Introduction: Create Your Own Holiday (Also, Chicken Kiev and Rice Pilaf)
Everyone knows that holidays can be very stressful, and since I have been married, that stress has only doubled. We have to have two Thanksgivings, two Christmases, and countless other get-togethers with extended families and cousins. Even when we were living in the same city as most of our extended family members, we had to schedule every major holiday.
My wife and I moved away from our families last year and now have to drive a significant distance to visit our relatives. So, now we ave to schedule everything even tighter than before. Oftentimes, we just have to miss events with one family or the other and we do our best to make everyone happy and to take turns, but this is not always possible.
We have decided that it would be nice to have one holiday that is ours, no one else's. There won't be scheduling conflicts, because no one celebrates it but us. It is a holiday for the family that was created when we got married, and our brothers, sisters, parents, nieces, nephews, and maybe one day our children. We can begin to pass down this new tradition and mold it to fit our specific wants and needs.
Sorry for the poor photo quality, my best camera is my phone.
Step 1: Picking the Date (Elimination Round)
The first step is finding an appropriate date for the new holiday. I'll start by creating a simple calendar, and then removing existing holidays that we observe. Obviously this calendar will look different for other people. I removed Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, the 4th of July, Halloween, and Christmas. Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Thanksgiving all have date rules, so I shaded out the entire block of dates that they would be able to land on. These are shaded in red. We considered removing Easter even though it has no significance for us personally (but, we do have family members that observe it). The only reason we didn't is because of it's ridiculous date rule. Getting rid of it would have basically removed the entire month of April.
As our family grows, it would be impossible to make certain that anniversaries and birthdays never interfere with the holiday. However, we can go ahead and take those into account for the people that existed prior to the holiday's creation. Next, I removed important anniversaries from the calendar and shaded them in blue. Finally, I removed birthdays from the calendar and shaded them in orange.
Step 2: Picking the Date (Setting a Date or Rule)
Looking at the calendar now, we have really good free spaces in January-February and August-October. We aren't fans of cold weather, so we cut out January, February, and October. Ultimately, we settled on the late August/early September block of time.
The simplest thing to do would be to set a date and be done with it, but I would rather that the holiday always fall on a Saturday. It just seems nicer that way. We decided to make the holiday the first Saturday in September, meaning that it can fall on 9/1 to 9/7. Using a simple date rule, we can narrow the date down to any seven consecutive dates we want. For example, if I had wanted the 8th through the 14th, I would have used the second Saturday in the month. If I wanted the 3rd though the 9th I could have used the first Saturday following a Thursday.
Step 3: Planning the Events and Traditions
What are you going to do on your personal holiday? For us, we decided to cannibalize all of our other favorite holidays and take the bits and pieces that we liked. My mother once said that it can't be a party if there isn't a theme. My wife loves Halloween and Christmas, and my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. So, we talked about it and decided our holiday will be a themed event with simple costumes and simple decorations fitting the theme. We have decided to do a gift exchange with a very low dollar amount and emphasizing hand made gifts. And finally, like any good American holiday, the majority of the day will revolve around food. The basic itinerary for the day involves a picnic style pot-luck lunch, sitting around in the afternoon and maybe watching a movie or some other activity as a family, then a large dinner in the evening followed by a gift exchange and board games to round out the evening. The winner of the board game night gets to pick next years theme.
The themes will also need to be basic concepts. Certain things sounded fun while we were brainstorming this concept, but we wouldn't want something that would just end up making the day uncomfortable. Themes we had considered were things like Pajamas, Hawaiian, etc. We aren't intending to do a lot of shopping for decorations and costumes and I don't want to be uncomfortable all day. We had discussed having some sort of consistent decoration similar in concept to a Christmas Tree, but decided against it.
Our last name is Beck, so we have called out new holiday "Becksday".
Obviously, the schedule of events should be tailored to each family's individual tastes.
Step 4: Chicken Kiev (Prep)
Lunch is intended to be a basic potluck with simple recipes. Potato Salads, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, etc. However, for dinner we decided to have a specific dish to be the center of the holiday's dinner: Chicken Kiev with a side of Rice Pilaf. Other sides for dinner will be determined each year. I don't remember exactly where I got these recipes initially, but they have since been modified to fit our tastes and needs anyway. The chicken Kiev recipe is for 2 Chicken Breasts; adjust accordingly.
2 Chicken Breasts
1 Stick of Butter
1 tsp. Garlic
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Oregano
Several Small Bowls
Cutting Board (Optional)
Food Processor (For Breading)
The first step is pounding out the chicken. Make sure the chicken breasts are thawed, and then place it between two sheets of plastic wrap. I find it's easiest to wrap one piece around a cutting board so it doesn't move and then the second piece can just be placed over the chicken. Then pound the chicken flat using the mallet. Start with the thickest parts of the breast and work outward in circles. The plastic wrap should prevent the chicken from tearing and shredding. You want the chicken in one piece. Beat the eggs in a bowl and set it aside.
Step 5: Chicken Kiev (Breading)
To make the breading, I cook some stale bread, heels, and any extra pieces I need at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes in order to dry it out. For this recipe , I already had some breading from the last time I prepared some and I added one leftover hamburger bun that we had. If I hadn't had any extra breading, I would have used approximately four slices of bread. After the bread is dried out, tear it into pieces and put it into a food processor with a handful of shredded wheat. We got the idea for the shredded wheat in a Chicken Parmesan recipe we tried once. We thought it was weird but went with it. The shredded wheat mixes nicely with the bread crumbs giving it a good consistency and (personally) a better taste; we use it in all of our recipes that need breading. If you don't like it: leave it out; the recipe works just as well without it. Place the breading in a bowl and set aside.
Step 6: Chicken Kiev (Filling)
Place the butter and seasonings in a bowl and mix them well. This works best if the butter has been allowed to soften thoroughly first. I listed the ingredients that I used this time, but I usually just play the seasonings by ear and mix in whatever I think sounds good at the time. I always use garlic and salt, and more often than not I use the Italian Seasoning. I find it easiest to just use your hands to mix it together, they are about to get dirty anyway. You can use less butter (or more, I suppose) if you prefer. I know that it seems like a ton of butter but most of it just seeps out of the chicken as it cooks. More butter just makes the chicken more tender. We have made this using 1/4 of a stick per and it has turned out fine if just a little more dry.
Step 7: Chicken Kiev (Assembly and Cooking)
Gather the prepared ingredients and make each chicken breast. Place a butter ball in a chicken breast and wrap it. Then coat the breast in the eggs and roll it in the breading. Place on the cookie sheet and repeat until done. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. When you remove the Chicken Kiev from the oven, be careful as they will be swimming in melted butter.
Step 8: Rice Pilaf
While the Chicken Kiev is cooking, prepare the Rice Pilaf. This recipe makes a LOT of rice. Easily enough for 8 servings. I never bothered to modify the recipe amounts, it reheats well and we use the leftovers for days.
1 stick Butter
1 1/2 cup Egg Noodles
3 cups Rice
5 cups Chicken Broth
Large Pan with Lid
Melt the butter and cook the egg noddles in it on medium-high heat until they begin darkening slightly (about 5 minutes or so). Add the rice and cook until it begins browning (another 2-3 minutes or so). Add the chicken broth. We use Better-Than-Bouillon, but cubes or pre-mixed broth would work also. Once the broth is boiling: cover, reduce heat to low, and let cook for 20 minutes. It's not necessary to stir it while it cooks.
The rice pilaf is fairly bland as is, but it complements the Kiev nicely. It's also VERY easy to add other flavors, so have fun experimenting.