Holidays and Food

The holidays (the millions that occur around this time of year, that is) are STILL here! That means lots and lots and lots of food.

I recently spent some quality time over at KYW newsradio 1060 speaking about holiday food-traditions with Hadas Kuznits, on her “What’s Cooking” show.

We chatted about Christmas in Mexico – including the Oaxacan tradition of carving giant radishes on December 23rd, a traditional salad (Ensalada de Nochebuena – recipe below) eaten on Christmas Eve, and the Twelfth Night (aka “Epiphany”, “Three King’s Day”, January 6th) tradition with Rosca de Reyes in whose batter are hidden little figurines. The lucky eater to get a figurine representative of the baby Jesus gets to hold a tamale feast on Candelamas, which occurs on February 2nd.

We also talked about the importance of black-eyed peas as a mainstay for New Year’s Day.  Their significance as symbols of prosperity, hope, and freedom stem from their growth in the US South. They made cost-effective meals with collard greens and pork, and were one of the few crops to survive Sherman’s Union-advance from Atlanta to Savannah during the Civil War. The tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s day has greater significance in African-American food-culture as slaves were granted emancipation on New Year’s Day, 1863.

I thought a bit more about  my own holiday traditions, which definitely involve food. On Christmas Eve, my family has a big buffet that always includes smoked fish, shrimp cocktail, and pickled herring. Christmas day usually involves turkey and all the trimmings, including home-made noodles. But, after spending HOURS decorating sugar cookies, I realized that those are also a big part of our traditional holiday.

Find the podcast and full article here, and try these recipes!

Try this recipe for Ensalada de Nochebuena, from Can’t find Media Crema? Try unsweetened, condensed milk.

Ensalada de Nochebuena
Servings 10

1 cup NESTLÉ Media Crema
3 tablespoons fresh orange or lime juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste

1 head romaine lettuce, leaves washed and shredded
4 medium beets, cooked, peeled and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)1/2 large jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 red apples, thinly sliced
3 oranges, peeled and cut into wedges, or 3 cups mandarin orange segments
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

COMBINE media crema, orange juice and sugar in small bowl; stir well to combine.

ARRANGE shredded lettuce leaves over large serving platter or on bottom of a large salad bowl.
TOP with beets, jicama, apples and orange wedges. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, peanuts and cilantro.
SERVE with sweet cream dressing.


Make yourself some black-eyed peas with this recipe from Chef Justin Swain, Rex 1516:

Black-Eyed Peas
-1 lb soaked peas
-1 lb bacon
-2 T butter
-2 small onions small dice
-6 cloves garlic
-1 T dry thyme
-4 bay leaves
-Pork stock to cover
-cornstarch if needed

• Sauté bacon until crispy, remove from pan and add butter
• Sauté onion and garlic in fat until softened
• Add rest of ingredients and bacon back in and cook
• Cook until peas are al dente and thick. Use cornstarch slurry to thicken if needed.