Family traditions are funny. How these traditions come to be is often an exciting story. For the Fowler family, most of our favourite winter traditions centre around food and beverages we can share as we celebrate the holidays and ring in a new year. We make and enjoy three recipes together yearly, including crepes, winter pudding and hot chocolate.

Tradition #1: Spinach Cheddar Crepes with Mushrooms

When my wife Kathy and I began our marriage, we moved to Newfoundland for a couple of years. We entertained and were entertained a lot. Margaret, one of our good friends, was a vegetarian, and as the holidays approached, we wanted to find a way to include her. We decided on crepes filled with cheddar, spinach, and mushrooms.

We made the crepes by hand, sauteed shallots, spinach and mushrooms, and a luxurious cheddar cheese sauce with full-fat whipping cream. Margaret raved about them; for nearly 40 years, she’s joined us for the holidays, and spinach crepes are part of that tradition. Our kids grew up with them on the menu, and now their kids want the same. Three generations of my family now demand cheese, mushrooms, and spinach crepes at some point over the winter holiday season.

Here are a few tips we’ve discovered along the way:

  • The crepes and sauce can be made a few days ahead and stored in the fridge.
  • They can be easily frozen, too. Just put layers of plastic wrap between each individual crepe before freezing to keep them from sticking together.
  • Invite the whole crew over to help make them.
  • Take an easier path and buy ready-to-serve crepes.
  • For a dessert crepe, we fry frozen peach slices in butter, brown sugar and brandy to fill the crepes. Frozen cherries work equally well.
  • For something simpler, just spread it with jam, roll and nibble.

Making the Spinach, Cheddar and Mushroom Crepe Filling

Ingredients for Spinach and Cheddar Crepes with Mushrooms, laid out on a slate cutting board including homemade chicken stock in a mason jar, a measuring cup with whipping cream in it, a block of parmesan cheese, sliced mushrooms, dices onion, a plate of pre-made crepes, a small stainless steel bowl half full of flour, and two large stainless steel bowls containing spinach and grated cheddar cheese.

Here are most of the ingredients for spinach filling: whipping cream, chicken stock, spinach, flour cheddar, onions, mushrooms, and parmesan.

This will make filling for (at least) 12 appetizer-sized crepes.


  • Saucepan for crepe filling
  • Heat source
  • Wooden spoon
  • Whisk
  • Measuring cups and spoons


  • 2 Shallots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 cups of sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of Butter
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 750 ml of chicken stock (or vegetable stock for your vegetarian friends)
  • 250 ml of whipping cream
  • 2 cups (total) of shredded cheddar, fontina, and gouda (a blend of all three)
  • 1/4 cup Shredded parmesan
  • 500 grams of frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and water squeezed out as much as possible.
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (optional)


  • 1. Melt the butter over medium heat in the saucepan and add shallots.
  • 2. Add mushrooms and cook until just starting to turn golden.
  • 3. Add 1/4 cup of flour to take up the butter and make a roux. You might need to add a tablespoon more butter at this point. Cook the flour and butter combination for a minute.
  • 4. Whisk cold chicken stock into the roux, shallots and mushrooms. When the sauce is smooth, add cream and heat to medium-high.
  • 5. Let the sauce cook for two minutes, then add the spinach.
  • 6. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and add a dash of hot sauce if you like.
  • 7. Cook the spinach for a couple of minutes, remove it from the heat stir in the cheese.
  • 8. Now, this is ready to serve.

Making the Crepes

Pre-made, golden brown, crepes, stacked on a white plate.

Crepes can be made few days in advance and kept in the fridge or make weeks in advance and frozen.

This recipe will make about 24 crepes (you can freeze the leftovers).


  • A shallow frying pan suitable for crepes or an electric crepe pan
  • Whisk
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Heat source
  • Ladle to add batter to the pan
  • Plate for stacking cooked crepes
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Long thin spatula for flipping cooked crepes


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 cup of melted butter plus more to brush the frying pan with


  • 1. Add dry ingredients to the mixing bowl, then wet.
  • 2. Whisk until smooth.
  • 3. Then drizzle in melted butter while whisking vigorously.
  • 4. Heat a non-stick or well-seasoned crepe or fry pan over medium heat.
  • 5. Brush with the bottom of the pan butter.
  • 6. Add shy of 1/4 cup of batter and swirl the pan to distribute the crepe evenly over the bottom of the pan. Don’t fuss if this is a new experience. It takes a few crepes to get the knack of making crepes.
  • 7. Cook a couple of minutes on one side until the crepe batter comes away from the edge of the pan and turns golden. Use a thin spatula to flip the crepe and cook for another minute.
  • 8. Stack on a plate for immediate service or store until ready to serve.

Tradition #2: Winter Pudding

A small glass desert bowl with warm caramel pudding and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Small trails of ice cream melt down the side of the pudding. Behind the desert dish is the baking dish with the rest of the pudding inside.

Grandma’s baked caramel winter pudding has become another winter holiday tradition.

Another important tradition for me growing up was winter pudding. My grandmother used to make this pudding for us in the winter. It’s a simple recipe in two parts: cake-like pudding and the hot caramel sauce that the pudding bakes in. Once you have this pudding, you’ll understand why the tradition has continued in my family, year after year.


  • Mixing bowl
  • Deep baking dish (I used a ceramic souffle dish)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Spoon for scooping batter
  • Kettle
  • Oven

Batter Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chopped apricots (or a combination)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar or demerara
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon orange essence (optional)


  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • 2. Put the kettle on to boil water.
  • 3. Mix pudding dry ingredients for the batter.
  • 4. Add brown sugar and flavour to the deep baking dish.
  • 5. Add the wet ingredients to the batter and mix to combine.
  • 6. Add boiling water to the baking dish and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  • 7. Spoon pudding batter into the caramel sauce.
  • 8. Bake for 40 minutes at 350F and check for doneness with a bamboo skewer. When it comes out clean, dish up the pudding and ice cream.

Tradition #3: Hot Chocolate

A tall, decorative, coffee mug sitting on a matching saucer. A swirl of whipped cream garnished with grated chocolate tops the hot chocolate in the mug. Behind the mug is a small, white, holiday tree adorned with glitter.

These fancy coffee mugs are perfect for dressed up hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate is typical for most families during the winter. But how we dress it up can turn this simple warm beverage into a fun and exciting tradition.

If you want to step up your hot chocolate game for kids big and small, make your hot chocolate and transport it to the parades, lights, and fireworks in a big thermos. A can of instant whipping cream and a bit of grated solid dark chocolate for topping kicks the hot chocolate experience to a level appropriate to ring in the new year.

For adults, enhance the hot chocolate with a little Kalua or Grand Marnier.


  • Heavy saucepan
  • Heat source (you could do this on a camp stove at your favourite outdoor location)
  • Thermos to transport hot chocolate
  • Whisk
  • Measuring cups and spoons


  • 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 litre whole milk (you can also substitute with oat, soy, or almond milk)
  • Whipped cream to top hot chocolate (go ahead and use the can of whipped cream)
  • Grated dark chocolate, cinnamon, or ground nutmeg for garnish


  • 1. Stir sugar and cocoa in a heavy saucepan.
  • 2. Drizzle the milk in a steady stream while whisking to combine it with the cocoa and sugar.
  • 3. Heat on medium heat while stirring until it starts to boil.
  • 4. Serve immediately, top with whipped cream, and sprinkle with chocolate or spice.
  • 5. Alternatively, pour it into a heated thermos and carry it with you.

Making your holiday traditions is fun and a memorable way to celebrate with your family and friends year after year. I’m often surprised by how important these simple traditions have become to our kids, grandkids, and even us.

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