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Enjoying Holiday Foods


As part of our monthly food segment, we'll talk about sweet and savory holiday dishes and food-related gifts.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. When you're a child, the best part of the holidays is probably getting toys and presents. But when you’re grown up, one of the best part of holidays is the food. Whether it's making cookies with the kids or a diet-busting family feast, food brings people together. It also warms up the house with wonderfully traditional tastes and smells. Now of course, it is possible to go overboard and load up on junk at this time of year. So instead, this hour we'll be talking about some really delicious, sweet and savory holiday dishes. And we're asking you to call in with your favorites. I’d like to introduce my guests. Today, we’re the two Karens and the two Maureens, so I’m going to be using a lot of last names. Caron Golden is food columnist for and author of the blog San Diego Foodstuff. Caron, welcome to These Days.

CARON GOLDEN (Food Columnist Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Karen Krasne is chef and founder of Extraordinary Desserts. Karen, welcome.

KAREN KRASNE (Founder, Extraordinary Desserts): Hi.

CAVANAUGH: Maureen Clancy is former food editor and restaurant critic for The San Diego Union-Tribune, and author of Matters of Taste at Maureen, good morning.

MAUREEN CLANCY (Author of Matters of Taste blog): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: And, again, we invite everyone listening to join the conversation. What special holiday foods are you making this season? We’re talking about holiday foods and gifts. Call us with your questions and comments. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Now, Karen Krasne, you brought with you a selection of breakfast pastries that are just – they – out of this world.

KRASNE: Thank you. Well, I figured everybody might be hungry this morning.

CAVANAUGH: Now, is any of this seasonal? Not that I care at this moment.

KRASNE: No, not really seasonal. No, I mean, these are typical things that we have in the store in the morning but I think it’s the garnishes that become seasonal.

CAVANAUGH: Right, because you have – it looks very red and green.

KRASNE: Yeah, they’re – that meaning that part of it would be the seasonal aspect.

CAVANAUGH: And what is this with the blueberries on it?

KRASNE: That looks like – If I’m looking at the right thing, it would be scones.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, yeah.


CAVANAUGH: They look pretty good. Thank you. So what are some of the special holiday desserts that you make this time of year, Karen?

KRASNE: Well, typically we do the – like the Bouche de Noel.


KRASNE: And we call ours a yule log and it’s done with pretty much – almost a flourless chocolate cake that’s done with ground roasted almonds and dark chocolate. And it serves as a centerpiece because we do it quite elaborately with flowers and all kinds of shards of chocolate and gold. And so it should be served room temperature and is wonderful with like whipped cream or ice cream. So it would be beautiful out on the centerpiece of the table and then served, as well, as dessert. So that’s something we’ve been doing over the years and we step it up a little bit every year because we find some other fun things to add in for the décor.

CAVANAUGH: And I wonder, are people rather specific about what it is they particularly like in a yule log or a seasonal dessert?

KRASNE: You know, I’m not finding a trend. The person who wants the very traditional yule log would not come to us because a traditional yule log is something that’s rolled up with more of a sponge cake and has sort of a buttercream, whether it’s hazelnut or chocolate, so it’s very different. So ours is sort of a play on that and – But I find now what I’m hearing people looking for is they just want something that is absolutely delicious and if they’re going to be purchasing a dessert, they just – they want to go a little over the top.

CAVANAUGH: Is there anything that you particularly look forward to making at this time of year?

KRASNE: Well, I just got over the pumpkin, which, you know – so I’m still loving that because that’s something that we literally do for maybe 30 days and that’s it, once a year. So now that we’re transitioning out of the pumpkin situation and the cranberries, which, again, that’s like a two-week period, I really love just the idea of holiday, that everybody is just so excited to take this and share it with their family. So for us, it’s just really trying to make that piece a much more presentation oriented idea and really get there with the flavor as well.

CAVANAUGH: We are talking about holiday foods, taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Caron Golden, when we specifically talk about Chanukah, I wonder what some of the holiday foods are that you look forward to that you like?

GOLDEN: Oh, well, first of all, potato latkes because there just isn’t anything better than frying food. And so when you’re talking about potatoes and oil, you know, that’s just a wonderful match. So potato latkes are pretty much it. You know, Chanukah’s sort of been elevated to the level of Christmas in celebrations but in terms of what most Jewish families do, I don’t think it’s quite as big, the production, as it is among Gentile families, so when we’re talking about a lot of Chanukah foods, you’re really talking about latkes for Eastern European Jews and you’re talking about bunuelos, which are like little donuts…


GOLDEN: …fried dough with…


GOLDEN: …honey on them for Sephardic or Middle Eastern or Israeli families. And so beyond that, you know, we’re talking brisket and roast chicken and things like that. When I was a kid, we made sugar cookies with icing and we had, you know, them in the shapes of menorahs or Stars of David, that kind of thing. It’s not the extravagance, I don’t think, that the rest of, you know, the U.S. kind of goes into at this time of year.

CAVANAUGH: And, Karen Krasne, I wonder, do you make Chanukah donuts at Extraordinary Desserts?

KRASNE: No, you know, we don’t really have a strong following of anything that’s a typical Chanukah dessert, you know, even for our family that celebrates Chanukah. I mean, typically we do a cheesecake for them and I decorate it with a blue ribbon. I mean, it’s pretty low key.




CAVANAUGH: Are there any good local restaurants or bakeries that have offerings of maybe Chanukah donuts or…?


GOLDEN: …remember where we live. We’re in San Diego.


GOLDEN: If we were in LA or New York, we might have…


GOLDEN: …this conversation. However, if you are wanting latkes and you don’t want to make them, there are a lot of places where you can go and get them. You know, you’ve got the delis, the D.Z. Akins and Milton’s and Elijah’s, of course. Terra restaurant over in Hillcrest is owned by Jeff Rossman and he’s actually making latkes and brisket dinners this week, so you can actually go and have a Chanukah dinner over at Terra. And actually Trader Joe’s sells a very respectable frozen package of latkes which, you know, isn’t bad. And beyond that, I was at Bristol Farms and saw some really darling sugar cookies that had beautiful icings on them with, you know, Chanukah symbols. And so that’s a place you can go and pick up some real pretty goodies. Beyond that, I think we’re mostly, in the bakeries, talking about Christmas bakeries…

CAVANAUGH: I – just…

GOLDEN: …and pastries.

CAVANAUGH: Just one other question about Chanukah though, and of course we can talk about it more as we go along. But if you’re going to make your own latkes, it’s a lot of work, isn’t it, Caron?

GOLDEN: It’s a lot of work, yes. You’ve got to – There are two ways to make latkes. You could either do the way my grandmother did, I remember her at the blender. And when we would have 20-some-odd people at dinner, she and my uncle would be standing by the blender and, you know, then pouring them. And that’s basically, you know, we’re talking potatoes and onions and matzo meal as a binder and some egg and my grandmother used pieces of Challah, also.

And you either blend it or you do what I do, which is you grate the potatoes, you grate the onions, and that’s what turns into the work along with just standing in front of the stove frying up all these things.

CAVANAUGH: And the good news is, you can freeze them.

GOLDEN: You can freeze them. One of the things that my mom learned ages ago when we used to have big family Chanukah gatherings was do it in advance, put them out on a baking sheet, and freeze them and then you can put them in baggies until you need them. And when you actually want to start cooking them, just put them in the oven and reheat them and, you know, if you do it at a high enough temperature, they’ll crispen up again.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Caron Golden and Karen Krasne. Maureen Clancy’s going to come into the conversation in just a moment. I want to remind everyone that we are taking your calls about holiday foods. The number is 1-888-895-5727. And let’s take a call from Brianna in San Diego. Good morning, Brianna, and welcome to These Days.

BRIANNA (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. Thank you. I just wanted to make a comment that a dessert that my family does in the winter a lot—we’re from the south in Louisiana and Texas—is sweet potato pie. I don’t know – At least I haven’t been able to get a good one since I’ve been out on the west coast. But it’s a lot lighter. You can make it so it whips to a lot lighter than a pumpkin pie so you leave, at the end, not feeling quite as heavy with the turkeys or the hams and all the other things that go along with Christmas dinner. Your dessert can leave you feeling light so you can actually, you know, walk instead of roll to your car.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that, Brianna. So what about Brianna’s comment that there – she’s having trouble finding a good sweet potato pie in San Diego.

GOLDEN: We’re on the west coast.

KRASNE: Oh, I don’t know.

CLANCY: I don’t know.

KRASNE: What about a restaurant that serves southern food that might make something like that for dessert on their regular menu?

CAVANAUGH: It would be worth checking out, yes.


CAVANAUGH: Yes, and thank you for that call, Brianna. Maureen Clancy, I want to talk to you about what holiday foods you look forward to now.

CLANCY: Well, I grew up in Boston in a very traditional family and we celebrated Christmas and had the usual turkey dinner and the ham and the candy that was kind of wrinkled like ribbon, that hard stuff.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, ribbon candy, yes, certainly, yeah.

CLANCY: Yeah. But my husband and I lived in Europe, in Austria, 30 years ago and we adopted a lot of their customs because you talk about Christmas and that is Christmas central, southern Germany and Austria. And our favorite tradition that our boys have embraced, our sons have embraced, is a thing called bauernschmaus which we have on Christmas Eve and it is – you would know it as Choucroute a l’alsacienne, Caron. The French call it Choucroute. It’s a giant steaming platter of sauerkraut that’s cooked a long time with apples and onions and then I buy a variety of sausages and smoked pork chops from Sausage King in Hillcrest. And then at the end you kind of bury these things in there so that it’s a sort of a treasure hunt. You start looking around, and it’s served on a huge platter with big knurdle, which are dumplings, and then a variety of different kinds of mustard at the table. And that has become our Christmas Eve celebration.

CAVANAUGH: That is amazing.

GOLDEN: That sounds great. I grew up eating Choucroute. I remember that. But not for a holiday. And I think that’s a great idea.

CLANCY: It’s very – We are often in colder weather on Christmas in Colorado and it’s just a perfect antidote to it snowing outside and it just kind of sets a mood. It smells wonderful and it’s a communal platter. It’s not your own food on your own plate. Everybody serves themself (sic) from the big platter.

CAVANAUGH: Well, we just heard about this amazing dinner that Maureen Clancy has adopted from overseas. We’re asking you, if you’re listening, what is some traditional holiday dish that your family has adopted? Or perhaps it’s been in your family forever. 1-888-895-5727. Tell us what you’re making and what you usually make around the holidays that’s really special for you and your family. 1-888-895-KPBS. I wonder, Maureen, did you like – the first time you tasted that because it sounds very foreign to me, did you say, oh, this is delicious? Or is this an acquired taste?

CLANCY: Well, it’s funny because when I was little, one Christmas Eve my mother served sauerkraut and I hated it and I wasn’t really allowed to leave the table until it was gone, that kind of thing. So for 40 years I had an aversion to sauerkraut.


CLANCY: My sister still won’t eat the stuff. But when I had it over there, it just was the thing to do, every – it was a big party atmosphere. We ate it in farmhouses. It’s – bauernschmaus translates into farmer’s feast. And we lived in Innsbruck way out in the country and we would go to different farmhouses, literally, on occasion and we always ordered the bauernschmaus and so it’s – I was enchanted. It’s just a very enchanting thing. And they have a lot of traditions like that over there. Their Christmas trees, we actually put these little metal clips on the branches and real candles, so you’re sitting there with real candles burning on your Christmas tree. We tried to adopt that and bring it home to San Diego but my husband was way too neurotic; he thought we’d burn the house down.

CAVANAUGH: And, also, do they – I want to ask all three of you what you know about the – Well, I remember in New York it was very much into roasting nuts and…

GOLDEN: Chestnuts.

CAVANAUGH: …selling them. Yeah. And you don’t see that around here.

GOLDEN: It’s not cold enough.

CAVANAUGH: It’s not cold enough, yeah.

GOLDEN: I mean, yeah. When I lived in New York, this time of year was wonderful. You would go down the street and the streets just smelled of roasted chestnuts…


GOLDEN: …and you could go to the stand that would normally be selling hot dogs, the soubrette, you know, vendors, those guys, and buy a bag of hot chestnuts and not only – the taste wasn’t as great as the smell, to be honest, by these guys, but it kept your hands warm and it was just part of, you know, the whole atmosphere. And if you’re in New York City and Christmastime, you’re walking by Rockefeller Center and you’re seeing the skaters and you’re seeing the amazing window displays, and all of the foods, I mean, talk about – I mean, Maureen, you could have a feast of Austrian and German foods at some of the bakeries that I used to go to at – in Yorkville, you know, in…

CLANCY: 86th Street?

GOLDEN: Yeah. Yeah, it’s an amazing thing. And this time of year, to be in New York City with all the food and the décor and everything, it’s just a wonderful thing.

CAVANAUGH: It is a wonderful thing. It’s also a wonderful thing to be in San Diego.

CLANCY: And San Diego does have chestnuts.

GOLDEN: They do have chestnuts. We have great chestnuts.

KRASNE: We just don’t walk anywhere.

CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break. When we return, we’ll continue talking about traditional holiday foods, whether they’ve been in your family for a long time or you’ve adopted them from somewhere else. The number we’re asking you to call is 1-888-895-5727. What are you looking forward to eating this holiday season? These Days takes a short break. When we return, we’ll take your calls and continue our conversation here on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS. We’re talking about holiday foods, and I have just the right people to do that. My guests are Caron Golden, food columnist for, author of the blog San Diego Food Stuff, Karen Krasne, chef and founder of Extraordinary Desserts. She brought some along for us, pastries, and they are extraordinary indeed. And Maureen Clancy is former food editor and restaurant critic for the San Diego Union-Tribune, author of Matters of Taste at We are asking for your questions and comments about your favorite holiday foods and holiday food traditions. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. And just to finish off a conversation that we had about sweet potato pie earlier, a listener called to say that a farmer at the Vista’s farmers market sells a great sweet potato pie. So you can check it out in Vista. You know, Maureen, I wanted to talk a little bit more – because we were talking during the break about different things you can do with chestnuts instead of just eating them out of a bag, and that is putting them in a stuffing. And you were talking about how you do that.

CLANCY: Right. Our traditional family stuffing is an Italian stuffing, also I think picked up on that trip, and it involves chestnuts, which I cook in the microwave. You put an ‘X’ on them, you put them in a microwave and in, you know, 15, 20 minutes the shells have basically separated themselves. And we chop that up with Parmesan cheese and sautéed onions and a couple of links of fresh Italian sausage, and prunes, chopped up prunes, and then at the end some scrambled eggs. It is out of this world.

GOLDEN: Huh. Ours is different.

CAVANAUGH: That’s the great divide, I think. Stuffing…


CAVANAUGH: …is the great divide. If you don’t…

GOLDEN: Well, but, no, ours is chestnuts, too.


GOLDEN: It’s just a completely different kind of recipe…

CLANCY: Right.

GOLDEN: …with sautéed vegetables and eggs and challah.

CLANCY: Aha, so, bread, yeah.

GOLDEN: And you dry out the challah and you use that, then you moisten it and add all of these things…

CLANCY: Well, most stuffings now are bread.

GOLDEN: Yeah, exactly.

CLANCY: Bread stuffings. And this one has no bread at all, so – but it’s delicious.

GOLDEN: Very different how you can use the same ingredients and come up with something different.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls on holiday foods at 1-888-895-5727. And let’s take a phone call from Michele in San Diego. Good morning, Michele, welcome to These Days.

MICHELE (Caller, San Diego): Good morning.


MICHELE: How is everyone?

CAVANAUGH: Just great.

MICHELE: Oh, good. Actually, I had a question but you were just talking about stuffing and my tradition for stuffing, growing up in New Orleans, was we added eggplant and shrimp but we pretty much add shrimp to anything you want. So we grew up with eggplant stuffing on Christmas Day but I just had a question. I have several Mexican friends who have tamales on Christmas and I was wondering, is that a Mexican tradition? If anybody on the call knew or on the panel knew what – if that’s a Mexican tradition, having tamales on Christmas.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Michele.

GOLDEN: Absolutely. One of my favorite treats is to go to my friend’s mother’s house and we spend a weekend making chicken and pork tamales and then dessert tamales with pineapple, and it’s – talk about, you know, labor intensive, that requires several people but it’s a really fun thing to do with a group of people and then you end up with these beautiful tamales that they serve on Christmas.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Roxanna is calling from Valley Center. Good morning, Roxanna. Welcome to These Days.

ROXANNA (Caller, Valley Center): Hi. Good morning, ladies. Happy holidays.

CAVANAUGH: Happy holidays to you.

ROXANNA: Hi. I was calling and actually I was going to talk about something different but I heard your last caller Michele mention tamales and I’m Hispanic and in our family we do eat tamales but more traditional is posole.


CAVANAUGH: And tell us about that, Roxanna.

ROXANNA: Well, that is a stew – it’s stew-like, and it’s made with hominy and different red sauces, red chiles, beef, chicken, and pork.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that. What – Do you know about – This is the first I’ve heard of this. Posole?

CLANCY: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: And what does that consist of, Maureen?

CLANCY: It’s – Well, it’s just as she said, the hominy is the characteristic, I think…

GOLDEN: Umm-hmm.

CLANCY: …the big, fat corn kernels. And it’s a wonderfully – it’s a very comforting. It’s quintessential comfort food, really. It’s steaming, it’s stick to the ribs, it’s perfect winter fare even in San Diego with the weather we’ve been having. And, once again, it’s a communal thing. A big pot of it comes out and everybody helps themself (sic).

CAVANAUGH: Indeed. Yeah, I wonder, any of you have any favorite soups of the season? I’m thinking – It was always in my house, it was always clam chowder at this time of year.

GOLDEN: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Anything – anything…?

CLANCY: I love ribollita, the Italian bean stew. It’s basically a stew also. And, once again, it’s a great big, hearty, comforting food.

GOLDEN: Yeah, I like to make beef and barley, mushroom barley soups, those kind of things. A friend of mine just introduced me to a wonderful soup-stew type of thing that I’m just in love with, which is a sort of a pork and Hatch chile stew…


GOLDEN: …and you thicken it with masa and it’s, again, one of these very hearty things and the pork just falls apart in the stew. You use a slow cooker. And the flavor – the Hatch chiles are grown in New Mexico and it’s a very limited season for them and so when you can get them and steam the skins off and keep them, this is the perfect place to put them is in this kind of a pork stew.

CAVANAUGH: And Karen Krasne.

KRASNE: I – You know, we don’t really make soup at home much unless there’s a lot of extra vegetables in the refrigerator and then I’ve got this thing that I just sort of wing that takes the vegetables and then I take like marinara sauce and I put that in there with a little bit of veggie stock and then I puree it all with some coconut milk and some curry and a little bit of peanut butter.

CLANCY: Oh, that sounds delicious.

KRASNE: And it’s just – it’s sort of a mainstay. I think I raised my daughter, literally, for two years on this. But I have to really be motivated, so we have to have some cold weather for me to have to do that.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls about holiday foods at 1-888-895-5727, and let’s take a call from Liz in University Heights. Good morning, Liz. Welcome to These Days.

LIZ (Caller, University Heights): Hi. I’ve been listening in my kitchen as I bake banana bread, which is oddly enough not one of my family traditions.

CAVANAUGH: Right. But what is one of your family traditions?

LIZ: Well, I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia and my family was Jewish but we’re not terribly observant and so our big holiday is Thanksgiving. And it’s – My husband is in the military. It’s been several years since we’ve been able to be in Philadelphia, so I’ve asked my aunt for all the recipes and we recreate it here.


CAVANAUGH: And what are some of those recipes?

LIZ: Well, the one that gets everybody talking is the prokas. It is a stuffed cabbage and there’s something in the sauce. It’s probably the brown sugar but everybody goes back for seconds and thirds. Even if you don’t like the cabbage, you peel it off and eat the insides.


GOLDEN: It’s sweet ‘n sour…

CLANCY: Umm-hmm.

GOLDEN: …so you’ve got vinegar and lemon juice going on and you’ve got the brown sugar and it’s a wonderful thing.

LIZ: Right.

CAVANAUGH: And what’s the name of it again?

GOLDEN: Prokas.

LIZ: Prokas, p-r-o-k-a-s is what’s written on the recipe that I have but it’s handwritten and it could be misspelled for all I know.

CAVANAUGH: Liz, is there anything else you’ll be making this holiday?

LIZ: Well, my aunt makes the most beautiful challah I’ve ever seen and I always thought it was terribly difficult to make. It turns out not to be difficult, it’s just a very large recipe because it’s got something like 5 eggs and 8 cups of flour and it’s just impossible to divide. So we make a double large braided loaf and then the third part goes into the bread pan and it’s baked and frozen for later.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you so much. Thanks for calling, Liz, we really appreciate it. And as I said, we’re taking your calls about holiday foods at 1-888-895-5727. Now I think that you told us, Caron, that you’re not going to be making many holiday foods this year. Is that correct?

GOLDEN: Not for a big meal.


GOLDEN: I like to make a lot of things as gifts to give away. So…


GOLDEN: …for instance, I don’t think you would really call rugula a Chanukah pastry but I just love this time of year. In fact, when I leave, I’ve got to go to the market and buy cream cheese and stuff. I’ve got great chocolate that I was able to acquire and that is going to go into my rugula and give away as gifts this year.

CAVANAUGH: It sounds like it’s a secret ingredient there.

GOLDEN: No. No, no, no, no, it’s just, you know, some of the really good chocolates that I was given by someone and I’ve been saving them for a special occasion and I think the rugula is deserving of that.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Karen Krasne, I guess it’s sort of – kind of redundant for you to give away gifts for…


CAVANAUGH: …Extraordinary Desserts. Do you bake a lot for gift giving?

KRASNE: Yeah, well, we bake a lot and we give a lot away. And, of course, everyone that I’m – deal with throughout the year looks forward to when I have an appointment, you know, in the week prior to it being Christmas because I’m always bringing boxes with me as thank-yous and that kind of thing. It gets me a long – a lot of yardage, I have to say. The mailman loves me and I know all the UPS drivers and so it’s great. And I love to do that. I’m actually – I prefer to give than to receive, and so having the company that I have, I’m in the best place to be able to do something like that.

CAVANAUGH: Absolutely. Now, Maureen, are there pitfalls for people who are not professionals in actually giving away…

CLANCY: Well, I was just about to say…


CLANCY: I’m sitting here listening to these ladies who are home cooking and giving gifts, I don’t – Other than maybe when my kids were in preschool and now they’re in their mid-twenties, I know I haven’t baked anything and given it to anybody. At the Union-Tribune, we did – I did an annual gift guide, which was one of the most popular food covers we had all year. And that required me shopping really diligently to find very clever and hidden things that were either food edible or food related, like fancy cheese plates or cocktail glasses, and so that became my life for 28 years, so I did a lot of shopping and I picked up a lot of lovely gifts for my friends in the process but I never baked a single thing.

CAVANAUGH: Right, you know, well, of course, you know, the fruitcake has almost become a joke.

CLANCY: It is a joke.

CAVANAUGH: But there are some good fruitcakes out there that people make. I’m seeing rolled eyes. No one for a fruitcake?


CLANCY: No fruitcake.


CLANCY: You know, I think Bread & Cie has some kind of a dense fruity bread, I believe that’s really very delicious.

GOLDEN: I’m sure the various bakeries do have their version of that and I’m sure they’re probably really delicious…

CLANCY: But a real…

GOLDEN: …but the traditional, no, there was a reason why those were created.

CLANCY: Yeah, doorstop.

GOLDEN: Well, yeah, I mean, it was to preserve food that would have gone bad. And so, you know, you basically end up almost killing the food to create the thing that, you know, lasts long and ehh…


GOLDEN: But there are things that you can do, edible gifts that you can make that don’t require baking and that can be very low skill oriented and be really delicious.

CAVANAUGH: Give us an example.

GOLDEN: I love to do – Last year, I spent a lot of time making herb rubs, and I learned this from a friend of mine in Italy who basically was taking – and some of us grow lots of rosemary. You’ve got a lot of plants that need trimming back right now this time of year if they’re edible. You can take all the herbs and put them in the food processor and, you know, really get them small, add garlic and some sea salt and mix it all together and put it on a baking sheet. Don’t put it in the oven because then you’re going to get all the oils that you want out of there but if you let them air dry for a few days, you’ll start to see them turn color and they’ll fade in color, won’t be quite as vibrant. And if they feel dry then you can start packaging them in little glass jars and I’m still using some of the rubs that I’ve made in the course of the year. And you can add them to oils for dipping for bread, you can add them – you can put them on poultry, all sorts of things. And it’s a great inexpensive thing to do.

CAVANAUGH: And one of our callers asked if some of the recipes that we’ve mentioned will be on your websites? Will they be successful in finding those…


CLANCY: …and I also have a gift guide coming out this week on my website of things that you can buy either around San Diego or mail order that is food or food related.

CAVANAUGH: And we will have links to your websites at And we’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s speak to Maria in La Jolla. Good morning, Maria, and welcome to These Days.

MARIA (Caller, La Jolla): Hi. I wanted to segue a bit from the roasted chestnuts…


MARIA: …which are not just popular in New York but all over Europe, and to our traditions, which are from Spain. And every Christmas and occasionally on New Year’s, we have the bacalao, which is the salted codfish which at one time was a very inexpensive dish. Now it’s hard to come by and not exactly inexpensive but tastes absolutely exquisite with a marvelous tomato sauce, capers, olives and garlic.

CAVANAUGH: And is this a main course for you?

MARIA: Yes, it’s the main course, and it’s always served with baguette – thin baguette slices which are fried in olive oil and usually served with some type of a side dish of rice, usually with some type of a tomato sauce or something like that to give it a little extra flavor. And our family also is from Mexico and one of the great Mexican traditional dishes is the chile relleno but the real Mexican one is called chile en nogada, which means with nuts and it’s served with minced meat, vegetables and chopped pecans with a very thin béchamel sauce on top.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, Maria, now we’re all seriously hungry.

CLANCY: I am so hungry. I’m so hungry.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much for that phone call. Maureen, you said that you really, really love that fish dish.

CLANCY: Well, actually I have never tried that. What she was describing was spectacular…


CLANCY: …with the capers and tomato sauce.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

CLANCY: To me, salt cod—and I’m sure Caron agrees—is brandade, is the French brandade, which I just really love, and that is, you moisten the salt – the dried salt cod, you relubricate it, you know, in water and then you mix it with a lot of whipped or mashed potatoes and heavy cream with – that garlic has steeped in, and then it’s a very light, fluffy dish that you scoop up with maybe very thin pieces of toast, and it’s just one of the all-time great things, brandade. And it’s the same thing. Salt cod is such an ugly concept even in my opinion and it looks so ugly but it really tastes great.

GOLDEN: And you can actually get it here. Pata Negra…

CLANCY: Yes, a lot of it.

GOLDEN: …sells it. That’s a little Spanish shop over on Garnet in Pacific Beach.

CLANCY: It’s very big in Portuguese cuisine, too where you have a big Portu…

KRASNE: It’s really a big dish, yeah.

CLANCY: …guese community here.

CAVANAUGH: And it doesn’t sound like a diet dish at all.

KRASNE: No, not at all.

GOLDEN: Well, none of this is going to be.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, I know.

CLANCY: But it’s very rich. You don’t eat very much of it.

CAVANAUGH: There you go.

CLANCY: That’s the secret.

CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break and when we return, we’ll continue talking about holiday foods, talk a little about holiday foods that you might want to have at your party this year, and continue talking about traditional holiday foods you have in your families. 1-888-895-5727 is our number. We’ll return in just a few minutes right here on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. We’re talking about holiday food. And my guests are Caron Golden, Karen Krasne, and Maureen Clancy. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And so many people want to talk with us, let’s go right to the phones and take a number of calls. Rose is calling from Lakeside. Good morning, Rose. Welcome to These Days.

ROSE (Caller, Lakeside): Hello. Merry Christmas.

CAVANAUGH: Merry Christmas to you.

ROSE: Well, I do a tradition, linzer torte cookie. It’s a German cookie. It’s a butter cookie. And it’s just a labor of love. It’s a lot of work, makes about 13 dozen, and I teach my grandkids so it will continue.

CAVANAUGH: And do you give them away as gifts?

ROSE: When I – Yes, I’ve done that. And then when I have company but I have to – If the child – If one of my children aren’t home, I have to mail it to them. Like when I was a child, my grandma mailed all the German cookies from Pennsylvania, and that was our Christmas. I didn’t care about gifts. We were waiting for that box with all the German cookies.

CAVANAUGH: Rose, thank you so much for the call. Let’s take a call from Elaine in La Mesa. Good morning, Elaine. Welcome to These Days.

ELAINE (Caller, La Mesa): Thank you for taking my call. I’m hoping that someone can tell me where I can buy lefse, it’s a Norwegian flatbread, sort of like a tortilla but it’s made with potatoes and – mashed potatoes and cream and some flour and it’s cooked like a tortilla on a dry griddle and it’s absolutely wonderful, especially if you don’t put it with lutefisk. And we used to make it but it’s become too much of a chore for me. I’m in a wheelchair now. So I’m hoping that somebody knows of someplace in San Diego or by mail order where I can get some.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Elaine. Lefse.

GOLDEN: I was going to say I can’t imagine there’s any place in San Diego. I don’t really recall ever seeing that. But my guess is if you Google it, there is somebody who makes that. It may be in the Midwest, maybe Minnesota or Wisconsin, that makes it and ships it frozen, would be my guess. I’ve never seen it in San Diego.

CLANCY: Yeah, I’ve never seen it.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Consensus, never seen lefse. We should look for it.

CLANCY: Umm, yeah, sounds good.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah. Dierdre is calling us from Escondido. Good morning, Dierdre, and welcome to These Days.

DIERDRE (Caller, Escondido): Good morning. Great show. Our traditional Christmas meal is actually for Christmas Eve and my mom has since admitted that it was motivated by the fact that adults have a lot to do on Christmas Eve, wink, wink, rather than make elaborate meals. We have three kinds of quiche and salad. They’re warm, it’s communal, it’s filling, and you don’t have a heavy stomach going to bed on Christmas Eve. There’s Lorraine, veggie, shrimp, and quiche and I offer that up to all young parents.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that. Good idea. And we had a call – well, someone posted a comment to our website, Sarah in North Park, that their family tradition for winter solstice is beef stroganoff.

CLANCY: Mmm, that would be delicious.

CAVANAUGH: That sounds like a nice winter kind of a meal.

GOLDEN: Absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: I want to talk a little bit – I want to let everyone know our calls – our number is 1-888-895-5727. Lest we forget, part of the traditional celebration has to do with a little bit of alcohol, some cocktails, some drinks perhaps. Maureen, tell us about what is new and fashionable this year.

CLANCY: Well, new and fashionable. I think one – a very trendy and very appreciated gift this year is some sort of sparkling wine. That never goes out of fashion; it’s always a perfect gift at Christmas and Chanukah. But this year I think Prosecco is the way to go. It’s the way I’m going. Prosecco is a little bit lighter and it’s not frivolous but you don’t have to focus so much on what you’re drinking and thinking about it and also thinking about how expensive it costs. Prosecco’s just a little bit more lighthearted and friendly. And it is also sparkling wine. It’s from a part of Italy, and my – what I am doing this year for gifts is pairing a bottle of Prosecco with a bottle of Aperol, which is an herbal – a floral, herbal old Italian aperitif. You put a few drops in and it gives the Prosecco a lovely color and it has a really wonderful flavor. It has a little bit of some alpine flowers, it has – and rhubarb. And the best Processos right now are – Mionetto is sort of the darling of the year right now. A lot of chefs, a lot of bartenders, mixologists are using it. M-i-o-n-e-t-t-o. It’s about $12.00 a bottle as opposed to about $300.00 a bottle for a Krug champagne. And Costco also has a really wonderful Prosecco that’s about $17.00 that’s terrific.

CAVANAUGH: Well, as you’re serving your Prosecco, Caron Golden, I wonder if you have any things that you particularly like to see on a table when you go to a party, a holiday party?

GOLDEN: Oh, gosh, I think it depends on who’s giving it and what the – if there’s a theme or whatever. I – Since I love to shop at ethnic markets and I also like to keep things a little easier this time of year because I’m so busy, I love shopping ethnic markets for prepared foods. So, for me, it would be a treat to go to Balboa International Market or Parsian, or North Park Produce and buy different cheeses and olives, get even some of – I’ve brought these in before, the canned stuffed vegetables, the dolmas and the stuffed cabbage and all those things. They’re great finger food. You want something that’s going to be easy for people to eat because it’s hard to juggle a glass of Prosecco and, you know, a plate of food. We’ve got the Sausage King. He’s got all sorts of fabulous different kinds of sausages. We’ve got – I’m trying to think of where else. There’s a wonderful place called Continent European Deli and you can buy prepared salads there, the beet salads and all sorts of interesting things, and they, too, have sausages. And, you know, these are things that make it much easier for people who are trying to entertain but also trying to, you know, still working if they’re not off work, and also going to other parties.

CAVANAUGH: And Karen Kresne, we know what’s for dessert but do you enjoy perhaps preparing canapés?

KRASNE: Not at all. Not at all. I might enjoy if somebody prepared them but, no, I mean, I don’t. I don’t do any cooking at home at this time of year. There’s no way, yeah. Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: That’s very interesting. Yeah, you do it at work.

KRASNE: Right. I let my family do that, and I look forward – I’m always sort of the anti – I look forward to always coming to our gatherings and I’m hoping that somebody’s just having a simple salad and fresh vegetables, and I like everything very clean and organic and raw and, you know, while all the other is going on because I’ve just been in the kitchen all day long dealing with butter and chocolate and tasting.


GOLDEN: It’s a busman’s holiday to, you know, be doing this, of course.

KRASNE: I just am already walking in feeling I just want a glass of wine and something really simple to eat.

CAVANAUGH: But, you know, I don’t think you’re alone. I think people do overdose on the rich food during the holidays and so that’s something to keep in mind. Every once in awhile just break it down, go very, very simple.

GOLDEN: I think you can – One of my favorite things to do is to get fresh nuts and just roast them a little bit. Just put them – freshen them up. Walnuts, that you just toast a little bit and they take on a wonderful flavor and that’s the kind of thing, you know, you can have different kinds of fresh nuts that aren’t – don’t feel like, you know, heavy pastry and butter, and they’re fresh. And also, we’ve got beautiful vegetables. I was at the farmers market Saturday and we’re so lucky we do have, you know, a lot of produce that’s still growing here and you can do a lot with fresh vegetables that just are fabulous tasting and people don’t feel weighted down.

KRASNE: And I think it adds color…


KRASNE: …you know, instead of everything being sort of beige-y and brown…


KRASNE: …and muted tones, that it just, I don’t know, it’s very appealing to me anyway so…

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take a few more calls. Lynn is calling from Rainbow. Good morning, Lynn. Welcome to These Days.

LYNN (Caller, Rainbow): Good morning, and I’m really enjoying this show.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you.

LYNN: I’m of Swedish descent, born in Rockford, Illinois, which used to be a very Swedish town. And my memories of my grandmother putting together smogasboard on Christmas Eve are just wonderful. It was a warm, beautiful table, well lit, lace tablecloths, handmade, and on there she would have a cod baked in milk, grit, which was the Swedish rice pudding, very custardy and warm and wonderful and stirred on a cinnamon stick for hours, and that was served with lingonberries. Some of the meats were kokt korv, which is a veal-pork sausage, wonderfully done and roasted a little bit. Silta, a pressed meat, lots of cheeses, pickled beets and cucumbers. And one of the things I always looked forward to was Fruktsoppa, which was a dried tapioca fruit soup, basically, that was served cold with whipped cream dollops. And for the adults, there was always glogg, which grandma had made, oh, maybe two months before and left to cool and to basically ferment in her stairway, which was always cold going up to the attic. And that stuff was so powerful. It was amazing. It’s an amazing drink. You know, this is another time and place, obviously, and you always need something a little bit warming at Christmastime. And then, of course, for dessert there were the cookies, which I happen to be doing just this morning, spritz and pepparkakor and many, many others that are variants of the butter and almonds and almond flavoring, so fragrant with a little touch of cardamom in the pepparkakor.

CAVANAUGH: Lynn, you’ve taken us all through. Thank you so much for that. That was wonderful. And let’s take another call. Natalie is calling in South Park. Good morning, Natalie. Welcome to These Days.

NATALIE (Caller, South Park): Good morning. Natalie speaking. And we have a tradition in our book club to do onion soup on – in December for event, and we exchange cookies, so we have – we are learning about different cookies and we have a wonderful time.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that. French onion soup, we should’ve mentioned that when we were talking about soup. Oh, yeah. And Velma is calling from Holtville. Good morning, Velma. Welcome to These Days.

VELMA (Caller, Holtville): Good morning. I’m going to change the subject to yeast breads.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. That sounds good.

VELMA: A girlfriend of mine gave me a yeast bread called Portuguese bread 34 years ago and what I started doing with it on the holidays is roll it on my six foot long table that I have and cut it in half and make two braids out of it. Once it rises, I put an egg wash on it and then I sprinkle that Christmas coarse sugar that they sell.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, uh-huh.

VELMA: It’s very festive for the holidays and everybody, when I take it to different homes or when I give it away as gifts, they – you just pull it apart instead of cutting it. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last past, let’s see, since she gave it to me 34 years ago, so it’s been that long.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that. That sounds wonderful. So many people with their different traditions, it’s really amazing.

GOLDEN: Oh, yeah.

CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you, what about New Year’s? Is there any traditional meal or – I know a lot of people don’t feel too well on New Year’s Day.

CLANCY: Oh, New Year’s Day not New Year’s Eve.

CAVANAUGH: New Year’s Day, yes, I remember, I think, in my family, that was the day where we had a ham. We had another big family meal. Anybody have any kind of tradition for New Year’s Day?

CLANCY: Well, my husband and I had New Year’s Eve…


CLANCY: …we had a tradition for a couple of years until our kids were born but it was another super rich dish. It was a goose, roasted goose…


CLANCY: …that was stuffed with 40 prunes and each prune was stuffed with foie gras.


GOLDEN: Oh, just kill me now.

CLANCY: It was so delicious. But as soon as we had kids, there was clearly no time for stuffing 40 prunes with foie gras.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, my goodness.

CLANCY: This was foie gras out of a tin. I mean, this was not the fresh foie gras that’s so popular now. But it was really a very luscious dish. It all – The goose got real roasted and golden and crispy and then all this nice soft stuff inside. But since then, not a thing.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Keith is calling from Kensington. Good morning, Keith. Welcome to These Days.

Oh, Keith is gone. Sorry. But I did want to ask, you know, we’re in a recession now and some people are pulling back on the amount of money they have to spend for the holidays in general, food in general. You know, are there any cost-cutting things that you’ve come across in thinking about holiday foods that might be helpful to people listening, Caron?

GOLDEN: Yeah, I was just going to say, you know, talking about New Year’s, I made braised duck legs last year and you would think duck is very expensive and depending on where you go, it can be. But if you go to a place like 99 Ranch, you can find a lot of things, seafood also, very good quality for much less than you would find in some of the premium stores, and you can actually indulge at a very reasonable price with – when you go to some of the ethnic markets.

CAVANAUGH: That’s a wonderful thing to be able to still get something special and yet not spend a whole lot of money on it.

GOLDEN: Yeah. And they have good turnover so you’re not getting, you know, leftover food. I mean, you’re getting good, fresh food. It’s coming in. Those ethnicities are just using it differently than what other groups of people would use them for and so you can get really good prices on these.

CAVANAUGH: Any recession busters that you know of?

CLANCY: Well, in terms of entertaining for New Year’s, as I mentioned, Prosecco is…

GOLDEN: Umm-hmm. Yeah.

CLANCY: …a huge value, a wonderful value, and both Trader Joe’s and Costco have exceptionally good small hor d’oeurves, frozen hor d’oeurves that look extremely elegant and are really delicious…

GOLDEN: They’re really good.

CLANCY: …and very low cost.

KRASNE: Yeah, I was going to say that entertaining by tapas instead of…

CLANCY: Umm-hmm.

KRASNE: …sit down meals is a great…

CLANCY: Absolutely. And I personally love the idea of a soup party. In fact, I’m thinking about joining Natalie’s book club.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, yeah. French onion soup, exciting.

GOLDEN: And homemade cookies.

CAVANAUGH: I have to say I get the last word this time because someone called in and told us that lefse can be obtained by a place called Granrud in Montana. The number is 866-765-3250. If you don’t have a chance to jot that down right away, we’ll have that on our website, I want to thank my guests, Caron Golden, Karen Krasne, Maureen Clancy, thank you all so much. It was just a joy. Thank you.

KRASNE: Great fun. Thank you.

GOLDEN: Thank you.

CLANCY: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And if you didn’t get a chance to speak with us on the air, you can go online, post your comments at I want to say happy holidays to my guests. Thank you for listening, to our listeners, and be with us again tomorrow, These Days on KPBS.

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