Posts Tagged ‘Holiday traditions’

Family Traditions Old and New

Posted December 15th, 2012 in Holiday, Posts

Last week I wrote about a family traditional Cherry Coke Jell-O dessert.  I heard that post provided an adorable second grader with some show and tell for her school assignment which pleased me very much.  (After all, it was about her own family tradition!)  I asked you all to share your traditions with me but since I had no takers I’m going to share some of mine with you.

Every Christmas my girls and I travel to sunny Southern California to spend the holiday with my parents and my sister’s family.  My brother moved to the Northwest many years ago and we have only spent the holidays together a handful of years.  But this year we have Stella.  Stella is the first great grandchild for my parents and her parents and grandparents decided to share her with us this Christmas. We get the rest of them as a bonus.

We are combining a lot of food traditions this year and resurrecting some concepts that don’t exactly qualify as traditions but that we have enjoyed a time or two. On Christmas Eve we will have an appetizer buffet prepared by the Queen of Tarts herself along with my princesses.  My mother, the Old Queen Mother has decided to sit out the kitchen duty in favor of playing with Stella.  This is a first.  Mom is 86 years old and the busiest Queen of the kitchen you have ever seen.  She must be really happy to have that toddler around!

On Christmas Day my sister prepares the famous brunch casserole before we go to Church.  My brother and his family will be treating us to a true English Feast complete with Prime Rib, Creamed Spinach, and potatoes prepared from Stella’s daddy’s family recipe.  I am in charge of dessert.  My brother is a tiny bit concerned that we won’t have enough so I will be bringing TWO pies.

I am doing the almost famous Coconut Scented Blackberry Apple Pie that I have presented here before and a new recipe I just discovered and adapted from a Cooking Light recipe published in the summer when fresh cherries are plentiful.  As you know the tart cherry crop disaster of 2012 has caused me to think outside the “can” this year so I am making a Royal Anne Cherry Galette.  It is VERY easy, beautiful and just a tiny bit different.  I make mine with a homemade crust but you can use Pillsbury Ready Crust if you like and it will be just fine.

Royal Anne Cherries are not as easy to find as some of our other fruit but if you have a Kroger Store (or any store owned by Kroger) you can find them there.  Several independent grocers stock them and you can also find them on

A galette is a free form pie.  The filling is not a traditional slurry either, just a sprinkling of cornstarch and sugar over the crust before spooning in the cherries brightened up with a bit of lemon.  I think it is delicious and kind of sophisticated.  (Can you tell I am a little intimidated by contributing to my brother’s fancy dinner?)

I am grateful to spend the holidays with my family.  Merry Christmas from my house to yours!

You Meet the Nicest People

Posted December 8th, 2012 in Holiday, In the Kitchen, Posts, Serving with Style

A few weeks ago I was on a plane to Portland for a meeting and had the good fortune to sit next to a nice man named David Weiss.  David is a fellow food sales guy making his living selling Nestle Water to convenience stores.   Ironically, David’s family has a traditional holiday jello salad that contains Oregon Fruit!! What are the odds???

In my own family we didn’t eat a lot of jello.  I stopped eating it after the jolly green jello incident.  When I was in college and VERY POOR my siblings and I decided to throw a 25th anniversary party for my parents. We bought and prepared all the food.  My sister and brother were working so I am sure they either bought or made something good. My contribution was the Jolly Green Jell-O as it has come to be known in the family lore.  Of course I didn’t want to run out so I borrowed a VERY large banquet pan from the restaurant I worked in and made enough red/green Jell-O (In layers!) to feed the local soup kitchen.  I tried to get guests to take home to go portions in Ziploc bags.  I have not heard the end of this so I have never brought Jell-O to a potluck again.

I might have to change that rule this Christmas because the Weiss family recipe is delicious!  It is Cherry Coke Jell-O!  I have a very cute mold with a Christmas tree and the color is lovely.

While thinking about this post I decided to do a little Jell-O research.  I discovered that there is quite a cult following for Jell-O.  Did you know, for example that JELL-O is America’s most famous dessert?  Another interesting fact is that JELL-O was once considered a very decadent dessert and served by the upper class. They used fancy Victorian molds to create desserts that were both beautiful and tasty. OR that in 2001, after an astounding 14,000 people had signed a petition, JELL-O was made the Official State Snack of Utah? Another fun fact is that the people of Salt Lake City actually eat more lime flavored JELL-O than any other city in the world. And lastly that one million packs are sold each day? In America alone, 300 million packs are sold each year. I can assure this was all news to me.

This chance meeting on a plain reminded me that there are lots of old family recipes and several of them use Oregon Fruit. Who knew??  So I am challenging you all out there to share you family recipes with me, whether or not they contain Jell-O.  You can post them to our Facebook page, send them to me by email at or even mail them in the old fashioned way to: Erin Johansen Oregon Fruit Products LLC, PO Box 5283 Salem, OR 97304.

I really enjoy being inspired by other’s traditions so please provide me some inspiration. Happy Holidays!!


Christmas Dinner Tradition

Posted December 19th, 2011 in Holiday, Posts

Almost every year of my life I have traveled to Southern California to my parent’s home for Christmas. That we celebrate with my parents and my sister’s family is the tradition. What we eat and when we have the big meal has changed over the years depending on who else is there and where else somebody has to go.  For most of my life my mother has cooked numerous meals over the course of the days surrounding the holiday.  When I picture my mother, I always picture her standing in the kitchen preparing food for hours, just like her mother before her. She is a GREAT cook!  But she turned 85 this year and it is hard for her to stand for hours like she used to. So the last few years my sister and I have taken some of the meals on.  So we don’t really have a traditional meal anymore except of course the breakfast casserole my sister makes for Christmas morning.

Dinner has been a variety of things-my niece and brother made a mushroom stuffed chicken breast one year and we have done pork roast several different ways. Once we even had a selection of appetizers each made by one of the girls.

It is challenging to cook a big dinner in someone else’s kitchen, even your mom’s. The oven is fancier than mine, and I don’t always know where she keeps various kitchen appliances and tools. But we make it work and the collaborative effort has become something of a tradition as well. My daughter, Kaitlin usually helps me plan the menu and serves as sous chef.  Mom runs around getting us this and that.  I don’t think it is very relaxing for her but she doesn’t complain. I think she likes spending time with us but it is hard for her to take a supporting role in the kitchen.

This year we decided on a Pork Roast with Raspberry Mustard Glaze, a Carrot Gratin, green beans almandine and a lovely winter fruit salad with arugula, grapefruit, Asian pears and pomegranate seeds. It is labor intensive because it should be individually plated but it looks beautiful and, after all, it’s Christmas!  For dessert I plan to raid her Meyer Lemon tree for a Meyer Lemon Cake. If you have followed this blog you know I am all about a colorful plate and I think we hit the mark.

We will be missing some family around the table this year but we will appreciate the ones we have and send our love to the others because love is what Christmas is really all about.




Holiday Traditions with a Twist

Posted December 9th, 2011 in Holiday, Posts

I was listening to the radio today while baking and there was some sort of debate about the political correctness of Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays.  It struck me that what is universal is that whatever we celebrate as humans, it is a reason to gather and eat. Society has spread out. Most of us don’t live in very small towns with our extended family all around so the holidays give us a reason to gather.  Whether you celebrate Hanukah or Christmas or Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice everyone makes a meal and it is usually a whole lot fancier than a quick something in front of the TV.

I was chatting with my neighbor, Tom, the other day and he was telling me how their family worked out the dilemma that most families face-how to please everyone. They drew straws for time slots and his family got Christmas Eve morning. He was initially mad. It seemed like the worst. WHAT- no dinner??? Tom is a great cook from a family of cooks so he improvised.  He and Vicki make breakfast for all the kids, grandkids, adult kids, in laws, out laws- whoever is there. They do it short -order style with menus and everyone gets to choose what they want. They have fancy breakfast cocktails for the adults and fun beverages for the underage. It sounds like a blast and I secretly wanted an invite.

It inspired me to offer up some different options for the blog the next few weeks. Today I am featuring dessert, next week a fancy dinner idea and lastly, brunch and a breakfast cocktail.

I made a Yule Log Cake with Raspberry Filling-something I have wanted to do for years.  This will work for those celebrating Christmas or just gathering for any winter holiday dinner.

I also made a Hanukah cake.  I read an article in this weeks Relish, an insert in the Wednesday paper, from a food writer named Tamar Haspel.  It told the story of Hanukah and the reason Latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil) are a tradition.  It is all about the oil that never ran out. This writer posited that since the oil was the point, making an olive oil cake for dessert in place of the fried potato pancakes could serve as a kind of riff on tradition.

Not being Jewish, I’m not sure it would fly in serious traditional households but it sounded good to me, so I made an Olive Oil Cake Topped with Poached Plums. It is fragrant with oranges and the texture is lovely.  I happened to have a menorah because my youngest daughter, Allison, went through a “world religions” phase when she was around 10.  Our neighbors were Jewish and she insisted on celebrating Hanukah for years, right alongside Christmas.

That is my definition of politically correct.


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