Holiday Food Traditions

Holiday memories frequently are centered on food. Special desserts come to mind when we think of celebrating. (See Fantastic Holiday Desserts.) But, desserts aren’t the only foods making holiday memories. Health doesn’t have to go out the window during a holiday feast, either.

People around the world commemorate holidays with different foods. When we see or smell a certain food, we are reminded of the holidays we celebrated as children. The fact is feasting is attached to holidays.

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without turkey and pumpkin pie. Can’t have Hanukkah without Latkes (potato pancakes). Christmas is synonymous with cookies and eggnog.

Turkey is one of Ben’s favorite holiday foods.
What’s yours?

We all have tried and true family favorite foods we serve during the holidays. Most families pass recipes down through the generations. Your children will grow up with wonderful holiday memories connected to the foods they eat. Of course, your family celebratory food becomes even more special when kids help to prepare it. The traditions you pass along will certainly stay with your children for their lifetimes.

Some of our family’s holiday food traditions focus on my Italian ancestry. My favorite holiday dishes come from not only my Italian parents, but grandparents and aunts. Years ago, my soon-to be husband was surprised to see lasagna on our Christmas buffet table. He’d never seen or tasted Arancini (rice balls) or olive salad (both holiday staples in our home today).

Can you make green and red Jell-o (a concoction of chemicals and sugar) healthier? Somehow green bean casserole with canned mushroom soup (with inferior oils and MSG), topped with canned French fried onions (with the preservative Tbhq, which can cause anxiety, who needs kids to be more hyped up on a holiday?) has become an American favorite. Then, there’s America’s marshmallow covered yams. (I don’t think the Pilgrims added marshmallows.)

It took a daughter’s sensitivity to artificial ingredients for me to discover how I could prepare our favorite holiday dishes so she could eat them with us. She could not tolerate green (or any artificial coloring) Jell-o. Too much sugar was a problem as well. Most dishes are just as tasty or sometimes more delicious when they are reinvented for health.

Healthy And Tasty Can Be Synonymous
Through trial and error, I found many holiday recipes could be made more nutritious without losing that traditional holiday zest. I never understood why marshmallows (which are a sugar confectionery, and today, include artificial flavor and color, yes Blue #1) needs to top “sweet” potatoes.

One of our newer holiday meal favorites is mashed sweet potatoes with butter and Chipotle Sauce. Even my youngest daughter, who previously didn’t like sweet potatoes, loves these. There’s no exact recipe for this, just add a stick of butter to a bowlful of mashed sweet potatoes, mix in Chipotle Mexican Hot Sauce (about 2 ounces give or take) until you get a slight kick. (As I type this, it doesn’t sound tasty. Trust me. Even our 10-month-old grandson loves it. This is a specialty house dish at a steak house in Denver. We liked it so much we duplicated it at home. It took a few times to get it right. I was hesitant to add too much Chipotle Sauce. If you don’t add enough, you won’t get the tang.)

Coming up with an artificial-color-and-artificial-flavor-free gelatin salad took a few tries as well. I finally put one together one my family loves. When you add cherries, the salad becomes a festive pink. Click here for the recipe. This is so pretty, if you don’t tell anyone, they won’t know it’s actually good for you. Click here for my 5-cup fruit mold recipe.

Green Bean Casserole with French’s French fried onions is no longer on our holiday table. Even though French’s French fries have been reformatted to have under .05 grams of trans fat, to qualify for the 0 trans fat labeling. They’re still high in total fat and salt. We substitute green beans with olive oil and a clove or two of chopped garlic and sometimes add silvered almonds. Sometimes it’s Italian Green Beans and Tomatoes.

This Year, May Your Holidays Be Happy And Healthy.

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