Holiday Food Traditions

December 23, 2011

I love hearing about people’s holiday food traditions. In my family, the Christmas menu is pretty much set in stone. First, sometime before Christmas, I make Hal Linden’s Hanukah bread. Christmas Eve we always have a ham and potato latkes (recipe from The New Basics Cookbook by the same gals who wrote the Silver Palate Cookbook), which we started making when TeenMartha was tiny and watched a Sherry Lewis and Lamb Chop special where they sang a song called “Everybody Loves Potato Latkes.” It aired on a Christmas Eve when we were snowed in and we whipped them up and it became a tradition. We serve them with sour cream and homemade applesauce. We usually round out the meal with some grapes, and then have cookies while we watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Christmas morning we always have baked donuts. I got the recipe from one of Dianne Mott Davidson’s Goldie’s Catering mysteries (they are called Galaxy Donuts). They’re made with different grains, baked and dipped in cinnamon sugar. We always have hot chocolate with them.

For lunch, we have a fun buffet. The ham from Christmas Eve comes out, along with marble rye bread and rye bread dip. Mr. MarthaAndMe always gets a summer sausage in his stocking, so we eat that with cheese and crackers and an assortment of mustards. Grapes and tangerines round out the meal. The kids usually get candy in their stockings and eat some of that.

Christmas dinner is at my parents’ house. During the afternoon when we are opening gifts, my mom makes gougere, which is a cheese puff pastry. Dinner is always beef tenderloin. She makes a broccoli wreath (cooked broccoli dotted with cherry tomatoes surrounding a bowl of hollandaise sauce). We also have a salad and potatoes (usually roasted potatoes, but this year it will be twice baked for something different). We have cookies for dessert. This year I bought a tray from an Italian bakery and we are going to try that, along with some I made and some that were given to her. My mom doesn’t make cookies anymore and we like to have something different when we go over there, rather than eating our own cookies again.

When we see my in-laws, they always insist on taking us out to dinner although I would be happy to cook for them. Then we have two other family parties which are usually overloaded with tons of wonderful food. One aunt always makes sticky buns. My mom usually makes a pork roast or some kind of chicken breast dish for one of them. I like getting to sample family members’ cookies!

What are your holiday food traditions?


New Decorations

December 21, 2011

This year I made some changes and additions to our holiday decorations. As always, we have  a tree in the living room with my ornaments and white and pink lights, braided pearl strands and pink bunting. We have a tree in the family room with the kids’ ornaments. I also have a tree in my office with book ornaments.

This year, partly because I now do a lot of my work in the kitchen, I added a kitchen tree, with kitchen themed ornaments. It has blue and white lights. I found all sorts of cute ornaments – knife, fork, spoon, blender, pots and pants, strainer, PBJ sandwich, milk carton, pitcher, tray of gingerbread men, toaster, crate of blueberries, a ravioli, chocolate covered strawberry, and even a Hostess cupcakes – all on eBay! I must admit though I am jonesing for another ornament on eBay. It’s a little oven with cookies baking in it. It lights up AND it smells like cookies baking. It’s going for around $110 though, so I won’t be buying it any time soon. I had the most fun prowling eBay for the ornaments I did buy though!

I haven’t figured out what to put on the top of this tree yet. Some people have suggested a chef’s hat, but I’m not a chef, so I don’t like that. I was thinking maybe a little doll’s apron tied around the top, but am not sure what that would look like. Any ideas?

Teen Martha and I went to a Christmas tour of homes and I loved how some people had ornaments hung in their windows. If you look in the background of the kitchen tree photo, you can see I have my 12 days of Christmas ornaments in the windows, but I wanted to do something else. I realized I had 3 blue star ornaments that would be perfect in the big window over my sink, so Mr. MarthaAndMe hung those for me. Next year, I am going to do something on the shelf above it as well – maybe a grouping of reindeer with some that cottony stuff that looks like snow drifts.

At the tour of homes, I also loved decorations people put on the backs of their kitchen chairs. Next year I’ll be doing that too. I haven’t been able to find what I want to do it this year.

And just a note here that my kitchen walls really are not the color they look like in these photos! They are a very, very pale subtle green but somehow they look horrible and neon in these photos!

Moving on to the dining room, I’ve added to my tree collection this year with several new ones, and I also bought a white sparkly runner to put them on so they pop more.

In case you didn’t know, I don’t do red for Christmas. Pink is my Christmas color. I do cranberry in the family room. The kitchen is blue themed so I am going with decorations in blue in there.

I have had the same Christmas dining room centerpiece my entire married life. It was time for a new one. Not an easy task with my color scheme. I bought this 60% off at Michaels and had to do some work on it. It had some awful brown roses in it I pulled out. I added more pink poinsettias, some gold accents, and put it in a shiny mercury glass vase I got at TJ Maxx for $19. I am THRILLED with the results!

In the living room I have my display of tree toppers on the mantel. This collection has grown as well, so I thought I would share it with you. I also found some fabulous vintage pink curly-que garland at an antique shop, so I’ve replaced the pink bunting on the mantel with that. I also bought pre-lit garland this year because I got tired of seeing all the wires from the lights I wrapped around the garland.

Again, the colors of my walls just look horrible in these photos for some reason!

Decorating for Christmas is so much work, but I just love it so much! The hardest part for me is I spent so much time and put so much thought into and we never have a single person come over to see it (neither set of parents is interested in coming here for Christmas), so at least I get to share it with you!

Easter Carrots

February 17, 2011

I know I’m a few months early, but I’ve already decided what I’m making for Easter. I am in love with these carrots. There was a fight over the leftovers here.

half a bag of baby carrots

2 heaping tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp butter

1 tsp dried dill

salt and pepper

4 tbsp white wine

chives or green onions

Slice the carrots into thick matchsticks – you want to get 4-6 per carrot. Boil until just tender. At the very end, drop in the green from green onions (scallions) or a handful of chives and just cook for a minute to wilt. Drain. Make little bundles of the carrots and tie with the chives or green onions (even if you only do a few, this still will look cute). Melt butter, sugar, dill, salt and pepper, and wine. Cook for a minute or two until combined and the wine has time to burn off and it thickens slightly.  Add the carrot bundles and gently stir, then serve. As you can see, I didn’t have a lot of success with the bundles, but I didn’t have much green onion here to work with. Next time I will have more and will be prepared. I just think this is so darn cute and will look wonderful for Easter.

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Martha Momdays: Sauteed Sole

February 14, 2011

I called this post Martha Momdays instead of Martha Mondays because the recipe chosen for today by Lyndsey at Tiny Skillet, sauteed sole, is exactly how my mom used to make it, or almost. The only difference is that this recipe uses a lot more butter and oil. I doubled this recipe so I could feed four with it. I put the butter and oil in the pan and melted it and it was just too much to my eye. So I scooped out about 2 tbsp. Much better. When we were in Seattle over the summer I had sole at a restaurant there and it was supposed to be sauteed, but it arrived fried to a crisp and I didn’t want to relive that experience!

The sole cooks really quickly  (after being dusted with flour) and then you mix up the quick sauce of pan juice, lemon juice, zest, sliced almonds and parsley. Quick and perfect.

I haven’t had sole in a long time, so this was a treat. I am still trying to work my way through the salmon Mr. MarthaAndMe and DudeMartha caught in Alaska and haven’t been buying much seafood, other then shrimp. I was eyeing up the grouper in the fish store, so I may have to go back and buy some of that for another night.

This is a perfect recipe for a week night when you don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen, but want something delicious and full of flavor.Mr. MarthaAndMe is an especially big fan of this one.

Interested in joining Martha Mondays? Just leave a comment letting me know and I’ll add you to roster. You’ll get a turn to choose a project every couple of months and can cook or craft along with us, posting your results.

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Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate Sauce

February 8, 2011

I am a fan of pomegranate sauce. I’ve made this sauce before, for lamb. A while back, the people at Pom contacted me and asked if I would like a flat of Pom juice to use for recipes for this blog. I said I would and they sent it along. Dude Martha noticed it sitting in the garage fridge and asked if he could try it. Suddenly-poof!-it was all gone. The boy was in love with it. I couldn’t complain since I was happy to have him drinking something healthy. That left me with no Pom for recipes. So, I had to go buy some more. Finally, though I was able to make this recipe.

Roast one pork tenderloin that has been seasoned with salt and pepper at 400 degrees. It takes about half an hour. Meanwhile brown 3 tbsp butter in a sauce pan. Add 1 finely chopped clove of garlic and cook for 3 seconds. Add 3/4 cup pomegranate juice and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Add 1 tsp thyme and 1 tsp rosemary. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium, cooking until it becomes thick and syrupy, about 30 minutes. Serve sauce with pork.

The pomegranate juice is a wonderful sweet tart flavor that complements pork magnificently. The color is also just gorgeous – this would be a perfect Valentine’s Day dish.

Chinese New Year

February 3, 2011

Today is Chinese New Year. My family loves Chinese food, but I find that takeout is never cheap because we end up getting so much food (so many items! “I’ll take an order of this and an order of that and a quart of this…”). It’s also never healthy. So, over the years, it has evolved that I make dinner for Chinese New Year. I love making it, but there’s a lot of cook time involved, especially if you go nuts and make all the things I did.

Every year I try to make something new. Last year I made egg drop soup (which is amazingly easy – chicken broth, eggs, and lemon juice). This year, I made steamed BBQ buns. This is one of our dim sum favorites and I was excited to try it myself. This is adapted from a recipe I found in Cooking Light 3 years ago and have held onto. The Cooking Light recipe uses pork, I use beef.

1 cup warm water
3 tbsp sugar
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
3 1/4 cups flour
3 tbsp canola oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Combine water, sugar and yeast in a bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Add flour, oil, and salt and stir until it forms dough. Then turn it out and knead it until it is smooth and elastic. This took only a couple of minutes for me. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for an hour or until doubled.

Punch the dough down and let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead in the baking powder and let it rest 5 minutes. Separate the dough into 10 sections.

Fried Rice

3/4 lb sirloin, cooked until rare and thinly sliced, then diced
3 sliced green onions
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari (I always use tamari)
1 1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp salt
Mix ingredients together while the dough is rising and allow to sit.

When the dough is ready, roll each piece out to about a 5 inch round. Place 1/10th of the filling in the center. Gather the side and pinch together, twisting slightly.

You’re supposed to cook these in a bamboo steamer, but I don’t have one, so

Shrimp Lo Mein

I used a big saute pan, which I filled with water which I brought to a boil. I set the buns on a round pizza pan the kind with holes in it (put them on seam side down with a couple of inches between them). I covered it tightly with foil and set it on the saute pan. I allowed it to steam for 15 min, then I allowed it to rest for about 5 minutes. They were done perfectly. The dough is fluffy and light and the meat inside is rich and flavorful. These were a huge hit and I’ll probably have to make them every year!

The other dishes on the table last night were:
Fried rice: you can see my usual recipe here, this time I used zucchini, carrot, savoy cabbage, green onion, white onion, and bean sprouts


Shrimp lo mein: I boil buckwheat soba noodles with 1 head of chopped broccoli, then quickly cook 2 heads of baby bok choy with sesame oil and teriyaki sauce. I add the noodles and broccoli and about 1/2 lb of shrimp. I add more teriyaki and some tamari and stir until the shrimp are done

Edamame: I boil a bag of frozen edamame about 4 minutes, drain and cool and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt

Potstickers: I had some in the freezer fortunately, from the last time I made them. I always make these with ground turkey. I mixed up a dipping sauce of tamari, sweet and sour sauce, hoisin, ginger, green onions, and water.

We had green tea and I bought a box of fortune cookies for dessert. I wanted to make sesame chicken, but I was out of chicken!

Happy New Year!

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Martha Mondays: Chocolate Cups

January 31, 2011

Have you ever bought an ingredient for a recipe then been simply unable to locate it anywhere in your house? That’s what happened to me with this. I needed mini size cupcake liners or candy wrappers for this recipe. I bought them. I brought them home. They sat on the kitchen table for a few days. Then I put them in the pantry. Then I moved them to a shelf in the pantry so that I would be able to easily find them. Then, when I went to make this, they were just gone. We looked everywhere. So I had to improvise, and I used full size cupcake liners.

This project is from February Living and was chosen by Sassy Suppers. All you do is melt bittersweet chocolate (which I do in the microwave) and then brush into the inside of the cups. Let it dry and do it again. Simple, right?

It actually was pretty simple. The only hard part was getting the paper to peel off. I had to call in Mr. MarthaAndMe for that. He popped them in the freezer for a minute then was able to get it to peel off.

You can add anything you want to the cups – fruit, mousse, ice cream, etc. Martha suggested peanut butter but I didn’t want to eat that much peanut butter. So I did fruit and ice cream. This is super cute and would really be a great way to serve dessert for a dinner party.

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New Year’s Eve

January 2, 2011

It’s our tradition here to have fondue on New Year’s Eve. And it’s also a tradition for the kids to invite their friends. This year Teen Martha had 5 friends and Dude Martha had one (so the teenagers got the dining room and the boys ate with us in the kitchen). We had to run out and buy a third fondue pot. This was the first year people actually ate most of what I made. This time, we set up fondue pots on the table and instead of passing the food for dipping, I set it up buffet style on the kitchen counter. First course is cheese fondue (basic – gruyere, wine, cornstarch). With that I served: mini turkey meatballs, spicy chicken sausage, ham, tortellini, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, french bread, pumpernickel rye bread, pears, apple, grapes and I made 3 dipping sauces: tomato/Italian, mustard, and pesto. There was hardly anything left. Dessert was a chocolate fondue and a white chocolate fondue. In the dining room we did one pot of chocolate and second pot that had half chocolate and half white chocolate (Mr. MarthaAndMe did some synchronized pouring to make that happen). With it I served: pound cake, chocolate chip cookies, white chocolate chip cookies, shortbread, pretzel logs, marshmallows, Rice Krispie treats, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, pineapple, tangerines, and pineapple. I had chopped peanuts and sprinkles to roll things in as well. This was also inhaled.

I decorate the table with a New Years garland, lots of fun hats (although most of them will not be caught dead wearing them in a photo), noisemakers, those little champagne poppers, and everyone got a chocolate snowman. I serve sparkling juices, soda and chocolate milk. I use paper plates and plastic cups. It’s a lot of work though. Although making the fondues is pretty simple, the prep takes me all day – cutting everything up and cooking all the veggies and pasta and meats. It’s fun though. The best part is that I cook like a lunatic all day and decorate the table, they come, they eat, they horse around a while then they all leave to go to the later parties. Mr. MarthaAndMe clean it all up, then collapse. I never make it to the ball drop and am usually asleep pretty early. It’s a fun tradition though – and before we went out and invested in a third fondue pot Teen Martha promised she will continue to have friends come.

Cookbooks for Christmas

December 29, 2010

I love to read cookbooks. So, I was happy to receive two for Christmas. Mr. MarthaAndMe bought me a wonderful local cookbook written by the recently retired food editor of the Buffalo News, Buffalo Cooks. I’ve only read a few pages, but am loving it. It contains recipes for local specialties (yes, that includes chicken wings, but also things you might not know about like chocolate covered sponge candy, kummelweck, fastnachts, and more) as well as recipes for many favorite Buffalo News recipes.

The other cookbook I received, from my mom, is Sarabeth’s Bakery, a famous restaurant/bakery in NYC, which has come out with their own cookbook. I haven’t looked through this one very much yet, but the pictures are great and I know I’m going to enjoy reading it and trying some things from it.

It wouldn’t be the day after Christmas if I didn’t do a little shopping for myself, picking up the things I wanted that no one bought, so I bought myself Cooking in the South with Johnnie Gabriel. I love Southern food and am looking forward to going through that book (it hasn’t arrived yet).

I gave only one cookbook as a gift this year. I bought Teen Martha Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. She wants to “learn” how to cook. I don’t think she realizes she already knows how to cook, but just needs to develop some favorites and some techniques. This book ought to help. It’s a really nice book, with lots of interesting things mixed with standards. I might have to try a few things from it myself!

Last year I made a family cookbook for Christmas and gave it to my aunt, cousin, and her new daughter-in-law. It was made up of my grandmother’s recipes (she passed away last year and left me all her handwritten cooking notebooks). That was a big hit. I’m planning at some point to make up a big cookbook for my kids that will have recipes from both of my grandmothers, as well all of my recipes and the few recipes I have from Mr. MarthaAndMe’s family.

Did you give or get any cookbooks for Christmas? I would love to hear about them if you did!

Happy Holidays!

December 22, 2010

This is my tree collection, which I’ve been slowly adding to each year. I love the feather trees (and so do the dogs, which is why they’re in the back!). The little blue ones were my grandmother’s. This year I added the pink one and the gold one in the back right (it’s behind the white one and kind of hard to see). The big silver one is mercury glass.

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