I love spending Christmas in Naples—even more than I enjoyed it when my husband, Bob, and I lived in Southern California. Growing up in Minneapolis, also known as the frozen tundra, I love shopping, going to Christmas parties and just going from one place to another without being bundled up to my eyeballs and having to bring my hotsy-totsy shoes in a bag because wearing boots was required. And no one ever made fashionable snow boots. Just today, I drove to Old Naples and back with the windows and sunroof open in my car, blasting Christmas carols from the stereo and enjoying all the beautiful decorations everywhere. Even at night, being able to stroll up and down Fifth Avenue South or Third Street South in total comfort enjoying all the lights is truly magical.
Our family shares many fabulous Christmas memories and each year, it seems another tradition was born … all seeming to revolve around food. When my sister and I were still living at home, my parents would host all of our relatives for Christmas Eve dinner and opening gifts. Since we were half Danish and half Swedish, part of the menu each year would include this fish dish called lutefisk, which my father, mother, sister and aunts and uncles loved. I did not love it. Lutefisk is a fish that was of such a weird consistency that it had to be boiled in a nylon stocking until done and then it looked a lot like a pile of hot Jell-o. It was meant to be served over boiled potatoes and a creamy bacon gravy. I seriously could not look at the stuff. Thank goodness there was a ham and scalloped potatoes on the menu too.
Christmas in California brought new traditions in taste. My sister had moved there, as had my parents, so we continued the celebration in a new wonderful climate. My sister and her husband hosted a Christmas party each year, when she served the most sinful eggnog on Earth. She discovered a recipe in one of her cookbooks that recommended using French vanilla ice cream and rum along with the regular ingredients. That nog was what we looked forward to each year. We did not care about the calories; after downing a couple of glasses, we all forgot the meaning of fattening.
However, there has been one holiday dish in the Hansen/Harden legacy that has stood the test of time. It goes back to the 1940s, I am told. This dish is so delicious that we still all talk about it when take we take trips down memory lane. The kids and grandkids loved it and still ask for it year after year, no matter how old they get. Believe it or not, it happens to be a vegetable dish, simply named Carrot Ring. And in the holiday spirit of giving, I am going to reveal this recipe to Paradise Post readers. It is my Christmas gift to you.
- 6-8 carrots
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 ¼ cup flour
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 1 cup softened butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
- 1 bag frozen green peas (cooked according to directions on bag)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook carrots until soft and then mash them. Add water and lemon juice. Mix and cool. Add brown sugar, butter and egg yolks. Sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Add vanilla and fold in beaten egg whites. Pour mixture in to a well-greased ring mold (I sometimes use a Bundt pan) and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. When done, turn carrot ring mold onto a serving dish and fill the center with freshly cooked peas. (We would have to double the recipe each year, because everyone wanted seconds and thirds.)
Enjoy. Merry Christmas, everyone!