Merry Christmas! My family’s Christmas celebration yesterday was slightly different than usual because we were missing a few people who usually travel from out of town.
Although it was a laid back celebration (only 6 of us), I still managed to cook like there were 12-15 people coming over. Old habits…
In keeping with holiday traditions I watched a ridiculous number of Christmas movies, made (and ate) way too many cookies and sweets, and have spent the last five days meeting up with as many friends and family members as time would allow. It has been a wonderful break from work for me, and I am thankful for the numerous opportunities to catch up with loved ones who live farther away than I would like. My only regret is watching The Christmas Story twice during the marathon…my goal for the year was four times. That Ralphie and his antics just never get old.
Instead of showing a step-by-step of one recipe, I have decided to share my entire Christmas dinner menu. This year’s theme was…wait for it…KEEP IT SIMPLE! I find myself, on occasion, stressing about what to make for a holiday dinner and spend way too much time prepping and cooking that I miss out on what’s truly important; spending time with family. This year I decided to scale back some of the dishes and realized that simple is honestly better.
Appetizers included a baked brie cheese plate and roasted chickpeas. Place wheel of Brie or Camembert cheese in a small baking dish or ramekin. Place in 350 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes until ooey-gooey and fragrant.
Serve with grapes, a sliced pear, crackers, and fig spread. Your guests can “choose their own adventure” so to speak. My favorite combination is pear topped with Brie…oh goodness!
For the meat dishes my mom brought a Honeybaked ham (bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving), and I made a whole roasted chicken.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel and place in a roasting pan. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with a bulb of garlic cut in half, a quartered onion, a handful of fresh thyme/rosemary, and a quartered lemon. Tie the legs together using cooking twine. Brush or drizzle 1 stick melted butter and sprinkle with salt/pepper. Bake for 1 1/2-2 hours for a 5-6 pound chicken. Let rest for 15 minutes and then carve.
Side dishes included mashed potatoes, balsamic roasted carrots, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce.
I prepared the mashed potatoes by peeling/slicing 6 medium Russet potatoes. Place in cold water to cover and boil 20-25 minutes until very tender. Drain and return to pot; add one stick melted butter, ~ 1 1/2 c. half and half, and salt/pepper to taste. Use a hand mixer to mix until desired consistency; I like smooth mashed potatoes.
To prepare balsamic roasted carrots: peel and slice carrots into a matchstick shape. Place carrots on baking sheet; drizzle with ~2-3 tbsp olive oil and ~1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (add more if you are making a lot of them). Season with salt and pepper and roast in a 350 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes, tossing them on occasion. They remind me of crispy, tangy carrot fries…completely irresistible!
Homemade cranberry sauce is a tradition on my holiday table. Combine 1 c. water and 1 c. sugar. Add 1-2 cinnamon sticks, a pinch of ground cloves, 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger, 2 tbsp grated orange zest and a pinch of salt; bring mixture to a boil. Add rinsed fresh cranberries and stir until berries break down and the mixture thickens; approximately 15 minutes. I originally found this recipe years ago in a Rachael Ray magazine, and it was instantly a family favorite. Click here for a link to her website.
I loyally use the traditional green bean casserole recipe, but with a spin. I use fresh haricot vert green beans which keep their crunch after the casserole is baked. Another change is using Trader Joe’s mushroom soup and fried onions which are made from ingredients I can actually pronounce (sorry, Campbell’s). Combine 4 c. cut green beans, 1 container mushroom soup, 3/4 c. milk, black pepper, and half can of “fried” onions. Stir to combine and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Stir and top with remaining onions; bake additional 8-10 minutes until topping is golden brown.
Of course this is WAY more food than 6 people could ever consume…keep an eye out for recipes using leftovers! Thanks for reading about my holiday; I hope you enjoyed the time with you family and soaked up the new memories. Happy holidays, and enjoy!