Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Gift: GOOD LUCK Foods!

If you're wondering what to give to someone that seems to already have "everything," how about the gift of good luck? It seems almost every country has it's New Years Day tradition of serving a "lucky food" as part of the holiday meal, so why not give that food for Christmas, to be used later, on New Year's Day?

We especially like this idea because it's meaningful and consumable (Alice loves the idea of gifts that don't turn in to clutter!). AND there's the extra attraction that the gift could come in a container that could be used after the fact.

If you like the idea, too, then here are a few New Years Day good luck food traditions:

Vasilopita is a New Year’s Day bread or cake in Greece. It contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver. It is made of a variety of doughs, depending on regional and family tradition. Alice's future son-in-law, Alex, is Greek and last year he brought her some of his mom's vasilopita--they all loved it and thought it was the perfect gift. Here's a good recipe:

C butter
1 Tbsp butter for greasing pan

2 C sugar
2 Tbsp sugar for sprinkling
3 C flour
6 eggs
2 tsp baking powder (we recommend non-aluminum, such as Rumford's)
1 C warm milk
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 C blanched slivered almonds
CLEAN coin wrapped in aluminum foil (a quarter works well)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 10 inch round cake pan with 1 Tbs butter. In medium bowl, cream the cup of butter and 2 cups of sugar together. Stir in flour and mix until batter resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add eggs one at a time, blending each one in well.

In small bowl combine baking powder and milk; add to cake batter and mix well. Finally, combine lemon juice and baking soda in small bowl; add to cake batter and mix well. Pour cake batter into greased cake pan; insert the foil-wrapped coin; bake for 20 minutes.

Remove cake from oven; sprinkle nuts and 2 Tbs sugar over cake, then return it to oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until the cake springs to the touch. Allow to cool on a rack for 10 min.; invert pan onto a cake plate. Serve warm (serve the most senior member first). Alice added sweetened whippped cream to each piece--to her, whipped cream is the universal symbol of good luck!

Pomegranates: Long associated with abundance and fertility, they're eaten in Turkey and other Mediterranean countries for luck in the New Year. Why not give several in a pretty drawstring bag? There are lots of great recipes calling for pomegranate (see our blog in November on pomegranate know-how), and they're especially wonderful added to a morning smoothie!

Lentils: Thought to resemble coins, they are eaten throughout Italy for good fortune in the New Year. Here's a wonderful soup using lentils:


tablespoon(s) olive oil
pound(s) turkey kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch slices
large onion, chopped
pound(s) carrots, cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
medium stalks celery, sliced
clove(s) garlic, crushed with press
cup(s) water
can(s) (14- to 14 1/2-ounce) chicken broth
can(s) (14 1/2-ounce) diced tomatoes
1 1/2
bag(s) (16-ounce) lentils, picked over and rinsed
Celery leaves for garnish

In 8-quart saucepot, heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium until hot. Add half of kielbasa and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until browned. Transfer to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining kielbasa and 2 teaspoons oil.

In same pot, heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil on medium. Add onion, carrots, and celery; cook 15 minutes or until vegetables are golden, stirring often. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute. Add water, broth, tomatoes, and lentils to pot; heat to boiling on high. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, uncovered, 40 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in kielbasa; heat through. Spoon half of stew into serving bowls; garnish with celery leaves. Spoon remaining into freezer-safe containers.

Black-eyed peas: A common good luck food in the southern United States, black-eyed peas are thought to bring prosperity, especially when served with collard greens.

Hoppin' John

This moist and delicious rice/pea mixture, traditionally served on New Years Day, is said to bring good luck. This is a simple recipe--no presoaking necessary! On the day of your dinner, make rice, then reheat peas and stir together before serving.

1 tablespoons cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
stalks celery, chopped
large onion, chopped
medium red pepper, chopped
cloves garlic, minced
packages (16-oz) dry black-eyed peas
large (about 3/4 pound) smoked ham hock
cans (14 1/2 oz each) chicken broth
teaspoon red pepper, crushed
bay leaf
teaspoon salt
cups brown rice
, chopped, for garnish

In 4-qt saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add celery, onion, and red pepper; cook 10 min. until golden. Add garlic; cook 2 min. longer. Rinse peas with running cold
water; discard any stones or shriveled peas. Add peas, ham hock, chicken broth, crushed red pepper, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and 4 cups water to celery mixture; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 40 min. or until peas are tender.

Meanwhile, prepare rice as package label directs, but use 1 teaspoon salt and do not add butter. In large bowl, gently mix pea mixture and rice. Serve hot. Garnish with chopped parsley if you like.

So with these two dishes in mind, here's our final gift suggestion, with the idea in mind that you could add black-eyed peas to the Lentil Kielbasa Soup (no taste difference and you have DOUBLE the luck!), or add lentils to the Hoppin' John (again, no taste difference and again, you'll have DOUBLE the luck!). In a quart canning jar, create layers of black-eyed peas and the colored lentils. Add some pretty cloth and twine plus the two recipes to the jar with your wishes for New Years Luck, and there you have an easy, inexpensive, and meaningful gift! And not only will you be giving the gift of
good luck, you'll also be giving the gift of family dinner made easy!


  1. I LOVE these recipe ideas for Christmas gifts. I'm definitely going to try them! Thank you!

  2. We appreciate your comment, Sarah. And we're planning to do the same! Merry Christmas!