Now we’re getting to the good stuff!
It always amuses me that Mom and I have to discuss what we’re doing for the holidays when, 9 times out of 10, we do the same thing every time. My family isn’t big on change, especially when it comes to holiday menus.
If Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, Christmas, to me, means ham. And not just any ham, but Mom’s glazed ham. It’s the glaze, which is super simple, that really makes the holiday ham shine. What she does is makes a paste with brown sugar and spicy brown mustard and then thins it out just a bit with orange juice. Spread it over the ham and bake according to the package directions. It’s just that simple.
Candied Sweet Potatoes
These are a holiday staple, any holiday, and because sweet potatoes are our go-to, we pretty much never do mashed potatoes for any family holiday dinner. We don’t go the mini marshmallows and nuts direction, just slices of sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon and dotted with butter, topped with a cooked syrup of Karo syrup, brown sugar, and butter. So indulgent and so delicious.
This is a relatively recent addition to our holiday traditions. Who doesn’t love a good cheese tray, right? Ours follows no particular rules other than what sounds good when we go to the store. Some nightsÂ it’s been Boursin and St. Andre, other nights we’re doing Havarti and a blueberry-coated goat cheese. Wensleydale and Port Salut. Brie, however, is a staple. Sometimes it’s baked in pastry, but a wedge of brie never goes amiss at our house.
Growing up, broccoli and cheese or cauliflower and cheese were regulars on the holiday buffet, it just depends on what looks best at the grocery store that week. Mom makes an enriched white sauce (a bechamel with eggs added) and adds a healthy dose of Velveeta with more on top. Now, okay, I’m not a big fan of Velveeta, but it definitely reminds me of my childhood. So points for nostalgia. Some years I’ll do homemade mac & cheese, instead (with Swiss, Cheddar, and Monterrey Jack). That’s our idea of switching things up.
I mentioned these in my Memories post, and because of that story, I make Rum Balls most Christmases, even if it’s just a small batch for myself. Now, most recipes I see for these call them Bourbon Balls but Maw Maw always used rum so that’s what I use. I stopped using nuts in them when Todd came along (just use more crumbled cookies) and we always roll them in granulated sugar, not powdered sugar. They’re best if they have a few days to “set-up” so I guess I better get those started this weekend. (And just hope I can stay out of them until Christmas!)
I usually bring dessert to Christmas Eve dinner and what I bring is more or less up to me. Last year I couldn’t decide what to make, so I decided to make a bunch of different cookies and call it a day. It went over so well I’m doing it again this year and it may become my new holiday tradition. Growing up we’d do the rolled sugar cookies but I don’t always have the patience for those, preferring drop cookies instead. So chocolate chip, chocolate snowball crinkles, Â fudge cookies (can you see a theme?) along with simpler drop sugar cookies and cornmeal cookies were all a big hit. And I never make small batches, so we brought half of them over to Mom’s and snacked on the other half at home for weeks.
Egg Nog is a love it or hate it thing for most people, I think. I love it! I put it in my coffee, I drink it regular or spiked, I adore it. I stock up starting on Thanksgiving, but since I’m lactose intolerant I stick with the Lactaid brand Nog and it gets scarce pretty quickly. Our local Publix was completely out last week, so I stopped on my way home from Tallahassee and they only had 1 carton at the newer, big Publix on the north side. I didn’t even see a space for it, so I doubt it’ll be restocked. So I also settled for a carton of Silk eggnog, though it’s not my favorite. Maybe if I mix it it won’t be so bad.
The last thing I want to do, after prepping a big dinner for days, is get right back in the kitchen. We always cook for an army no matter how many or few we are, and it’s totally in service of having leftovers for at least a few days. In previous years I’ve made a separate Christmas Day dinner for Todd and I but I decided that was really too much work for what it was, so we’re going to nosh on leftovers and some other finger foods we’ve laid in for the day and take a holiday for extra work and extra dishes!