some mini Reese’s butter cups turned upside down.
Maybe you want to prepare some crunchy sweet bites; We’ve got you covered. Go ahead and give the Christmas cornmeal cookies a try. Not only are these incredibly tasty, you and your children can prepare them in as many different forms as you can possibly think of. (Plus, you can always add some colored M&Ms to make your regular cookies way prettier).
Christmas Pancake Ideas
If you want a recipe that will be done in less than an hour and leaves a lot of space for experimenting in terms of decoration, then pancakes are the right choice for you.
Go for the Gingerbread pancakes or their vegan counterpart and once you’ve prepared them let the fun begin.
You can cut your pancakes into three different sizes, and stack them starting from the largest one, to the smallest one. Spread whipped cream on the first one, then go ahead and add the middle-sized one, apply whipped cream and finally place the smallest one. Using mini chocolate chips decorate the snowman’s face.
You can do the same with cream cheese frosting instead of the whipped cream, and if you do this melt some chocolate, get toothpicks and start bringing your snowman to life J.
As it turns out, whipped cream is the solution to everything J. Make your favorite pancakes and create Santa’s beard and hair using it. For the eyes, you can use anything, from M&Ms, to chocolate chips, to blueberries or raisins. The mouth can be made out of dry cranberries or sliced strawberries.
Photo Credit: http://sprinklesomefun.com
You can use the same technique of piling previously mentioned, only, this time, make several different sizes instead of just three. Using some food coloring or gelatin powder color your pancakes green and start stacking them. Sprinkle with some red and green sprinkles, or even go for a white glaze and silver glitter to represent snow.
Another alternative would be adapting the spiced ghost pancakes to a more season appropriate variant. Although If you are trying to recreate the Christmas Carol story, these will be a fitting choice as well. However, you can add a drop of green food coloring to the heavy whipped cream, use some colorful sprinkles and voila… you will get a Christmas tree on top of your pancake stack.
And, since we believe that the human ingenuity is endless, we encourage you to go ahead and check our pancake recipe collection – Best American Pancake Recipes – Quick, Easy and Delicious. Maybe you will get inspired to recreate one of the recipes and give it a Christmas-y twist.
Whichever of these ideas you opt for, be sure to include your kids in the whole process of preparing the food. Time spend with your family is a time well spent indeed. When prepared with your closest ones any outcome (even burnt cookies) will taste twice as delicious as it normally would.
Happy holidays to you all, and to all a merry Christmas!
Planning and managing a perfect Christmas dinner can be a true challenge. We all have too much on our hands, and yet we all want to decorate every single room in our house with festive decorations, amaze our family and friends with beautiful hand-made Christmas cards, cook the best food. It all looks so easy and simple when you see it online.
However, when it comes to hosting a Christmas get-together for family and friends, no one ever said it was easy and simple. That is why the first commandment for preparing a perfect Christmas dinner is: Write a plan!
Having a plan in written will relieve the stress and make you more efficient in the realization of what is actually a big party culminating with an over-the-top feast.
Your plan should comprise of a shopping list and a recipe list. It is wise to include a time plan for each recipe you’ll be cooking on the Christmas day. This will keep you calm and focused.
In order to draw up a shopping list you need to know two things:
- How you want to decorate your festive Christmas table
- What you want to cook
Let’s go step by step.
Perfect Christmas Table Decoration
3 weeks before Christmas
To make your Christmas dinner truly perfect, you need to decorate the table. It will contribute so much to the festive spirit. The golden rule is: keep it simple. Bear in mind that the table will be filled with plates, glasses, napkins, cutlery and food (and food can be decoration itself!), so you don’t have to over-do it.
You can arrange a very simple and effective centerpiece by filling a glass compote dish with fresh tangerines, pine boughs, and candles.
Another idea is to use Mason jars and fill them with salt (to represent snow), cranberries (or other berries, it’s all about the red color), juniper, or red and gold jingle bells. Line or group several of them at the center of the table.
Decorate the napkins on each guest’s plate with a DIY ring made with wide wired ribbon and jingle bells attached to it with hot glue. You can also add a name tag placed on a pine bough on each plate. Have your kids paint them in advance with golden paint and make sure they are well cleaned.
Once you have decided on what decoration you are going to use, make a shopping list. While you are at it, check the number of silverware elements, candles, and candlesticks and buy extra if necessary.
Perfect Christmas Dinner Menu
2 weeks before Christmas
Compose your menu and start crossing things out from your list by buying the non-perishables first.
Buy all the drinks, both booze and non-alcoholic beverages. Order the meat or buy the turkey and place it in the freezer. The advantage of buying in advance is double – you will avoid panic buying in crowded supermarkets, and obtain the products at lower prices. Another option is to order everything online and have it delivered whenever you find it appropriate, preferably the week before Christmas.
Buy and prepare everything that can be stored in the freezer until the day D. One such item is the turkey stuffing. Here are some other suggestions:
Patés are another easy and simple starter to store in the freezer.
- Christmas cake can be made months before Christmas and kept covered in the freezer. Try these recipes:
Christmas puddings can also be prepared weeks or months in advance. Try the Sticky Toffee Pudding or the Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Pudding, a rich and buttery mix of flavors, ready in no time.
While we are at the sweets compartment, you can also make and freeze mince pies. Make, cook, freeze and reheat them before serving.
1 week before Christmas
Now is the time to buy fresh food. This is the moment when the shopping list will be of a great use to you. To make it easier for you to navigate in the supermarket, divide the list into categories: meat, vegetables, dairy, and sweets.
Take the turkey (or any other meat you plan to cook) out of the freezer, salt it and place it the fridge. Turkey does need some time to defrost well, especially if it is a big one, usually two full days.
Everything that can be done on Christmas Eve, should be done. It will take most of the pressure off the following day and leave you some time to make yourself presentable. After all, you are the host-ess and you deserve to look and feel good! Maybe you will even have time for a glass of wine before the guests arrive!
- Defrost the turkey stuffing in the morning. Before you start preparing the turkey, check the inside for ice and use a fork to see if the meat is still frozen. Rinse it, pat it dry, and stuff it.
- It is also smart to prepare the gravy before the main event. Heat in the microwave just before serving.
- Decorate and set the table ready for dinner.
- Prepare all the necessary pans, tins, dishes and glasses you will need in the kitchen for the following day.
- Put beer and wines in the fridge to cool.
- Parboil the potatoes, cool and keep them in the fridge in a covered bowl.
- Chop up the vegetables and herbs and store in the fridge.
Take out all the prepared frozen dishes from the freezer: cake, pudding, soup, and pies to start defrosting. Heat them in the microwave or in the oven before serving.
Pin your time plan for the day somewhere you’ll be able to see at all times. You don’t want to lose it now that you need it most.
If you want homemade bread on your festive table, it is best to prepare it in the morning to make sure it is fresh and soft. Keep it covered with a cloth and warm it up in the oven at a medium-low temperature before serving. Here are some great ideas for both sweet and savory bread recipes:
If you are cooking а turkey, you probably know that it takes several hours to be cooked thoroughly. It will need approximately 45 minutes cooking per 1 kg meat, give or take. Make sure the turkey is well cooked before you serve it. Use a cooking thermometer or cut the meat to check the color. If it looks pink, return it to the oven for about 5 more minutes.
Although turkey is the traditional option, it is not an obligatory choice for Christmas. Here are some other delicious meat dishes you can try:
If roast meat is your centerpiece, you need to have some great sides to trim it with. Potatoes and the most common choice and they come in so many forms and sizes:
However, you don’t have to limit yourself to potatoes. Other vegetables can serve as components for great side dishes, such as:
You can also combine fresh vegetables to your taste in various salads.
No roast meat dish can go without sauces. Be wise and choose recipes that are quick and easy to make in order to save you time (if you have the ingredients at hand, of course, hence the importance of the shopping list once again). The fact that they are ready in no time does not mean they are not tasty. On the contrary. Here are some ideas that will be ready in 5 minutes from scratch.
Oh, and please, please don’t forget the perfect traditional Christmas cranberry sauce.
We already talked about desserts. They were prepared in advance and frozen, which now gives you some time to play with the beverages. Instead of simply pouring booze or juices in a glass, combine them together to create great holiday cocktail mixes:
There you have it, a perfect stress-free Christmas dinner. Happy Holidays!