Christmas & New Years is ‘Family’ Traditions

Merry Christmas to everyone, I hope you had a wonderful celebration of the reason for the season! 

Christmas is a time for family, whether it’s your own small family unit or a gigantic gathering of all the relatives. It’s about LOVE and LOVE is meant to be shared. For our family, that means having others over who may not have family around to share the day with. We have pretty much been on our own since my husband and I were married, so we have continued this tradition for going on 24 years now.

When my own children were born, we decided (since we were on our own) we needed to create some traditions to fill the void and make it feel special. And so we did. I thought I’d share our families traditions through the holidays. I hope you enjoy as much as we do. 

Christmas Eve: We have done this night with the only variation occurring these past couple of years my daughter sang at the midnight Mass service. This year, however, she was back on the 5 o’clock service so it was back to normal. Every year we dress for Christmas Eve Mass, go to service, come home and have the same meal. Food is an important tradition in this house! Baked Ham, Scalloped Potato, and a green vegetable. This year was creamed spinach (which was amazing) and a garlic-chili broccoli. When my daughters were younger and received presents from relatives, we’d open those presents on christmas eve (santa delivered presents for them to open christmas morning) as they were calling each relative to thank them and wish them a Merry Christmas. It was much less hectic than trying to get ahold of someone on Christmas Day! Every year, as is tradition, every one gets new PJ’s. We then put on our new PJ’s, I make a big batch of hot cocoa, pour it in Santa mugs and we pile in the car to drive around and look at Christmas Lights. Then home to check Norad’s ‘Santa Tracker’, just to be sure Santa had not passed them by. 

Christmas Morning: I have had to change this a bit now that we are gluten free. For years I did Wolfgang Pucks Quiche Lorraine (it’s simply amazing), an Apple-ginger Strudel cake and tropical fruit salad. This year to accommodate my daughters gluten intolerance (and it seems dairy is bothering her now also), I did ham & cheese omelets (cheese optional), a gluten free monkey bread, maple glazed sausage links, and a limoncello fruit salad. It was delish, and I believe it is the new menu going forward! While the food is baking, presents are shared. 

Christmas Day: We open our house up to anyone who feels like swinging by for a cup of cheer and one of my husbands famous Bloody Mary’s. I make a smattering of light appetizers, Stacys dip (see previous post), spinach dip, crudite, various cheese and hard salamis, fruit, and little sweets I’ve made over the holidays, like the butter crunch toffee. One year it was quiet with just another couple who stopped by, other years its packed to the rafters with little room to move.

Christmas Evening: Is the grand finale! Roast Prime Rib Beef, Yorkshire pudding, sautéed green beans, loaded baked potatoes and to top it all off, my mothers famous cherry cheesecake. And then we all fall in to a food coma and watch Christmas movies. Almost always we watch ‘Scrooge’ featuring Albert Finney. (honestly? the best version ever)

New Years Eve: My mother is the one who started this tradition. Being from the west coast and close to Hawaii, on NY’s eve we would always have what she termed as ‘Pu Pu’s’. This is a hawaiian term for a variety of appetizers or small bites. Some years I would do oil, cheese and chocolate fondue, other years it would be a mixture of ribs, rustic bread, and finger veggies. It just all depended upon what I felt like making. Then it would be a leisurely picking all evening long, until the ball dropped and champagne was popped. 

These are our families traditions, which have made this time of year very special to us. The one thing of importance, in my opinion, is to keep perspective of what you can reasonably accomplish, who you want to spend it with, and why you are celebrating in the first place. Christmas is not about the material things, it is a time of joy for those of us who are followers of Christ. It is the celebration of God’s abundant and endless love, proven by His sending of His only Son, born as a human child, to atone for original sin. We no longer are condemned to eternal death and separation, and that is truly a reason to be joyous! New Years is a time to contemplate the past year celebrating both the joys and sorrows, look forward to the new one with all its potential hopes and dreams. 

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas as the joyous birth of Christ, it is a time for everyone to celebrate LOVE. For moms like me, that is expressed through food and fellowship. However you choose to celebrate, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe, joyous and yummy New Years Eve. 

Stacy’s Dip

As we race in to the Christmas season, I begin to look ahead to my families annual Christmas Day Open House. Since my husband and I were first married, we’ve never really had family living near us, so we have been free to celebrate as we wish. Many, many years ago, (too many to disclose!) we started the tradition of having other ‘orphans’ over for Thanksgiving dinner. This has now extended to our christmas morning Open House. For a few hours in between the flurry of package opening and Christmas dinner, we open our home to those who would like to stop by for one of my husbands famous Bloody Marys, and a snack or two.

I put out various homemade cocktail nuts, a veggie tray, some sweet treats and an absolute must is Stacys Dip.

Stacy was a gal who lived across the street from us when we first moved here to the iceberg they call Minnesota. She and her family were from Georgia (and subsequently moved back there) and had brought with her that warm, generous and welcoming southern hospitality. (something i think the natives here could learn a thing or two from) I am reminded of the afternoon our children were playing together outside, I had stopped in for a chat and she presented me with a glass of wine and in mere moments pulled together this dip. It warmed my heart to have someone so willing to stop what they were doing to spend time just sipping, noshing and chatting. It is a reminder to me, and I hope for others, that sometimes we need to stop the clock for a moment and take the time to smell the roses before speeding off again.

I think that is why it is the perfect appetizer to put out on Christmas afternoon, right smack in between presents and prime rib roast. It’s reminiscent of that ‘bus stop’ in time that was given as a gift to me from a wonderful woman across the street.

Stacy Dip

1 package of Jimmy Dean sausage, cooked, crumbled and drained (**GF see note at end of post)

1 package of cream cheese

1 can of Rotels tomatoes

After draining the sausage, add the brick of cream cheese and melt over a low heat. Add the canned tomatoes and continue to stir until it is melted and combined.

*I serve this with tortilla chips (gluten free), but it can be served with sliced baguettes or crackers also.

*I use the ‘hot’ jimmy dean sausage (see updated note below). In a pinch, you could use any seasoned breakfast sausage, but for it to be ‘authentic’ jimmy deans is the brand to use.

*You can substitute any market brand of tomatoes that are like rotels. The sizes of the generic brands vary, some being a little bigger. It just makes the dip a little looser, but will be just as good. I prefer the spicier version of rotels, because we like it spicy.

*Keep the dip warm in a little mini warmer of some sort. Mini-fondue pots, mini-crock pots or those little dip warmers that are set above a tea light will do nicely.

****(2014 note! Jimmy Dean Sausage is NOT certified Gluten Free. Substitute your favorite gluten free breakfast sausage for a GF option)