It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas – Thursday

My lunch with Ashley (my beautiful niece) and Mimi (my mom) got off to a slow start……I was at the appointed meeting place – Pizza Grill – at 11:30 a.m..  At 11:56 I texted to Jeff the following, “I should have known better than to make Ashley and Mimi responsible for getting one another here. What was I thinking? It’s like the blOnd leading the blind!”  LOL!!!!

When they finally arrived, we had a good laugh about our less-than-smooth execution of a plan!  And then we had a great lunch!  We ordered a sun-dried Tomato and Feta Salad, a Crab Pizza on whole wheat, and a cup of Seafood Soup.  Everyone was sooooo hungry, but once we ate we were all quite satisfied with our choices and were fortified for an afternoon of cookie baking.

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It’s a Family Tradition

Yesterday, Jeff and I met my “cousin,” Richie, for a little shopping and lunch in Philadelphia’s Italian Market.  This meeting got me to thinking about family and about traditions.  Richie is considerably younger than I am – in fact I remember he was still in a car seat when I was in my freshman year of college – and for some reason it struck me yesterday that his memory of our family’s traditions is very different from my memory of them.

All this ruminating on traditions got Jeff and I talking about them on the way from central PA to Philly in the morning.  He shared with me what he remembers about holiday traditions throughout his life (who he spent the holidays with, where they held their holiday meals or celebrations, and what kinds of food they had) and I shared with him what I remember about holiday traditions throughout mine.  We talked about how in his family the holiday traditions changed over time (at least during the time he was living with his family, roughly from birth to his early 20s) and how in my family they remained very much the same – at least from my perspective.

Of course, we talked about the subject with Richie over “sangwiches” at Paesano’s in the Italian Market. And he has a completely different perspective on the subject than either Jeff or I.  Not only is he from a different generation; but his parents are divorced and so he has two separate celebrations of each holiday and he is also dating a lovely girl whose family lives in a different state than his family, which adds another layer of holiday travel and tradition.

Don’t miss the pics of marketing or “sangwiches” at Paesano’s.  Click here to view them!

I wonder, since his generation is much more transient than mine (and mine is much more than my parent’s), if we’ve lost traditions over time or just built a new kind……

In my parent’s “day,” holidays were all about family (and, of course, food) and it was fairly easy (compared to today) to get the family together because for the most part the extended family lived relatively close to one another.  I see with people in my age cohort, that holidays are less about family – perhaps due to geographic spread.  And I wonder in the generations younger than mine, if the holiday traditions will be even less about family.

OR, do we have to change the way we define family?

When I was thinking about family this evening – what popped in my head is, “family is the people God gave to you and the people God gave you to.”  That could encompass biological families; but it can also include the families we choose….spouses, friends, etc.

It makes me sad to think that traditions are lost over time; but perhaps they aren’t lost so much as they evolve.  And I wonder, if we could, what we would choose for our traditions….

Strangely enough, I was thumbing through this month’s edition of bon appetit magazine just before I sat down at my computer and began reading an article by Adam Sachs entitled “The Tradition Starts Here.”  The end of the article reads, “The main thing I hope he’ll [author referring to his son] remember is to improve them as he goes.  Our traditions are only as good as we make them.”

So as much as I want to pass down the traditions of my youth to my nieces; I’ll be sure this year to ask them what they want their traditions to be or how they’d like to change/improve them.  AND I am looking forward to starting some new traditions….I’ve written before about how much I enjoyed “visiting” on the holidays as a kid, but that’s gotten more difficult because of geography.  Our extended family is much more spread out now than ever before – so (1) we’ll have to start “visiting” on the actual holidays with friends, and (2) we’ll have to be more intentional to set aside time for “visiting” with family.  It certainly won’t be as spontaneous as I remember, but the important part is that we’ll be together.

Jeff, Me and Richie waiting at a VERY crowded Paesano’s. Waited a LLLOOONNNGGG time, but it was good to catch up and worth the wait!

 

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner is my niece Ashley’s favorite meal of the year and my second-favorite meal of the year.  Enjoying it yesterday was an excellent reminder of why we love this meal so much.

My sister – Laura – offered to host Thanksgiving dinner this year.  An interesting choice for someone who gets so stressed out about entertaining, but she did an amazing job!  The food was wonderful, the ambiance was festive yet relaxed, and the company couldn’t have been better!

As most families do, we have some family traditions when it comes to Thanksgiving foods – and they never disappoint; but we also try new things each year, which keeps the meal fresh and exciting.  This year was the perfect mix of standards and new introductions.

The standards:

  • Turkey & Gravy – It’s not always made by the same person every year.  This year, since my sister’s family hosted the meal, she (Laura) made the turkey.  It was really good….please understand, I do not really like turkey very much – I love chicken, but turkey doesn’t thrill me.  If I were a turkey lover, which I am not, I would probably say it was fantastic; but a rating of ‘really good’ from me when it comes to turkey is like a perfect score from someone else.  It was golden and juicy and flavorful – not a bit dry!

  • Mashed Potatoes – Laura’s Thanksgiving mashed potatoes do not fall into the low-fat category by any stretch of the imagination.  But they do fall into the delicious category!  If I could describe them with only three words, I would choose smooth, rich and decadent!
  • Stuffing – Or is it filling?  Or is it dressing?  I can’t tell you which category it officially falls into (I truly don’t think there is a formal distinction), but Laura’s Sausage & Cranberry Stuffing is out of sight!  It is moist and flavorful in the center of the pan and toward the edges of the pan it gets crispy and golden….what could be better than that?

  • Corn Pie – The recipe goes back quite a ways into our childhood and it is one of my favorite things about the Thanksgiving meal.  This year, in addition to the corn pie I also tried a new corn recipe (see below).  It was truly delicious, but I think – perhaps it’s tradition – I still like corn pie for this meal.

  • Laura’s Cranberry Sauce – My sister’s recipe – which I have never seen – is just the perfect cranberry sauce.  It’s quite tart and refreshing – in my opinion, it is just the right complement to all the heavy, fat laden side dishes that are typically served on Thanksgiving!
  • Jeff’s Cranberry Applesauce – Even though we have Laura’s Cranberry Sauce, Jeff makes this applesauce each year as a labor of love for Ashley. Each year he remembers how much she likes it, so he starts with fresh apples and lovingly turns them into a yummy side dish that is equally as good served warm or cold.  It is another light and refreshing offering that balances nicely with the other flavors in the meal.
  • Pumpkin Pie – My dad is not someone who bakes a lot.  In fact – unless I am mistaken – the only time he bakes during the year is Thanksgiving.  But based solely on his pumpkin pie you would swear he is a world-class baker!  The nut crust is absolutely incredible – flaky and rich…..mmm mmm mmm.  The filling is luscious – the perfect balance of pumpkin and spice with a hint of sweetness.  He makes one pie “with” and one ” without” every year. The with and without refers to the bourbon.  I usually have the “without,” but everyone who eats the “with” usually raves about it!

The New Introductions:

  • Gulliver’s Corn – I know it’s overkill with the Corn Pie, but I one of the Kitchen Shoppe visiting instructors, Diane Phillips, was telling me about the recipe and I was so intrigued I just had to give it a whirl.  She makes something called Gulliver’s Corn, which is quite rich and which my nieces agreed tasted kind of like macaroni and cheese. Although the more traditional part of me thinks Corn Pie belongs at Thanksgiving, this dish was delicious and I will definitely make Gulliver’s Corn for other meals.

  • Salad du jour – I’m not sure how salad fits into the Thanksgiving meal for other families, but for our family it’s usually a marginal player; however this year it was one of my favorite things!  My mom made a terrific salad – lettuce was the base, but it was topped with a huge array of fresh fruits, some cranberry chipotle cheese cubes, and toasted pepitas.  It had a light vinaigrette and was a great accompaniment to everything else on the buffet.

I think over the years my sister has convinced herself that she’s not good at entertaining, but she actually is!  We had a great tasting and great looking meal, a nice selection of drinks – from wine and beer to a new chocolate bourbon, lively conversation, a break between dinner and dessert, some family game time, a chance to spend time catching up with family, and even a little Big Bang Theory!  If you ask me Laura was only missing one thing yesterday – confidence in her own ability!  Remember, entertaining is not a competition – if it is you are hosting the wrong people – and in my Entertaining Survival Guide I recommend that as the entertainer you should do the best YOU can do!