Fresh & New: Dec. 18-24

Alex Jones, Farmstand Product Manager

When it comes to holiday meals, I like to get out of my comfort zone. Traditions are fine when it comes to making an annual batch of almond crescent cookies or, as my aunts in Quebec would, firing up the raclette for a feast of melted cheese on Christmas eve. In a season that celebrates well-loved favorites, I like to try a little something different each year.

This year, I'm twisting my (decidedly not Italian) family's celebratory lasagna tradition and making a timpano. It'll be a learning experience for sure: a recipe I've never tried before that's featured in a movie that's partially about how hard the recipe is to make! At least I'll be working with ingredients I know well: Organic Daisy Flour for the pasta sheets, with Vera Pasta's toothsome penne for the interior; pastured eggs and heritage breed pork sausage from Stryker Farm; sauce from our canned Jersey Fresh tomatoes; the Gehman Family's hydroponic basil; and Caputo Brothers Creamery's stretch-at-home mozzarella curd and whey ricotta.

Of course, you don't need to spend a whole day on a quixotic kitchen quest (like I apparently do!) to make your holiday celebrations extra special. Local artisan cheese is a simple way to do that: Pick up a whole wheel of Cherry Grove's Buttercup Brie or a little disc of its slightly funkier cousin, Valley Milkhouse Creamery's Thistle, and bake it to serve with crackers or crusty bread and dried or sliced apples - with a puff pastry crust orwithout. Or just grab a wedge of this creamy bloomy rind, our new Festive Fig sourdough flatbread crackers -- dusted with vanilla sugar! -- from Riprap Baking, and a jar of Tait Farm's fig & honey conserve for a decadent appetizer or dessert.

And if you're still searching for a holiday centerpiece, we do have a couple of smoked, nitrate-free half hams available from Country Time Farm - to claim one. Or, if your celebration is on the smaller side, pick up a beef chuck roast, a heavenly Griggstown Farm chicken pot pie, orlamb chops, shanks, or shoulder from Jamison Farm to be the centerpiece of your meal. For a vegetarian celebration, consider this show-stopping millet-stuffed butternut squash with kale pesto.

And to go with that perfect present or hostess gift, grab a card from Paprika Letterpress, a New Jersey-based press, and say it with veggies. These cards are the perfect thing to go alongside a cheese and honey pairing, and with a little folding, they're a great way to give a Fair Food Farmstand Gift Certificate , too.

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