A cozy, untraditional winter food adventure


Photo credit: Lucy Williams

This year, we cooked up and untraditional Thanksgiving table at my grandmothers house consisting of Oysters Rockefeller, lobster bisque and debuting sweet potato Christmas trees. Experiment with new holiday dishes this winter to spice up your seasonal routine and impress friends and family.

By Lucy Williams, Voices Editor

Wintertime is reserved for fuzzy socks, festive music and family arguments about whether “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is, in fact, a Christmas movie. But there’s one special thing that gives everyone a tingle of excitement during the holidays: food. Flavors can locate deep memories from past years’ winters, spark a connection between two tasters and inspire dull days. In the spirit of the belly ruling the mind and soul, here are some warm and cozy recipes to explore this winter season.

1.Sweet potato Christmas trees: Sweet potatoes are a typical holiday root, but there’s no need to conform to society’s standards to enjoy them. If you are a fellow skeptic of marshmallows at dinner, my adaptation of this festive recipe will be the star of your table instead. These beautiful stacks are sliced thin on a mandoline, doused with aromatic thyme butter and baked in less than 30 minutes. They’re easy, crispy works of art.

2. Tamales: In countries all over Latin America, families unite during the holidays to make their own version of tamales. From banana leaf pasteles in Puerto Rico to tangy hallacas in Venezuela, the basics are simple: steamy masa dough filled with a rich meaty stew. Assembling these creates an hours-long family project filled with sore arms, sticky fingers and lots of laughter.

3. Latkes: These classic Jewish potato pancakes are traditionally served all over Israel to celebrate Hanukkah. Break from the habit of running to Trader Joe’s for their frozen latkes, and make them fresh at home instead. Follow an online recipe, or, even better, befriend an elderly Jewish grandparent in your neighborhood to learn from the best. Add some cheese or onions for flavor, and you can expect an empty plate in minutes.

4. Christmas charcuterie board: This dish is for the artists. Charcuterie is much more than chopped snacks on an organized board — a dedicated foodie can use their imagination and dress it to impress. Personalize the board with salami roses, explore diverse cheeses or tear apart a steaming, fresh baguette. A radical personality could produce a radical board — one solely of chocolate or fruit?

5. Jiaozi (Dumplings): Explore Chinese culture with crescent-shaped Jiaozi, dumplings which symbolize the brightness of the moon. They are said to bring wealth and prosperity during Lunar New Year and are also a commonality for the American Jewish community on Christmas. Instead of ordering in, knead fresh dumpling wrappers, whip up a savory filling and assemble each dumpling with careful fingers and a bit of love.

6. Grilled cheese and tomato soup: A classic does not have to be basic. There are countless ways to make this meal gourmet, starting with scouting good quality fresh tomatoes, bread straight out of the oven and an assortment of fresh herbs. Influencer Justine Dorion’s 21st Century Fox grilled cheese has attracted Tiktokers this year, or you can swap the cheddar and sandwich bread altogether for a baguette with melted gruyere and ham. Personalize the soup with cream and vegetables or even your fancy bowl you only use once a year, which can elevate the whole meal.

7. Apple cider: There’s nothing better than cuddling up under fuzzy blankets and sipping seasonal drinks to accompany your holiday movie nights. Channel your inner apple farmer, and brew your own apple cider from scratch. A boiling mix of fresh apples, cinnamon sticks, cloves and oranges will release an aromatic, spiced smell that will drift to every corner of your kitchen.

8. Peppermint brownies: People tend to get to the bottom of this dish while it’s still warm. These rich, gooey brownies come from all your chocolate dreams while adding a minty holiday kick. Even better, they’re out of the oven within minutes of your craving, and you only have one bowl to wash. They’re also an easy option for gift-giving.

9. Spiced hot chocolate: This Peruvian delicacy will spice up your classic hot chocolate by the fireplace. Embark on an aroma adventure by introducing hints of cinnamon, orange and even coffee to pair with high-quality Peruvian bitter cocoa. Pour it into winter mugs, and decorate it with frothy milk and cinnamon to enjoy with the family.

10. Pumpkin bread: Toasty on the outside and sweetly moist on the inside, this seasonal pumpkin bread is the perfect treat for any time of day. Slice a dense piece onto your favorite plate, spread a layer of butter on top and watch the weather from the window on your ideal winter morning. Chocolate lovers should consider adding some chocolate chips or walnuts for a nutty crunch.

This season, try untraditional. Debut new dishes from different cultures, flavors and textures to inspire your loved ones. With that, remember Thomas Keller’s anthem: “A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.”