Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cooking up a storm in the spirit of Christmas

When the holiday season is upon us, the kitchen becomes the place where you will almost always find me (more than usual, that is). I begin planning each day around everything that needs to be done in the kitchen, as preparation for holiday gatherings, dinner parties, gift exchanges, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's day. Not to mention the dinner that has to be eaten every other night in between! 

This is not to say that I don't absolutely adore cooking during Christmastime, but there is no denying that cooking for company with a deadline is ever-so-slightly more stressful that cooking on a nice rainy Sunday when you have nowhere else to be and nothing else to do. 

Now, let's get down to business. This holiday season my family will be entertaining a number of times. We have already celebrated a friend's birthday/Hanukkah/Christmas by having our annual bagels and lox feast on Sunday - one of my all-time favorite traditions because I absolutely love smoked salmon. Our next kitchen endeavor will take place on Christmas Eve day, when we spend the entire day in the kitchen, preparing for Christmas dinner. We make homemade tomato sauce and my grandmother's meatballs which are undoubtedly the best on the face of this planet. Throughout my childhood, these meatballs have become an integral part of Christmas. In fact, I don’t believe it would truly be Christmas without them. Each year on the day of Christmas Eve, my mother makes tomato sauce (courtesy of my Nonna’s recipe, of course!) and these meatballs. Over the years, I have started to take over the meatball preparation, as my mom says I seem to have my Nonna’s same knack for making them.

Next on the agenda is our actual Christmas Eve dinner which is rapidly approaching in a mere 3 days. This dinner consists of an Italian antipasto, complete with aged provolone, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, Genoa salami, olives, eggplant caponata, and homemade roasted red peppers (my mother's specialty). It is served with a crusty baguette, locally-made of course, and lots of champagne. We spend Christmas Eve with our closest friends, the Snapps. This has been a tradition for many, many years, and I assume it will remain this way for a long, long time. 

Naturally, we have a culinary tradition for Christmas morning as well. After we've made some coffee and opened a few presents, we always make ourselves an orange julius and then proceed with scrambled eggs, Pillsbury flakey biscuits and bacon. It may not be the healthiest meal, but it is our annual Christmas breakfast just the same.

After Christmas, we don't entertain again until New Year's Even when the Snapp family comes over again and we repeat our Christmas penne and meatball meal. Fortunately, repeating this meal means that we don't have much work to do, as we already prepared everything once for Christmas. 

Now, of course, we make many sweet treats during the holiday period. Every year we make a yummy raspberyy linzer torte and some buttery Viennese crescent cookies. I also generally tend to try making something new, and this year I am thinking perhaps a lemon mousse cake or an orange soufflĂ©. Ideas?

The one last meal I have planned for this season is a very special one. Every year since high school, my best friends and I have had a little gift exchange party, complete with snacks and special drinks. Some years we have an elaborate dinner and others we just eat hors d'oeuvres all night long. This year we are going to do something particularly special. My best friend, Alessandra, and I are hoping to establish ourselves in cyber space with a website dedicated to cooking videos, recipes and photographs of our own creations, a website where people can share ideas and ask questions, and post their own photos and videos if they so desire. It is in the works, I promise! But to further its creation, we wanted to cook a special meal together and make our first video and first series of recipes as a duo. We haven't solidified the menu yet, but I can guarantee that it will be festive and delicious! Look for a blog post about it in the next week or so! 

I have to stop writing now, as I have some baking and craft projects to finish, but I will leave you with some photos from my own Christmas tree because, as you may have suspected, it is covered in sweet culinary ornaments! 

Love from the kitchen and Happy Holidays! 
Sera Jane

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