We asked Nolan's incredible wife Ruth to share some of the traditions that make the Ryan family Christmas extra special. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to spend the holidays with the Ryan Express, read on to get your answer.
When Nolan was still playing baseball, we spent every Christmas morning at my parent's house in Alvin. My father would make his famous Norwegian pancakes (which were like thin crepes) with bacon and sausage, and everyone came to their house in shifts so that we could eat as many as we wanted. Then after breakfast we would open gifts and he would bring us a little shot glass of his mixture of ice cream and Kailua with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon on top. Those are great memories that I miss, but there are several family members including my sister Lynn and husband Don, Reese and his daughters Caroline and Julia, Wendy and her daughter Lela, who have learned to make the pancakes and have carried on that tradition. It wouldn’t seem like Christmas morning without Norwegian pancakes!
St. Lucia and Family Fun
To celebrate my family’s Swedish heritage, the grandchildren take turns dressing as Santa Lucia and Star Boy. The oldest granddaughter would wear the crown of candles on her head, and she and the others would dress all in white. They would read the story, sing songs, and perform for the adults…and each year a different granddaughter would be the Santa Lucia and one of the grandsons would be the Star Boy. My mother loved this, so we are trying to keep up the tradition even though she passed away in 2020.
After the presents are all open, and bellies are full of Norwegian Pancakes, the real fun begins! When all of us get together, we love to play dominoes and cards and games and do puzzles or read. For outdoor activities include tennis, pickle ball, corn hole, skiing, biking, hiking, kayaking, fishing, swimming, taking the dogs for long walks, etc…just about anything outside is fun, and as you can guess, our family is very competitive.
Nolan’s favorite meal is an 8 oz prime filet (medium rare) with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. Because everyone loves beef, we almost always have a tenderloin with dinner. Nolan is extremely helpful in the kitchen…not so much with the cooking…. but he always volunteers to help with washing dishes and cleaning up.
Peppermint Ice Cream or Rice Pudding
On Christmas, we often have rice pudding for dessert. When the pudding is made there is one almond baked in it, and whoever gets the almond in his or her dessert will have good luck for the coming year.
We also have a family recipe for peppermint ice cream that I first tasted when Nolan and I were kids, and his mother would make it in the old-fashioned ice cream maker in which you had to sit and crank the handle until it got too hard to turn (that was usually Nolan’s job) but the outcome was delicious.
Read the full recipe below and enjoy it this holiday, from our family to yours.
Lela Ryan’s Peppermint Ice Cream
Prep Time: 15 minutes + 2 hours to freeze
4 to 5 eggs, beaten
1 quart half and half
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
25 peppermint sticks, crushed fine
1 pinch kosher salt
1 to 2 cups whole milk
- Combine the eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, peppermint sticks, and salt in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture into the container of your ice cream maker.
- Add as much milk as the ice cream maker will hold
- Follow the direction on your ice cream maker for freezing the ice cream.
- Transfer the ice cream to a container and place a sheet of plastic wrap over the surface. Cover the container tightly and freeze ice cream for at least two hours. It will keep for one month.
- Remove the ice cream 10 minutes prior to serving and enjoy.