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For many, Christmas has been long over.
The gifts have been unwrapped; the tree has been taken down; the new year has already been celebrated — but really, the traditional Christmas season only recently ended Jan. 6.
In the kitchen at Luminary United Methodist Church in Ten Mile, Lynnea McHenry cooked for the church’s 12-course meal celebrating the famed 12 days of Christmas, which ended with Epiphany. The meal is a fundraiser for the church.
Hearing the pastor talk in church about how Dec. 25 Christmas is only the first day of Christmas and the magi bringing gifts to Jesus 12 days later on Epiphany, McHenry’s plans were set in motion.
“I just started thinking about the 12 days as a theme and about different foods that would be related to each of those days,” she said.
While creating the menu, McHenry tailored the courses to incorporate a variety of foods into crafty culinary creations revolving around the subjects in the song, “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
Having done this once before for a group of friends, she was able to use recipes she’s done for a long time and some that she’s adapted in some way.
“With having 12 courses, everybody should find something they like,” she said.
For the “10 Lords-a-Leaping” course, McHenry cooked up frogmore stew-inspired soup.
“Things that leap — I guess frogs leap, so I thought about frogmore stew, which is basically a shrimp boil,” she said. “So I’m turning it into a soup, so that we have a soup course.”
“Time for me to do a little taste-testing here,” McHenry said as the stew continued to simmer on the stovetop, with the smell of pleasant gourmet aromas wafting through Luminary’s kitchen.
“What I’m trying to do is make sure we have small servings, so that everybody can get through all the courses,” she laughed. “So they might think at first that they’re not getting enough, but I’ll guarantee by the time they’re through all 12, they’ll be full.”
McHenry has mainly been undertaking this by herself for the past couple of weeks, cooking little by little when she has the time.
Earlier this week, her friend, Joyce Hill prepared 60 chocolate turtles for the “Two Turtledoves” course by stacking caramel cubes onto pecans and later dipping them into Dove chocolate.
Hill jokes with McHenry, saying that the turtles should have been part of the “Frogs a-Leaping” course, since she felt they looked more like frogs.
McHenry offered reassurance: “You’re getting a system down, though.”
Another example is the “Pipers Piping,” where she rolled up spanicopita, which she likes and used to indulge in at Greek restaurants, into phyllo dough, resembling pipes.
“I love it. I have a great deal of fun,” McHenry said.
Cooking has been a long-term hobby for McHenry, who keeps up with Food Network TV and “Barefoot Contessa” while referring to her bookshelves full of cookbooks.
While living in Iowa, where she and her husband, Karl, lived for approximately 30 years, she served on the board of the Young Womens’ Christian Association for four years, coordinating fundraisers and gourmet progressive dinners, one of which was inspired by her Ukrainian heritage.
“I just find it really relaxing,” McHenry said. “Part of the fun is just coming up with different ideas. I think that’s why, like with the 12 Days of Christmas, it’s a way to put the food together with a theme.”
“If it turns out like anything else she’s done, it’ll be perfect,” Hill added.
Luminary United Methodist Church hosted its Epiphany dinner at Woodland Cove Bed and Breakfast, serving 48 people total.
Proceeds went toward the church’s various ministries and South of the River community outreach programs.
• 12 Drummers Drumming: Coconut-crusted salmon “drumsticks” with tropical dipping sauce.
• 11 Pipers Piping: Spanicopita pipes of spinach and feta rolled in phyllo.
• 10 Lords a-Leaping: Frogmore Stew-inspired soup of shrimp, sausage and crab.
• 9 Ladies Dancing: Ruffled skirts of Bolognese lasagna pinwheels.
• 8 Maids a-Milking: Cheese sampler plate – served with sorbet.
• 7 Swans a-Swimming: Beef Stroganoff in gougeres pastry swans
• 6 Geese a-Laying: Deviled egg in romaine and fennel nest.
• 5 Golden Rings: Golden batter-dipped calamari rings with creole remoulade.
• 4 Calling Birds: Kiev-style chicken, smoked turkey, duck and quail.
• 3 French Hens: Potatoes Dauphine.
• 2 Turtle Doves: Caramel pecan turtles of Dove chocolate.
• A Partridge in a Pear Tree: Roasted pear tartin with ricotta almond gelato.