The holiday season is such a busy time. We buy gifts, decorate, and attend gatherings. But according to the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, it hasn’t always been this way. Two centuries ago, holiday celebrations were much more modest. Socializing and special food was the focal points of winter celebrations instead of decorations or lavish gifts. Celebrators chose food for gatherings based on their cultural heritage and what was locally available.

It may be difficult to simplify current traditions. But why not incorporate North Carolina seasonal ingredients into favorite holiday sides? Begin with this simple but festive potato dish with sage leaves.

Sage Roasted Potatoes

3 medium potatoes

24 fresh sage leaves

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Scrub your potatoes. Place in a pot and cover potatoes with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 7 minutes. Drain, and once cooled enough cut in half lengthwise, then across. Place sage leaf onto cut side of each potato. Pour olive oil into shallow roasting pan. Place potatoes in pan with cut sides down. Roast for 20 minutes or so until potatoes are tender and golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and serve. Serves 4

My favorite type of green for this recipe is spinach. Kale or collards work, but you need to add a little more milk and salt, and cook a bit longer.

Creamy Greens with Leeks

2 cups leeks, coarsely chopped

1 ½ tablespoons butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon with kale or collards)

¼ teaspoon pepper

Sprinkling of nutmeg

1 pound spinach, kale, or collards coarsely chopped (if using kale or collards, add to procedure below before flour mixture and cook a few minutes)

½ cup milk (use 1 cup with kale of collards)

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut roots and dark green leaves off of leeks and discard. Cut remaining leeks in half and wash the soil out. Coarsely chop and pat dry. Place a large skillet over medium low heat to melt the butter. In a small bowl, mix the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add leeks to skillet and cook until nearly tender. Add garlic and cook a minute. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the leeks, stirring for a couple of minutes. Add greens and continue to cook until tender. Add milk and stir until it thickens a bit. Stir in cheese until it is smooth. Serves 4

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