Don’t call me Scrooge, but it took me till my thirties to confront the fact that I don’t honestly like most traditional holiday foods. Gingerbread? I’d prefer chocolate any day. Eggnog? Pour me a daiquiri. And don’t get me started on fruitcake.
During my childhood and for years after, guilt motivated my holiday food choices. I felt compelled to please and fit the traditional cookie cutter mold, loading my plate with ethnic specialties from my Baltic roots that I couldn’t pronounce and smiled as well-intended relatives asked for confirmation.
As I came of age into marriage and parenthood, motivated by the fact that my waistline clearly indicated I had a finite daily calorie count allotment, holiday priorities changed. The more I wrote about and advocated within the food scene, I rekindled the celebratory side of food. Eat to enjoy, share and make merry. Not because your mother spent all day making Latvian blood sausage.
Don’t get my wrong; I love the Christmas season with all the sugarcoated trimmings. I’ve just realized the importance of placing holiday food traditions back on the celebratory pedestal, based on my and my family’s own terms. Take a twist on tradition this season and form your own fresh holiday food memories. Here are four tips to get you cooking:
1. Start Fresh
Take full stock of all the foods you eat during the holidays and rank them based on the simple question: how much do you love this? If it doesn’t earn high, over the top marks, just skip it and move on.
2. Think Creatively Out Of the Box
I open-ended asked my husband, John Ivanko, and our eight-year old son, Liam, what favorite foods they would like to eat during the month of December. Peppermint biscotti, egg rolls and spring rolls were my replies. O.K., so peppermint biscotti ranks pretty holiday aligned, egg rolls and spring rolls are things they simply craved. Fun, different foods we just haven’t made in a long while, and the holiday season gave us reason to prioritize and make them again.
3. “Real” Treats Encouraged
Akin to the roots of the Winter Solstice, a dark time of year when a burst of indulgence went a long way in getting through the long, cold season, this is the time of year to pamper your palette. Just remember when indulging, be authentic. Make that Mocha Cake (recipe below) with real, local cream and organic, Fair Trade, quality chocolate. Whatever your food passion, savor authentic ingredients and enjoy.
4. Take Your Time
Running a B&B on our Wisconsin farm, Inn Serendipity, I relish the slower winter season to slow down and refresh my cooking engines. After a busy summer season of pumping out muffins, I love having time to linger in the kitchen and try something new, not worrying about if it will work out as I have to serve B&B guests. My holiday experiment this season? Sour dough bread. It’s been on my “culinary life list” for a while, but I just haven’t had time to experiment and learn the process.
Enjoy what’s on your plate this holiday season!
Frozen Mocha Torte
From Edible Earth: Savoring the Good Life with Vegetarian Recipes from Inn Serendipity
This Mocha Torte reigns legendary at Inn Serendipity. While it looks appealing to kids, with the mocha flavor, grown-ups tend to gravitate to this dessert.
1 ½ c. chocolate wafer crumbs (about 24 wafers), divided
¼ c. sugar
¼ c. butter, melted
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2/3 c. chocolate syrup
2 T. instant coffee granules
1 T. hot water
1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped
* Combine 1 c. wafer crumbs, sugar and butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a heavily buttered 9-in. springform pan. Set aside.
* In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, milk and chocolate syrup until smooth. Dissolve coffee granules in hot water; add to cream cheese mixture.
* Fold in whipped cream. Pour over the crust. Sprinkle with remaining crumbs.
* Cover and freeze for 8 hours or overnight. Uncover and remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before serving.
Photo Credit: John Ivanko