eTalk Host Danielle Graham's Holiday Food Traditions + Her Fave Cheese Ball Recipe!
For eTalk host Danielle Graham, the holidays are all about family and food. And with four-year-old Bea and nearly-one-year-old Marigold at home, cozy holiday traditions are more important than ever for Danielle and husband, Randall. We caught up with her to talk about her favourite recipes for this time of year—including one that’s perfect for New Year’s Eve!
Trinket: Your whole extended family is big into cooking and baking. In terms of holiday, what are some food traditions for you?
Danielle Graham: There are some non-negotiables this time of year. The season starts with gingerbread. It’s my mom’s classic recipe, and it’s printed on an index card for a little recipe Filofax. The thing about the family recipes is, I’ve made them so many times and I’ve deviated to try something new a few years, but I always end up going back to the OG Mom’s index card recipes. I’ve shared the gingerbread recipe with so many people, and my mom has shared it with so many people, that’s really a global recipe by now. Bea and I did our first round of cookies in early December, and then I think we did another two rounds. We seriously made a tremendous amount of cookies this year.
T: Cookies are a great thing to do with kids, too.
DG: Oh yeah. So fun. And it also kills time, which I love. You know, the rolling is a step, and the cutting is a step. And then the decorating. Even the chilling is a step, so you even get a little downtime in in the middle.
T: What other recipes are absolute requirements of the season?
DG: Food is such a keeper of memories, and your tastebuds trigger so much from years gone by. For me, one of those things is my mom’s cheese balls. She makes three different ones, and now I make them. They’re so comforting. I love basically being able to graze through the whole holiday season. You know, you’re feeling a little peckish, you get your cheese ball and crackers out. You want the things that feel comforting and familiar—especially this year. We also love Chex mix for that reason. I switched it up and tried a different one this year, but now I’ll only ever make the one I’ve known my entire life. It didn’t hit the spot in the same way! I just want the food that is warm and comforting and reminds me of growing up, and I want that for my girls too.
T: What do you do for Christmas dinner?
DG: In a regular, non-pandemic year, my mom always does the turkey. I just feel like I haven’t reached that level of adult yet. Turkey is a whole different level of adulting. I always order the turkey at Thanksgiving, and honestly, I feel the most grown-up all year when I call and order that turkey. When I say, “Can I order a turkey between 15 and 17 pounds?” like I’m going to be the one cooking it, which is never going to happen, I’ve reached peak adult. It doesn’t matter that I have a husband and two children and a career and a home. The turkey ordering is the pinnacle of adulthood.
T: Does Randall have any traditions that he has brought to you and your family?
DG: He loves soft-boiled eggs and biscuits on Christmas. That was something I’d never done, but now it’s part of our tradition and we all love it. His mom, who has passed away, also used to make a marshmallow salad that’s different from the one I knew growing up, and he made that this year. It’s nice to incorporate his traditions, too, so everyone gets a taste of that nostalgia.
T: What do you guys usually do for New Year’s Eve?
DG: Pre-pandemic, my parents would take our kids and we’d have our friends up to the cottage and it was so much fun with skating and tobogganing. It was awesome. Then, last year, I didn’t make it until midnight because I was enormously pregnant; I just woke up and it was a new year. But this year, Randall makes beef ribs—which I’d never had until I met him—so he’s going to make those for New Year’s. We’ll have Champagne and watch something, just the two of us, and maybe stream a countdown. But I feel no pressure to see midnight. And I am putting no pressure on 2021—it’ll be whatever it is.
Pineapple Cheese Ball
2 8-oz packages cream cheese (softened)
1 8-oz (1 ½ cups) can crushed pineapple, well-drained (if possible, drain overnight)
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper
1 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 tsp salt
2 cups chopped pecans
Mix all ingredients well, divide into two balls and roll in chopped pecans.
(Can be mixed in the food processor or by hand.)
For more of Danielle's life with Randall, Bea and Marigold (including more great recipes!), check out The Family Graham.