The end-of-year holidays are upon us, and that means plenty of opportunities for flavorful get-togethers. In fact, there are so many holidays, festivals and feasts in December alone, it’s difficult to count them all. What will be gracing our tables this season?
We tapped Chef Barry Greenberg, Hormel Foods culinary team lead, for his ideas about the traditions, trends and tastes that will be making our celebrations all the more special. “These days, holidays are a mix of old and new,” he says. Busy lifestyles and lots of mobility spell the need – and sometimes desire – to tweak tried-and-true customs. And yet, this time of year is all about keeping traditions alive.
“We’re blending our traditional customs with modern trends more and more, creating something exciting and new while honoring those traditions of holidays passed,” Chef Barry says. “Nostalgia itself has become a prevailing trend that shapes the way we celebrate and connect with the holidays.”
Nostalgia itself has become a prevailing trend that shapes the way we celebrate and connect with the holidays.”Chef Barry Greenberg
Nostalgia is that warm feeling brought about by remembering loved ones and good times, and it’s on full display during the holiday season. A treasured cookie recipe, favorite gravy or stuffing, even the main course. All of these can instantly bring guests back to years gone by. But that doesn’t mean holiday celebrations have to be fixed and rigid.
Chef Barry’s lifestyle has given way to smaller-scale, lower-key holiday festivities at home. “We live in Iowa, and both of our families are back East in New England. We attempted the long car ride and sometimes plane trips home. It didn’t work. There was never enough time in one place, and we all returned home tired and not at all relaxed.”
That led the Iowa Greenbergs to begin making their own holiday traditions at home. They’re not alone. With more millennials and GenZ’ers starting to host holiday gatherings, the trend of smaller, more intimate holiday gatherings seems to be picking up steam.
The inclusion of non-traditional meals as part of these smaller gatherings at home is also starting to trend upward. “One of the newer holiday traditions we observe at our house is a family lasagna,” Chef Barry says. “We love it because it’s a project. Make the Bolognese, make the Bechamel, grate the cheese, make the pasta dough – roll it out, boil it, assemble, and bake. It’s a full day of activity that ends deliciously.”
If you don’t have your own family tradition, maybe this is the year to begin one. And remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy. In today’s fast-paced world, many of us find comfort in the simplicity of the past, especially when it comes to holidays. That’s not to say there aren’t fresh new ideas and trends popping up for the holidays … there certainly are. But many of those trends are influenced by our yearning for a slower, easier time and cozy memories of holidays past.
Tradition notwithstanding, if you’re the adventurous type, think about adding some citrus flavor to your menu items. Whereas autumn is filled with dishes boasting apples, pears, pumpkins and the like, December ushers in citrus season in the United States. “Oranges and grapefruits start to taste great, and they are plentiful. Pair them with everything you can to bring your cooking to life,” says Chef Barry. “Citrus is great in savory applications. Think about orange and grapefruit zest in a turkey or chicken brine, or rubbed on a pork loin. Even if you’re not cooking for the holidays, these are excellent ways to brighten up a weekday meal.” Looking for an even easier way to incorporate citrus in your meal? Fresh squeezed citrus juice and zest are a great component to a homemade vinaigrette.
Sweets & Treats
Sweets, candies and cookies have always been a holiday staple and tradition – with good reason. Nothing says nostalgia like your favorite homemade holiday treats, after all.
To reduce seasonal stress, Chef Barry suggests landing on a cookie that you can make or partially make in advance and freeze with little to no effect on the quality. “It makes it that much easier to have something in the house when someone stops by, or if you are stopping at a friend’s house,” he says.
“Avoid eating them all yourself if you can resist. Instead, make a few batches of caramels, or fudge or meringues. Figure out a cute way to wrap them, and voila – a wonderful, thoughtful and easy gift,” Chef Barry says. “Some other things I like to have around for the holidays are Italian tricolor cookies, which are a beautiful addition to a cookie tray; spiced nut clusters -I use Planter’s® cinnamon and brown sugar cashews bound with a simple vanilla caramel – and candied bacon. It’s a nice addition to a cheese board, or try it as a tiny bite on top of a sugar cookie. It can be made in advance and held in an airtight container with wax paper.”
If you don’t have a favorite go-to holiday treat, we have some suggestions below to get you started.
Holiday drinks are another popular nostalgic tradition that is catching on in the trend space.
“Boozy or not, eggnog is a luxurious way to celebrate,” Chef Barry says. “Punches of all sorts, especially cranberry and spice-based punches, are an easy way to make a fun beverage for a crowd.” For an extra touch, Chef Barry recommends rimming the glasses with red and green sugar, and inviting your guests to fill their own glasses. Garnish the top with a float of liqueur, such as Grand Marnier. Classic warm drinks like ciders, flavored coffees and hot chocolates are fun holiday staples as well. “Digestifs (beverages served after a meal to help settle the stomach ) like amaro, grappa and port are a nice touch after a holiday meal. When the kitchen is cleaned and everything is squared away, nothing beats a small pour of a good port,” Chef Barry says.
Time for Extravagance
The holidays are also a great time to enjoy a special-occasion meal that feels like an extravagant splurge. A tradition for many, it also has seen a pickup in the trend space. “Some people have prime rib or a whole beef tenderloin. I tend to barbeque something, since it requires a lot of quiet down time,” Chef Barry tells us.
Don’t have a splurge-worthy tradition? Chef Barry has some ideas to get you started. “Buy some caviar and make all the accompaniments – chopped eggs, capers and blinis, and don’t forget the Champagne. Or get a lobster or two and pretend you’re at the beach – melted butter, boiled potatoes, some form of slaw. A classic fondue is another great holiday splurge. There’s a lot of prep involved but the payoff of warm melted cheese, sausage and bacon is worth the time investment.”
As we hold on to the warm embrace of nostalgia during holiday celebrations, it’s clear that our love for the past is as enduring as the traditions themselves. Nostalgia helps us reconnect with the heart of the season. It reminds us that even in this fast-paced, ever-changing world, some things never change. Like the joy of sharing a meal with loved ones and the coziness of familiar traditions.
As we like to say, food is love.
And who doesn’t want that?
Lasagna Turkey BologneseEntertaining
|Turkey Bolognese Sauce|
|½||medium yellow onion, finely chopped|
|1||medium carrot, finely diced|
|1||stalk celery, finely diced|
|2||tablespoons olive oil|
|1||(16-ounce) package JENNIE-O® Ground Turkey|
|½||cup white wine|
|½||cup whole milk|
|2||cups whole peeled tomatoes with juices|
|2||cups whole milk|
For the Turkey Bolognese Sauce
In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, place onion, carrot, celery, butter and olive oil. Sauté, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.
Add turkey, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Add wine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half. Add milk and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally, until milk is reduced by half.
Coarsely chop tomatoes and add to saucepan along with juice. Add salt. Bring to boil; reduce to a very low simmer. Cook uncovered 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.
For the Lasagna Noodles
Place flour in a mound on clean large work surface. Make a well in center of flour. Crack eggs into center of well. Sprinkle salt over eggs.
Using fork, gently break up eggs. With fork, begin to incorporate flour into eggs. Once mixture is somewhat combined, use hands to squeeze and work dough into a ball. (Dough should be tacky but not sticky.)
Knead pasta dough like bread dough—push down dough with palm of hand, fold dough over itself and repeat—until dough is smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap. Let rest about 30 minutes.
Cut dough into 4 equal pieces. Remove 1 piece of dough; keep remaining wrapped with plastic wrap. Flatten piece of dough with palm of hand. Put it through the rollers of a pasta machine set at the widest setting. Fold the dough in 3 and put it through the rollers again with the folds perpendicular to the rollers. Fold the dough in half and put it through one more time, again with the folds perpendicular to the rollers. Lay the dough on a towel and repeat the procedure with the remaining 3 pieces.
When all the pieces have been through the machine at the widest setting, adjust the rollers down one notch and put each piece of dough through once. Repeat, going down one notch at time, until you reach the next to last setting. Cut each sheet of pasta in half, then put each piece through the machine at the thinnest setting. Layer the pasta in plastic wrap on a tray. Set aside to rest.
For the Bechamel Sauce
In 1 ½ quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat.
Gradually stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; boil and stir 1 minute.
In large pot bring 6 quarts water to boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water and keep it close to the pot of water on the stove.
Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water and carefully add a few of the pasta sheets. Cook 1 minute, then gently lift the pasta out of the water using rubber-tipped tongs. Place pasta in bowl of ice water. Gently swish the pasta sheets in the water, then lay them flat on dry towels. Repeat with the remaining pasta sheets.
Heat oven to 425°F.
Spread a thin coating of Bechamel on bottom of an 9×13-inch baking dish. Mix the remaining Bechamel with the Bolognese sauce and ½ cup parmesan.
Cutting to fit, place a layer of pasta sheets in the baking dish. Spread a layer of the filling over the pasta sheets. Repeat layering pasta sheets and filling ending with filling. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan and dot top with butter. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the top of the lasagna is lightly browned. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting to serve.
Winter Citrus and Greens Salad with Citrus VinaigretteEntertaining
|¼||cup olive oil|
|Juice and zest of 1 orange|
|2||tablespoons rice vinegar|
|2||(5-ounce) bags mixed greens|
|2||red grapefruit, peeled, sectioned|
|2||navel oranges, peeled, sectioned|
|⅓||cup chopped PLANTERS® Dry Roasted Almonds|
|⅓||cup dried cranberries|
For the Citrus Vinaigrette
In small bowl, whisk together Citrus Vinaigrette ingredients.
On large platter or in individual salad bowls, arrange greens, grapefruit and oranges. Sprinkle with almonds and cranberries. Drizzle with dressing or serve dressing on the side.
White Chocolate Caramel Cashew ClustersEntertaining
|1||(8.5-ounce) can PLANTERS® Deluxe Lightly Salted Cashews, divided|
|1||(11-ounce) package caramels, unwrapped|
|3||tablespoons heavy cream|
|1||cup white chocolate chips, melted|
Line a baking sheet or large tray with parchment paper.
Remove 1/4 cup cashews from can. Chop. Reserve. Divide remaining cashews into clumps of about 12 to 15 cashews, about 1 inch apart on prepared sheet.
In medium microwave safe bowl place caramels and cream. Microwave on HIGH in 15 to 20 second intervals, stirring each time, until completely melted and smooth.
Top each nut cluster with 1 tablespoon caramel mixture to cover. Allow to set 15 minutes, or until caramel is firm.
Top each with a spoonful of melted white chocolate chips. Sprinkle with reserved chopped cashews. Refrigerate 20 minutes or until set.
Salted Nut BarsEntertaining
|¾||cup packed brown sugar|
|½||cup butter, softened|
|2||cups PLANTERS® Deluxe Salted Mixed Nuts|
|1||cup butterscotch chips|
|½||light corn syrup|
Heat oven to 350°F. In medium bowl, mix flour, brown sugar and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in 1/2 cup butter, until evenly mixed. Press evenly in bottom of 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes; cool slightly.
Sprinkle nuts evenly over crust. In small saucepan, heat all remaining ingredients over low heat, stirring occasionally, until chips are melted. Drizzle butterscotch mixture evenly over nuts. Bake 5 minutes.
Cool. Cut into bars.
Buttery Cashew BrittleEntertaining
|1||tablespoon corn syrup|
|1½||cup PLANTERS® Deluxe Cashews|
Line baking sheet with non-stick foil or lightly buttered wax paper. In heavy sauce pan over medium heat stir together butter, sugar and corn syrup.
Cook 15 to 20 minutes or until mixture reaches 290°F on candy thermometer. Remove from heat.
Stir in cashews. Quickly spread on prepared pan. Cool. Peel off foil. Break apart.
Peanut Butter FudgeEntertaining
|½||cup whole milk|
|1½||cup SKIPPY® Natural Creamy Peanut Butter Spread|
|1||(7-ounce) jar marshmallow fluff|
|1||teaspoon vanilla extract|
|¼||teaspoon sea salt|
|Sea salt or sprinkles, if desired|
In medium non-stick saucepan, combine milk and sugar. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to medium-low, stirring constantly 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and remaining ingredients.
Transfer mixture to a lightly greased 8- x 8-inch baking dish.
Let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut into 1-inch squares.
Garnish with sea salt or sprinkles, if desired.
Chocolate Cheesecake TrufflesEntertaining
|1||(8-ounce) package SKIPPY® P.B. Bites|
|4||ounces cream cheese, softened|
|¼||cup SKIPPY® Creamy Peanut Butter|
|1||cup semisweet chocolate chips|
|1||tablespoon rainbow sprinkles|
In a food processor, process the SKIPPY® P.B. Bites to fine crumbs.
In a medium bowl, blend together the crumbs, cream cheese, and peanut butter.
Shape into 20 (1½ inch) balls on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Chill for 15 minutes.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate chips and shortening on HIGH 30-45 seconds, or until melted and smooth.
Using 2 forks, dip each chilled truffle ball and return to lined baking sheet. Garnish tops with sprinkles.
Refrigerate truffles until coating is set, about 15 minutes. Store covered in the refrigerator.
|½||cup SKIPPY® Natural Creamy Peanut Butter Spread|
|¾||cup butter, softened and divided|
|2||cups powdered sugar|
|1||cup semisweet chocolate chips|
|Assorted sprinkles as desired|
Line baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper.
In medium bowl, combine peanut butter spread and 1/2 cup butter; beat together until blended. Gradually stir in powdered sugar.
On cutting board or flat surface, knead peanut butter spread mixture until smooth. Shape mixture into 36 (3/4-inch) balls. Arrange balls on baking sheet. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, melt chocolate chips and remaining 1/4 cup butter over low heat, stirring occasionally.
With two forks, dip balls into chocolate, covering two-thirds of each ball and leaving one side exposed to resemble buckeyes. Return to baking sheet. Decorate with sprinkles if using. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.
Mulled Cider with Cranberry JuiceEntertaining
|1||quart apple cider|
|2||cups cranberry juice|
|2||tablespoons brown sugar|
|1||crisp apple sliced thin, for garnish|
|Fresh or frozen whole cranberries, for garnish|
In medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients, except garnishes. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and serve with apple slices and cranberries.
|1||teaspoon ground nutmeg or 1 whole nutmeg, cracked|
|1||vanilla bean, halved|
|Honey, to taste (start with 1 tablespoon)|
|Fresh or frozen cranberries|
|Red apple slices|
|Crème de Cassis, optional|
In medium saucepan over medium heat, combine wine, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla bean and honey. Bring to a simmer. Do not boil. Turn oﬀ heat and let steep 20 minutes. Strain and serve with cranberries, apple slices and a splash of Crème de Cassis, if desired.
|2||cups (8-ounces) shredded extra-sharp white Cheddar cheese|
|2||cups (8-ounces) shredded Swiss cheese|
|1½||tablespoon all-purpose flour|
|1||cup dry white wine or beer|
|¼||cup chopped green onion|
|¾||cup HORMEL® Real Bacon Pieces|
|Suggested accompaniments: French bread, cut into small cubes, blanched cauliflower and broccoli florets, cornichons and pickled onions, fingerling potatoes, apple and pear slices and crisply cooked bacon strips|
In large bowl, toss together cheeses and flour.
In medium saucepan, over medium heat, bring wine to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Gradually whisk in cheese until smooth.
Stir in onion and bacon. Serve with suggested accompaniments.