Archive: Winter Holidays

Meatless Monday: Hoppin' John, Hold the Ham Hock

As this financially difficult year comes to a close, we could all use a kitchen elixir to help shake off the 401(k) blues and usher in vibrations of fortune and prosperity for 2009. We all could use a pot of Hoppin' John. Black-eye peas before getting a soak. (Kim O'Donnel) If you've never had the pleasure, get thee to the store right away and introduce yourself to a bag of black-eyed peas. Old timers will tell you a pot of Hoppin' John needs the salty smoky bits of a ham hock, salt pork or strips of bacon to make it proper. But this Yankee girl says you can drop the hock and still come up with fine fixins for New Year's Day – and you'll be just as eligible for the proverbial pot o' gold waiting in the wings. Over the years, this bacon lover has done Hoppin' John...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 29, 2008; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Winter Holiday Help Desk

As mentioned in this space yesterday, a re-booked flight back to Seattle kept me from hosting the final What's Cooking chat of 2008, right smack in the middle of Hanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. Sorry! The last thing I want to do is leave y'all high and dry, so today is my way of making it up to you. Here's your chance to get your last-minute holiday feast questions answered and conundrums resolved. I'll be checking in hourly until 6 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, what's a gal to do about Christmas Eve supper at the 11th hour? Should we scrap our plans to thaw a turkey and make a pizza instead? I await your insight! And if we miss each other today, I'll see you next Monday, Dec. 29 after the long holiday weekend. AMA, as are many other blogs on the site, is going dark for a few days. Happy, merry...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 24, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (14)

An Advent Dinner Party

This week and next, I'm on vacation, but I've got a handful of helpful and savvy kitchen elves pitching in to keep the blog engine running. Today's treat comes from Elizabeth Terry, a washingtonpost.com colleague who spends much of her free time in the kitchen. One of my favorite traditions of the holiday season is the annual "Advent Lessons & Carols" service at my church, St. Columba's Episcopal in Washington. Elizabeth's gingerbread. (Elizabeth Terry/washingtonpost.com) Advent, a time of preparation for and anticipation of Christmas, begins four Sundays before the holiday. The Lessons and Carols service, which is as much a concert as a worship service, features a series of Old and New Testament readings that foreshadow Christmas -- that is, the fulfillment of the ancient promise of a Messiah. In between the readings, St. C's very fine adult and children's choirs sing not Christmas carols, but hymns and anthems that...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 11, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Food-Loving Gifts

With Thanksgiving leftovers still lingering in the fridge, the holiday gifting season is officially underway. And if you think I’m pulling your turkey leg, have a sip of this wake-up juice: Hanukah is less than three weeks away and Christmas is three weeks from Thursday. Hey, how did it get to be December, anyway? Setting up for a round of Foodie Fight. (Kim O'Donnel) With the economy in the garbage pail, it’s a tough year to feel merry and jolly and to dole out the dough for high-ticket items as in years past. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share gift ideas as they hit my desk, particularly if they’re fun to eat or play with (and even better if they’re easy on the wallet). If you come across something tasty, groovy and thrifty that would jingle-bell rock someone’s world this holiday season, please share your finds in the comments...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 2, 2008; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (7)

Peas and Rice Make the New Year Nice

In the south, they say luck and fortune is on your side if Hoppin' John stops by on New Year's Day. The exact origins of the name remain fuzzy, but the culinary legacy of melding field peas (of which black-eyes are one type) and rice are crystal clear, a direct link to the African slave trade, particularly in rice-rich South Carolina. It's been said that field peas represent coins, clearing the way for fortune to enter one's home (perhaps the only way to keep hope alive for better days ahead), and you'd double your chances with a pot of collard greens, which represent cash, aka greenbacks. Although I wasn't raised with this tradition up north, I must have enjoyed it in a previous life because I wouldn't have New Year's Day any other way. It makes sense to me to channel my hopes and aspirations through a simmering pot of...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 31, 2007; 10:23 AM ET | Comments (7)

Twelve Under-$20 Ways to Snack Well on New Year's Eve

If you're looking for my advice on whether to eat in or dine out on New Year's Eve, aka the strangest night of the year, I'd rather not, if that's okay. There's something to be said for going to your favorite neighborhood joint and letting someone else do the work. Such a convenience, however, comes double-fisted with potentially frustrating challenges of ringing in the new year out on the town -- overcrowded dining rooms, overworked servers, crazy drivers on the roads -- plus a hefty price tag. For me, the key is not whether you curl up at home or venture out into the world -- but that the evening is both simple and cheap. Of course, "cheap" is a relative term, but my point here is to be kind to your exhausted holiday wallet and work within your budget. Wait, there's one more (well, two more) important pieces: Do...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 28, 2007; 10:54 AM ET | Comments (11)

What's Your Christmas Tradition?

A recent e-mail from "Dionysia," a reader in Adelaide, S. Australia, prompted today's post about Christmas feasting traditions. In her note, she writes: We usually have a cold Christmas lunch with prawns and interesting salads and my mum's stuffing (It's a Greek recipe, and she bakes them in muffin tins now, and freezes them.) No one that keen here on Christmas pudding, so I do my Strawberry tart and mum does her Greek trifle. Over in the Southern hemisphere, where swimming is more likely than sledding on Christmas Day, a cooling repast sounds just about right. Alas, climate doesn't determine all menus -- I've been to Christmas lunches in the sunny eastern Caribbean, where the spread includes heat-stoking dishes such as oven-roasted ham, macaroni pie and fried fish -- oh, and lots of rum. Culinary holiday traditions are as equally imprinted by several other indelible ingredients -- family history, ethnic...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 24, 2007; 09:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Peppermint Patty Project

A few weeks ago, some of you expressed interest in learning more about making peppermint patties, those chocolate enrobed, creamy mint confections that many of us grew up with. (I loved unwrapping the foil as a kid and taking that first bite.) Interestingly, the "feel the cool sensation" candies made an appearance in two foodie magazines this month, and last night, I made good on my promise to give them a test run in my own kitchen. I chose the recipe from Saveur (the other appears in Gourmet) because it involves making the fondant center, an interesting and enlightening lesson on cooking sugar and dairy to very high temperatures and then playing with it on a marble slab. Homemade peppermint patties: Worth the work. (Kim O'Donnel) Now about that slab: You really need one for this project, but you don't need to drop a bunch of money (Williams-Sonoma wants $129...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 18, 2007; 10:08 AM ET | Comments (15)

A Merry - and Gluten-Free - Cookie For All

Psst! Hey, come here. Yeah, I'm talking to you, over in the corner with the food allergies, running far and clear from the cookie tray that inevitably shows up at every dang holiday party. I've got something I like to call a cookie miracle -- a gingerbread cut out that has not a drop of gluten, eggs or dairy -- and it tastes so good no gluten, egg and dairy cookie monster would ever know the difference. I'm serious, y'all! This recipe, which comes from the brilliant gluten-free kitchen of Maryland cookbook author Jules Shepard, is a stroke of sheer near-allergy-free genius. (Last month, I shared a few of her recipes for GF Thanksgiving treats). A holiday cookie miracle: no eggs, dairy or gluten. (Kim O'Donnel) In spite of all its ingredient omissions, this recipe is packed with a spicy punch and a crackery crunch that feels as festive and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 17, 2007; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (12)

A Memo to Santa

I'm really not one for gifts. Ask my mother -- it drives her crazy. This is one of the main reasons the O'Donnel family has gathered in Key West this week -- the sunny, 80-degree weather while the rest of the country runs for ice-storm cover is the best Christmas gift of all. We made a pact that there would be no gift exchange this year -- and instead would exchange the gift of each other's presence. So far, it's working out, and we're having a ball, eating dinner together for the first time in six years, laughing out loud and playing Scrabble out on the patio, a game at which certain unnamed family members like to cheat and create words not yet in the English dictionary. Mister MA and I also made a similar pact, but he often bends the rules because he loves buying gifts. What can I...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 12, 2007; 10:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

Mighty Appetite Wish List

I'm really not one for gifts. Ask my mother -- it drives her crazy. This is one of the main reasons the O'Donnel family has gathered in Key West this week -- the sunny, 80-degree weather while the rest of the country runs for ice-storm cover is the best Christmas gift of all. We made a pact that there would be no gift exchange this year -- and instead would exchange the gift of each other's presence. So far, it's working out, and we're having a ball, eating dinner together for the first time in six years, laughing out loud and playing Scrabble out on the patio, a game at which certain unnamed family members like to cheat and create words not yet in the English dictionary. Mister MA and I also made a similar pact, but he often bends the rules because he loves buying gifts. What can I...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 12, 2007; 09:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

Culin-thropic Holiday Gifts

'Tis the season for giving and gifting -- so today and perhaps tomorrow, I'll share a grab bag of ideas that may come in handy over the next few weeks. As fellow cooks and food-centric folk, you understand the altruistic power of a home-cooked meal and how it can warm the cockles of even the grinchiest of hearts. The sharing of food is an expression of love, whether you are giver or recipient, and it is transcends all other forms of communication because it is a universal language and it connects us all, from trailer to mansion, desert to tundra, Alaska to Zimbabwe. The idea of cooking for someone you love (or even just met) has been shared in this space before, and one that I encourage all of us to entertain as often as the muse allows. But there are other ways to spread the good vibrations -- and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 11, 2007; 09:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Going Nuts This Season

Every year at this time, I make a batch of spiced nuts for parties and for unexpected drop-by holiday revelers, and every year, someone asks for the recipe. It never fails. Recently, I did a small catering job, a working lunch for nine, and I added a container of nuts into their order for late afternoon sustenance, as a little extra sumthin'. As it turns out , the nuts were inhaled within minutes, prompting an e-mail request for the recipe. These nuts are THAT good. Spiced nuts. (Kim O'Donnel) While you rave, however, please give credit where it's due, which is Union Square Café in New York, where these nuts have been a daily bar staple for about a zillion years. I've made other spiced nut combos, and nothing has ever worked quite like this one -- not too sweet, not too salty, and infused with with the magical aromatherapeutic...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 7, 2007; 09:35 AM ET | Comments (17)

Tastes Like... December

In case you hadn't noticed, December is BUSY - and here's why (in chronological order): Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Simbang Gabi, Eid al-Adha, winter solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve (please add to the list if I've missed some). The twelfth month of the year is jam-packed with reasons to eat, drink and be merry, regardless of one's faith or spot on the globe. Survey ten people about what the holiday season means and in all likelihood you'll receive ten different interpretations. For me, this time of year means dark days and cold gusts of wind. Sorry, but a snowy white Christmas is far from my idea of fun. Take me to the beach instead; I'd much rather be singing carols in my bathing suit than in my woolies, which is exactly why the Appetites are headed to Key West this weekend for a tropical...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 4, 2007; 08:58 AM ET | Comments (12)

Get Your Hanukkah Fry On

Menorah candles around the world will burn brightly tomorrow night, kicking off Hanukkah, the Jewish eight-day festival of lights. In this hemisphere, we need all the light we can get as we inch closer to the darkest, shortest day of the year, aka the winter solstice (Dec. 22). If there's wind and other wintry conditions contributing to the atmosphere (which has been the case over the past few days in various parts of the country), frying up a storm seems like the right thing to do, whether or not you celebrate Hanukkah. A pan-sized latke, cut into fourths and ready for applesauce. (Kim O'Donnel) I'm not suggesting that we hop aboard the deep-fried fatty train, but a little fried fun is quite okay every once in a while, particularly when done in small batches at home. For many, Hanukkah wouldn't be the same without a plate of potato latkes, cute...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 3, 2007; 09:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

December Food Mags, Part Two

We pick up where we left off yesterday, a look at what the food magazine world has to offer this holiday season. Yesterday, I assessed the state of four special issues; today, I follow up on the three remaining in my pile. As always, comments and discoveries are highly encouraged in the comments area below. MARTHA STEWART LIVING Can you judge a book by its cover? It's all about Martha, with a holiday twinkle in her eye, standing next to a cake decorated with elaborately stenciled, Old World-looking (natch) gingerbread village houses. Caption reads: "Martha with a cake that evokes a town square in Prague, surrounded by bead ornaments." Theme "The Most Magical Holidays Ever," offering a mix of crafts, decorating, entertaining and baking. It's beginning to feel like a lot like Christmas, but not really in the kitchen. Seasonal produce emphasis? None that I can see. Gift guide Edible...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 30, 2007; 09:16 AM ET | Comments (0)

December Foodie Magazine Roundup

Ever since I compiled a roundup of Thanksgiving special issues at the end of October, I've been receiving requests for a similar overview of the food mag world's annual holiday spreads. As November winds down tomorrow and makes room for the most festive time of the year, here's my take on December-centric food issues you may find at your nearest check-out counter or magazine stand. Today, I take on four magazines; tomorrow, I'll finish with another batch of three. And as usual, comments and magazine-y tidbits are most welcome in the coments area below....

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 29, 2007; 11:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

Fruitcake Date

Sunday, Nov. 4: Day 17 of my fruitcake fruit bath. I could let my "mash" keep going, but when I popped open the jar and nearly passed out from the fumes, I knew it was time to put a halt to the booze biz and start making cake. In preparation for the batter step, I consulted two resources for ingredient ideas as well as technique: Nigella Lawson's "How to Be a Domestic Goddess" and "Caribbean Recipes Old & New" from my friend and Barbados chef LaurelAnn Morley. Fruitcake, out of the oven, ready for a few weeks of dark storage. (Kim O'Donnel) Because this was my maiden fruitcake journey, I'll admit I was a little nervous, but what helped was a deep cleansing breath and gathering and measuring all of the ingredients (mise en place) from get-go. Morley's recipe, below, calls for "browning," a cooked caramel-colored syrup found in many...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 5, 2007; 09:24 AM ET | Comments (14)

Fruitcake Update

Nearly two weeks ago, I announced my plans to embark on a virgin journey into fruitcake territory, a land of dried (and sometimes candied) fruit, booze and a whole lot of waiting. My guide, LaurelAnn Morley, a chef-restaurateur in Barbados who's made more than her fair share of fruitcakes, recommends that the fruit get a good long soak in an alcohol bath for up to one month before you even consider making the cake batter. Fruitcake fruit steeping in spirits. (Kim O'Donnel) Since I now have permission to do a shorter soak, I got my fruit going last weekend and plan to keep it marinating until the first week of November, which translates into two weeks and some change. (Even shorter soaks of a few days are permissible, says Miz LaurelAnn.) After the first few days, I noticed how quickly the fruit had absorbed the alcohol, resulting in a more...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 25, 2007; 06:58 AM ET | Comments (1)

A Toast to Toast

New Year's Eve is Sunday night. Perhaps you're like me and still have no idea how you'll ring in 2007. Unlike years past, I'm going to pass on hosting a dinner party and cooking a bunch of food, as I'm too tired, still full from Christmas and a perhaps a wee bit cash poor. Fancy toast made from your everyday larder. (Kim O'Donnel) If you're feeling my vibe, join me on the toast trail. Yeah, that's right, I'm thinking of toasting the new year with toast. Before you dismiss my proposal as no better than a bowl of Chex Mix, hear me out. Toast need not be breakfasty slabs of bread from the toaster, spread with butter and jam. It can get all spiffed up for nighttime revelry, taking on the flavors and nuances of elegant party fare. All it takes is a little creativity and some rummaging through your...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 29, 2006; 10:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Confessions of a Diehard Santa Believer

For me, this time of year is less about the "now" and more about the "then." I'm not a card-carrying member of any one religious group at this point in my life, but as a kid, I was raised Episcopalian. Christmas figured prominently throughout my childhood, which spanned the 1970s. It held meaning for this diehard believer in Santa and all things make-believe, and for that I'm grateful. Below, snapshots from the memory vault, which inevitably resurface every year in the days leading up to Christmas. That's me on the left, Tim in the middle, and John, dressed in plaid finery, with Santa. (Family photo) I remember...waiting in anticipation to decorate the tree, an event that followed my father's cursing out on the front porch while trying to jam the tree into the stand. My parents would play Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis records on the stereo while we...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 20, 2006; 10:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

Jelly (Doughnuts) in My Belly

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which is well underway, continues through Saturday, Dec. 23. A commemoration of the Maccabees' victory over the Syrians back in 165 B.C., Hanukkah also honors the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the temple that the Maccabean priests had reclaimed. Come fry with me. (Kim O'Donnel) For cooks, this means carte blanche for fried food. As Nigella Lawson writes in her book, "Feast": "The one important thing you need to know [about Hanukkah] is that it provides a divine ordination to eat deep-fried foods." To be fair, I'd venture to say that hightailing it to the nearest drive-thru window for an order of fries would not be in keeping with the spirit of Hanukkah (not to mention the trans fat factor). But done at home, a little bit of fried tenderness every once in a while sounds positively festive and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 19, 2006; 09:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Holiday Food Alphabet

Think for a moment. What would the holiday season be without food and drink? Regardless of whether or what you celebrate, this time of year is "Eat, drink and be merry" to the max. It's the way of life, the rule of the thumb, the modus operandi of the Western world. In fact, I would argue that comestibles are THE glue that keeps us together as a civilization for the entire month of December. WHAT we eat and drink: Special treats that we tend to stay away from the rest of the year. Symbols of the good life, such as chocolate truffles, caviar, sparkling wine, eggnog, roast beast. Special treats tied to culture, history and holiday-specific traditions -- gingerbread houses, candy canes, Hanukkah gelt, buche de noel, glogg, wassail, fruitcake. HOW we eat and drink: In addition to the lineup of nosh-driven cocktail parties, open houses and holiday galas, there...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 12, 2006; 11:29 AM ET | Comments (2)

Sweets Clinic Office Hours

Tuesday's chat ended with a bunch of lingering questions over some pressing issues in the holiday sweets department. Below, a few are included to whet your whistles. And as always, chime in when you deem necessary or if you've got a sweet question that needs attention. Truffles Arlington, Va.: Do you have a good truffles recipe? A friend of mine told me that she loves the things I bake and wanted know if I knew how to make truffles. She has been through a bad year and I would like to surprise her with something special but have never made truffles. If your pal has requested truffles, it might be really fun to make them together. Truffle-making is a team activity and in fact, I highly recommend it, particularly for first-timers. A few years back, I taught a friend who was gearing up for a massive batch of 300 for...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 7, 2006; 11:22 AM ET | Comments (10)

 

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