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Favorite Winter Holiday Dishes


Scott Johnston
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From the Russian Orthodox side of my family on Christmas Eve:

Cheese and potato perogies swimming in butter with sourcream.

Hand picked mushrooms sautéed in butter and onions.

Kolacki, cookies made with a sourcream dough and filled with walnut paste, for dessert.

From the Jewish side of my family for Hanukkah:

Latkes, of course!

And marzipan!!

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I've been thinking about this since the question was first posed. My mother used to make all kinds of things--cookies, rum balls, and candies: pecan pralines, divinity (which I NEVER liked), fudge, lollipops. Tons of stuff. One year, back in the '60s, my brother took thirty days of leave from the Air Force and came home for the holidays. Home was then in Germany. I remember the drive to Ramstein Air Force Base to send him off again. He could barely button his uniform jacket. Thirty days of continuously eating all that stuff will do that to you!

I first had marzipan in Germany and ever since then I always thought it tasted like Christmas. I turned out to be the only one in the family who care much for it.

My mother gave up making all those things years ago, since nobody was around to eat it, and failing health precluded the effort.

This year, though, I have decided to make some pralines to give away. To that end, I went shopping today for a candy thermometer. (My mother never needed one, always being able to drop sugary things in water and knowing exactly when the soft- or hard-ball stage was reached. I can't do that.) And, years ago, I started making chocolate truffles.

It's been a continuing effort to find things to make which prove to be special. Egg nog, for instance, is a seasonal indulgence I just love. The best I've ever made, or had anywhere, is from the "Baltimore Egg Nog" recipe found on epicurious.

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Lefse (Norwegian potato-y crepes) spread with butter and sugar and rolled up

Mom's homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning with Harry and David's pears on the side

Beef tournedos with bernaise (Julia Child's Fillets Henri IV) for Christmas dinner...yum! The bernaise took a few years for the family to get right, but now it's thick and tangy and just right. We have the beef with little potato balls pan fried in butter and also creamed spinach topped with hardboiled eggs - I don't know where that combo came from, but it's been a tradition for 20+ years now. To top it off we have "eggnog pie" which is basically a custard folded with whipped cream, topped with nutmeg in a pie shell.

Basically you could sum up all of our holiday favs as "butter with a side of (fill in the blank)" :lol:

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Our family's traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners have, and always will be:

Standing rib roast beef oven baked with pickling spice & soy sauce (not much of the spice and it DOES taste wonderful)

White Rice

Boiled potatoes with butter, salt and pepper

No veggies, no cakes, no sweets, nothing fancy and I absolutely love it!

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OK, my brother said I need to add my spice nuts that I make... and a whole orange with cloves inserted in the kichen
Bump. :P

I am making out shooping lists and planning menus. Baking starts next weekend, and I will be figuring out our Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner menus soon. Has anyone else started any projects?

P.S. Scott, would you be willing to share your recipe for spiced nuts?

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P.S. Scott, would you be willing to share your recipe for spiced nuts?
I'm not Scott :P , but I use this epicurious.com recipe:

Spiced Pecans

I tweak this by reducing the water and increasing the sugar (the comments are enormously helpful). I think the proportions of water/sugar must have been wrong in the first place. Since we like our mouths to be happy, I also increase the spices (including the cayenne) and, because I don't deep-fry anything, I just toss the already spiced nuts in a tablespoon or so of oil and put them in the oven.

These things are SO delicious, it's a crime. However, if you don't like the hot stuff, then these might be a problem. Just reduce the cayenne.

BTW: this goes with a salad which is very good, but I found the dressing too sweet. Decreasing, or eliminating, the honey solves that. Tweak, Tweak, Tweak (no, Martin, I don't mean YOU).

These will keep in an air-tight container for some time.

Wonderful stuff.

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For me, it's all about the Christmas cookies. My mother (and previously her mother) baked for days leading up to Christmas Eve when all of the relatives would begin descending on our house. Christmas "rocks" which must have a better name--a dry sort of buttery cookie with a bit of salt too rolled in copious amounts of powdered sugar. Pineapple cookies topps with pineapple icing and a marachino cherry. German chocolate brownies with caramel and coconut. Cookies (again, I don't know the name) with tons of butter folded like a tiny napkin to hold prune, nuts or apricot and dusted with powdered sugar.

I <heart> cookies.

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Cousins of those, but not exactly. They were made by an elderly Italian friend of my family who, sadly, has passed.
Possibly kolache? These are very popular Christmas cookies in the Scranton and upstate NY area where so many Slovakians settled. They are sinfully delicious too, with dough of cream cheese and butter barely held together with flour, and a ground walnut filling.
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It's almost Channukah time, and that means potato latkes (pancakes)! My +1 is allergic to potatoes, so this year I want to try and make a batch of sweet potato latkes - anyone have any experience with these? Have a recipe?

Thanks, Happy Holidays!

My memory is failing me, but here's a recipe that I "think" I have used before.

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Mom makes these meat pies--the recipe says "pates" but they're pronounced "paw-tays." Grandma made them, great grandma made them, probably great-great grandma made them. They consist of boiled meat (beef and pork) ground with potatoes and onions and baked in a pie crust. Pickled onions are served on the side.

Thing is, we have no idea why we do this. "That's the way it's always been," said my 100-percent Irish grandma. We suspect the family may have picked up the tradition while making its way through Canada after leaving Ireland, but other than that? No clue. But I do love them...

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