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Holiday Tastes and Traditions

What food do you need to have to complete your holiday season? Three millennial women share the the meals and recipes that have become new traditions in their families - two recipes included!

Whether it’s a Christmas bake or a full Oshougatsu feast at Baachan’s house, everyone has that one recipe (or meal) that the holidays are never complete without. Megumi Kaminaga and Mackenzie Kiyomi Walker share their holiday favorites and recipes below.


Kuri kinton in a lacquered bowl with chestnut pieces
Kuri kinton pictured from Just One Cookbook
From Megumi’s Kitchen: Kuri Kinton​​

My mom has always done a smaller version of Oshogatsu by making some smaller osechi dishes and always ozoni with delicious mochi in a rich shoyu soup base.  But one of the dishes that I loved was her version of kurikinton.  Instead of the traditional candied chestnuts, my mom would use apples, kiwi and pineapple to make a delicious sweet version.  I can't help, even now when I do my own version of Oshogatsu with the ambitious mindset to make all the osechi from scratch, to include her version alongside the classic version of Kuri Kinton. 

Mom's Sweet Kuri Kinton Recipe: 

  • 1 lb sweet potato  (400 gram)
  • 2 slices canned pineapple
  • 1 fresh kiwi
  • 3 tablespoon raisin
  • 1 apple (fuji apple)
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice

Instructions

Peel sweet potato, ½ inch slices, soak in water for 5 minutes.  Put in pot and bring to boil until soft. Drain.

Add 2 tbsp sugar to potatoes and mash.  Put mashed potato in pot and add 4 tbsn sugar, 3 tbsn mirin, 2 tbsp pineapple juice, and ¾ cup hot water into pot.  Mix on low heat until all water evaporates.  Mix until creamy.  Put ¼ tspn salt, mix well.  Spread mixture onto baking sheet and cool.

Peel apple, cut it into bite sized cubes.  Put apples in pan and cook with 2 tbspn water and 1 tbspn sugar.  Cook over medium heat, once softened, add ½ tspn lemon juice.

Rehydrate raisins, microwave with 1-2 tbspn water.

Cut pineapple and kiwi into bite sized cubes.  Mix all fruit with sweet potato mixture. Cool.


Photo Credit: Mackenzie Kiyomi Walker


From Mackenzie’s Kitchen: Monkey Bread

Why Monkey Bread? 

For most of my life Christmas has been on the road. Aside from what my mom affectionately refers to as her “Christmas Go-Bag” (a small duffel filled with stockings, a few chocolate oranges, and a miniature ceramic bagpiping Santa) we didn’t have a lot of continuity or set traditions. When my eldest niece was born, the first of the goseis, we wanted to start a new tradition that was easy and memorable and didn’t need to fit in the Go-Bag. So I made monkey bread on Christmas morning and the rest is history. 

This sticky, carmely, cinnamony pull-apart bread can be made in whatever pan you have on hand, with almost any kind of sugar you have on hand, and is highly encouraged you eat with your hands 🤗

Recipe:

(Copy and pasted from https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/6815/monkey-bread-i/, MKW edits in parentheses)

  • 3 (12 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuit dough (MKW: I use 1.5-2 packages in a small Bundt cake pan for a more even bake but I keep the same amount of caramel listed below)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup margarine (MKW: I use butter here, but use what you prefer!)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (MKW: I find that light brown sugar makes a more even caramel)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts (Optional)
  • ½ cup raisins (MKW: I never add these or the nuts)

Instructions:

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9 or 10 inch tube/Bundt® pan.

Step 2: Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Cut biscuits into quarters. Shake 6 to 8 biscuit pieces in the sugar cinnamon mix. Arrange pieces in the bottom of the prepared pan. Continue until all biscuits are coated and placed in pan. If using nuts and raisins, arrange them in and among the biscuit pieces as you go along.

Step 3: In a small saucepan, melt the margarine with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the biscuits.

Step 4: Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. Do not cut! The bread just pulls apart.

Editor's Note

Use only solid tube pans for this recipe. Hot syrup will leak from removable bottom pans.


Photo Credit: Stephanie Nitahara

From Stephanie’s Kitchen: The Nitahara Christmas Breakfast

In the Nitahara home, we have three family traditions every Christmas season.

  1. My uncle hosts the Nitahara Christmas Eve party that we don’t leave until the wee hours of the morning. 
  2. We wrap at least half of our Christmas presents AFTER we get home from that party - this is less a tradition birthed out of intentionality, and more of a holiday travel is hard with gifts and shopping procrastination situation
  3. After barely sleeping, my siblings and I reluctantly peel ourselves out of bed and attempt to make our Christmas breakfast before noon, and that breakfast always includes corned beef hash.And when I say corned beef hash, I mean the Hormel brand Mary Kitchen red can of ground corned beef with tiny potato cubes. 

Each year, we’ve added or swapped out items to our Christmas menu depending who was feeling inspired. One year someone wanted fried rice, but we couldn’t give up the corned beef hash, so we did both. Then a French toast loving partner joined the breakfast table, so Mama Nitahara made sure to have a King’s Hawaiian loaf ready for a side of delicious French Toast. While the menu varies slightly year after year, what remains the same is the nostalgia I feel when I get to be in the kitchen with my siblings and gathering together after many months apart.

Ok so I know I said “recipes below,” but honestly there’s not much of a recipe to putting this meal together*.

  • Corned Beef Hash - You can get fancy with this but if you can’t tell by now, we’re very devoted to the canned version. Open the can, put in a frying pan, heat. If you like it crispy like we do, put under the broiler until it gets to the desired crispiness.
  • Portuguese Sausage - In Chicago this is usually swapped for Polish sausage unless someone’s made it to Mitsuwa recently. Another simple one: Cut, fry, serve.
  • French Toast - This version used brioche, but we love using a King’s Hawaiian loaf. Pretty much any standard French Toast recipe like this one will do.
  • Fried Rice - Our family’s fried rice is always made by cooking down the vegetables in bacon grease and then adding the rice to a giant pot. We never have enough leftover rice to make the quantity of fried rice that we need for our meal, so we’ve grown accustomed to having sticky fried rice with over easy eggs over top rather than the drier fried rice with scrambled eggs mixed in you’ll find at Asian restaurants.


*Through writing this article I’ve realized that the Nitahara Christmas breakfast also says a lot about my family’s willingness to add to traditions while never letting go of its origin and making sure that everyone has a seat at the table. There’s probably another article in here, but that can wait until the new year.

Article featured in this issue:
December 2021
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