Around the Kitchen Table by Jennifer Beckstrand

When I still had children at home, the kitchen table was always the one place where the whole family gathered at the end of each day. Dinnertime was the most important part of the day as we reconnected as a family and shared our lives with each other. Enjoying a meal together helped us forget the outside world and remember our most important relationships. Some of my fondest Christmas memories have happened around the kitchen table.

Every December I pull out twelve special Christmas candles and use them as a centerpiece on our table. After a traditional Christmas Eve dinner of ham, Gala Jell-O Salad, and cheese potatoes, we take turns lighting the candles one-by-one. The person who lights the candle gets to pick a Christmas song that we sing together. After we sing the song, the next person lights a candle and picks another song. Once all the candles are lit, we enjoy their flickering light and share our feelings for our Savior and express appreciation for each other. It is one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

On Christmas morning after the presents are opened, we gather around the table for Christmas breakfast. This is extra special because I seldom make breakfast of any kind the other 364 days of the year. In various years, we’ve had yogurt parfaits, pancakes, sausage, bacon, hash browns, scrambled eggs, breakfast casserole, and orange juice. (In that one day, I make up for a lot of breakfast neglect.) We use the snowman cups and the festive plates. There is nothing my children look forward to more.

Below is a recipe for the Gala Jell-O Salad I make on Christmas Eve. It is probably my favorite Jell-O salad ever. I have also included an authentic Amish recipe for breakfast casserole from my friend Priscilla in Lancaster County, PA.

I hope you have a blessed Christmas season filled with food, family, and the Spirit of Christmas.

Gala Jell-O Salad
1 3-oz. package orange Jell-O
1 3-oz. package strawberry Jell-O
2 cups hot water
½ of a 10 oz. package of miniature marshmallows
2 cups cold water
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
4 bananas, sliced

Dissolve both packages of Jell-O into 2 cups of boiling water. While the mixture is still hot, add the miniature marshmallows and let them partially dissolve. Add 2 cups cold water and pineapple. Refrigerate. When the mixture is syrupy, add bananas and refrigerate until the Jell-O is set. Top with Creamy Topping and serve. (This is a great salad to make the night before.)

Creamy Topping
½ cup sugar
2 T. flour
1 cup pineapple juice (from the drained can of pineapple above)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 8-oz. package Cool Whip

Mix the sugar and flour together. Add pineapple juice and beaten egg. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in Cool Whip and spread over Jell-O mixture.

Priscilla’s Breakfast Casserole
8 slices of bread
½ lb. cheddar cheese
1 lb. sausage (cooked) or ham
4 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 t. salt
1 t. paprika
1 t. mustard
½ t. oregano
4 T. butter, melted

Grease a 9×13 casserole dish. Cube the bread and place in the casserole dish. Sprinkle cooked sausage or ham over the bread. Mix together the rest of the ingredients except the cheese. Pour mixture over the bread. Top with cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (Priscilla tells me she sometimes substitutes Tater Tots for the bread.)

Jennifer Beckstrand

Jennifer Beckstrand is the award-winning author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill Amish romance series. After growing up with a steady diet of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, she went slightly crazy and got a degree in mathematics, which came in handy when one of her six children needed help with homework. After her fourth daughter was born, she started writing. By juggling diaper changes, soccer games, music lessons, laundry, and two more children, she finished her first manuscript in just under fourteen years. Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth. Jennifer and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and three adorable grandsons, whom she spoils rotten.





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