A season for comfort & joy

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Put giving twists on holiday traditions

If giving is an important aspect of your holiday traditions, you may find yourself repeating the same activities year after year. While the giving feels good, it can also grow monotonous. This season, make your generosity feel fresh and new by putting your own unique twist on your favorite holiday traditions.
Cook extras for the cookie exchange. A baking party is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season. The delightful aromas and hours of laughter blend with the sweet treats for a cheery (and tasty) tradition. This year, instead of simply baking cookies to trade with your friends, encourage everyone to bake several extra batches and take them to a local soup kitchen or senior living community.
Extend a seasonal icon. The ringing bells and red kettles found outside of retailers across the nation are nearly as symbolic of the holiday season as twinkling lights and red-nosed reindeer.
During the holiday season, more than 3 million families and children rely on The Salvation Army to provide them with a warm meal on Christmas Day or toys for their children. This year, the organization is making it easy to extend those kettle collections offline as well with the Fight for Good campaign, which allows you to create your own fundraiser, including setting a goal and designating the cause you’d like to support. Visit redkettlereason.org to create your own fund-raising page and encourage friends and family to donate and start their own pages.
In addition, you can donate to the Red Kettle Campaign by dropping dollars and coins into the thousands of red kettles found in front of retail stores and on street corners, or donate your time by contacting your local Salvation Army for volunteer opportunities.
Add a special pre-dinner starter. The holidays bring plenty of opportunities for celebratory meals, and it’s the perfect time to ask everyone to lend an hour or two to a good cause. Instead of spending hours around a table, spend some of that time catching up while you volunteer at a food bank or other charitable organization. When you make your way on to dinner, your festive spirit may be even stronger for the difference you made together.
Travel with care. As you flit from one place to the next checking off your list of holiday chores, you may encounter any number of homeless and needy families. Instead of simply handing over a few dollars as you pass by, keep a supply of holiday care packages in the car. Include items like warm socks or gloves, toiletries and non-perishable snacks. You may even want to include an uplifting note to share some festive seasonal cheer.
Give gifts with meaning. If you’re like most people, there are many on your shopping list who truly don’t need a thing. Instead of wracking your brain, donate to a cause in their honor. It may be the foundation of a beloved alma mater or an organization serving orphans in the country where they honeymooned. The more personal the connection, the more gratefully it will likely be received. After making your donation, simply gift your recipient with a card that explains the contribution you’ve made in their name.
No matter which cause you support, a fresh approach to your charitable giving can renew your spirit and enthusiasm for helping those in need this holiday season. Visit crlmag.com/crl-giving.


Holiday eats from around the world

By Magdalena Grzebyk
Christmas
Christmas is a winter holiday celebrated by many. For Christians, Christmas observes the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas traditions often include a Christmas tree and an exchange of gifts to show appreciation for the loved ones in your life; these may be the only consistent traditions because when it comes to food, every Christmas Eve dinner is different. Every culture has their own food traditions during Christmas. Here are some popular dishes from around the world. Poland: Beet soup In any Polish household beet soup or barszcz, a warm and peppery dish, kicks off Christmas Eve dinner as an appetizer. The beet soup is usually accompanied with a handful of Polish dumplings filled with cabbage and beef. Italy:

Seven fishes
Whether in Italy for Christmas or celebrating Christmas with Italian-American relatives or friends, you will most likely be eating a Feast of Seven fishes. This tradition originates from Southern Italy where Christmas Eve is completely meatless. While the name implies seven seafood dishes, most families surpass seven and can have up to twelve dishes. Most seafood dishes vary depending on personal traditions, but a staple for the Feast of the Seven Fishes is dry salted cod better known as baccalà. To prepare the baccalà, the salted cod must be soaked and then used as desired.

Hannukkah
Hannukkah is a Jewish holiday known as the Festival of Light or Feast of Dedication, observed by lighting one candle on the menorah for a total of eight nights. The candles must be lit after sunset to symbolize the light the menorah provides. This tradition is historically known because there was only one cruse of oil left after the Greeks had entered the Sanctuary. The last cruse of oil was supposed to only allow for one night of light but miraculously allowed for eight full nights of light. This is why the menorah has eight candles.
A traditional food for Hannukkah is latkes, grated potato pancakes often served with a dollop of sour cream. This simple and easy to make dish is the epitome of comfort food. Every family has their own specific recipe for latkes but the base is potatoes and an onion grated together and combined with a binding agent, typically an egg, and seasoned to specific taste.
A Sephardic Jewish tradition is making sfenj, a Moroccan-style yeast doughnut served with honey as a dipping sauce. While the recipe for the sfenj is a standard yeast doughnut, the process of making the doughnuts for Hanukkah is a tradition cherished by many.

Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is a weeklong holiday celebrating African culture throughout the world. Beginning on December 26 and ending on January 1, this week is meant to reconnect Africans with their culture and heritage. Seven principles of Kwanzaa are celebrated during this time—unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Typically there is a candelabra with seven candles to commemorate the seven principles. Many Africans will celebrate Kwanzaa alongside Christmas because both holidays can be observed without contradiction.
When it comes to preparing food for Kwanzaa, there is no set menu. Popular African and Pan-Caribbean dishes are made, such as jerk chicken, yassa chicken, or West African peanut soup. West African peanut soup is a favorite dish with rich ingredients like ginger, yams, garlic, and of course peanut butter. Although this may seem like an odd pairing, these ingredients create an exceptionally decadent and rich soup.
It’s difficult to find a set menu for Kwanzaa because every household is different depending on what region of Africa you come from. The only consistency among African food is that it is packed with flavor and very satisfying.

References:
pwaa.org/polish_christmas_recipes
thespruce.com/baccala-italian-style-salt-cod-2018622
cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/mark-bittman/west-african-peanut-soup-with-chicken-2010446
antiquitynow.org/2014/12/17/bon-appetit-wednesday-celebrating-a-sephardic-hanukkah-with-sfenj/
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwanzaa

What do you find are most requested items for
1. Thanksgiving
2. Christmas or Hanukah
3. New Year’s celebrations?
Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Marble – Thanksgiving Celebration Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette – Christmas Assorted Hors d’oeuvres – New Year’s Eve

How have you seen party/holiday entertaining change over the past 10 years with people so busy now?
Guests are more likely have servers than in the past. Why arrange for catered food and then have to work your own party? If they chose to skip having servers, we recommend that they opt for a buffet.
– Stephanie Petitt at Old Daley Custom Catering


Holiday guesting 101

If you manage to avoid hosting duties this holiday season, you may be dodging some of the hardest work, but remember that being a good guest goes beyond arriving on time and taking your shoes off at the door. This holiday season, ensure your host gets to enjoy the festivities by putting these ideas to practice. It may earn you an invitation for years to come.
Bring a gift to the host/hostess. We give ideas for this special gift with our hostess gift guide on page 28 and 29. It needs to be well thought out and appropriate for the host/hostess. If you are special enough to be asked to dine or stay with these generous folks then you must know them well. Use that personal knowledge to select a perfect little, yet meaningful, gift.
Make a holiday playlist. Offer to put together a holiday playlist for the host who will undoubtedly have his or her hands full prepping for the holiday celebration. Try to choose songs specific to the guests, host and overall theme. A good playlist can be a conversation starter for everyone at the party.
Don’t arrive empty-handed. Even if your host shrugs off an offer for help, a gesture of appreciation is always appropriate. It may be a bottle of wine, a seasonal flower arrangement or, better yet, an appetizer or dessert to share, such as this mouthwatering Slow Cooker Banana Cake (Find recipe here https://www.crlmag.com/holiday-baking-for-family-and-friends/) . This crowd-pleasing cake is made using a Crock-Pot® which is always an easy way to cook yet creates some really memorable dishes like this Banana Cake. There is even a Cook & Carry Slow Cooker, which has a locking lid and travel clips to help you get to your holiday celebration without making a mess.
Stay off your phone. It may seem obvious, but these days, looking at your phone is almost as habitual as breathing, and chances are you don’t mean to appear standoffish or rude by sneaking a quick peek. However, playing with your phone can detract from time you get to spend with family and friends, many of whom you probably don’t get to see often. Tuck away your phone for the party and live in the moment.
Pitch in to help clean. No host likes to be stuck in the kitchen while the rest of the party carries on. After the meal, offer your help to clear the table, put away perishable items and get the kitchen back in order so your host can join the merry-making. If you’ll be opening gifts, grab a garbage bag and collect debris to help keep the mess under control.
If you are spending a night or two. Ask how the hosting family would like you to deal with the bedding and linens in general. Don’t leave the space you have enjoyed as yet another chore for the hosts.
Follow up with a heartfelt thank you note. These notes can be done by email but frankly, there is nothing like a well written thank you on a beautiful card. It means so much more. Find more holiday recipes and tips that you can do easily in your slow cooker, go to crock-pot.com.

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