Personalize Your Holiday Menu

Traditions are fine, but don’t stress about a gourmet magazine menu when your family really loves lasagna.

I begin dreaming about our Christmas meal while my toes are in the pool in the middle of summer.

Yes, it’s strange. My beach reads include a pile of Christmas magazines and dog-eared cookbooks. I love reading about prime rib, roasted veggies, chocolate tortes and cookies galore no matter the season.

The funny thing is, the inspiring recipes for clementine spice cakes and turkey with chipotle gravy will likely never be made. December days tend to speed by, and when it’s time for our family dinner, it just feels right to make our Christmas comfort foods. I can’t go wrong making a roast, baked ham or a pot of chili. A buttermilk cardamom pumpkin pie, though it looked beautiful on a magazine cover, could be hit or miss with my kiddos. So I usually stick with our favorite chocolate rum cake and sugar cookies.

Go ahead and embrace your family traditions at Christmas – whether it be tamales on Christmas Eve or lasagna on Christmas Day. And, to add to the fun of the season, add something new to your menu. Last year, we made potato latkes for a special dinner a week before Christmas. My kids loved them, which was no surprise, and we all had fun choosing toppings to make them either sweet or savory.

Here are some ideas to add to your holiday menu.

Potato Latkes

  • 1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and shredded
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 6 saltine crackers, crushed (or more, if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or more, if needed)

Squeeze handfuls of potato and onion in paper towels to remove excess moisture. Stir together potato, onion, egg, crackers, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Pour oil into a heavy skillet. Oil should reach a depth of about ½ inch. Heat over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

Measure 3 tablespoons of batter for each latke. Work in batches, cooking three latkes at a time. Drop into hot oil, flattening latkes slightly with back of a spoon to uniform thickness. Cook until browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Drain latkes on a plate lined with paper towels. Keep warm in a 200-degree oven until serving.

Tulsa has so many great Mexican restaurants where you can find fresh, authentic tamales for your holiday parties. Here’s a delicious red sauce that’s great as a tamale topping or over burritos or enchiladas. It comes from cookbook author Robb Walsh. Add a small can of tomato sauce if you prefer a sweeter, tomato flavor.

Homemade Chili Gravy for Tamales

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour, and continue stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it makes a light brown roux.

Add all the dry ingredients and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending ingredients.

Add chicken broth or water, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens.

Turn heat to low and let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add water if it’s too thick.

This traditional ham may remind you of something your grandmother might make. Serve it with miniature buttermilk biscuits. Kids love it.

Baked Ham in Peach Sauce

Serves 10

  • 7-pound cooked ham
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans sliced peaches, drained
  • 10-ounce jar apricot preserves
  • 1 cup dry sherry or apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2teaspoon allspice

Place ham on an ungreased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Score surface of ham in a diamond pattern; insert cloves.

Combine remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth, and pour over ham. Cover ham with foil. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, basting occasionally with sauce. Uncover, and bake 30 more minutes; continue to baste. Remove ham to a serving platter. Slice and serve with sauce from pan.

Try these with your kids. They’re fun and easy to make.

Red Velvet Cake Balls

  • 1 box red velvet cake mix
  • 1/2 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Bake cake according to package directions. Cool and crumble.

In a large bowl, beat crumbled cake, cream cheese and butter with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Beat in chocolate chips.

Shape into 1 ½-inch balls, and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. You will have about 3 dozen balls.

Roll balls in red candy sprinkles, and freeze for 1 hour. Remove from freezer, and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to three days.

Categories: Food