By the time I got to college, Christmas Eve was always spent with my Dad’s side of the family. How we got to that point is a whole other story, perhaps for another time (or not.) Although there were more of us at one time, we evolved to Daddy and my step-mom, Anna; Grandma Helen and my step-grandpa, Al; and my great Uncle Phil (Grandpa Sid’s younger brother and Daddy’s name sake); and me.
Christmas Eve with this side of the family meant getting dressed up – dresses or skirts, panty hose and heels for the ladies; slacks, pressed button down shirts and ties for the gentlemen, perhaps even a sport coat or two. I even curled my hair most year’s to please Grandma Helen. We had “cocktail” hour, although, somehow I never remember having a cocktail, only the “adults,” even when I was an adult. The table was covered with the good gold-rimmed china and gold-rimmed crystal, the gold flatware, the linen tablecloth, the works. Dinner was usually ham with all the fixin’s. It was a big production.
After dinner, we always did all the dishes before opening any presents. We passed out all the presents for that evening, opening one at a time, as we went around the circle so everyone could “ooh” and “ahh” about what was received, but more important, the joyous reaction to what you gave.
The last year we did this was 1995. Then things began to change, rapidly.
In just five years, four of the six of us were gone. The Christmas’ of 1998 and 1999 being the toughest since it was just Grandma Helen, Anna and I; Grandma Helen was not doing so well those years. But we kept the tradition, kept the faith and kept the smiles on our faces.
By Christmas 2000, it was down to Anna and me. We needed a new tradition, and how! And here’s how a new tradition was born, one that I cherish and look forward to every year.
Anna and I agreed we wanted something very different, much simpler and more comfortable – the panty hose had to go! We decided on lasagna, a salad and warm bread with soft, creamy butter. We agreed casual was fine, but if either of us felt the spirit to dress-up a bit more, that was okay too.
When HH joined the picture, he was welcomed into our holiday tradition and soon learned that if Anna and I were together on Christmas Eve there was no discussion on the menu, the tradition was set.
For this year’s celebration, I made Art’s Special Sauce last week, the base of my lasagna. I loosely follow the recipe my Mom wrote of her lasagna, and what has evolved is a new tradition – Lasagna, Holly’s Diner style for Christmas Eve.
Lasagna, Holly’s Diner style
Start with Art’s Special Sauce, I like to embellish with two shredded zucchini and a bunch of chopped fresh spinach for Christmas Eve.
What you will need:
16 – 17 cups of Art’s Special Sauce
14 – 15 lasagna noodles, cooked
32 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
32 oz low fat cottage cheese
Some shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
I make this in my turkey roasting pan, so it’s pretty big, lots of delicious leftovers.
Spray the pan with non-stick cook stray. Ladle 1 ½ - 2 scoops Sauce in the bottom of the pan to coat. Place 5 lasagna noodles on top. Ladle 3 more scoops of Sauce and spread around, be sure to cover all of the noodle so they are at least moist. Scoop half the cottage cheese and spread around. Take about 2 hand full’s of mozzarella cheese and spread around, sprinkle some Parmesan as desired. Repeat with noodles, cottage cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan. Place last of noodles, remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella cheese and sprinkle Parmesan as desired. See why you need the turkey roasting pan?!
Bake at 425º for 1 hour, remove from oven, and let rest for about 20 minutes (just enough time to heat the bread, if needed). Cut into generous pieces and serve – Christmas Eve only comes around once a year!
If you happen by the Diner next Christmas Eve, you know what will be on the menu, and I hope you like it.
Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!