Sidonie Maroon, Culinary educator for The Food Co-op
Years ago, I remade Christmas cooking for myself. Little by little, I decided what mattered and let the rest go. And what did …
Sidonie Maroon, Culinary educator for The Food Co-op
Years ago, I remade Christmas cooking for myself. Little by little, I decided what mattered and let the rest go. And what did matter? — peaceful, contemplative cookie baking while listening to Christmas albums. A big bowl of bright oranges, with amaryllis and paperwhites blooming on the kitchen counter. Singing carols and laughing with my sons while cooking. Cuddling up with my husband and watching the twinkling tree lights in the dark. Having extended family over to make gingerbread. Perfecting my Panettone and Stollen sweet breads and gifting them to whoever comes by. Enjoying this special dedicated time with those I love and realizing that it’s a lot more about presence than presents.
Let the Season Work For You
Remember, you don’t have to shoulder everything alone. The season’s magic unfolds effortlessly with the right perspective. It’s all about attitude—if the scent of citrus as you peel a satsuma, or ruby jeweled pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top of a salad are enough then you’ve honed your kitchen attitude. If you allow yourself tiny celebrations frequently, then others will feel it too. My husband and I make little food parties all the time. A favorite is cooking up a big bowl of bright green Brussel sprouts with homemade mayonnaise on red plates, so festive, and it’s a party because we declare it so!
The Gift of a Head Start
Planning is a wonderful way to treat your future self and ease stress. For our family's gingerbread party, I make the dough a week in advance and freeze it. To prepare for unexpected guests, I make no-bake chocolate rolls early and keep them frozen until needed.
Decorate for All Five Senses
While visual decorating is central to creating enchantment, engaging all of our senses makes more memories. The aromas of baking, mulled cider, or a simmering pot of chili in the slow-cooker. The sounds of a bustling kitchen and lively conversations, lighting a candle at dinner or using mismatched cloth napkins—all these add layers of sensory richness to your holiday experience.
Put the Emphasis on Simple Healthy Food
The typical holiday excess of sugar and fats can leave us feeling sluggish, so let's reinvent our favorite recipes into healthier versions. Let's offer fewer sweets and more savory options at gatherings. Guests eagerly welcome flavors beyond the typical. Try incorporating fresh herbs into dips, adding a variety of raw and roasted vegetables, or make use of fresh citrus. This is an excellent opportunity to try exciting new recipes from other cultures.
I've learned that it’s not my responsibility to ensure everyone’s happiness—that path leads to exhaustion and frustration. Now, I choose when and where to bring cheer, focusing on what brings me joy and inviting others to join in. I ask for help when needed, laugh off imperfections, keep gatherings intimate and meaningful, and never lose sight of the season’s true purpose—to spread peace, love, and joy in a world that craves true and sustaining nourishment.
My Gift to You
The Port Townsend Food Coop houses my original recipe collections and articles on their website under “recipes,” “blog” and “community cook.” Use the search bar with “Sidonie.” Nothing gives me more pleasure than to hear that my recipes are cooked and enjoyed. You can find more of my daily cooking and thoughts on the FaceBook group “Cooking with the Coop.”
Salame di fico, pepe nero e carruba
Makes three salami
I’m sharing my version of the Italian “salame di cioccolato.” Yes, there is an Italian dessert that is shaped like a salami and called “salame dolce” or “salame di cioccolato” which translates to “sweet salami” or “chocolate salami.” It is an easy no-bake dessert made with cocoa, biscuits, butter, and sometimes dried fruit, nuts or liqueur and rolled to look like a salami, dusted with powdered sugar and wound with baker’s twine to give it that authentic look. When you slice it, there’s the satisfaction of eating what looks like salami on the outside and inside, but you know it’s not, and don’t expect a chocolaty sweet confection. I devised a healthier version with sophisticated flavors, while keeping to the shape of Italian sensibilities. If you want to use chocolate, just add ½ cup Dutched cocoa instead of the carob and chicory.
1/2 cup pitted dates
10 dried figs with ends cut off, any type of fig
1/2 cup unsalted cold butter, chopped
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
2 tablespoons roasted chicory root, chicory coffee works
1/2 cup carob flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp black peppercorns (¼ teaspoon for a milder version)
1 teaspoon aniseed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup roasted whole pistachios
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
1. In a food processor, grind the dates and figs together into a coarse meal.
2. Add the chopped butter and pulse until the meal comes together, but you still see some chunks of butter.
3. In a spice grinder, grind the flaxseed, chicory, cinnamon, peppercorns, aniseed, and salt into a powder.
4. Scrape the dried fruit and butter mixture into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the pistachios, ground flaxseed mixture, and 1/2 cup carob flour until well combined. Add 1/4 cup water to bring it all together.
5. Divide the mixture into three even balls, about 1 and 1/4 cups each. Shape each ball into a 6-inch salami with tapered ends. Dust each salami with carob flour and roll into parchment paper, twisting each end. Use baker’s twine to give it an authentic salami look.
6. Store in a freezer bag and slice them thin with a serrated knife to serve. They are delicious left out and allowed to soften, but won’t slice as well. I also keep them in the fridge.