Magical Recipes for Yule

The holidays are a time when recipes are swapped and delicious meals are prepared, and Yule is no exception. A midwinter celebration that dates back to Germany, Yule is the season for spending time with friends and family, and food often takes center stage at these gatherings. Whether you're planning a pot of wassail, carving up a chocolate Yule log, or spooning up a savory soup, this is a great time of year to make some magic in your kitchen.

Yule Plum Pudding

Plum Pudding
The Yule plum pudding is said to bring good fortune. Peter Dazeley / Image Bank / Getty Images

New Year's plum pudding is a staple of many holiday feasts, but it's more than just a tasty dessert. It also symbolizes good luck and success in the coming year, the perfect reason to indulge. Interestingly, the pudding doesn't actually contain plums. It got its name because, during the seventeenth century, the word "plum" was a catchall term for dried fruits such as raisins and prunes, which were used in the puddings.

Prior to that, medieval dishes such as plum duff and plum cake were made with actual plums. But this "pudding" was very different from what modern American cooks imagine when they think of the food. Plum pudding isn't runny but more of a fatty cake that was traditionally made with suet, saturated with brandy, wrapped in cloth, and then steamed or boiled.

The pudding was usually prepared several weeks ahead of Christmas, often on the Sunday before Advent, which became known as Stir-Up Sunday. During this time, everyone in the household took a turn stirring when the pudding mix. As each person stirred the heavy batter, they made a wish for the coming year.

Also, when the pudding was baked, tiny tokens were mixed into the batter and were said to bring good luck to whoever found the token in their slice. This assumed, of course, that the person didn't chip a tooth while biting into a sixpence coin or choke on a silver thimble.

The pudding was served with great pomp and circumstance, applause, and lots of flames if possible, thanks to a liberal dousing with even more brandy before it was brought to the table.

Cook Your Pudding With Intent

As you stir up your batter, visualize your intent. Direct energy into the pudding, focusing on health, prosperity and good fortune in the coming new year. But be careful about what you bake into your batter. It's not a bad idea to wrap any tokens in aluminum foil so they'll be easier to find when people bite into their pudding. You can pick up small silver tokens at many craft stores. For symbolism, try some of the following:

  • For prosperity, a silver coin
  • For marriage or a long-term relationship, a ring
  • For creativity, a thimble (in the past, it represented spinsterhood)
  • For luck, a silver wishbone

(Safety Tip: Be sure to use only silver tokens–modern coins contain alloys which can be harmful when baked into a food product!)

Savory Sun King Soup

Tomato Soup
Andris Upenieks / EyeEm / Getty Images

You can make an entire crockpot full of this soup or scale the measurements down to make a smaller batch if needed. It is gluten-free, and you can substitute olive oil for the butter if you prefer to avoid dairy.

Ingredients:

·      3 tbsp. butter (use real butter, not margarine)

·      1 small onion, diced

·      1 shallot, diced

·      4 garlic cloves, pressed and chopped

·      3 quarts tomatoes, peeled, seeded & pureed (if tomatoes are out of season, use four large cans of tomato paste)

·      1 box vegetable broth

·      1 cup orange juice, no pulp

·      A few sprigs rosemary

·      Salt and pepper

Sautee the onion, garlic and shallots in the butter over low heat. Cook them until they begin to caramelize and then remove from heat.

Pour the tomatoes into a 5-quart crock pot. Add vegetable broth and orange juice. Stir until well mixed, then fold in the onions, garlic, and shallots. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then allow to simmer on low for about eight hours. To get the best flavor, add the rosemary about two hours before you want to eat. If you put the rosemary in too early, it tends to lose some of its earthiness while cooking. 

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti Squash is a great substitute for pasta in your Yule dishes. Brian Hagiwara / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Despite the fact that squash peaks around November, you can usually find some nice ones available up through Yule. This versatile vegetable is the perfect substitute for pasta and tastes so much richer; just add butter and garlic. Spaghetti squash is a fabulous side dish for your Yule menu!

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2—4 cloves of garlic, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • Pinch of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Don't worry if there are still some stringy bits of pulp in there. Cut the stick of butter in half lengthwise, and place one half in each half of the squash. Lay the two squash halves in a baking dish.

Sprinkle the tops with Parmesan cheese, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake for an hour, and then check to see if squash is softened yet.

If it still seems firm, give it another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Scoop out the spaghetti-like strands and enjoy as a side dish or a meal!

Sunshine Skillet Casserole

Breakfast Casserole
KathyDewar / Getty Images

If you like to celebrate the winter solstice with a big breakfast, try out this breakfast casserole dish; it's full of sunny yellow eggs, savory sausage, and all kinds of other goodies. When the sun comes up on Yule morning, there's nothing quite like it.

This sunny casserole dish is full of good stuff, but if you're vegetarian, substitute something else for the sausage or leave the meat out altogether. This is delicious with warm biscuits and gravy.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. butter (use the good stuff, not margarine)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups southern-style hashbrown potatoes, thawed
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups sausage, browned
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • Fresh rosemary and sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup Asiago cheese, grated
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 small tomato, diced

Preheat your oven to 350. Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onions, sauteeing until they are opaque. Add potatoes, and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.

In a buttered or greased casserole dish, spread the potato mixture around to evenly cover the bottom. Mix the eggs, sausage, cheese, herbs, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl, and then pour over potatoes.

Bake in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. About ten minutes into the bake time, sprinkle the Asiago cheese on top.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving. To serve, dish onto plates and garnish with tomatoes, green onions, or some fresh-chopped basil.

Divine Yule Peppermint Fudge

Chocolate Fudge
Kirk Mastin / Getty Images

Many of us would agree that fudge is the food of the gods, but what most people don't realize is that it's easy to make. Whip up a batch of this peppermint treat in just a few minutes, and then share with your holiday guests–or keep it all to yourself! 

Did you know that the scientific name for chocolate is theobrama cacoa, which means "food of the divine ones"? This recipe is so easy you can make it in your microwave, and keep it on hand in case company drops by during your Yule celebrations. If Persephone had some of this ambrosia waiting for her above-ground, she'd have returned from the underworld a whole lot sooner.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. semi-sweet Baker's chocolate
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened, condensed milk (not evaporated)
  • 1 tbsp. butter (use butter, not margarine)
  • 2—3 drops peppermint extract

Place the chocolate and the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm up in the microwave until the chocolate begins to soften, but don't microwave it too long or your chocolate will burn. Once the butter and chocolate are melted, stir them together until well blended. Add the condensed milk, and mix it well. Finally, add the drops of peppermint extract.

Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with aluminum foil and then lightly butter the foil.

Spread your fudge mixture into the pan evenly. Refrigerate until cool, usually about an hour. Once the fudge has hardened, remove it from the pan and the foil, and cut it into pieces. Store in an airtight container until it's all gone.

(if you're not a big peppermint fan, you can make plain fudge by eliminating the flavored extract or try different flavors instead. The orange extract works nicely, as does rum and banana. You can also replace some of the chocolate with peanut butter chips, and make a peanut butter-chocolate fudge swirl, or add nuts or candy chips.

Make a Chocolate Yule Log

A Yule Log (Bûche de Noël)
StockFood / Getty Images

The Yule log is a traditional feature of most winter solstice celebrations. In addition to making one you can burn in your fireplace, why not whip together a tasty chocolate one for dessert? This super-easy dessert uses your favorite cake recipe as its base and can be put together ahead of time for your Yule celebration dinner. Chill overnight for easy slicing the next day.

Ingredients

  • Your favorite chocolate cake recipe, prepared, along with ingredients as called for
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee granules
  • 1 stick butter
  • 16 oz. semi-sweet baker's chocolate
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • Spearmint leaf jelly candies
  • Cinnamon red hots
  • Mini marshmallows and chocolate kisses (optional)

Prepare the cake according to the instructions on your cake recipe, and, yes, you can use a mix. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, pour the batter out onto the paper, and spread until it reaches the edges. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until cake is firm and springy. Just be sure not to overbake it!

Allow cake to cool in pan for ten minutes, then invert it onto a cloth towel dusted with powdered sugar.

Peel off the parchment paper. Roll the cake up inside the cloth towel, starting with one of the short sides. Let the rolled-up cake cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cake cools, mix up the filling. This particular blend is a coffee-flavored variety adapted from a tiramisu recipe, but you can replace the coffee with cocoa if you prefer more chocolate. Blend the whipping cream, powdered sugar, and coffee granules together to form the filling. Chill until thick and firm. After the cake has completely cooled, gently unroll the cake from the towel. Remove the towel, and spread the filling over one side of the cake, stopping about a half inch from the edge. Roll the cake back up; this should be easy since it cooled in a rolled-up form. Place the cake on a serving platter and allow to chill for a couple of hours.

To make the frosting, melt the butter in a double boiler and then add the chocolate. Once the chocolate has all melted, stir in the heavy cream. Let the icing sit at room temperature until it's a little thick.

Spread on the cake, covering the entire roll, and then drag a fork through the icing to create a bark-like appearance on your log.

Add a couple of spearmint leaves and red hots to form clusters of holly on the log. If you'd like to add "mushrooms" to your log, stick a toothpick through a miniature marshmallow, and then poke it into the flat side of a chocolate kiss. Snip off the pointy part of the kiss, and you'll have a small mushroom. Use the toothpick to stick these on top of your log.

If you're not going to serve immediately, wrap the cake in loose plastic and refrigerate overnight. Allow the cake to sit out for about an hour before slicing.

Brew a Pot of Wassail

Wassail
Elena Veselova / Moment / Getty Images

Wassail was originally a word that meant to greet or salute someone–groups would go out wassailing on cold evenings, and when they approached a door would be offered a mug of warm cider or ale. Over the years, the tradition evolved to include mixing eggs with alcohol and asperging the crops to ensure fertility. While this recipe doesn't include eggs, it sure is good, and it makes your house smell beautiful for Yule!

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 2 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 oranges
  • Whole cloves
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • Allspice
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (or 3 tbsp. ground cinnamon)
  • 1/2 C - 1 C brandy (optional)

Set your crockpot to its lower setting, and pour in apple cider, cranberry juice, honey and sugar, mixing carefully. As it heats up, stir so that the honey and sugar dissolve. Stud the oranges with the cloves, and place in the pot (they'll float). Add the diced apple. Add allspice, ginger, and nutmeg to taste, usually, a couple of tablespoons of each is plenty. Finally, snap the cinnamon sticks in half and add those as well.

Cover your pot and allow to simmer up to four hours on low heat. About half an hour prior to serving, add the brandy if you choose to use it.

Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Buttered Rum
Make a pot of warm buttered rum for your winter celebrations. Armstrong Studios / Photolibrary / Getty

A warm cup of buttered rum on a chilly winter night can really hit the spot, and this recipe is super easy to make. Leave the rum out if you like, and give it to your kiddos before they hit the sack on Yule! 

Buttered rum was a popular recipe in colonial America, and it's easy to see why: It is excellent. You can brew this up in your crockpot, ladle out a nice big mug and sit by the fire on a chilly winter evening. It's the perfect warm drink for your Yule celebrations. If you leave out the rum, your kids can enjoy it too.

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts apple juice
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 stick butter (use the real stuff, not margarine)
  • 3 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cups your favorite rum
  • Refrigerated whipped dessert topping
  • Cinnamon sticks and nutmeg for garnish

Warm up the apple juice and brown sugar in a pot. Add the butter (dice up the stick before you put it in there, so it'll melt faster). Stir until the butter is melted. Add the spices and the rum. Cover the pot, and allow to simmer on low for up to four hours.

Ladle into mugs for serving. Top each with a dollop of whipped topping and a cinnamon stick. Sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg.