I think of Thanksgiving dinner as existing in tiers of necessity. First, there must be a turkey. That’s non-negotiable (unless you’re a vegetarian, of course, but we’re talking Norman Rockwell here). Turkey is a core necessity. Next tier: gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie. Some variation is allowed there, giving allowance to individual [...]
his dish is a perfect potluck dish — it’s vegan (or not, depending on your additions), dairy-free, egg-free, and not too starchy. You can make it gluten-free by replacing the ramen noodles with rice noodles fried in a little oil. It’s also easy and quick to make, can be scaled up or down, and can be adapted to suit your tastes and your audience. With no mayonnaise, it will hold for a few hours without refrigeration (it also makes a great brown bag lunch dish). And did I mention it’s delicious? Flavorful, kid friendly — it even features healthy vegetables! [...]
With Labor Day weekend coming up, and outdoor parties and barbecues on the horizon, it’s good to have a classic guacamole recipe in your back pocket. Although I don’t have brothers or sisters, I never felt lonely when I was growing up. My mother and father had siblings to spare, and my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins gathered often — to celebrate birthdays, holidays, half birthdays, television events. One of the main reasons I wanted to move back to Los Angeles from New York was to give the Nuni (then just a twinkle in her parents’ eye) that family and community that I grew up with. The menu varies — my mother makes mean spare ribs, my aunt often grills sausages. My grandmother’s fallback is barbecued chicken, and the sweet spicy taste of her favored brand of barbecue sauce takes me immediately to childhood summer evenings, shivering in a wet bathing suit while the scent of charcoal smoke fills the air. But whatever the main dish was, we always began with guacamole. [...]
New Year’s Day is really a strange holiday. Everyone celebrates hard on New Year’s Eve, leaving the holiday itself as a day to lie around, nurse your hangover, and watch the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl on TV (which is an excellent hangover nursing activity, though perhaps I’m a little biased towards the Rose Parade since I grew up in Pasadena).
But New Year’s Day has some lovely traditions, most of which are associate with the idea of beginning the New Year as you mean to go on. My friend Rebecca spends all of New Year’s Day doing activities she hopes to do throughout the year — spending time with her family, doing the things she loves. This is a tradition I try to aim for, but I’ve already spent more time doing dishes this morning (a byproduct of the fancy New Year’s Eve dinner I cooked, which I’ll tell you about at some point) than I would like to for the rest of the year. Still, I’ve also spent time reading, talking to my husband, exercising, and calling old friends on the telephone. Later, I plan to go out to lunch with my husband and spend some quality time with my daughter and my parents, and of course, cooking.
There are also traditional foods that should be eaten on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, which are supposed to bring luck and prosperity in the New Year. Greens (to represent money) and pork (to represent progress) are often named, but it’s black eyed peas that are most often thought to bring luck, in a tradition that dates back to 500 AD. My New Year’s Day tradition, then, is to make a variant of this dish to bring luck in the New Year. It also has the added advantage of being healthy and delicious, so if I begin as I mean to go on, this is a great beginning. [...]
It’s the Monday before Christmas. You’ve baked your fruitcake, braved the mall, passed all the shipping deadlines and if you’re anything like me, are more than ready to settle down for a long winter’s nap. Then your neighbor drops off a “small gift”, or your Aunt Phyllis comes and tell you she’s bringing her boyfriend’s son to Christmas dinner, or your company IT guy marches into your office with a tub of popcorn. You need a gift, homemade is always nice, and you want it to be easy. No crazy specialty ingredients, no weeks of maturing and no multi-step elaborate processes. You need pecan brittle. [...]