Or is it? For a lot of people I know, the holiday season causes a surprising amount of stress, be it work-related (everyone is trying to get ten thousand things done before everything closes), socially, financially, and yes, gastronomically as well.
The stress of finding appropriate gifts (and not going broke while doing it) and balancing a social calendar (why does everyone I have ever known, socially and professionally, want to have holiday events on December 10th?), I can completely relate to. Yet people stress out about food during the holidays as well, be it what to bring to potlucks, what to serve at parties and dinners, and of course, how do I enjoy myself without putting on an additional 27 lbs?
However, I think food is the best part of this whole crazy season (aside from the presents of course), and I think it is a good time to experiment and try new things, be it new recipes, restaurants, or that strange h'or dourves being passed around.
As someone who does not have much of a sweet tooth, I am always a bit sad that a lot of traditional holiday treats revolves so heavily around cookies and candy. Not that a well-placed macaroon will ever go amiss, and my roommates and I throw a fab cookie-decorating party each year, but I have vowed to always provide savory treats versus another plate of cookies. After a sugar-laden party, when I come home at night, all I want is salt, salt, and more salt, to counter-act the sweetness of the evening.
A healthy munchie to bring to parties is Avocado Hummus. It is a nice spin on traditional hummus and tastes amazing. Plus, it is super easy to make and all you have to do afterwords is scoop it out of the blender and into some fancy tupperware or saran-wrapped bowl, grab a bag of pita chips or slice up your own pita bread, and you are set to go for any potluck, apartment fete, or secret Santa get-together.
You will need:
I also really like chili come the winter months...a good base for the stomach, what with all that booze that flows during this time of year, and it is warm and savory. I also love to make a big vat of chicken soup to come home to late at night. It keeps in the fridge for a while and will help ward off any colds that always threaten to throw me off my game as a result of crappy weather and just plain-old exhaustion. It is so easy to make--just some chicken, onions, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, and noodles. WAY better than in a can and the smell it gives off while simmering is as relaxing as any massage or scented candle.
And when it comes to gifts, you can never go wrong with food, be it a basic spice collection, a wine or cheese or even pie club of the month, anything from zingermans.com, or even a nice country ham! (http://www.waycoham.com has some nice ones) A ham might seem random at first, but for people with large families, feeding the entire brood can be daunting, especially when they all come home for the holiday break with rumbly tummies. Plus, ham is nice and salty--a nice addendum to those surgar cookies! Vronsky is sending hams to a lot of people this year, although if he sends one to me instead of something sparkly, he is going to be in for a roasting himself!