Making Christmas special this year starts with the food

What are we to expect of the holiday season of 2020? Only time will tell.

What we can do is take time to enjoy the things that we have control over, such as menus that spark warm memories, home decor that brings peace and time to pamper ourselves and others who make our lives complete.

Choose to see the positive in any situation and show others gratitude even in the simplest of actions, such as a homemade box of cookies left at the door, a phone call or a letter.

Menu

Every family has specific menus that make their holidays complete. Here is a complete menu plan from our house to yours.

Sweet and sour casserole with rice

Aside from the traditional turkey meal, this recipe is always requested over the holidays.

Really it is the sauce that is requested. We have used different meats, all with delicious results. It was something that my mother-in-law made when we were all together and she needed a “less fussy” meal to prepare. We think of her when we make it.

Start with four pounds of meat, thawed. It can be ground beef made into meatballs, chicken breasts or spareribs, whatever you have on hand.

Sauce:

  • 1/2 c. ketchup 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. chili sauce 125 mL
  • 4 tbsp. soy sauce 60 mL
  • 1/2 c. water 125 mL
  • 1 c. brown sugar or less based on personal taste 250 mL
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. mustard 30 mL
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 1 c. finely chopped celery 125 mL
  • 3 minced small garlic cloves (or 1 tsp./15 mL garlic powder)
  • salt and pepper to personal taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

In a small mixing bowl, combine the sauce ingredients. Let sit.

Place the meat of choice into a large casserole or roaster. Brown slightly in oil in the oven. Then add sauce ingredients, stir and roast in the oven for two hours.

Thicken the sauce with flour or cornstarch, if desired.

Serve over rice and a side of steamed green peas to make the plate complete. Serves six.

Oven-baked rice

  • 2 c. uncooked rice 500 mL
  • 4 tbsp. butter 60 mL
  • 3 1/2 c. water 875 mL
  • 2 tsp. salt 10 mL
  • 1/4 c. minced onion 60 mL

Preheat oven to 350 F(180 C).

Combine the ingredients into a large greased casserole dish. Stir and bake in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Serves six.<

Salad

Feeling fresh? Substitute the following nutritious salad with homemade dressing for the steamed peas.

    • 8 c. greens, torn (can include lettuce varieties, kale, spinach) 1 L
    • additions to top the greens: chopped cucumber, finely chopped red onion, grated carrots, chopped tomatoes

Mason Jar Dressing:

        • 1 c. oil 250 mL
        • 1/2 c. vinegar 125 mL
        • 1/2 c. sugar 60 mL
        • 1/2 c. mustard 125 mL
        • 2 generous shakes of salt and pepper

Combine the ingredients in a lidded jar. Shake well. Pour over top of the greens just before serving and toss. Keep leftover dressing in the fridge. Serves six. Source: www.chef-michaelsmith.com.

Cherry cheesecake

This dessert is so simple and the presentation is festive with the beautiful cherry topping. Serve with a cup of tea or coffee. Prepare ahead of time, if desired, and chill until ready to serve.

Crust:

        • 1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs 375 mL
        • 1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened 125 mL

Filling:

        • 8 oz. pkg. softened cream cheese block 250 g
        • 1 c. sugar 250 mL
        • 1 tbsp. lemon juice 15 mL
        • 1 c. whipping cream 250 mL

Topping:

        • 1 can cherry pie filling 540 mL

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

Place butter in a saucepan over low to medium heat. Once melted, add in the crumbs. Combine thoroughly and press into a nine-by-nine inch (22×22 centimetre) pie pan. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Cool.

While the base is cooling, in a mixing bowl beat the whipping cream until stiff.

In another bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice together until smooth.

Gently fold in prepared whipped cream until well combined.

Spread carefully over the graham crust and smooth the top.

Refrigerate for two to three hours or until firm. Before serving, spread the cherry pie filling over the top.

Chill until ready to serve. Serves six large or eight small slices.

Cranberry banana bread

In addition to the menu, the holidays require some home-baked treats.

        • 1 c. sugar 250 mL
        • 1/4 -1/2 c. butter, softened 60 – 125 mL
        • 1 c. mashed banana 250 mL
        • 1/4 c. milk 60 mL
        • 2 eggs
        • 2 c. flour 500 mL
        • 2 tsp. baking powder 10 mL
        • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts 125 mL
        • 1 1/2 c. coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries 375 mL

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease a loaf pan.

Mix sugar and butter in a mixing bowl until combined.

Add banana, milk and eggs, mixing well.

Add dry ingredients, mixing just until moist.

Stir in nuts and cranberries.

Spread batter evenly in the loaf pan.

Bake for about 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the bread comes out clean. Remove from pan, cool on rack. Makes one loaf.

Christmas cut-out cookies

What is Christmas without cut-out cookies? Great to give, and one of Santa’s favorites.

When there is time, making these cookies will provide great entertainment — the rolling of the dough, the fun shapes and of course the creative decorations.

Looking back, I sometimes dreaded cookie day but every minute was worth it and provided great memories.

One year we did the faces of each member of the family — a most interesting bunch of caricatures. Did the children get to eat some dough? Absolutely.

This year my daughter decorated with buttercream icing and a toothpick to make beautiful art on each cookie.

        • 1 c. butter, softened 250 mL
        • 1 1/2 c. sugar 375 mL
        • 2 eggs
        • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
        • 3 c. flour 750 mL
        • 2 tsp. baking powder 10 mL
        • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

Gradually add the dry mix to the creamed mix until well combined.

Wrap or cover the dough and chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

On a well-floured surface, roll out to desired thickness (about 1/4 inch or .5 centimetres thick, like a pie crust). Cut out shapes and gently lift and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Our cookies were about three inches round, smaller sizes would need less baking time.

Bake for 10 minutes. The cookie should be light in colour with slightly browned edges.

Cool and decorate.

Choose from sprinkles, candies and icing. Makes about three dozen cookies, depending on the cutters that you use.

Buttercream cookie icing

        • 2 c. icing sugar 500 mL
        • 2 1/2 tbsp. cream 37 mL
        • 1/4 c. butter 60 mL
        • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL

In a saucepan, over medium heat, heat cream and butter until butter is melted. Stir in the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. Remove from heat, and beat with an electric mixer until thick and smooth.

*Note: we made this icing without heating, it was just less smooth. Yield: 2 1/2 c. / 625 mL

In preparing for this year’s holiday season, I urge consumers to shop locally and Canadian when possible. Main streets need you and have so much to offer even if some of the shopping methods have been modified.

Household helpers

Who would not want to make their homes more efficient and environmentally friendly. Once I find something that really makes a difference to our everyday lives I want to share it.

Items to try and give to others

Beeswax kitchen wraps can replace plastic wrap. These wraps are colourful and fun and they make your refrigerator look decorated and colorful. Great for wrapping food and covering bowls or plates. Easy to maintain and help to prolong the life of food as they seal and stick to any surface. I have tried Goldilocks and Bee Kind brands with success. For more information check out www.goldilockswraps.com and www.beekindwraps.ca.

Also for environmentally friendly storage, try reusable bags such as Rezip. These bags have saved so much plastic at our house. Available at some hardware stores. For more information go to www.rezip.com.

Try Ecologik laundry detergent (99.9 percent natural) and household cleaners available at some grocery and health food stores or by contacting the Saskatchewan company directly at www.ecologikshop.ca or calling 1-306-955-7627.

Don’t want to use any plastic to do laundry, try Tru Earth Eco Strip laundry detergent. These strips clean very well, use so little space and are fun to use. For more information go to: www.tru.earth.

Scent your home with natural products such as poo-pourri sprays that are made for bathrooms but so effective throughout the house.

Products that pamper

During the winter, our skin needs maintenance. The skin is our barrier to the outside world. Remember to choose products that are not tested on animals. Look for logos on the label. Avoid things like parabens, petroleum, formaldehyde, phthalates (labels will show fragrance/parfum) sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan (found in many toothpastes) and silicones.

If you want a fragranced product, look for labels that show “formulated without synthetic fragrance” or “scented with essential oils”. The following is a list of products I have found that are gentle, effective and easy to find. Most I have picked up at my local pharmacy:

        • Eurcerin Complete Repair Lotion in a Pump, and also the Complete Repair Cleanser.
        • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser and Moisture Lotion. Also check out CeraVe Baby.
        • Riversol skin system, complete with a hydrating cleaner, moisturizing crème and a facial sunscreen.
        • La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Barrier Repairing Cream is hands down (no pun intended) the best hand cream. Available at Shoppers Drugmart and London Drugs.
        • Ilia Mascara — I did not get this locally, but this green mascara is a natural winner. It is available at Sephora (instore or online), Detox Market (www.detoxmarket.ca).
        • Burt’s Bee Multi Stick All aglow in Peony Pool — I would be lost without this product. There are many skincare products from this line, check them out.
        • The Zinger Scalp massager by Relaxus. Such a great way to relax, so simple. Available at drug and department stores. One was not good enough for our house,
        • Rose Quartz Facial Roller by Delia Organics. So helpful for sinus or headache pain and for skin detox and improved circulation. Available at pharmacies and at www.deliaorganics.com.

Joyful décor

Create a soothing, comforting décor in your home. Bring out those pieces that spark joy. My great grandmother offered a peppermint in a lovely glass bowl. Feeling nostalgic, I dug out a milk glass bowl that I love and filled it with peppermints. Looking at it brings a smile.

This holiday season, we may not have many around, but we can still bring out the treasured pieces that we usually set out at the large dining table. I have a beautiful bowl that was my grandmother’s. She used it for cranberries each year and I will do the same and remember Christmas past. Each family will have pieces that have a story. Dig yours out and enjoy the memories.

I have a plant that was a slip from my Aunt Alma from last Christmas. It is growing vibrant and green and fills the indoor space with healthy vibes.

The bonus is this spider plant and many other plants help to clean indoor air, which can be useful during this time.

You can also divide plants into beautiful little pots to give as gifts.

Wishing you peace as you tread through these unprecedented times.

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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