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An Idea a Day: 10 African-inspired ways to brighten the holidays

An Idea a Day: 10 African-inspired ways to brighten the holidays

The span between Thanksgiving and Christmas and on into the New Year is a whirlwind of planning, shopping, cooking and entertaining. In an effort to make the holidays a little less chaotic and a lot more enjoyable, we are offering 10 African-inspired ideas for you to incorporate into your own holiday traditions.
1. Gift the gift of flavor this Christmas with Afrofood Spices. Each of the seven custom-blended varieties comes in a decorative glass jar retailing for $7.99, or choose the Collectors Spice Trunk – an assortment of eight spices – in a rustic wooden box for $49.99. Blends such as African Birdseye Chilis, Berber Spice and Ras El Hanout allow home cooks to prepare traditional dishes with an African twist.

2. For a delicious and healthy treat for teachers and coworkers or as a Secret Santa surprise, don your baker’s hat and make mbatata cookies. A popular East African snack, mbatata cookies are made with sweet potatoes, brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Yum!

3. Incorporating African traditions into your holiday can reduce stress and increase the enjoyment and fun. African people focus much less on gift giving and fill the holidays by simply visiting and spending time with family and friends. Starting in mid December and continuing throughout the season, give the gift of self and take pleasure in time spent with loved ones.

4. Home cooks can show off their African food flair with a gift of apparel or home goods from Afrofood.com. Among the popular items are the “I’m Spicy” t-shirt, stylish yet functional aprons and dish towels.

5. For a festive dinner, wow family and friends with nyama choma, a favorite Kenyan short rib dish. Nyama choma is enjoyed year round but is most popular around Christmas. Made with beef or goat short ribs, the roasted meat pairs well with kachumbari salad, another East African favorite, that is similar to pico de gallo.

6. If your social calendar is filled with holiday parties and you’re in need of an appetizer to take, consider akara. This Nigerian dish is made with peeled black-eyed peas that are made into fritters, deep fried and served with salsa for an extra kick. Whip up another batch for New Year’s Day for luck and a new twist on this traditional New Year’s staple.

7. A hand-woven straw basket from Afrofood.com makes a perfect eco-friendly gift for the environmental stewards on your holiday list. These fair-trade African baskets are woven by women artisans in African villages and are 100 percent biodegradable and environmentally sustainable. Not only will they help keep plastic bags out of landfills when used for shopping, but they also can add a little African flair to home décor.

8. Cocktail parties are a dime a dozen during the holidays. Whether you enjoy adult beverages or those without alcohol, it’s a good idea to have a go-to holiday drink recipe handy. For an easy and fizzy, festive cocktail, mix a fruit juice such as mango, orange or cranberry with champagne or sparkling wine. For children or those who do not drink alcohol, sparkling cider or non-alcoholic sparkling wine are great alternatives. Garnish with cranberries for a holiday touch.

9. Although it sometimes gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the season, the true meaning of Christmas is in honoring the birth of Jesus Christ. In Africa, attending church services during the holidays is a Christmas tradition, and Christmas Eve is not complete without a midnight vigil at the local church where children in the choir sing carols and act out plays. During the holidays, pause and remember the true meaning of the season and take advantage of the opportunities for worship and fellowship at your own place of worship.

10. When the excitement of Christmas morning begins to fade, hungry tummies start growling for a hearty breakfast or brunch. Quiet the noise and soothe hunger pangs with Scotch eggs, a popular West African dish made with boiled eggs that are wrapped in sausage, coated in bread crumbs and deep fried. Continue with the West African theme and serve hot chocolate. After all, cocoa does come from West Africa.

Incorporating a few of these ideas or tips into your holidays plans will hopefully make this time of year all the more enjoyable. We hope that you and your families have a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.