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Mediterranean Lentil and Vegetable Stew (Photo provided – Yvona Fast)

The weather is cool. The days are short and gray. The nights are long. But it’s time for the end of the year holidays! Celebrate with food!

Hanukkah is over, but the Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year celebrations are fast approaching.

Americans come from many culinary traditions – our ancestors came from all over the world.

Central European Jews celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah oil with latkes, fried potato pancakes. For a sweeter treat, these can also be made with other vegetables, like carrots or parsnips. And many other fried foods, like jelly donuts, are part of the feast.

In many northern European cultures, solstice celebrations (also known as Saturnalia or Yule) are popular. Mistletoe, log, song and dance are part of Scandinavian traditions. The Romans would relax and exchange gifts to the Saturnalia.

Food tends to concentrate around the fall harvest – roots, apples, porridge, pork and, of course, hot soup to warm you up on cold winter days. Hot cider spiced with nutmeg and ginger – also known as Wassail (translated as “are you well”) – is a popular drink. The custom of bringing this spicy alcoholic beverage from house to house while singing songs is what precedes modern Christmas carols.

Christmas treats from around the world include apple pies (England), Buche de Noel (France), stollen (Germany), melomakarona (Greece), makosh and (Hungary).

Fish is traditionally eaten as a main dish on Christmas Eve in Italy, Poland, Spain and Latin America. In the Philippines, the elaborate Christmas feast often includes a whole roast pig.

Kwanzaa is a Swahili word meaning firstfruits. The party is the brainchild of Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of black studies at the University of California at Long Beach. It is an effort to bring the black community together. Candles are lit, stories and poems are shared, and the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa are discussed each evening during the festive meal.

Common foods include sweet potato cookies, cornbread, jerk chicken, peanut stew (a tasty West African dish), Cajun catfish, African Creole food, beans and rice. Collared cabbage, Kwanzaa coleslaw, okra, and Jellof rice are common sides.

Traditional Kwanzaa desserts include ragweed, coconut cake, sweet potato bars, peach cobbler, and mango pound cake.

The December holidays of course culminate with New Year’s celebrations on the last day of the year.

In Vietnam, Bahn Chung – rice cakes stuffed with pork, beans, and other delicacies – are traditional dishes for the New Year. Koreans celebrate the New Year with a traditional kimchi soup and rice cakes ( Dduk Gook).

In Portugal, Spain, Italy and parts of Latin America, 12 grapes are eaten at midnight, to ensure the happiness of the coming year.

Italians celebrate with lentils; a vegetable and lentil stew is a common New Years dish. Lentils and beans, symbols of wealth, are eaten in Brazil and Italy. Pork is popular in Austria, where a suckling pig is a symbol of good luck. In Poland and Germany, herring are eaten at midnight to bring good luck. In Holland, special donuts, Olle Bollen, are eaten for a sweet New Year. In America, appetizers and appetizers are typical of New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Mediterranean stew with lentils and vegetables

This vegetarian or vegan dish rich in fiber and low in fat (without Parmesan) is equally suitable for the traditional meatless Christmas Eve meal in Italy, Spain and Portugal, as for New Year’s Eve where lentils are symbolic. some coins.


1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 large onion

1 stalk of celery

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 medium red pepper

2 cloves garlic

1 1/2 cup dried lentils

1 bay leaf

2 cups cubed butternut squash

1 large potato

1 bay leaf

1/2 pound green beans or 1/2 pound kale leaves, skinned from the stems

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (Italian)

Salt and pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)

About 1/2 cup sliced ​​olives, for serving


Heat the oil in the bottom of the soup pot over medium-low heat. Peel and mince the onion, and add it. Sprinkle with salt. Cover and cook. Meanwhile, wash and slice the celery; wash, seed and chop the red pepper, and add. Peel and mince the garlic, and add it.

When the vegetables have cooked for about 10 minutes, add the lentils, bay leaf, butternut squash, potato and 4 cups of broth or water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer; cook until lentils and vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the green beans or kale (stripped of the stems and washed) and diced tomatoes. Cook 10 minutes more. Stir in the basil and parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve in bowls or deep plates, with crisp Italian bread or French baguette. Skip the Parmesan and olives to garnish the top.

For 3 to 4.

To prepare in the slow cooker: place the lentils, broth and the rest of the ingredients except olive oil in the slow cooker. Cook for 10 hours over low heat. Stir in olive oil just before serving.

Braised bacon bacon

Braised greens are a great accompaniment to any meal, but are a traditional South and African American fare for Kwanzaa.


2 or 3 slices of bacon (or 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil)

1 onion

2 pounds of fresh green vegetables or about 16 cups. Green vegetables can include collard greens, kale, turnip greens, beet greens, swiss chard, bok choy

3 – 4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup of broth or water

2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar

Optional: 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes; diced ham, for serving; grated sharp cheese, for serving


Wash the greens and roughly chop them. Reserve in a colander.

Place bacon in a deep, straight-sided skillet or pot with a lid. Cook over medium-low heat to melt the fat, about 10 minutes. Remove and drain on absorbent paper. (or use olive oil).

Add the onion to the bacon juice (or olive oil), cover and cook over low heat, 5 to 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Peel and mince the garlic, add it and cook for about a minute.

Add the greens and raisins, sprinkle with salt and stir until softened. Add the broth, cover and cook, 5 to 15 minutes, until tender (this will depend on the type of greens – chard and spinach cook in less than 5 minutes; kale and cabbage can take 15 to 20).

Crumble in the reserved bacon. Sprinkle with vinegar. Add tomatoes and / or ham, if desired.

Serve hot. I like it on cooked pasta.

Basic fruit shoemaker

The peach cobbler is traditional for Kwanzaa. But a fruit cobbler is a wonderful dessert anytime!


5 cups canned peach slices, drained (or 5 cups frozen berries, thawed)

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

1 teaspoon of cornstarch

4 tablespoons of bitter

1/2 cup of milk

1 cup of flour

1 tablespoon of sugar

2 teaspoons of yeast

1/2 teaspoon of salt


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter or oil 9“x 9” baking dish.

Place the peaches (or other fruit) in the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with cornstarch and drizzle with maple syrup.

I small saucepan, heat the milk and butter until the butter is melted.

I mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Stir in the mixture of milk and butter.

Place the garnish on the fruit; cook 30 minutes or until golden brown.


Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: fresh and fabulous meals from your garden, CSA or farmer’s market”, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at and joined at [email protected] or on Facebook at Words Are My World.

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