by Rachel Waldron
The holidays are a time for food with all four branches of my family (yes, four branches is a lot to keep up with). To me, the holiday season means packing up my bags and bouncing from house to house around Atlanta, visiting each specific family group as they have their dinner, gathering or present exchange. It all takes a lot of planning, cleaning, cooking, packing and driving, but I look forward to it each year just the same. In particular, I look forward to all the food. Let’s just say I didn’t become a FoodCorps Service Member for nothing. Each dinner has its own traditions, its own style and its own participants. Here’s a little bit of what I got the chance to enjoy during the last week:
We begin the holidays with a quiet dinner for two. Pork chops with a white wine reduction. Brussels sprouts. Spinach salad with strawberries and feta. Ice cream with freshly whipped cream and fruit. Low key considering what’s about to come.
Spinach salad à la Rachel:
- Fill a bowl with washed baby spinach.
- Make a dressing of 3 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar and a dollop of maple syrup.
- Toast pine nuts in a skillet until they are just beginning to brown.
- Top salad with chopped strawberries, crumbled feta, pine nuts and dressing.
- Dig in!
Next comes the table of finger foods accessible to my younger cousins. Eleven people in the house, honey-baked ham, yeast rolls, tomatoes, cheese, and a Swiss Roll pudding. Watch those little fingers as they angle for the pudding.
Linda’s Swiss Roll Pudding:
- Chop a boxful of Swiss Rolls into small circles.
- Line a large bowl with cut up Swiss Rolls.
- Layer cool whip and chocolate pudding on top of the Swiss Rolls.
- Sprinkle with chocolate shavings.
- Serve and enjoy (serve a little and you’ll enjoy a lot).
Then comes the more formal lasagna dinner for seven. Caesar salad, french bread, vegan chocolate cake and lasagna (don’t forget the lactose free option!).
Next up is the big one: Christmas dinner for twenty two. Three tables lined up in the living room and never quite enough chairs. We debate who sits at the ‘kids table’ even though eighteen of us are over the age of eighteen. Everyone coordinates to bring a specific dish: turkey (deep fried and baked), honey-baked ham, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, asparagus, salad, cheesy cauliflower, cranberry chutney, corn, rolls. Dessert includes apple cake and a pan of extravagant brownies.
Mama’s Mashed Potatoes:
- Bring to boil a large pot of lightly salted water.
- Skin and chop a 5lb bag of potatoes.
- Boil potatoes until soft.
- Drain water.
- Mash those potatoes!
- Add milk, salt, pepper and garlic to taste.
- Serve yourself before they’re gone.
And (on a year when I’m not under the weather) add at least two more big, family meals. After all that, its leftovers for days. These meals might be my favorite because you never know what to expect.
Recipe for those holiday leftovers:
- Get a plate.
- Fill plate with one serving of each:
- grains (rolls? crackers? mac’n’cheese?)
- protein (turkey? ham? cheese slices?)
- vegetables (cauliflower? carrots? asparagus? salad?)
- fruits (strawberries? oranges?)
And if there is anything left, compost or dispose of accordingly. In my mom’s house, turkey scraps and leftover spinach go to the dogs.
Happy holidays from my family to yours! ~Rachel