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A Kwanzaa Tradition: Jollof Rice

Like so many other holidays, food is an essential part of Kwanzaa. This week-long celebration began in the 1960s and is meant to honor the African heritage in African-American culture. It is a compilation of several African harvest festivals and in fact, the term Kwanzaa derives from a phrase meaning “first fruits of the harvest.”

Kwanzaa is celebrated over seven days, from December 26th through January 1st. It’s not a religious holiday and was never meant to replace Christmas or any other end of the year holidays. Instead, it is a week-long celebration of African heritage, culture, food and family. The holiday feast originally focused on West African dishes, but as the popularity of Kwanzaa spread, the menu began to change and incorporated both old and new traditions.

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Fruit-Focused Christmas Dishes: Rojik and Bastegh

You won’t find a holiday feast on December 25th in Armenia. That’s because they celebrate Christmas on January 6th, a date that all Christian communities used into the 4th century. But no matter when they celebrate, food is still a large part of Armenian holiday traditions. Families sit down to a delicious meal of different starters and salads like babaganoush and tabbouleh on Christmas day. Armenian meals vary, depending on the individual family’s roots, but a couple treats make an appearance on most tables: Rojik and Bastegh. Now these are unique and yummy sweets!

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Holiday Traditions: Mince Pie in the Summer

The Australian Christmas –a fun, sunny day at the beach. Crazy, right?

Now, I love this idea. Our winter is actually summer in Australia. A December day is cold for for us but spent lounging on the beach in Australia, eating BBQ and having picnics with the family. That idea makes me laugh.

In Australia mince pies are a very popular dish served during the holiday season.

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Christmas Tradition: Puerto Rican Pasteles

Food and drink are an essential part of the Puerto Rican holiday season. In addition to arroz con gandules (rice made with pigeon peas and pork), coquito (an eggnog-like alcoholic beverage) and arroz con dulce (sweet rice pudding), pasteles are always found on a Puerto Rican table at Christmas.

Puerto Ricans take so much pride in their pasteles and each family has their own special way of making them. They are labor intensive, which is why the dish is usually saved for special occasions like the holidays. The more family around, the more hands there are to help out. Families will often make a lot at a time and freeze the rest for later. There is nothing more exciting to me than the idea of a family gathering, making a recipe passed down through the generations. You know it’s going to be delicious.

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A Fried Christmastime Treat: Bunuelos

I love the look of Bunuelos — the treat is so enticing with their perfectly round shape. They are a Christmastime favorite in Columbia, where the fried yeast balls are stuffed with a white salty cheese and are more savory than sweet. The dish is traditionally served with natilla, a custard-like dessert that is very similar to flan, and with ‘manjar blanco’ for a Christmas trifecta.

Columbian Natilla (the ‘s’ gets dropped in Columbia) differs from the natilla in other countries since they don’t use eggs. This dish gets served chilled and is the perfect accompaniment to a crunchy, salty bunuelo.

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A Caribbean Christmas Cocktail: Sorrel Punch

Dreaming of a warm-weather vacation this holiday season? Even if you can’t drop everything and jet off on a beach adventure, you can bring a taste of the tropics to your Christmas menu with sorrel punch.

Sorrel punch can be found throughout the Caribbean and in many Latin American countries, but it’s particularly popular in Jamaica as a Christmas cocktail.

Sorrel, not be confused with the green French sorrel, refers to the red bud of the Roselle plant, also known as the hibiscus flower. The ingredient is called many different names, so be on the lookout when you go to the grocery store. It could be called Flor de Jamaica, sorrel or dried hibiscus flower.

There are many ways to prepare and enjoy sorrel, but during the holiday season, sorrel is boiled with water, and cane sugar, fresh ginger and rum are added. The finished drink has a brilliant red color, making it a great holiday cocktail. There is a similar recipe in Trinidad and Tobago, but instead of adding ginger, they season it with cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves.

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It’s All Greek to Me: Kourambiethes

Gear up for holiday baking with Cooking Channel. Your favorite chefs & Food People have opened their kitchens to share their best cookie recipes. From mini Red Velvet Whoopie Pies to Chuck’s Maple-Pecan Shortbread, we’ll keep you baking all season. Visit our All-Star Cookie Swap, then head over to for great takes on holiday baking from Food Network chefs.

Kourambiethes are Greek cookies that are a beautiful and delicious twist on a classic shortbread. Ground almonds, butter, flour and sugar are mixed together, baked and then coated in icing sugar.Every time I see them, I have to have one of these little cloud cookies. I love the nuttiness from the almonds.

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A Danish Dessert: Æbleskivers

If you were to cross a pancake with a popover, you’d get an Æbleskiver. I love eating these traditional Danish pancakes —  they aren’t too sweet, have a fluffy texture and are usually served with a variety of jams. I think they would make the perfect breakfast food, served with hot chocolate or coffee. In Denmark, though, they are usually enjoyed around Christmastime paired with glogg, a Scandinavian mulled wine.

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Heat the Oil for Latkes

December isn’t just for Christmas. Hannukah often falls within the month as well. This eight day, eight night Jewish holiday celebrates the successful liberation of the holy temple in Jerusalem. It’s also referred to as the Festival of Lights, in part because a one-day supply of oil was able to light a menorah in the Temple for eight days.

Because of this miracle of the oil, traditional holiday foods are often fried in oil. The most commonly known dish (and most popular) is the latke. I mean, who doesn’t love potatoes fried in oil? It’s like a rosti but shaped like a pancake! I grew up eating these. Traditional latkes have grated potatoes, onions, egg and flour, but new versions are coming out, made with different root veggies, like grated zucchini, sweet potato, or squash. The list goes on and on. Latkes are traditionally served with either applesauce or sour cream. I love them both and cannot/will not choose a favorite! It all depends on my mood!

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