I’m just going to say it – day-to-day cooking is not my favorite. Planning meals, finding time to grocery shop, and cooking after a long day at the office or meal prepping on Sundays while my 3-year-old and 6-month-old daughters are playing nearby is not high on my to-do list. We eat out and pick up more than we should.
But, the holidays are different! Planning, shopping, cooking, setting a beautiful table and spending time with my family and friends are my favorite things about November and December. I am fortunate that my family gets to celebrate it all. My husband is Jewish, and I am Episcopalian. Our daughters are being raised Episcopalian, but they are also being taught the Jewish traditions and holidays their father was raised with. Not only do we celebrate Advent and Christmas; we also celebrate Hanukkah.
We plan on celebrating the eight nights of Hanukkah once again by lighting the candles on our menorah, one passed down from my husband’s grandparents, and spending time with my husband’s parents and our closest friends. Traditionally I make the Herb Roasted Chicken from Stop and Smell the Rosemary on the first night. It is an easy and delicious recipe that pairs well with the traditional fried latkes with applesauce and sour cream.
During the time it takes the chicken to roast in the oven, I fry the latkes and set the table. We also have time to light the candles and play a few games of dreidel. Last year, a friend who spends time in Israel each year visiting her family introduced us to sufganiyot, a round doughnut filled with jelly or custard, fried, and topped with powdered sugar, popular in Israel during Hanukkah. I found them so scrumptious that I called my favorite bakery to place an order for our gathering the following night.
For Christmas, my family travels to my sister’s house. Although this year we have two children, including a baby, and all of our Christmas presents to load in the car, my husband and I wouldn’t miss Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law and 15-year-old niece for anything. My sister takes after our father – she loves to cook and loves Christmas.
We begin on Christmas Eve by baking Gingerbread Boys from the original Houston Junior League Cookbook. Not only are they tasty, but baking and decorating them is a fun, memorable activity we can share with our daughters. We let the cookies cool while we attend the early children’s mass at their Catholic church and go out to dinner. Afterwards, we eat a few of the tasty gingerbread boys while my brother-in-law reads ’Twas the Night Before Christmas as we admire the Christmas tree.
After my niece and my older daughter go to bed, my sister and I prepare the Savory Breakfast Strata from Stop and Smell the Rosemary while “the elves” get ready for Santa’s arrival. (The adults might also enjoy a Holiday Coffee from Peace Meals.) Our family likes to enjoy a big breakfast after the rush of gift opening on Christmas morning, and this egg casserole is a tasty favorite. You prepare it the night before and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. We find it easy to pop the strata in the oven during the Christmas morning rush. For a special treat, we serve it with cinnamon rolls and freshly squeezed orange juice.
With Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas all around the corner, I am excited to show our girls the joy of the holidays. No matter the holiday, gathering with family and friends to share a meal makes for fantastic memories. We are lucky to celebrate more than once.
Source: November 1,2018, The Buzz Magazines, Sally Ann Schmidt