Maybe it’s making cookies, or your grandmother’s perfect pecan pie. During the holidays life is a box of chocolates (you know, that epic one you’re pretending not to see every time you pass by the tree) and the food memories we make just as assorted.
Actor Sarah Rafferty, best known for playing Donna on TV’s Suits, may have celeb cred, but she also has food memories of Christmases past, and a family with which she’s making delicious memories to last for years to come.
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While Rafferty spends part of her year in Toronto (where Suits is filmed), when she heads home for the holidays it’s all about being together with her whole family. And it’s in Toronto where Rafferty got to know Canada’s President’s Choice foods; she’s teamed up with the in-house Loblaw label to help families across the country make their own holidays a lot easier.
We connected with Rafferty recently to talk about feasting and the fine art of holiday hosting, and some ways that we all can make the most of what we eat, and the time we share, during the most wonderful time of year.
Daily Hive: What is your most treasured holiday food memory from growing up?
Sarah Rafferty: The holidays were always a big deal in our family. From the time I was a little girl, I remember our whole family coming over – all the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents – to eat and enjoy the holidays together. Our house was holiday central. To ensure we could always feed the hungry mouths that came through the doors, mom had a pot of tomato and dill soup simmering at all times I always remember the smell of that red and green Christmas themed soup. My mom also made a delicious Sour Cream Coffee Cake that seemed to be served all day – that is something I still make to this day but more of a brunch or dessert item than breakfast!
What do you consider your must-have foods for the holidays?
Seafood! Lots of seafood. My family is from New England and every year since I was little we had a lobster dinner on Christmas Eve. Now that I have my own family and a Finnish husband, the tradition has continued. When we were first together I would impress him by curing my own gravlax. Now that we have kids I look for ways to make it easier which is why I love the new PC® Tuna Tataki. I throw it on a seafood board with dill and other fresh seafood to create a sea-cuterie board, a twist on the classic charcuterie.
What are some of the food traditions you have now with your family? Are their recipes or traditions you want to make sure you keep over the years and pass on to your kids?
Some of my fondest memories from the holidays were baking cookies with my mom and three sisters. As the youngest I would get to sit back and taste-test, not a bad job! My mom always made her classic thumb print cookies or holiday hats. Making sure we take the time to do a little baking is always my favourite part of the holidays. Homemade cookies are a MUST, especially while listening to the John Denver Christmas album.
Do you do much cooking with your kids? Are there any dishes you make every year for the holidays with your girls? What are some holiday eats that you think are ideal for making as a family or in groups?
My girls are four and nine so their level of participation really varies. The holiday cookies is something easy that both Oona and Iris can help with. It’s also something they love doing. My mom used to make these raspberry and almond thumbprint cookies – to add our own little twist we have subbed in the PC® Organics Mint European Dark Chocolate for the raspberry – a flavour both my girls and I love! The cookies are easy- you just roll the dough in a ball, a quick egg wash, then dip in the almonds and press in the chocolate with your thumb. My four year old loves pressing in the chocolate while my nine year old gets a little more creative and drizzles the mint chocolate on top.
Let’s talk about making traditions more modern. What are some ways you like to approach holiday cooking (and eating!) that shake things up from the expected, or are more contemporary ways to celebrate the season’s eatings?
Now that I have my own family, I’m constantly looking for ways to share our traditions with my girls and husband, while also putting my own spin on things. Like reading The Night Before Christmas to the kids or our Lobster boil Christmas Eve dinner. When it comes to putting twists on holiday traditions, re-imaging classic dishes is a really easy way to do that. With the right products and a little inspiration, it’s easy to make simple twists on holiday recipes that give you the best of both worlds – the traditional and the new. Every holiday season my mom would make the classic meat and cheese charcuterie.
To modernize this a bit and make sure I am adapting to my family’s tastes I have re-imagined this into a seafood board or sea-cuterie. It’s a lighter option to the classic and doesn’t leave your guests feeling full before they get to the main event. I pair it with a creamy dill dip that is super easy to make and to make sure each of my girls can enjoy, lots of cucumbers for my little one Iris and Oona is just like her father and loves the smoked salmon! Instead of curing my own gravlax, like I did pre-children, using products from the new PC® Insiders Collection™ for holiday provides that perfect source of inspiration with interesting and accessible products like the PC® Tuna Tataki – all the work is done for you, talk about easy entertaining.
For those hosting holiday get togethers, what are some tips for making the food part easier?
Mom is a hero and made a lot of things herself, from scratch. However, that meant a ton of time in the kitchen. One of my top tips is mixing home-made with store bought to simplify your life. You can impress your guests with a beautifully plated dessert that you grabbed from the grocery store. The products are just as good (sometimes better) and you get to spend time enjoying your family rather than stuck in the kitchen.