This is one of my favorites from the Kidoinfo archives. (First posted 12/30/11.)  Please share your favorite family traditions in the comments.

general

At every family meal, we go around the table and each person says what he or she is thankful for. - Mark

We love to play short round robin games of either Boggle or Bananagrams at the end of the day.  It's a family event.  We are all in our pajamas, sitting atop the parents' bed with either of those games.  - Josefina

Our family has a basket that we keep full of books in the living room.  Whenever a holiday is approaching, we go to the basement to find the kids' books we've accumulated about that particular holiday, be it Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day or Christmas, and we bring them up and put them in the book basket.  Reading them together gets us all excited for the approaching holiday, and because they only come out once a year, they are extra special.  - Lori

birthdays

My wife and I have two kids, aged five and eight. We have a few nice traditions emerging around birthdays. We found it impossible to have birthday parties without getting gifts, so rather than saying “no gifts” we got specific. “Bring a photo of yourself” worked well, “bring a photo of an animal” too, and “no bigger than a grapefruit.” The past few years we have asked for pet food and toys to bring to Providence Animal Rescue League. Our pets have all come from shelters so there is a nice connection for our kids. The REAL tradition becomes loading it all into the car and bringing it down to the shelter. We then hang around, pet some kitties, distribute the toys, and when the staff is not too busy they lavish attention on us. Turns into a nice afternoon. - Geoff

After blowing out the candles on the birthday cake, the birthday person gets “buttered”.  A few family members put butter on the person’s nose as good luck.  It helps them slide through the next year.  Sometimes it gets carried away with the birthday person’s face getting quite a greasing! - Amy

january
Our favorite family tradition is going hiking on New Year’s Day.  This is a great way to confirm the importance of exercise in our lives and spending our free time outdoors and together as a family. - Veronica

february
My favorite family tradition is one from when I was growing up. Every Valentine's Day (and whenever my parents went away overnight) my mother would use Hershey kisses to make a big "I" and then a giant heart and a "U" on the kitchen table. We used to slowly take kisses out and move the rest around to keep the design for as long as possible. I can't wait to start this for my kids. - Heather

october
We have an annual tradition of a neighborhood Halloween Party and parade. It’s a great family and neighborhood tradition we all love it b/c we all love socializing with our neighbors while watching the kids play and have fun. - Cheryl

One of our favorite family traditions is carving the pumpkins on Halloween, toasting the seeds, and boiling the pumpkin meat to have some fresh pumpkin for pumpkin pies, breads and muffins. Yummmm!!!!!!!!! - Joan

november
Every November we create a tree from craft paper on our hall wall and each day a family member adds a leaf for something we are grateful for.  This way before the crazy holiday days we have grounded ourselves in gratitude. - Sunny

We have many traditions! Our favorite holiday tradition is threefold, we always donate and bring to a needy family a complete turkey dinner (with pie);  we always see a holiday show (The Nutcracker, a children's performance, anything really) and we always whip our cream for our holiday pies!  One year we made whipped butter when we were talking instead of paying attention to the whipping cream. - Stacey

Our favorite tradition is that we make my grandmother's Portuguese stuffing every Thanksgiving.  This is a family favorite and everyone gets involved from tearing the bread (for the little kids) up to the actual cooking (performed by Grandpa). - Meribah Dean

Our favorite family tradition at Thanksgiving is to gather for a special breakfast of Apple Cottage Cheese Pancakes in the morning, made by my husband. It is one of the only things he makes, but we are always SO excited for this breakfast. Then the pie baking begins! - Barbi

Every year the day after Thanksgiving we take off to New Hampshire with our son to ride the Polar Express from North Conway.  He loves the magical ride where all kids are in pajamas heading into the mountain to reach their final destination, The North Pole. -Amy Sullivan

Every year during the weekend of Thanksgiving, we head over to Meme & Papa's house for "Grandies PJ Night". Activities include decorating their Christmas Tree, good food and drinks and a matching set of PJs for all the grandkids or "grandies". We start snapping pictures and sooner or later my mom has her Christmas card photo! I think the tradition originally started because my parent's wanted help decorating the tree. Now, the grandkids (ages 3-9) look forward to this fun night and subsequent family gatherings when all of the cousins "just happen" to have on their matching PJs!  - Bethany

december
My favorite tradition is baking holiday cookies.  I still have the kitchen island that I made cookies on with my mother and sisters as a little girl.  It is such a joy to share the island, the memories, and the cookie recipes with my kids now. - Valerie

Our favorite holiday tradition is our daily "Christmas Magic" Christmas countdown (Similar to the idea of an advent calendar.)  And to answer the question why we celebrate this holiday in our house, we say: “We celebrate Christmas magic because this is a magical time of year...We describe how, at its best, it is a time of extra excitement, celebration, generosity and kindness that, in itself, is magic.  It is a time that people connect with their spiritual beliefs and enjoy the abundance that comes from both giving and receiving.  And it is also a time to be especially compassionate to those who do not have people in their lives with whom they can share celebrations this time of year.” - Marta

The Christmas Imp, a little man with a red peaked cap made out of pipe cleaners who my husband and I hide in a new location in our house every day December  1-24. The idea is that he's there to observe the kids and report to Santa if they've been good. The kids love to find him. On Christmas Eve, he's in the Christmas tree and on Christmas Day he's gone, presumably having left with Santa. This is a tradition that's been in my husband's family for three generations, and each nuclear family makes their own Imp. - Esther & Daniel

At Kidoinfo, we love to learn about and share family traditions and seasonal rituals, weaving those carried from our past with those we initiate with our own children. Today we are honored to speak with Governor Raimondo about the Halloween.

kidoinfo-governor-raimondo-family-halloweenKIDOINFO: Governor Raimondo, as October draws to its climactic close, we are wondering what Halloween traditions you enjoy celebrating with your family?

Governor Raimondo: Halloween is one of our favorite holidays, and we enjoy all the traditions – costumes, candy and of course trick-or-treating. This year we’ll be handing out Milky Ways, Hershey bars and Kit Kats.

KIDOINFO: How are your kids planning to dress up this year?

Governor Raimondo: Tommy is going as James Bond; Ceci is going to be a cat.

KIDOINFO: What did you love about Halloween as a kid?

Governor Raimondo: I have really vivid Halloween memories growing up in Smithfield, of trick-or-treating with my friends for HOURS in what felt like a really big neighborhood. I’d come home with an obscene amount of candy.

KIDOINFO: Is there a memorable costume that comes to mind? How did you create it?

Governor Raimondo: When I was five or six I dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood, and my mother made me an awesome red cape. It was a great costume.

KIDOINFO: Finally, hungry minds want to know: what type of candy would be most likely to "disappear" first from your kids' Halloween haul? Hypothetically speaking.

Governor Raimondo: Hypothetically speaking, Kit Kats would be the first to go.

The holidays are such a wonderful time of year. It's all about spending time with those you love, keeping traditions alive and enjoying the wonderful food that makes us happy.  200404076-001But sometimes, that can lead to some extra pounds and stress for you and your kids. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make the holidays a little healthier and a lot more fun.

  1. Substitute. If you're doing the cooking or baking, think about substituting ingredients to make it a healthier recipe. You can use whole wheat or whole grains instead of white flour, rice, bread and pastas; honey instead of sugar; dried fruit instead of candy; low-fat or skim milk instead of cream; etc. Research ways to make your recipes healthier and have fun cooking up some new dishes!
  2. Stay active. Find ways to be active and make your activity a new holiday tradition. Play football, soccer or frisbee with the whole family. If there's snow on the ground, go sledding, build a snowman or have a snowball fight. Go ice skating at a local rink. Go for a hike on New Years Day. Find ways to stay active and have fun with your kids and the whole family.
  3. Include your kids. Sometimes it's just easier to do all the work yourself, but it's much more fun when you get others involved, especially your kids. Get your kids to help decorate, cook and plan this holiday season. They will be much more willing to try your new recipes if they were involved in making it. Carve out extra time to cook with your kids, it's takes a little more patience, but it's worth it.
  4. shutterstock_152012078_HiScale down and choose wisely. Find out what traditions you really love and stick to those. Get your kids involved in figuring out what's most important to you and your family. Get everyone involved to share in the workload. Remember that it doesn't have to be perfect. Being stressed out around the holidays is no way to enjoy them and it affects your kids more than you know.

 References

f64852ae1f83a57ac5dc2019bad97f24One of our favorite holiday traditions is to excitedly rush out of bed for twenty four December mornings to see what lies behind the little door on the Advent calendar.

The origins of the Advent calendar comes from the Early 19th Century German Lutherans who would count down the first 24 days of December in some way.  Often, this meant simply drawing a chalk line on the door, lighting a candle, or hanging a religious picture on the wall for each of the 24 days. The first advent calendar as we know it was created in 1851.

Children in the 1970's we were mostly given cardboard calendars with pictures of either Nativity folk or other Christmas themed pictures - holly etc.  But by the time the 1980's swung around, these cardboard pictures had morphed into treat machines with each door promising a sweet milk chocolate before breakfast each day. In more recent times, fabric/paper advent pockets have re-emerged, promising the recipient with exciting and often non-candy treats for 24 days and us parents the high-pressured task of coming up with tiny new trinkets each year.

After the annual scouring of the advent airwaves, we collected the following ideas for home-made advent calendars and inexpensive fillers.

Calendar Ideas

Holiday-Advent-Intro-537x537Recycled Envelopes (Inhabitots)

fb103c4688397a1038bdc41d42398215Children's Socks or Mittens (Martha Stewart)

528237fe697ab00ddf005bc7._w.540_s.fit_Advent House (Morning Creativity)

advent6Countdown Parcels (30s Magazine)

f767fa0606172be3d397d036021e5e7aAdvent Bags (Etsy)

advent3Cloth Pockets (30s Magazine)

advent-1-600x400Colorful Boxes (You are my Fav)

advent-peopleWise Men (30s Magazine)

paper-doll-advent-calendar
Quick and Easy (Artful Parent)

Ideas for Calendar Fillers

Top Photo Credit: Green cone advent (Spoonful)

christmas-tree-forestTis' the season to begin thinking about buying a Christmas tree!  Several local Christmas tree farms are open/opening soon for tagging and begin selling the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Many of these local farms will net the tree for you, as well as help you load the tree onto your car, making the whole experience even easier.  As well as offering beautiful festive greenery, many farms offer crafts, pony or wagon rides as wells as visits from Santa and refreshments.  Most farms are only open on weekends so call ahead to confirm opening times and activities.

Christmas tree farms

RHODE ISLAND

Coventry

Fraser Christmas Tree Farm
Pole #26 Carr's Trail, Coventry
401 397 9924
info@fraserfarm.com
Open Friday after Thanksgiving

Cranston

Rossi's Tree Farm
1936 Phenix Avenue, Cranston
401 822 4966
Open Nov 1

Orchard Valley Farm
1201 Pippin Orchard Road, Cranston
401 523 1233

Hope

Shire Tree Farm
109 Hope Furnace Road, Hope
401 580 2947
shiretreefarm@yahoo.com
Open Friday after Thanksgiving

Johnston

Borrelli Tree Farm
97 Brown Avenue, Johnston
401 949 0123
Open now

Pezza Farms
2279 Plainfield Pike, Johnston
401 943 2707
mpezza2@cox.net

Little Compton

Boughs & Berry Farm
255 Peckham Road (off Rte 77 South)
401 635 8582
Opens for tagging October 12

Maciel's Tree Farm
100 Maple Avenue (take Swamp Rd off Rte 77 South)
401 231 5370
Opens for tagging November 13

Middletown

Peckham Farm
1299 Wapping Road
401 847 2202
Opens for tagging November 30

Sweet Berry Farm
19 Third Beach Road
401 847 3912
Open for tagging November 1

Smithfield

Seven Cedars Christmas Tree Farm
7 John Mowry Road
401 231 3117

South Kingstown

Farmer's Daughter
716 Mooresfield Road, South Kingstown, RI 02879
401 792 1340
Open: November 29th

Tiverton

Clark's Christmas Tree Farm
4191 Main Road, Rte 77
401 624 4119
Open for tagging November 23

Pachet Brook Tree Farm
4484 Main Road, Rte 77
401 624 4872
www.pachetbrook.com
Open for tagging November 11

West Greenwich

Big John Leyden's Christmas Tree Farm
179 Plain Meetinghouse Road, West Greenwich, RI 02817
401 397 4360
Open 1st Saturday in November

MASSACHUSETTS

Rehoboth

Pleasant Street Christmas Tree Farm
187 Pleasant Street, Rehoboth, MA
508 252 6206
Open for tagging October 5

Seekonk

Schultz Christmas Tree Farm
1010 Taunton Ave, Rte 44, Seekonk, MA
508 336 9143
Open for tagging November 2

Four Town Farm
90 George Street, Seekonk, MA
508 336 5587
Open: November 29th

Westport

A Quiet Christmas Tree Farm
1615 Drift Road, Westport, MA
508 636 8390
aquietplace@verizon.net
Open for tagging November 30

Photo Credit: Kafkaesque

Feeding_Traditions_LogoToday we meet Persephone Brown. Perspehone is health coach and year-round resident of Block Island. She has a 3 year-old son and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia Teachers College of NYC. She has spent years cooking for herself as well as baking for the Juice and Java Café. Today she leads guided cleanses as part of her private coaching practice, helping people find healthy in body and mind, making healthy, beautiful food that tastes good and warms your core.

Skill It: How would you describe your food culture and traditions?

Persephone-KidoinfoPersephone: Both my grandmothers were housewives in the 50’s. They used a lot of canned goods, and convenient foods in their cooking. One of my fondest memories of my Nana is making toaster oven stuffing with her using Wonderbread, celery salt, and butter. Though this is not how I feed my family, it is interesting to look back and see how our standard American diet, as we know it today, was really starting to take shape and was truly embraced with joy, for it’s convenience, simplicity, and ability to stay “fresh.” The American Pantry was a staple that made sense, now we are starting to take another look and I think that can be hard, because it is our culture and came from our grandmothers.

Skill It: What is your earliest memory of family dinners?

Persephone:
My family dinner table changed often. My mother dieted a lot which meant our food changed depending on what her current eating patterns were like. We ate a lot of chicken, broccoli, and rice pilaf. There was not a lot of joy around mealtime, I think because food was somewhat painful for my mother. Both my parents worked, and I was an only child, so food eventually became somewhat utilitarian. I think this plays a big role in my life now and my wanting to make food safe, fun, enjoyable, and colorful for my children.

Skill It: How old were you when you first made something on your own in the kitchen? What was it?

Persephone:
I was 19 and I was asked to sauté mushrooms by my vegan boyfriend. And I cried under the pressure. I was young and used to eating fast food so the idea of cooking or preparing a meal was totally new to me. I remember the vegetable dishes he made not tasting good to me as my taste buds were adjusting. We were together for three years and eventually I became vegan and learned to love and prepare all kinds of different foods, but that first time - that was special.

Skill It:Who taught you how to cook?

Persephone:
My time in the kitchen started with the vegan boyfriend. Then as my diet evolved and shifted, as it always will, I experimented more and more. I guess you could say I am self-taught, but not without A LOT of inspiration along the way.

boy-oranges--persephone-kidoinfoSkill It: How do you balance work, food and family?

Persephone:
Fortunately my work is food, so I kind of have to stay one step ahead in the kitchen. I can’t be feeding my family boxed mac & cheese and coaching how to prepare whole food meals (though sometimes mac & cheese does happen.) When I want to experiment or make something more elaborate or time consuming I will get my 3 year-old son involved. Sometimes that means he is mixing or grating, or pushing the button on the food processor. Other times it could mean he’s “measuring” or counting apples in the fruit bowl. Cooking with a young child or children can be a challenge and test in patience, but it is a total payoff when he gets excited about buying a pomegranate or hand of ginger at the market.

salad-persephone-kidoinfo

Skill It: What meal do you “pull out of thin air” when you come home late without a plan for dinner?

Persephone:
My go-to, don’t know what to make, what’s about to go bad in the fridge(?) meal, is Miso Soup. We always have miso in the fridge and I usually keep some variety of frozen vegetables on hand with dried sea vegetables in the cupboard, though just hot water and miso makes a meal too. Vegetables, wakame (seaweed), eggs, shrimp, rice noodles, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce or Braggs Liquid Amino Acids, whatever we have on hand. It is so delicious and can be whipped up in 15 minutes.

Skill It: What is your favorite comfort food? Is it a family recipe?

Persephone:
Fried boneless chicken, biscuits, greens and gravy. Forever, this was my comfort meal and when I was vegetarian I would make it with soy chicken nuggets. A few years ago I was talking with a health coach and she asked if I ever ate this food as a child. The memory hit me pretty suddenly - my father and mother had joint custody of me as a child. My dad and I ate out in restaurants every night we were together, except for maybe two times a year. Those two nights a year we ate at home, he made Weaver Chicken Nuggets and Bisquick Biscuits with canned gravy. I couldn’t believe this connection, though now when I have the craving I call my dad.

Skill It: As a parent, what one dish have you learned will bring the whole family running to the dinner table?

Persephone: 
Tacos. Corn tortillas, beans, avocado, tomato, cheddar, shredded spinach and Greek yogurt.

Skill It: Where do you find inspiration, culinary or otherwise?

Persephone:
In the kitchen I often let color guide me. I love food that looks beautiful, pretty food. I get excited about bright green leeks, purple potatoes, and white cauliflower tossed in a pan together. Starting there as my palate maybe I would add some green olives or red Peppadew peppers. Often color will inspire how a dish tastes in the end.

Skill It: Have your children expressed an interest in helping in the kitchen? What have you taught them to make?

Persephone:
I think for Wes, helping in the kitchen just comes standard. He often asks for a lot of attention at dinnertime, so cooking is how we can both spend time together and get a healthy meal on the table. He loves when we make brownies.

Skill It: What do you hope your children will learn about food from you?

Persephone:
I hope they learn to be curious and excited about fresh foods, flavors, and colors.

Skill It: Are there ways that you and your family are play with your food?

Persephone:
I’m sure we will play more as our family grows, though now I like to play with the shapes and colors when plating his meals. Fruit and vegetable mandalas are always a big hit.

Skill It: Is there a piece of kitchen or cooking advice you would like to share with other families?

Persephone:
Keep trying new things. It doesn’t have to be really elaborate, just roasting a vegetable you’ve never had before can be eye and palate opening.

Skill It: Is there a question you ask your kids at the dinner table most nights?

Persephone:
I like to walk through his day with him. It took his dad and I a little time to learn that we really needed to engage him at dinner. We would be catching up on our own days, to-do’s, and agendas because Wes was less verbal. When we walk through his day and save our stuff for later, he sits and eats longer and we have a much smoother dining experience.

Skill It: What one thing about food and eating do you most want to teach your children?

Persephone:
To be thankful, curious, and to savor.

Feeding_Traditions_LogoToday we meet Katy Killilea. Katy is a writer and contributor here at Kidoinfo. She lives in Barrington with her husband, their sons (born 2001 + 2003), and a dog named Butter. She works as much as she can as a freelance writer. Katy loves running, cooking, sudden trips to new places, loud corduroy pants, and being taken to the Beehive in Bristol.

soup-bread-Katy-Kidoinfo

Skill It: What is your earliest memory of family dinners?
Katy:
Counting tater tots. I know my mom made excellent, balanced, delicious meals for our family. On the rare occasion that she made tater tots, she would divvy them up as instructed on the label–it was probably 5 pieces per official Ore Ida serving. Not even close to enough. And my sister and I were so, so greedily hungry for them that I would count to make sure I hadn’t been shortchanged. I remember eating the burning hot tater tots with globs of cold ketchup to make them edible faster. Delicious.

Skill It: How old were you when you first made something on your own in the kitchen? What was it?
Katy: When I was in third grade, I scooped the seeds out of a cucumber, filled the hollow part with bottled blue cheese salad dressing, wrapped it in waxed paper, and tried to sell it by the side of the road.

dinner-table-Katy-Kidoinfo

Skill It: Who taught you how to cook?
Katy: I taught myself to cook as an adult. When I was in graduate school, I only knew to make pasta. I would heat up a jar of sauce–I didn’t even care what brand–by placing the jar under hot running water in the kitchen sink. When I met my husband, our big culinary leap forward was smoothies. I learned to cook when we bought a house and got married and got a bunch of pots and sharp knives for gifts.

guys-dinner-Katy-Kidoinfo

Skill It: How do you balance work, food and family?
Katy: I am not very good at cooking or thinking while people are speaking to me or looking at me. This is a problem. I overcome this by planning all of our dinners and lunchboxes out on a Sunday afternoon, shopping for the things I need to carry out that rigid plan, and making things like carrot sticks, pizza dough, and peanut butter on graham crackers in advance. When I do things this way, I feel balanced. However, if a home economics expert came to study me, the pie chart of how much time and brain space food takes up would probably illustrate someone who is completely bananas.

boys-dinner-Katy-Kidoinfo

Skill It: What meal do you “pull out of thin air” when you come home late without a plan for dinner?
Katy: Spread a glob of refried beans on a whole wheat tortilla, top that with sliced cheddar cheese, fold the tortilla in half, and cook that in a hot skillet with some olive oil. Serve with avocado slices and carrot sticks or an apple. I buy Whole Foods canned refried beans by the case. I want to marry them.

salad-watermelon-Katy-Kidoinfo

Skill It: What is your favorite comfort food? Is it a family recipe?
Katy: Peanut butter and banana sandwiches on squishy whole wheat bread. This is a family recipe in that my grandmother taught me to keep the peanut butter thick all the way to the edges of the crust.

Skill It: As a parent, what one dish have you learned will bring the whole family running to the dinner table?
Katy: Things that each person can customize are favorites: crepes with combinations of Nutella, banana, jam, brie, and spinach; taco bar; design your own pizza; tortellini with roasted vegetables or marinara sauce or olives, tomatoes, and arugula; a Buddha bowl of rice fried tofu or stir-fried beef, assorted vegetables, or peanut sauce; tomato soup with a baguette and assorted cheeses and fruits. But the main thing is to let them get hungry enough so they don’t have the energy to think of how things might have been.

black-bean-burger-salad-Katy-Kidoinfo

Skill It: Where do you find inspiration, culinary or otherwise?
Katy: I am part of two Facebook groups where people who like the kinds of food I like post what they’re having for dinner that day–it’s very helpful and inspiring. I also love to look through my marked-up cookbooks and my notebooks of dinner plans from past months and years–that reminds me of dinners that worked out OK.

Skill It: Have your children expressed an interest in helping in the kitchen? What have you taught them to make?
Katy: One of my sons is very interested in food, loves to eat, and loves to cook. Our favorite thing to make together is probably spring rolls - an assembly line of fried tofu, mangoes, basil, those skinny rice noodles, big flat dishes of water, rice wrappers, and peanut sauce. The other son is completely indifferent about food.

lists-carbs-from-lunch-Katy-Kidoinfo

Skill It: What one thing about food and eating do you most want to teach your children? What do you hope your children will learn about food from you?
Katy: I hope they are learning that what we eat, how we make it, where it comes from, and who we eat it with matter. One of my children has Type 1 diabetes, and I notice him noticing what foods have a bad effect on his health–which is sad, but necessary. So I hope he will learn how to use a food scale and how to be a total math whiz at calculating ratios and insulin doses.

Skill It: Are there ways that you and your family are play with your food?
Katy: When I want to be like a mother from a magazine, I might put a Lego minifigure or a weird little animal candle at each person’s place. We don’t do anything fun like make fruit faces on toast. That never caught on.

Skill It: Is there a piece of kitchen or cooking advice you would like to share with other families?
Katy: This advice is from Ann Hodgman’s One Bite Won’t Kill You. It is important to me because I find it very challenging not to fret about a person with a diet of toast, apples, tea, and Halloween candy. “Give up the notion that having a child who’s a picky eater is a problem. It’s not a problem. It’s a luxury…you and I already have easy, easy lives compared to most people, and we should keep that in mind every time we offer our children something to eat.” Ann Hodgman also says something along the lines of: your life will be so much better once you decide that apples are a vegetable.

table-set-Katy-Kidoinfo-540x238

Skill It: Is there a question you ask your kids at the dinner table most nights?
Katy: Yes. “Did you check your blood sugar?” and “Is your napkin on your lap?”

Feeding Traditions is a series of interviews that explore the rich connections between food & family. We love the chance to peek into our neighbors’ kitchens and celebrate the work we do to gather our loved ones around the dinner table. And it highlights the memories we all have formed around spending time with friends, family, and food.

Welcome Winter! Edible Rhody KIDS is created in collaboration with Edible Rhody magazine. Grab this season’s copy of  Edible Rhody, available at various locations around Rhode Island. This seasons' topic, "Baking Traditions", invites kids to honor and/or create their own family food experiences. I also share one of my favorite holiday recipes handed down from my Iraqi grandmothers - Baklava. Click on the chef’s hat for more theme-related recipe!

What do you think of when you see the word “baking”? Do certain baked goods remind you of a particular family member, time of year, a place, or a good smell?

Passing recipes from one generation to the next by baking foods together is a way to honor and celebrate your family, carrying forward traditions from the past. Don't forget, new traditions and fun memories can be made anytime.

When we bake, magic happens. But it’s really not magic–it’s science. Flour reacts differently when leavening agents (like yeast, baking soda and baking powder) plus liquids or fats (like butter) are added to make dough.

edible-rhody-kids-winter-2012

Dough changes form, color and texture when heat is applied. When you bake, you’re not only creating good food and good memories, you’re conducting important scientific research!

Baking Traditions: Carry on, start new, pass on ...

Set aside a time: every Sunday afternoon; first Saturday of the month; each season of the year.

Create themes: Super Seasons (bake with summer berries, fall apples, etc.); Baker’s Dozen (bake something different each month).

Share recipes: create a cookbook for family favorites–old traditions and new. Learn the story: who/where the recipe came from; why you chose it; cooking tips. Preserve the moment: don’t forget photos of you, the chef–and the food too!

Play the Bread Matching Game! Match the name of the bread with its description and country of origin.

RESOURCES

Rag and Bone Recipe journalBaking with Friends: Recipes, Tips and Fun Facts for Teaching Kids to Bake by Charlene Patton and Sharon Davis (Goops Unlimited, 2010). A thoughtful, delightfully illustrated resource introducing children to the fun and skills of baking together as a family.

Rag and Bone Bindery Recipe Journal. Easy-to-use binder with plastic sleeves for recipe cards. Spots to jot cooking memories and more. Made in Rhode Island!

KingArthurFlour.com has thousands of yummy recipes, tips and even a baking hotline. We want to see what you’re baking! Email your best food photo to info@EdibleRhody.com and we’ll put it on our website.

Mama’s Baklava

Appropriate for:
Ages 4—10, supervised.
Experienced cooks ages 11 and up, unsupervised.

Baklava is a dessert originating in the Middle East made with phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts. Passed down from my Iraqi grandmother, baking baklava has become our family tradition around the holidays. Other Middle Eastern countries have their own variations of spices, nuts and sweeteners. Some recipes include rose water.

You’ll need a large sheet pan with ½-inch sides and a pastry brush for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, mix together walnuts, sugar and cardamom. (Using a food processor to lightly pulse ingredients together works too!) Divide walnut mixture evenly among three separate small bowls. Remove phyllo dough from package, carefully unfold and lay on the counter. Cover dough with a sheet of plastic wrap to keep it from drying out while you assemble the baklava.

Using the pastry brush, brush 2 tablespoons melted butter over the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch rimmed sheet pan. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough evenly across the pan and brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat 12 times. Spread first portion of walnut mixture evenly across the top.

Repeat layering of phyllo dough brushed with butter for 5—6 more layers of dough. Spread next portion of walnut mixture evenly over dough.

Repeat layering of phyllo dough brushed with butter for more 5—6 layers. Spread last portion of walnut mixture evenly over dough. Repeat layering of phyllo dough brushed with butter for 10—12 last layers of dough.

Have an adult help you cut the baklava evenly into 2-inch diamond shapes by cutting across the pan in two directions. Pour any remaining butter over the top.

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Place in the middle rack in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Raise temperature to 425° to brown the baklava for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven when golden brown.

Pour prepared syrup over cooled baklava. Let rest 20 minutes. Use a spatula to remove diamond pieces and store in a tight container.

*Syrup

Place ingredients in a saucepan over high heat. Boil for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Let cool. Use to pour over cooled baklava.

Feeding Traditions is a series of interviews that explore the rich connections between food & family. We love the chance to peek into our neighbors’ kitchens and celebrate the work we do to gather our loved ones around the dinner table. And it highlights the memories we all have formed around spending time with friends, family, and food.

Today we meet Jan Faust Dane. Jan is the new owner of Stock Culinary Goods on Hope Street in Providence full of thoughtfully sourced, well-designed kitchen tools, cooking resources and gifts for food lovers. It's a place where people who love to cook and entertain can gather to find the materials to outfit their kitchens, decorate their tables, find inspiration or simply chat with other like-minded food enthusiasts. Jan is no stranger to the food and shop world. Feathers in her cap include food forager for the Ocean House in Watch Hill, contributing writer to Edible Rhody magazine, and the author of many eat.shop guides. She lives in Oak Hill with her husband and three children.

Skill It: How would you describe your food culture and traditions?

Jan: My family on my mom's side is German, so homemade sauerkraut in big crocks was something my mom would occasionally ferment in the well under our stairs.  I wouldn't touch it, and thought it stunk to high heaven.  Of course, like everybody, I'm sauerkraut crazy now and wish I'd appreciated that more back then.  My father's family was Norwegian and outdoorsy.  He fished a lot, so there were opportunities to eat trout, salmon, steelhead and perch.  I remember, and kind of can't believe looking back it at, that I would ask for the perch tails to be crisped and I would eat those like chips.

Skill It: What is your earliest memory of family dinners?

Jan:  Here's the confession.  I don't have family dining memories in my nuclear family of my mom and three siblings.  As a latchkey kid with a working mom, most of my afterschool snacks and most of my dinners were of the highly-processed, pre-packaged variety, often made by me. I made a ton of stovetop popcorn and drank a lot of Kool-Aid.  And I am no stranger to the Swanson's meal, Spaghetti-Os, and gallons of milk.   But then again, it was the 70s.  I think the elusive Rockwellian image of the family at dinner is what made me the food and cooking-obsessed person I am today.

Skill It: How old were you when you first made something on your own in the kitchen?  What was it?

Jan: I was making stove-top popcorn at a very young age, like 6, and have honed that talent over the last 40 years.  It is a source of pride that I can whip up a perfect pot every time, with nary a burnt piece or an un-popped kernel (what we used to call Old Maids.)  This is like my Malcolm Gladwell "Outliers" 10,000 hours talent.   I think if you did some kind of tissue analysis, you would see I am formed of popcorn and milk.  But in part, that's because I was a picky kid and ate very simply. I didn't develop a raging, roving, curious and insatiable appetite until after college.

Skill It: Who taught you how to cook?

Jan:  I don't recall being taught to cook, but I do know that I had to be fairly handy in the kitchen early and I was surely nurtured along.  I have memories of sauteeing mushrooms in butter and beer before my teens; I have no idea where that came from, but it was a favorite.  In high school, my best friend and I were obsessed with pasta salads and stir-fries and we made a ton of those, always varying the format and ingredients.  Her parents were pretty advanced and health-conscious cooks and I remember always being intrigued by "foreign" things like bulgur wheat and Israeli couscous.

Skill It: How do you balance work, food and family?

Jan:  I have been, at various times since starting our family, fully-employed, part-time employed, a freelancer and now, a business owner.  And so, at times my family has eaten very well and with sophistication, and at other times, we subsist on one-pot meals like pasta with add-ins.  One of my favorite things about my new role at Stock is that I will have an extremely reliable schedule, allowing me, I hope, to get into more consistent meal-time rituals.  I fantasize about being that person that processes all the Farmers' Market groceries on Saturday who then meters them out consistently throughout the week.

Skill It: What meal do you “pull out of thin air” when you come home late without a plan for dinner?

Jan:  Pasta carbonara is always at the ready.  I also make a kind of beef stroganoff that I love to rattle off, if we have (Pat's Pastured) hamburger in the house. Finally, a tuna casserole is pretty easy to pull together.  You can see, I have this mentality of "get it all in one pot" and then you don't have to be making all different kinds of side dishes.  I can tell you too that peas appear in every one of those aforementioned dishes.

Skill It: What is your favorite comfort food?  Is it a family recipe?

Jan:  Recipe, no.  Comfort, yes.  Growing up we ate a lot of noodles with butter, soy sauce, sesame seeds and poppy seeds.  At my grandmother's house, she would toast the sesame seeds in a pan and put in extra butter.  That was just heaven.  To this day, if I'm feeling blue, I'll make that, although the poppy seeds have been dropped over the years.  I've also always made some kind of egg drop soup with broth, eggs and herbs.  In the old days it was Swanson's chicken broth and dried parsley.  Now, we always have a home-made chicken stock around, and I mix in scallions and ginger.  Or I'll go with lemon and rice and make it more like an avgolemono.
Skill It: We had to look this up! It’s a Greek egg & lemon soup. You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avgolemono or here: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/avgolemono_soup/

Skill It: Do you have a traditional recipe from your childhood that you still make for special occasions or holidays today?

Jan:  We very casually make Dutch Babies whenever we have guests who stay over.  They present so dramatically, but they're so simple and delicious.  It's basically, just flour, milk and eggs, but what alchemy when you put it all in a 450-degree oven in an enameled dish.

Skill It: As a parent, what one dish have you learned will bring the whole family running to the dinner table?

Jan:  They're carb hounds like me, so they always want something pasta-based.  They adore my homemade pesto, which uses the basil we grow every year.  If I don't have my pesto in stock, they will happily substitute it with Besto Pesto that we get at the Hope Street or Wintertime Farmer's Market.  To get three siblings to agree on anything is rare, but everybody loves pasta and pesto.

Skill It: Where do you find inspiration, culinary or otherwise?

Jan:  In Cook's Illustrated Magazine, restaurants, and mostly, from my food enthusiast friends.  I absolutely love the rigor of Cook's trial and error method.  I also love how declarative they are about what is best.  From them, I think I do a lot of things just exactly right, like Pasta aglio y olio and Fried Green Tomatoes.  In restaurants, there is always inspiration.  I am constantly blown away by the inventive offerings coming out of Farmstead and New Rivers.  I don't try to replicate what they make at home, but I do try to capture the spirit of experimentation.  Finally, without exception, all of our best friends love to cook, so when we get together or vacation together, the cooking is the real connective tissue of every gathering.

Skill It: Have your children expressed an interest in helping in the kitchen? What have you taught them to make?

Jan:  Oh my yes.  My son was a typical running, jumping, lunging, active boy, but at five he became very interested in cooking and we allowed him to start then.  It was easy stuff, like making pancakes or scrambling eggs.  Then, within a year or two, we let him work on his knife skills.  In any other context, he was a wild man, but you put a knife in his hand and he would slow down, get very reverent and make beautiful, careful cuts.  It was amazing.  All the children are great at putting together scrambled eggs and other straightforward dishes.

Skill It: What do you hope your children will learn about food from you?

Jan:  There is a constant cycling of new aversions and pickiness that seems to come and go among the three kids.  So I don't get to unleash my ultimate desire for heat and spices and unusual melanges that I might otherwise like to. But I have to understand that, having been there myself once. What I hope they develop is the same avid enthusiasm that I have for food now.  They often see my husband and I get nearly giddy with certain dishes and culinary successes.  I'm hoping that when the time is right and the palate is developed and the "dinner table oppression" is behind them, they will have the same unfettered joy about cooking and eating that we do.

Skill It: Are there ways that you and your family play with your food?

Response.  We like to taunt raw oysters before we eat them alive.  NO JUST KIDDING!!!!  We don't actually much play with our food.

Skill It: Is there a piece of kitchen or cooking advice you would like to share with other families?

Jan:  Well, I don't know if this is advice, but I think there is nothing more blissful than starting in on a clean kitchen, with a nice glass of wine, and some great music and just going for it.  If I'm using recipes, I like to read them a few times and then just put them away and try to feel through it without referring back to specifics.  This is why I'm not a very consistent baker.

Skill It: Is there a question you ask your kids at the dinner table most nights?

Jan:  When our youngest daughter Vera was still in diapers, she got in the habit of thanking us for changing them. "Dae dae," she would say, which believe me, was clearly her saying "Thank you."  We thought that was just a brilliant example of showing appreciation even for the most commonplace things.  So we will often do "Thankfuls" at the table, in which each person contributes something they are thankful for.  Many days, it might be pretty boilerplate stuff, like the dinner or the day or parents or friends.  But some days they will launch into something with such specificity and keen observation and genuine gratitude that it blows our minds.

Skill It: What one thing about food and eating do you most want to teach your children?

Jan:  Love good food.

 

Today, I introduce a new food & family interview series with Skill It. - Anisa

Feeding Traditions is a series of interviews that explore the rich connections between food & family. When we talk about food, we are often talking about our history, culture, and traditions.  Why do we eat what we eat?  Who taught us how to cook?  What recipes are linked in our minds with special occasions and everyday dinners? And what memories and skills do we hope to pass on to our children?

Feeding Traditions will give us a peek into our neighbors’ kitchens and celebrates the work we do to gather our loved ones around the dinner table. And it highlights the memories we all have formed around spending time with friends, family, and food.

Today Skill It interviews Line Daems. Line lives in Arlington MA with her husband and two children, ages 15 and 17. She is the co-owner of Kreatelier, an innovative textile product design studio, located on Hope Street in Providence RI, that sells their own originally designed products, handmade works by other artists, and a select group of other well-designed items including; bike baskets, totes, toys and organizers. They also provide home interior services and there is a beautiful space for classes and birthday parties.

Skill It: How would you describe your food culture and traditions?

Line: I’m Belgian and also lived in Germany and France before moving to the US. Living in different countries has given me different views. Wherever I lived I enjoyed getting to know local dishes together with friends and family. Eating together has always been a way to spend time with each other and celebrate important occasions. I guess we share traditions from everywhere, so we appreciate long sit down dinners with several courses and good wines, but also simple, easy, last-minute or potluck meals. Having fresh ingredients to prepare healthy meals has always been important.

Skill It: What is your earliest memory of family dinners?

Line: I have always had family dinners, and the evening sit down dinner has always been a time for catching up and making plans.

Skill It: How old were you when you first made something on your own in the kitchen?  What was it?

Line: I was 6 and made a cake on my own. I had received a children’s cookbook with simple step-by-step recipes and proudly made all of them. I strongly believe that if children are exposed to cooking and get some guidance, they are capable of creating lots of dishes!

Skill It: Who taught you how to cook?

Line:
My mother, grandmother & some wonderful cook books.

Skill It: How do you balance work, food and family?

Line: I don’t think I have been able to perfectly balance work, food, and family. I came to the conclusion that it all depends on how you want to live, what you want to do, and what is important to you. So sometimes I just have to accept the imbalance. In our family, food and family meals are important. Depending on all our schedules, some days will be more balanced than others. Breakfast and lunch are easy. There is always fresh food to make a simple healthy breakfast or lunch and this can take as much time as we decide we have. Family dinner can be tricky. We came up with a system that the 4 of us have to cook dinner at least one evening. This works well most of the time. It requires some organization but at the end it is great not to be in charge of dinner every day. My husband and I do the grocery shopping. We usually spend more time at the table during weekends which is nice to catch up with each other. I try to plan free time to spend with my family but work for Kreatelier often interferes. I love my business and work and sometimes have a hard time balancing it with family life.

Skill It: What meal do you “pull out of thin air” when you come home late without a plan for dinner?

Line: A simple salad with fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, lettuce, chicken breast, depending on what is available, accompanied by bread. Risotto is also a quick and easy meal that can be modified depending on what’s available in the kitchen. Cheese and bread is always quickly arranged. We recently bought a panini machine. It is great to combine whatever is available, add some fresh herbs and create a warm delicious panini accompanied with a salad! Pasta with pesto & some freshly grated parmesan is also one of our favorite quick dinners. You can see that we are used to pulling a meal out of thin air quite a lot…

Skill It: What is your favorite comfort food?  Is it a family recipe?


Line:
Homemade minestrone soup using fresh vegetables and herbs accompanied with warm bread. This is such a delicious soup and the kids can warm up a bowl when we are not at home.

Skill It: Do you have a traditional recipe from your childhood that you still make for special occasions or holidays today?

Line: Chicken slowly cooked with Belgian endives served with French gratin potatoes. The basic recipe is light cream, curry, chicken tenders & Belgian endives cooked together slowly for 2-3 hours. Children typically don’t like Belgian endives but in this dish, the bitter taste of the endives is gone.

Skill It: As a parent, what one dish have you learned will bring the whole family running to the dinner table?

Line:
Pasta with fresh home-made pesto (basil and spinach), oven baked tomatoes and grated cheese.

Skill It: Where do you find inspiration, culinary or otherwise?

Line: Everywhere! When something captures my attention in magazines, restaurants, during dinners at a friend’s house, or when traveling, I immediately make a note to remind myself of simple and wonderful ideas, culinary or otherwise!

Skill It: Have your children expressed an interest in helping in the kitchen? What have you taught them to make?

Line: Yes, both children love to cook and experiment. It is clear to them that we all are busy and this will probably never change, so the habit of helping and cooking in the kitchen is indispensable. The first thing they learned was baking eggs and making smoothies. Now, they can make pasta and rice dishes and love to experiment with the food available and leftovers, something we do a lot!

Skill It: What do you hope your children will learn about food from you?

Line: I hope they learned and will keep up with the importance of buying and eating fresh food. It seems easier to order take-out food or buy ready-made food (with artificial flavors etc) and not bothering cooking to save time, but it’s not. In fact, time should be reserved to prepare and eat a fresh meal; it should be part of the day. Getting together to cook and have meals with family and friends are the most precious and important moments in life!

Skill It: Is there a piece of kitchen or cooking advice you would like to share with other families?

Line: I think it is important to always have certain basic food available in the kitchen, and then be creative in using whatever is there. We always make sure we have fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh bread (that we make ourselves), herbs, fresh cheese, pasta and rice, olive oil, milk and butter. Nothing can go wrong. We have different herbs and some vegetables in pots on our deck which we can see from the kitchen. It is inspiring and they are used every day in different ways. It is important that every family member feels responsible and is involved in cooking so it never becomes a stress factor for one person.

Skill It: Is there a question you ask your kids at the dinner table most nights?

Line: "How was your day?"

Skill It: What one thing about food and eating do you most want to teach your children?

Line: Buying and eating fresh local food and making time to cook and eat are an important part of taking care of yourself, the people around you, and your environment.

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