When asked about her family’s holiday food traditions, Sara Valero told us about the witty and delicious-sounding holiday parties she and her mum, Elizabeth, put on. They select a theme and pursue it across all dishes, surprising guests at an annual party that always features a novel and fresh menu.

Sara Valero and her mother Elizabeth enjoy planning their themed Christmas parties so much that each year they start pondering the next one before the sun rises on December 26th.

Sara reports that 2018 was the year of Meatball Christmas, and observes drily: “When we have a theme we really stick to it.”

So last year’s holiday table was laden with an impressive variety of small delectable spheres from many lands; primarily, but not entirely, meatballs from far-flung global traditions—Vietnamese pho with bò viên (beef tendon balls—Sara’s personal favorite), beef meatballs in marinara, porcupine meatballs—pork meatballs with rice in them—Swedish meatballs with egg noodles, spiced lamb meatballs with homemade tzatziki. And for the vegetable, roly-poly brussels sprouts with bacon. The after-dinner sweet platters did not fail to hew to the tiny globe theme, featuring rum balls, pfeffernusse, and Elizabeth’s favorite Christmas cookie, butterballs.

Wondering about the 2019 theme? Picnic Christmas, of course…

Butterballs

  • 8 ounces butter, soft
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped nuts — cook’s choice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling finished cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a mixer or by hand, work together all ingredients until a dough forms. Roll into small balls place on a cookie sheet. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until light brown on the bottom.

Allow to cool a bit, then roll in confectioners’ sugar. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 42 to 45 cookies.

Stoneware platter by Ryan J. Greenheck from Local Pottery, Norwell.