Advent is a time of renewal and preparation for the birth of our Lord, Jesus. It is also a time of fasting to prepare our body and soul for the Jesus’ birth and feasting with friends and family. Since there are some wonderful Saint Feast days during Advent, why not prepare by preparing with some wonderful saints and food. Here are some ways to feast during this Advent and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
General Advent Days
The Advent is a daily calendar with chocolate or a sweet treat for each day leading up to December 25. It’s fun for the kids to open the doors to find their treat. Some calendars even include small Bible phrases or verses to help you and your family prepare for Jesus’ birth.
Find some at: Advent calendars on Amazon
Fast or eat a simple meal – Modern day Catholics only associate fasting with Lent or for medical reasons, but we can also fast during Advent. The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches have a tradition of fasting from November 15 to December 24. It can be anything from not going out to dinner and donating the money not spent, to having a simple meal of beans and rice, or giving up meals during the day and only having one meal to sacrifice and pray for forgiveness and renewal during this holy season. Click here for some fasting ideas
Brown Rice with Black-eyed Peas and Greens – This recipe is very festive and perfect for the Christmas season with the red tomatoes, and green mustard greens.
- 1 1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
- 1 bunch mustard greens, sliced
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 Tbsp butter or (dairy free) margarine
- 3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with zesty jalapenos, drained
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the brown rice as directed on the package.
- Slice the stem out of the mustard green leaves. Roll up the leaves together and slice down, so it will cook faster.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter, then add the chopped onion and the crushed garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes, or until onions begin to turn translucent. Then add the sliced greens and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until wilted.
- Then stir in the black-eyed peas and the diced tomatoes. Let simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.
- Serve the Black-eyed Peas and Greens over Brown Rice.
The Advent wreath is a Christian tradition that is a simple way to prepare for each week of Advent to Jesus’ birthday. Some of the symbolism of the Advent wreath includes, a circle symbolizing eternity, three purple candles are for the penitential color of the season and the rose candle reminds us to “rejoice in the Lord”. As we light one more candle each week, we are reminded of the Light of the World coming into the world. We also get more and more excited for the coming of our Lord. Some wreaths also will have a white candle we light in the middle of the wreath on Christmas, symbolizing the Christ child. Click here to learn more
Danish Advent Wreath – Here is a different idea to hold up the candles from the Advent wreath using a braided loaf of bread. One good thing about this recipe is that no-one is going to actually eat it. It’s going to be sitting on your table for a month, so you’re really just going for looks.
For the pastry
- 2 envelopes yeast
- 1 c. milk, brought almost to boiling
- 1/2 c. shortening or butter
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 beaten eggs
- 4 1/2 c. flour
For the filling
- 2 Tbsp. butter (melted)
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 c. golden raisins, raisins, or craisins
Combine last three ingredients.
For the Glaze
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- Place the milk, shortening, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat until the shortening (or butter) is just melted. Cool to lukewarm and sprinkle in the yeast. Let sit for about 5 minutes while the yeast gets fizzy, or “proofs” (if you want to get technical).
- Add the eggs and the flour, mix until dough forms.
- Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (for about 8 minutes)
- Place in a greased bowl, turn once, and cover with saran wrap. Let rest in a warm place (I often use the oven) until double.
- Punch the dough down, Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough into three pieces. Roll each of these pieces into strips about 2 inches in diameter. Brush the pieces with the melted butter and roll in the filling. Braid the strips together, working from the middle out toward each end. Turn the ends together to form a wreath 12 inches in diameter. Use a well-greased bundt pan for a tighter-looking wreath or if you don’t have a bundt pan, you can use a cookie sheet as below:
- Cover and let rise again until double. (about 30-40 min)
- Brush with the glaze and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
Saint Feast Days
November 30 – St. Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter and a disciple of John the Baptist. When St. John stated, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Andrew knew that Jesus was greater and began to follow Him. Therefore, St. Andrew was the first follower of Jesus! Andrew soon brought Jesus to Simon Peter. After the ascension, he traveled to Greece to preach and was tied to a cross to die. He preached for two days upon the cross. Click here to learn more.
St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, therefore here are some traditional Scottish St. Andrew day meal ideas
- 3-4 lbs shoulder of lamb, trimmed of excess fat
- 1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- 4 medium onions, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
- 4 lbs potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 qt lamb or chicken stock
- Preheat Preheat the oven to 475°F. Season the lamb with freshly ground pepper and roast in a medium roasting tray in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350°F. Remove the lamb from the tray and pour off the excess fat.
- While the lamb is roasting, heat the oil in a pan, add the onions and cover and cook for 5 minutes till soft. Remove the cover from the pan, add the garlic and rosemary and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan.
- Lay a layer of potatoes into the roasting tray and lightly season with black pepper. Lay 1/3 of the cooked onions onto the potatoes, repeat this process until you have three or four layers of potatoes and onions.
- Bring the lamb/chicken stock to the boil and pour over the potatoes, press down with a spoon till the potatoes are all submerged.
- Place the lamb on top and return to the preheated oven and continue to cook for 3 hours.
- The lamb should be meltingly tender and the potatoes and onions should have absorbed the stock and lamb juices.
- Serve with Scottish seasonal vegetables of your choice – most types of cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots are in season in November.
December 6 – There are many legends that come from the life of good ‘ole St. Nick, but the one that he is most known for is the secret dowry he gave to a poor man with three daughters. A father in Patara lost all of his money and couldn’t find husbands for his three daughters because they were so poor. St. Nickolas heard the father was going to give them over to prostitution, so he gave the man a bag of gold, in secret thrown into his window, so his oldest daughter could be married. Over time, he also did the same for the second and third daughter. By the third daughter the man realized who was giving him the bags a gold, sealing St. Nicholas’ place in time as giving gifts to children. In keeping with tradition, many parents will have their kids put a shoe outside their bedroom door on December 5th and in the morning, the kids will find a chocolate coin from St. Nicholas. It is also documented that St. Nicholas would only eat once on Wednesday and Friday evenings, which is probably why the tradition of setting cookies out for St. Nick was started. Click here to learn more
(these were from Easter, but they can be made any time during the year, just change the frosting color or decorate for the season)
Italian Biscotti cookies – (bis-c?t-?th?) this is a recipe from my family, not to be mixed up with the twice baked crispy biscotto (bi-?skät-?) cookies. These cookies are light and buttery. Since we have celiac in our family, my mom was able to modify the recipe to make it gluten-free too!
Traditional – makes about 5 dozen
- ½ c butter (1 stick – softened)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/8 cup milk
- 3 cups flour
- Cream butter, sugar, and eggs (should be light yellow). Add salt, baking powder, milk and mix.
- Add flour a little at a time till it forms a ball.
- (optional) Refrigerate 15 minutes so the butter hardens just a bit.
- Take a walnut size of the dough and roll into “crescent” or any other shape, as desired.
- Put on lightly greased baking sheet (or nonstick cookie sheet or silpat) and bake 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Bottom of cookie should be brown, top should be a very light tan (don’t overcook).
- 1 cup powder sugar
- 2-3 Tablespoons butter (softened)
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Tablespoons of milk – amount will vary
- Mix powder sugar, butter and vanilla, slowly add milk until frosting is a thick running consistency
- Add food coloring to go with the holiday
- Frost cookies right out of the oven, placing them face down and pulling them up through the frosting.
- Frosting will dry shiny.
Gluten Free cookies
- 1/2 cup of Butter (1 stick)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar (or sucanut)
- 2 tsp non-gluten baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 cup milk or soymilk
- 3/4 tsp Xanthan gum (1/4 tsp Xanthan gum to 1 cup gf flour)
- 3 cups non-gluten flour mix blend (we used Bob’s Red Mill)
- Cream butter, sugar, eggs.
- Add baking bowder, salt, vanilla powder, cinnamon, milk, Xanthan gum.
- Add flour a little at a time until it forms into a ball.
- Shape in a size of a walnut and roll into hand. Shape as desired.
- Put on lightly greased baking sheet and bake in 350 degree oven for 13-15 minutes
- Frost using frosting and steps above (if you are making both recipes, make sure you don’t dip the gluten free cookies in the same frosting as the traditional ones).
Makes about 4 dozen
December 8 – The Immaculate Conception celebrates the holy and sinless conception of Mary. Mary was conceived by human parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim. They were both faithful servants to God, and through their holy union, conceived Mary. God and Jesus chose Mary from among ALL women, past, present and future to become the holy vessel, the New Ark of the Covenant, to carry and care for Our Lord. Only someone who was uncorrupted by sin, could carry a holy God, therefore she was saved by the grace of God at her conception, whereas we are saved after death through the sacrifice of her Son.
Immaculate Heart of Mary cake – This is actually a ‘strawberries and cream’ cake that was made into the form of a heart and decorated like the Sacred Heart of Mary.
- 1 box of white cake mix
- 1 ¼ cups half-and-half
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup strawberry syrup
- 1 container (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed or 1 container white frosting
- 3 cups fresh whole strawberries, sliced
- ¼ cup strawberry jam
- 2 tbsp sugar
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 for dark or nonstick pans). Grease bottom and sides of cake rounds or heart pan (if you have it, you can always cut the round into a heart shape).
- In a large bowl, beat cake mix, half-and-half, oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan.
- Bake 23 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes. Poke cake ever inch with tines of meat fork or table knife. Pour syrup slowly over cake, allowing syrup to fill holes in cake. Cool completely, about 35 minutes longer.
- Spread whipped topping over cake. Can make a fresh jam, mixing strawberries, jam and sugar (do not place on cake until just before eating) or just place strawberries on top to look like roses on the Immaculate Heart. Store covered in refrigerator.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12 – This is the feast of the miraculous image given to Juan Diego to convert the Aztec people who were worshiping a sun and moon god, and offering human sacrifices. Mary appeared to Juan Diego and told him to tell the Bishop she wanted a Church build there. At first the Bishop wouldn’t hear him, but finally did and asked Juan to show a proof of Our Lady’s request. Juan went back to Mary, who told him to come back and she would give him the proof. But, Juan’s uncle was ill, and so instead of coming back, Juan went a different way to get a priest. Mary met him, and told him not to worry about his uncle (he was healed immediately), but to go to the top of the Hill of Tepeyac and gather the roses growing there (which were neither native to the area and not in season because of the cold). He went up and gathered the roses in his cloak and went to the Bishop. As he went to show the Bishop the miracle of the roses, they fell out of his tilma and he thought he ruined the whole thing! But the Bishop fell to his knees seeing the miraculous image on his tilma. Through the miraculous image, thousands of Aztecs converted to the Catholic faith. She is also the patron saint of all of North America!
Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas – This is just a simple enchilada dish I make for my family.
- 1 lb chicken breast boiled or rotisserie chicken, shredded
- 1-2 cans enchilada sauce (mild or hot)
- 12-15 flour tortillas
- 4 cups Monterey jack cheese or any cheese preference
- Lettuce, shredded in package or 1 head shredded
- 1 fresh tomato, diced
- Sour cream (if desired)
- Black olives (if desired)
- Guacamole (if desired)
- 4 cups white or Spanish rice, cooked
- Preheat oven 350 degrees F
- Mix ½ can to 1 can of enchilada sauce with chicken and a handful of cheese and black olives. Everything should be well coated.
- Put a couple tablespoons of enchilada sauce on bottom of baking dish and lightly coat.
- Put second can of enchilada sauce in a shallow bowl wide enough to glide the tortillas through to coat.
- Coat each tortilla in sauce, roll 1-2 tablespoons of chicken mixture with some extra cheese and place in pan. Tortilla should be full, but not over full. (May be easier to divide chicken mixture into 15 portions, so all tortillas have same amount of filling).
- Cover with any remaining sauce.
- Top with rest of cheese.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is fully melted.
Serve with rice and toppings of diced tomato, sour cream, black olives and guacamole.
December 13 – St. Lucy, who’s name means light, died as a martyr, although her story has been changed throughout the years. Currently, as legend has it, as a young girl she was promised to marry a pagan man, whom she did not want to marry. Lucy’s mother was ill, so Lucy went to St. Agatha’s tomb and prayed and her mother was miraculously healed. Her mother changed her mind about forcing Lucy to marry, but the rejected bridegroom turned her in as a Christian to the governor. When they came to arrest her, she became stiff and heavy as a mountain! She was eventually killed.
She is known as the patron of the blind, because it was also legend that her eyes were removed, as a part of torture she endured. Click here to learn more
St. Lucy Buns – St. Lucia Day, celebrated throughout Scandinavia, “symbolizes the promise of the sun’s return to bring Sweden from its wintry darkness.”
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed
- 1/2 cup butter
- 4 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt*
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg white (reserved from dough) mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
- coarse pearl sugar, optional
- golden raisins, optional
*Reduce the salt to 1 1/4 teaspoons if you use salted butter
- In a small saucepan set over medium heat (or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave), heat the milk and saffron to a simmer; remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Set the mixture aside to allow the butter to melt, and for it to cool to lukewarm, 30 to 35 minutes. You can reduce the milk’s cooling time by about 10 minutes by refrigerating it.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, flours, salt and sugar.
- Separate one of the eggs, and set the white aside; you’ll use it later.
- Pour the lukewarm milk and butter mixture over the dry ingredients.
- Add the 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, and the vanilla. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes by mixer, about 10 minutes by hand, till the dough is smooth and supple.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (8-cup) measuring cup, cover it, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it’s quite puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.
- Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 12 equal pieces. A scale makes this job easy; each piece will weigh about 92g, or 3 1/4 ounces.
- Shape the pieces of dough into rough logs, and let them rest, covered, for about 10 minutes. This gives the gluten a chance to relax.
- Roll each log into a 15″ to 18″ rope. They’ll shrink once you stop rolling; that’s OK.
- Shape each rope into an “S” shape. Tuck a golden raisin into the center of each of the two side-by-side coils, if desired.
- Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving an inch or so between them. Cover them, and let them rise for about 30 minutes, till they’re noticeably puffy, but definitely not doubled. While they’re rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Brush each bun with some of the egg white/water glaze. Sprinkle with coarse white Swedish pearl sugar, if desired.
- Bake the buns until they’re golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. If you’ve used raisins, tent them with foil for the final 3 minutes, to prevent the raisins from burning.
- Remove the buns from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.
Yield: 12 large buns.
December 25 – Jesus’ birthday should be celebrated within our families since he is the “reason for the season.” As a family, we’ve always sung “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and made sure he was made the focus during the blessing of our meals. Here are some other ideas on how to celebrate Jesus, and keep Him the focus of the day.
Candy Cane – OK, you probably aren’t going to make any, but it’s a traditional candy because of its symbolism to Christ – Shepard’s crook, “J” for Jesus, white for Innocent Victim, thick red line for the blood He shed, three lines for Trinity, sweet for the sweetness of Heaven.
Christmas Fruit Cake – often given to friends and family as a joke, this recipe is made with dried fruit (instead of candied), less dense and more cake-like.
- 1/8 cup chopped dried cherries
- 1/8 cup chopped dried mango
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup dried currants
- 2 tablespoons chopped candied citron
- 1/4 cup dark rum
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup dark rum, divided
- Soak cherries, mango, cranberries, currants, and citron in 1/4 cup rum for at least 24 hours. Cover tightly, and store at room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Butter a 6×3-inch round pan or loaf pan and line it with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; mix into butter and sugar in three batches, alternating with molasses and milk. Stir in soaked fruit and chopped nuts. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons rum.
- Cut out one piece parchment paper and one piece cheesecloth, each large enough to wrap around the cake. Moisten cheesecloth with 1 tablespoon rum. Arrange cheesecloth on top of parchment paper, and unmold cake onto it. Sprinkle top and sides of cake with remaining rum. Wrap the cheesecloth closely to the surface of the cake, then wrap with paper. Place in an airtight tin, and age for at least 10 weeks. If storing longer, douse with additional rum for every 10 weeks of storage.
Feast of the Holy Innocents
December 28 – According to the Gospel of Mathew 2:16-18, King Herod had all the boys two years and younger in an attempt to kill Jesus before he grew to become a threat to the king. Be sure to bless your children today! Click here to learn more
Blanc Mange Recipe – this is a white cream pudding served with either cherry or strawberry sauce. It symbolizes the innocent blood shed by Herod.
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- dash of salt
- 4 tablespoons water, cold
- 2 cups scalded milk (milk heated to 180 degrees F)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Combine the cornstarch, sugar, salt and water.
- Slowly add 2 cups scalded milk, stirring constantly and cook over medium heat until thick and smooth.
- Add vanilla.
- Can be poured into wetter molds and chilled or into any pretty serving dish or single servers.
- Chill and serve with a well flavored sauce.