Behind The Butter

snow, pilgrim gowns and strawberry sauce

No, that’s not my back yard (I wish…sorta…not really). That would be Lake Tahoe last year. Remember the epic ten-hour-when-it-should-have-been-three-hour road trip that led to snowboarding bliss?

That was also when a certain large pepperoni pizza saved the future of my relationship.

Long story.

Anyways, none of any of that has anything to do with what I wanted to write about this morning; I just wanted to include that photo at the beginning because I think it’s pretty.

Now this photo is more representative of what I wanted to write about this morning, which is favorite holiday food memories.

It’s a pretty picture, too. I’m dressed in a typical homemade pilgrim gown while my brother resembles keebler the elf.

My mom says I’m special.

I say ruffles are in.

I don’t know about you, but it’s a good thing I still have my pride.

The holidays can be hard when you live far away from your family. I grew up in a very small town with a tight knit family. When my little brother passed away suddenly last year, it rocked me to my core. How could holidays ever be the same? Who would I sling mashed potatoes at across the table and fight with over who opens the first present?  Luckily, I know without a doubt I’ll see him again one day and on that day I can fling all the mashed potatoes at him that I like.

Heaven seems cool like that.

However, this isn’t meant to be a sob-story post. Instead, I wanted to share one of my favorite holiday food memories with you all and then open it up for you to share, too.

Christmas Day Breakfast.

After we finished slinging wrapping paper and ribbon across the room, shrieking and comparing gifts, my mom would always find her way quietly to the kitchen and make the Swedish pancakes with strawberry sauce.

You know those memories so strong you can still almost taste them? That’s how I feel about these thin little pancakes. We’re of Scandinavian background and, I swear, my mom had these pancakes down to an art. I can’t tell you how she made them because I have no idea, but I can tell you for the sauce, she simply just reduced down whole frozen strawberries, sugar and water. We went crazy over that sauce and poured it liberally over our pancakes, making little streams with melting pats of butter.

And then we went back to screaming over our presents.

It’ll definitely be one of those traditions that I’ll keep when I have a family someday. That is, if I ever get the recipe from my mom.

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  • Maria
    December 3, 2010 at 7:29 am

    I want to have breakfast at your house on Christmas morning:) We always enjoy my dad’s famous cinnamon rolls. Mmmm!

  • Madeleine @ Stepping to the Bright Side
    December 3, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Yay for family traditions- especially on the holidays! Ours weren’t so much food related but EVERY Christmas Eve, without fail, we’d watch It’s a Wonderful Life together. Sigh. Love the dress- very Little House on the Prairie 😉

  • Eeva
    December 3, 2010 at 7:38 am

    AH! I love swedish pancakes… well, in my case they’re Finnish. My mom makes the same sauce and they are soooooo delicious! I better go and make some. Who needs cold cereal?

  • Jillian @ Reshape Your Life
    December 3, 2010 at 7:40 am

    I can totally sympathize with being far away from your family. I moved to Texas from Connecticut and it always gets harder to be away around the holidays. Comfort foods do help though. 😉

    I love the homemade pilgrim dress. I immediately thought “little house on the prairie”. lol

  • salah@myhealthiestlifestyle
    December 3, 2010 at 7:40 am

    I love family traditions….my sister and I would always bring my parents breakfast in bed (of course mom made the food the night before and we just warmed it up and brought it in to them). I just love this time of year 🙂

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat
    December 3, 2010 at 7:40 am

    I love your story! I remember some of my family traditions like they were yesterday – or like you said, so well I can still taste them. On Christmas morning my mum would always let us open presents first, then she’d go to the kitchen and make scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and smoothies (although nowhere near as good as mine, i have to say!). You were a very cute kiddie!

  • Heather (Heather's Dish)
    December 3, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Christmas breakfast was always so fun…we always did a fritatta or something Southern like biscuits and gravy. LOVE 🙂

  • Suzanne de Cornelia
    December 3, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Beautiful story & pictures….the dress maybe the origins of your Laura Ingalls fixation. 😉

  • Natalia - a side of simple
    December 3, 2010 at 7:50 am

    The pictures with you and your brother are precious. Pretty sure I have a similar dress hidden under my bed that I take out when I’m feeling courageous every now and then. Of course, I’m by myself. 😉
    Christmas morning we start with our stockings, then go to Mass, and after open presents. We then head down the driveway for a brunch of all the classic brunch foods that my aunt and uncle lay out for us. I love tradition, and starting new ones!

  • charlotte
    December 3, 2010 at 7:53 am

    never cease to amaze me, you. happy start to the holiday season.

  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    December 3, 2010 at 7:54 am

    I had those same giant glasses. It was a good look. I needed another reason to feel ugly. Thank goodness kids today can wear cute glasses.

  • Estela @ Weekly Bite
    December 3, 2010 at 7:55 am

    What a lovely story and wonderful memories! This is the first Christmas without my dad. I know it will be tough, but I know he’s smiling from above 🙂

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape
    December 3, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Such a beautiful post. It’s easy with all the stress of the holidays to forget that it really is a time to spend with family. It was nice to read about one of your holiday traditions 🙂 And I am hoping you can get that recipe, those pancakes sound delicious!

  • Amanda (Eating Up)
    December 3, 2010 at 8:00 am

    We have pancakes too! My dad makes his famous ones in the shape of Christmas tress 🙂

  • Allie (Live Laugh Eat)
    December 3, 2010 at 8:03 am

    How could she NOT leave you the recipe after this sweet post? Though, I’m sure you’ve already thought about that one :).

  • Alina @ Duty Free Foodie
    December 3, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Ruffles are always in style. Or at least they always come back. I love strawberry sauce – that Christmas breakfast sounds lovely.

    In Russia, we celebrated New Year’s, not Christmas, and the whole family got together, with everyone cooking for practically two days before the big dinner. My mom’s layer Napoleon cake was my favorite – I will try to get her to make it (+ recipe) this year.

  • Lizzie
    December 3, 2010 at 8:04 am

    This will be my 12th Christmas away from my fam 🙁 but my memories of my childhood help immensely (as does Skype and tiny gifts with little notes that my mum sends). We would have pillow cases at the end of our beds (in lieu of stockings) and those would be the first things opened. Then church. Then home to start cooking lunch and snacking on chips, nuts, and homemade fruit punch before we’re forbidden to eat any more, lest we spoil our appetite. 🙂 Then it’s present opening, lunch outside, nap time, then watching the Queen’s address on tv, followed by ham sandwiches and mince pies. Yes – I’m 1/2 British 🙂 This year my brother is home with his Canadian girlfriend in tow so they’re adopting one of her Christmas traditions which is a champagne breakfast after church – hopefully we’ll be part of that next year 🙂

  • Sarah @ See Sarah Graduate
    December 3, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Love the family pictures. Holidays are the best. 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of swedish pancakes but they sound amazing, especially coupled with the strawberry sauce. 🙂
    My mom always goes all out for Christmas breakfast too. 🙂 We’re southern so of course there are biscuits, gravy… the works! 😀

  • Stacy @ Every Little Thing
    December 3, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Great post 🙂 I think my favorite food memories are pierogies on Christmas Eve and leftover macaroni salad on Christmas Day. Lately though, we’ve been having CRAB LEGS on Christmas Day and this is a tradition I would like to continue!

  • Shenan @ iambs and ales
    December 3, 2010 at 8:08 am

    We have seem to have some similar Christmas breakfast traditions 🙂 We are mostly Jewish (but celebrated Christmas secularly anyhow), with a bit of Swedish thrown in from one of my grandmothers- so every Christmas we would have the same breakfast: bagels, cream cheese, lox, and smoked whitefish (NEVER the packaged whitefish salad; I’m talking the whole fish that you have to de-bone and shred up yourself) to represent our Jewishness, and Swedish pancakes to represent our Swedishness 🙂

    I always have fond memories of getting up early, making that part of the breakfast, and talking to my mom in the kitchen before my dad and brother got up (since I was always the Swedish pancake master in charge of making them!)

  • Moni'sMeals
    December 3, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Really great post Jenna and pictures. You are adorable!

    We like pancakes and a big family walk with the dogs as a tradition. 🙂

    Then we watch Christmas movies, like Christmas Vacation or Elf, Love Actually or the Holiday with egg nog and rum. 🙂

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss
    December 3, 2010 at 8:19 am

    The part about your brother’s really touching. I’m sure your he’s just waiting for the day you two can have a mashed potato fight. 🙂

  • Amber K
    December 3, 2010 at 8:20 am

    What a sweet post. Brought a tear to my eye.

    I have the opposite problem. I live near almost all of my family, but I don’t have happy memories in general, let alone holiday ones. But I am making my own memories and traditions with my husband, best friend, and nieces and nephews.

  • Nicole
    December 3, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I looove Swedish pancakes! We are also Scandinavian and have a traditional Swedish meal every Christmas Eve. We started this tradition only about five years ago, but I look forward to it every year!!

  • Rachel @ The Avid Appetite
    December 3, 2010 at 8:36 am

    I am also very traditional at Christmas time. I love to do all of the things that we always grew up doing – baking the same cookies, having a big Christmas Eve dinner and laying around watching A Christmas Story on loop on Christmas day.

  • Megan Campbell
    December 3, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I’m away from home too…but luckily my boyfriend’s family has welcomed me and treat me like a daughter…although they do laugh when I make them open a present on Christmas eve (like I did growing up)…apparently they think you should wait till the morning! Foolishness I say!

  • Michele @ Healthy Cultivations
    December 3, 2010 at 8:52 am

    I always notice in the older photos of you that you’ve always had a sort of calmness about you. We all get worked up inside sometimes, but you appear serene and collected.

  • Clare
    December 3, 2010 at 8:55 am

    You were very cute! My mom-to this day(I am 34)-give me Stollen to warm up for our Christmas Breakfast. And don’t forget the Boozy Fruit!

  • Kjirsten- Balanced Healthy Life
    December 3, 2010 at 9:04 am

    What great famiy photos and memories of your brother. I am still trying to get recipes from my mom as well.

  • Ella
    December 3, 2010 at 9:21 am

    We have Swedish pancakes every Christmas morning too! I think I have the recipe somewhere..if not my mother totally does. We’re from Scandinavian decent as well, so Christmas eve we have a big traditional smorgasboard with Swedish meatballs and fish and some weird green jello stuff that isn’t actually jello that my grandma claims is a traditional part of the feast..blech.

    I miss home so much around this time of year. I’m a junior in college, and I wont be done with finals until a couple days before Christmas. I don’t get to celebrate Santa Lucia day with family, decorate the tree, help my mom bake dozens and dozens of cookies, and the advent calanders. Oh what I would give to be back in Boston watching A Christmas Story with my 17 year old brother instead of studying organic reactions. Sad.

  • Brenna [fabuleuxdestin]
    December 3, 2010 at 9:21 am

    We have a Christmas morning breafkast tradition too! Baileys and coffee, with “healthy” french toast (Ellie Kreiger’s recipe!) It’s true ; food holds so many memories and emotions. From family to friends to everything!

  • Krystina (Basil & Wine)
    December 3, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Beautiful. I love how mothers have a way of taking the simplest recipes and making them so perfect that they’re ingrained in our memory forever.

  • Jessica @ The Process of Healing
    December 3, 2010 at 9:42 am

    That’s beautiful! My mom is not swedish, nor does she make pancakes unfortunately 😉

  • Felicia (a taste of health with balance)
    December 3, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Love this. My parents are from Poland and we have some Christmas traditions and eats that I will always cherish… each year we make a Babka (type of bread) and it is a huge production. It is so delicious with jam, with swirls of sweet farmers cheese in the middle, topped with a brown sugar crumble. We make enough to freeze and take it out on Easter too. Can’t wait to pass the traditions along 🙂

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey
    December 3, 2010 at 9:59 am

    You totally look exactly the same. I <3 that.

  • Katy @ A Healthy Shot
    December 3, 2010 at 10:01 am

    I think my Laura Ingalls obsession may have rivaled yours… I had a similar dress, and instead of playing Barbies with my sister, I set up forts all over our yard for each of the different houses in the books and rotated seasonally 😉
    We still sit down and listen to my dad read The Night Before Christmas when we get home from Christmas Eve service. We don’t fit on his lap anymore, but it’s one of those traditions that’s hard to give up.

  • Sahar
    December 3, 2010 at 10:05 am

    What a warm holiday memory. I absolutely adore your writing style. It’s very heartfelt but at the same time humorous and light. You are very talented! I teared up a little 🙂
    btw, you and your brother were just too cute.

  • Paige
    December 3, 2010 at 10:06 am

    We have Swedish pancakes too!!! 🙂 Love love love them. With strawberry sauce, too.
    You are so very strong, Jenna. And you’re rocking that pilgrim dress 😉

  • Mama Pea
    December 3, 2010 at 10:12 am

    This may not have been meant to have been a sob story, but it was. It’ll be awesome when you get to sling potatoes again. I kind of know you will too.

  • Lauren R
    December 3, 2010 at 10:14 am

    My mom always makes monkey bread on Christmas morning. Since I found out I have celiacs disease I haven’t been able to indulge in them, but one day I hope to come up with a GF recipe which helps me enjoy them once again.

  • Alyssa
    December 3, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I’ve loved your blog for awhile, Jenna (one of my best friends showed me it, and we talk about your posts all the time), but this is the first comment I’m leaving. My family (also very close knit) has a very special Christmas morning breakfast tradition. Before we (my dad, mom, brother, sister, cats, and I) start opening stockings, my mom makes up an incredible coffee cake with brown sugar, pecans, and delicousness. While we’re opening presents, the smell of the baking coffee cake makes its way to the living room from the kitchen. We take an intermission to eat the warm coffee cake, accessorized by grapefruits with marashino cherries in their centers. 🙂

  • Lindsey @ SoundEats
    December 3, 2010 at 10:32 am

    I had a dress my mom made me when I was a kid that was nearly identical to yours. Modeled after a Felicity American Girl dress, I believe. I have pictures of my sister and I on a Christmas morning, wearing our dresses holding our dolls. Actually, I think that dress is still in my parents’ attic…crazy! Apparently we’re both old souls. 😉

  • Megan
    December 3, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I love family traditions and my family sure has a lot of them. Every Christmas Eve we have a huge party where we all gather, eat to our hearts content, drink wine, sing Christmas carols, and have Santa come deliver gifts. That’s right….Santa always makes an appearance at our holiday celebration. It’s always a guy my aunt hires to bring joy to the kids faces and nostalgia in the adults hearts but it’s a tradition that has gone on for as long as I can remember.

    I love the picture of Tahoe too! I really miss it right now and seeing a picture of it covered in snow makes me a very happy girl.

  • alison
    December 3, 2010 at 10:51 am

    My mom used to make me dresses like that, too. The Peter Pan collar was also a mainstay in my closet.
    In my mind, heaven is most certainly the type of place where mashed potato slinging is encouraged.

  • lena
    December 3, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Every Christmas morning my Dad would make Norwegian pancakes, just like Swedish but from the country to their left :). Good thing I married a Norwegian boy! He continues the tradition of Christmas morning and as a nice Sunday morning surprise now and then.

  • The Healthy Apple
    December 3, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Love the picture; you are too adorable for words…so cute! I love Christmas morning traditions…so fun!

  • jessica
    December 3, 2010 at 11:13 am

    That’s a really cute story 🙂 My favorite holiday food memory is of making and decorating sugar cookies. My mom always made the BEST buttery sugar cookies and my sister and I loved to see how creative we could get decorating them. We’d have icing all over our fingers and sprinkles covering the kitchen table! One year our dog got a hold of a container of blue food coloring and we were too busy to notice until he walked into the room with a bright blue mouth and blue stained fur! Good times!

  • Maria
    December 3, 2010 at 11:20 am

    This strawberry sauce sounds so intresting. We always have strawberry jam to our pancakes. My grandmother alway smeared on butter, sprinkled sugar and cinnamon ontop, then rolled them into tubes. My own recipe is pretty basic but I always use waaaay more vanilla extract then required 😉 and when I want the pancakes to be extra crisp I sub some of the milk for sparkling water! …Im swedish by the way 🙂

  • Camille
    December 3, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Oh my gosh, you are just too cute! You and I totally would have been friends as kids 🙂

  • Meredith @ An Epic Change
    December 3, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I know the holidays are tough — for me it is Thanksgiving because my dad passed just 6 days before Thanksgiving in 2008. This year, I was sad and took the time to grieve, but then I turned it into a celebration of his memory and ended up making a lot of dishes that he loved. On Thanksgiving day, we had his favorite twice baked potatoes instead of mashed potatoes just to feel like he was closer. It was beautiful.

    And I agree, heaven seems cool. I can’t wait to see my dad again and tell him that mustaches are still “out”.

  • RhodeyGirl
    December 3, 2010 at 12:27 pm


    I love making new traditions, but some of the old ones just have too strong a place in my heart not to continue.. if not today, then some day.

  • Diana @ frontyardfoodie
    December 3, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I love traditions and it’s funny but on New Years morning we always would have our best family over and make Swedish and Norwegian pancakes with a crazy homemade syrup but it wasn’t strawberry….it tasted sort of like toffee in liquid form.

  • amyt
    December 3, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    my mom always made monkey bread 😉 now – we go to my MILs she does a big breakfast…..bacon/eggs/grits/sausage….biscuits – red-eye gravy…and CHOCOLATE gravy!!! GOOD stuff!! We go to my folks for a big lunch…….though I’m stuffed from breakfast!!

  • Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga)
    December 3, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss, and it breaks my heart to read about it whenever you’ve mentioned it. My grandpa died on Xmas Eve dec 24th when I was 5. So every year growing up, the holidays were such a mixed blessing b/c my grandma and mom were a mess but trying to hold it together for the kids. Now that I am a mom…I have no idea how they did this.

    Anyhoo…moving on….

    The pics are gorgeous! And I have been caught in some crazy Tahoe storms and traffic too!

    Have a great weekend, Jenna!

  • Jessica
    December 3, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    My dad makes a huge batch of homemade biscuits and white gravy which officially make it Christmas time for me….LOVE!

    Your pictures are adorable!

  • Mabelle
    December 3, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Cute pics and those mini-looking pancakes look amaizingly delicious. I feel like trying out that strawberry sauce idea this minute!!! hehe….holiday memories are the absolute BEST!

  • Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day
    December 3, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    What lovely memories.. I’d imagine they are even more special with the tragic loss of your brother.

  • Jessica
    December 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    This post is amazing on so many levels. I too sported homemade pilgrim dresses. Alas, growing older they were less acceptable in public.

  • Jessica @ How Sweet It Is
    December 3, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    This absolutely touched me heart! I hope you don’t find this creepy, but since I started reading your blog last year and learned of your brother, I often think about you and your family around the holidays and say a little prayer. I have 2 brothers and am the only girl and just can’t imagine losing one of them.

    Enough of that. You Christmas morning reminds me SO much of mine! After losing our heads over our presents, we would eat Christmas cookies and cinnamon rolls out of a can for breakfast. Not nearly as delicious as those pancakes sound, but it’s the memories that come in those cans of cinnamon rolls!

  • elise
    December 3, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    i cant tell you how many similar ridiculous dresses i had.
    but what i really want to say is that i think its amazing how positive you are through all the sadness that your brother’s passing brought. i too think you are special jenna – because you choose to look to the light when things seem to be so dark. it’s very inspiring.

  • Liana @ femme fraiche
    December 4, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Those are the types of memories that make Christmas so special. I really loved this post…my family is absolutely #1 in my house so I hear ya loud and clear

  • Kim
    December 4, 2010 at 11:15 am

    That’s a really great story! I hope I have food traditions with my family someday. My boyfriend and I have been talking a lot about family traditions and what we’d continue with our family someday recently. My mom buys my sister, brother, and me a new ornament every Christmas. They’re always really unique and beautiful like hand blown glass lions or something. We keep them on her tree, and now when I go home for Christmas, the tree is loaded with tons of beautiful ornaments and memories. There’s no theme or rhyme or reason to it at all, and that’s my favorite kind of Christmas tree!

  • Ilana
    December 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    First of all, I had two or three dresses exactly like that. I think they were my favorite thing ever. I remember getting them at TJ Maxx and wearing them ALL THE TIME.
    Second of all, you look *exactly* the same. Adorable and lovely.
    Third – I don’t have many “holiday breakfast” memories, since most Jewish holidays are focused around the evening meal. But I do have a winter breakfast memory that is so vivid and ever-pervasive that I must share. It was during a huge blizzard when I was young, seven years old. My parents were still married. My father was outside shovelling the driveway and the neighbor’s kids, my best friend and my brother’s best friend, came over to watch The Lion King (which has been newly released on VHS for the first time haha), and my mom came down with a plate of cinnamon rolls. I don’t think I’d had one before that, but I’ll never forget the icing, or the lovely warm cinnamon spirals on the plate – or how fast we ate them. The scent of cinnamon often brings me back to that early January morning in my childhood basement with the fire roaring, when everything was in its rightful place and I was safe and warm. Now, when I bake cinnamon rolls (like I did a few days ago), I am immediately transported back there and everything is right in the world and I am safe and warm again, even if for just a moment.
    Thanks for the memories 🙂

  • Pam (Holistic Health Coach)
    December 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    My mom made Icelandic pancakes, not for Christmas, but on random occasions. They are really thin pancakes like the Swedish ones and she would fill them with sugar, grape jelly, and homemade whipped cream. The strawberry sauce sounds heavenly, definitely would love that recipe!
    For Christmas we would always have turkey with Lebanese stuffing. My Icelandic mother got a cookbook from my Lebanese grandmother with this epic stuffing recipe. We would have it once a year, I would fill my plate with that and turkey!
    This year we are having Christmas with my husband’s family so it will be a Southern style dinner, complete with dressing (not stuffing ;).

  • Marika
    December 7, 2010 at 5:36 am

    My dad’s specialty is Scandinavian-style pancakes too! He doesn’t use a recipe, just makes them by feel. I associate them with Saturday mornings when I was growing up. I would often help him make the batter and then, since I loved the taste of raw batter (still do!), he would put some into a little bowl for me to eat with a spoon :-D.