Christmas is a tradition-filled time in the Beechinor household, and as local singer Maureen Beechinor tells it, food is an important part of those Christmas traditions.
"Food follows those traditions closely throughout the holiday season," she said. "From the minute the decorations are hauled out of the crawl space, I become my mother! She made our family Christmas's so special and I am brought back to those days as I recreate almost every memory through decorating, baking, and cooking."
Beechinor, is a member of the Westcoast Harmony Chorus which hit a high note in Denver this fall, taking top spot in the international harmony competition.
While music is a big part of the holiday season for her, she tells how the Christmas Eve meal of mazetti and trimmings is special to her family.
"It begins with a meal of mazetti, oriental coleslaw, ham, and other side dishes," she explained.
"Mom started making mazetti when I was a toddler, and my sister, brothers and I wouldn't have a Christmas Eve without it. My daughters and my nieces all have the recipe and insist they will never have a Christmas Eve without it, either."
After they are full and ready to hang the stockings, they gather for a reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
3 lb. lean ground beef
1 - 5.5 oz. tin tomato paste (156 ml)
1 lb. sausage
1 or 2 tins sliced mushrooms
4 cup chopped onion
¼ bottle Italian seasoning
1 - 28 oz. tin diced tomatoes (796 ml)
1 pkg broad egg noodles
1 - 22 oz. tin tomato sauce (680 ml) Shredded cheddar cheese to cover
Brown onions and set aside. Brown meat and drain fat. Cook noodles and drain.
Mix meat and onions with everything except cheese.
Place in large casserole (or two smaller ones), cover with shredded cheese. Bake at 325ºF covered, one hour. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes.
Freezes well, without cheese.
"This is as much a necessity as the mazetti, as my dad told this story every year, even when my siblings and I became adults," Beechinor said.
"When we had our children he told the story to them in their onesies. This made him very happy, and even when we couldn't be together one year, he sent a cassette tape of him reading the story, which we all played for our young children. They loved the sound of Papa's voice."
Her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease when Beechinor's kids were still in elementary school.
He continued to tell the story for a couple years, until he could no longer get the words out. And after he went into care, that old cassette tape was turned into a CD and all the grandchildren were given one along with a book of the story.
"Every Christmas Eve, we pull it out and gather to hear Papa read the story," Beechinor said, getting teary at the memories.
"For a couple years after he passed away, there were tears as we heard his voice.
Now, it is a very joyful time," she concluded.
"So many memories of our wonderful dad and papa, and it all begins with a traditional meal of mazetti."
- Maureen Beechinor Westcoast Harmony Chorus . Watch for more recipes in Thursday's paper