Chow Town

Holiday leftovers tell a story of the season’s traditions

Leftover treats around the holidays speak to the season’s traditions.
Leftover treats around the holidays speak to the season’s traditions. Special to The Star

This morning it dawned on me that refrigerators, tables and even recyclables tell a story of each holiday season. Candy-coated espresso beans fill a small crystal bowl on our kitchen table, a gift from a friend of more than 20 years; while three kinds of nuts and a nutcracker sit atop the coffee table — a tradition adopted long ago from my husband, Mark’s family. A tall tin of peppermint flavored hot chocolate mix has migrated from beneath our Christmas tree to our counter, as has a large new crock cooker.

Half a carton of eggnog remains on the refrigerator door after everyone used it to flavor their coffee on each of the last four mornings. A large cardboard box cradles luscious dark chocolate cake, lovingly shipped to us alongside premium steaks, by a family member from another city. Teddy Bear Cookies, Walnut Crescent Cookies and several slices of poppy seed bread in a nearby container each tell a short story.

I first made scrumptious, chocolate and peanut-butter-laced Teddy Bear Cookies when our daughters were in elementary school. As they approach their 30s, these endearing treats remain a “must-do” holiday offering among family and friends. The powder sugar-dusted crescent cookies that both Mark and I grew up with have been another seasonal staple since we married. But, true to form in our kitchen, I made some tweaks about five years ago and everyone thinks they now have a much better texture. The remaining moist, flavorful bread was a lovely homemade gift, from a coworker.

A small portion of herb and garlic-flavored white bean dip is all that remains from our annual Christmas Eve hors d’oeuvres spread, which also included fresh veggies and cheeses, deviled eggs, shrimp, chips and salsa, plenty of red wine and lots of laughter. And an empty container reminds me that, no matter how much we all love to cook, packaged orange cinnamon rolls will likely remain a holiday staple, as they already have for decades.

Our 9 x 13 glass pan sits in the rapidly filling dishwasher — remnant from another mandatory seasonal breakfast delicacy — my mother’s legendary sticky buns. The glass bread pan next to it held Mark’s family’s generations-old date pudding dessert. Topped with fresh whipped cream, it tasted equally good for dessert or breakfast.

Several spoonfuls of gravy combined bacon fat from our Christmas Day breakfast and once-frozen homemade Thanksgiving turkey stock. A half-eaten ham awaits repurposing, as do apple slices and cinnamon sticks left over from sangria made for a holiday party. One last cup of orange-infused fresh cranberry sauce reminds me that we happily gave up the canned variety three years ago.

But this year has also been a little different. A handful of champagne bottles sit amid wine bottles in our recycling bin. This year we celebrated an engagement and a growing family amid the magical season of light and joy.

What did your leftovers say about your holiday season?

Lisa Waterman Gray is a freelance writer based in Overland Park. She specializes in food and travel writing.