Finding new holiday traditions for my family

December 15, 2011 | By | Comments (3)

When my husband and I had children, I found myself craving holiday traditions but found that we didn’t have many. In particular we didn’t have any foods (other than clam chowder from Captain Marden’s, heated and served each year right before going to Christmas Eve service), that spoke to our cultural heritage or felt particularly traditional.

Despite the fact that my brother and I are mostly Irish, when asked about our heritage we always identified ourselves as Swedish. When naming our children, my husband and I pulled from the Swedish thread, choosing “Anders” after my ancestor Anders Sundin (formerly Anderson) who stepped off the boat onto Ellis Island.

And it was to those roots that I looked when it was time to start creating new traditions for my family.

While we’ve introduced many new food traditions in the past eight years – my mother-in-law’s “famous” mashed potatoes, a standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding – my favorite is Swedish Meatballs served with red bliss potatoes, broccoli and Lingonberry sauce on Christmas eve.

Initially, the meatballs and fixings came from Ikea, but last year we added a new tradition – making meatballs from scratch as we listened to Christmas carols and enjoying the downtime that comes before the chaos of Christmas day.

Using a recipe I found in The Boston Globe, my daughter and I made last year’s meatballs, and while they tasted better than the looked, we all agreed it was a tradition that should continue.

Have you started any new holiday food traditions for your family?

Looking for new holiday traditions for your family? On December 20th, chef Lidia Bastianich is sharing the holiday food traditions she uncovered in the special “Lidia Celebrates America’s Holiday Tables & Traditions.” She is also sharing recipes from visitors to her site on

Swedish Meatballs
by Karoline Boehm Goodnick

Note: Use torn bread cubes in place of bread crumbs to make a delicate meatball which absorbs more sauce.


  • 1 cup (about 4 slices) torn bread cubes
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Canola oil (for the pan)

1. Set the oven at 450. Have on hand a large nonstick skillet with an ovenproof handle or a cast iron skillet. Place a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.

2. In a bowl, combine bread and milk.

3. In another bowl, gently mix beef, onion, egg, parsley, nutmeg, allspice, salt, pepper, and bread mix.

4. Coat the skillet lightly with oil. With wet hands, form 30 small meatballs and place them in the skillet.

5. Bake for 20 minutes, turning once or twice, or until well browned.

6. Transfer the meatballs to the rack to drain. Use the same skillet to make the sauce.


  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In the skillet over medium high heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Stir in the flour, and cook for 1 minute.

2. Stir in the broth and cream. Bring to a boil. Add meatballs; lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

3. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if you like.