Peace on Earth... and in our hearts and kitchens
Starting with Thanksgiving, and for six full weeks until January, lives are usually in dramatic celebratory upheaval. In the spirit of winter holidays around the world, here are several recipes to try celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the New Year.
Take time to enjoy tradition
We have Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Years Eve. The last few decades have turned the Holiday Season into the Holiday Frenzy. I think it is because we are trying to recreate the joy of those simpler days, and in doing so, we end up pushing ourselves to the point of exhaustion.
Combine the flurry of party after party and marathon shopping with a high level of emotion, the perils of overeating (especially having too much sugar in our systems), and we set ourselves up for weakening not only our bodies, but our experiences as well, of the most beautiful time of the year. We can simplify, stay healthy and still enjoy the tradition of celebration during this fast paced time of the year. I think it is important that as we teach our children about our customs and traditions, we also teach them that simplicity enhances our holidays. There are books written on this very subject, as we have to relearn simplicity. If we include our children in the planning, and let them each be in charge of one important thing, not only does it teach them that they are capable of doing a wonderful job, it teaches us, too.
If we look at our planning through the eyes of a child, we may learn a thing or two along the way. Remember the delight of little Laura Ingalls Wilder when she found an orange and mittens in her stocking? Those days were just over a century ago!
I recommend that simplification start in the kitchen and extend from there to every area. Instead of baking 20 kinds of cookies, pick one you and the kids love and bake that for everything. Give a cookie or shortbread as gifts with the recipe and a cutter included in a small basket tied up with green organza.
My 10-year-old daughter learned a year ago how to make Scottish Shortbread and she would mix the butter, sugar and flour in a huge bowl, then pack it into tartlet pans, a dozen at a time. I would put it in the oven, she would time it and let me know when it needed to be removed. She loved it and it was simple.
Her twin brother made French Toast for the family for Christmas morning. It was wonderful, and he did a great job! Kids rise to the occasion when given new and fun holiday responsibilities.
I also recommend focusing on vegetable - of all things - in this busy season, rather than the usual sugar-y treats. We all will overdo the sugar, but if we try to overdo the veggies instead, we will likely benefit.
How different our society would be if we all laughed to one another about too many vegetables this time around. Give them as gifts along with a great vegetable cook book. As unusual as it sounds, wishes of good health are always appreciated. It is a perfect opportunity for winter fruits and vegetables. Cranberries, squash, parsnips and rutabagas are plentiful at this time of year.
If the kids have never tried winter root vegetables, now is the time. Peel them, quarter, slice and steam. Serve with your favorite salad dressing or orange mayonnaise. Mash parsnips like potatoes and add butter, orange juice and a bit of nutmeg. Try a winter vegetable every week and let the kids pick it out.
Press leftover rice into an oiled pie pan, fill with pureed squash and bake. Think "holiday green" as in broccoli, wheatgrass juice and romaine. Your body deserves and needs it. Designing a system to keep your nutrition at an optimal level will reap rewards throughout the holidays and into the New Year.
Different cultures, new traditions
Another enriching tradition for your family can be the study of different customs. Christmas greatly differs around the world. Challenge the kids to find out how. It's also a perfect time to discuss Jewish traditions, Ramadan and what Kwanzaa is all about.
Finally, New Year has its own history rich with celebrations and customs. Below, you'll find some recipes that apply for the sprinkling of celebrations amid the end of the year. I send you warm wishes for your Holiday season. Peace and Light to you all!