Holidays

Christmas dinner ideas

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Honey Baked Ham
A sweet ham is a great alternative to Turkey this Christmas season.
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Christmas dinner ideas for a festive and successful dining celebration

Christmas is a time for celebration, a time for gifts, a time for family and friends.  And it's a time for eating.  In my family, dieting is strictly forbidden during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  On New Year's Day we can make resolutions to work off those holiday pounds, but when it comes to the holiday dinners the gloves are off, mainly to make room for the oven mitts.

We have some Christmas dinner ideas for you that you can use when preparing your holiday meal.  Some of these you make yourself, for which you'll need adequate baking supplies, while others are fully prepared dishes you can find at grocery or specialty stores.

For Starters

Let's start off with appetizers and side dishes.  Some would argue that Waldorf Salad is a dessert, and it could certainly be placed there, but once you get to the dessert section of the article, you'll see that the classic Waldorf is much better suited to compete here with the side dishes.

A Waldorf salad is very easy to make and is usually a pretty popular choice among adults and children alike.  To make one you'll need the following:


-Apples

-celery

-raisins

-mayonnaise


Chop the apples and celery into bite sized pieces, mix all four ingredients together and serve.  That's it!  You have a wonderful dish that takes very little effort.  There are a variety of things you can do to spice it up or make it more interesting if you'd like.  Use at least one sweet type apple (such as red delicious) and one tart type apple (such as granny smith's).  Try adding just a few halved red cherries or shredded carrot for color.  For a bit of unique flavoring you could add just a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice, or you could throw in a couple of dashes of lemon juice.  If you add any of these unexpected ingredients, make sure no one in your party is allergic to them before serving.

A given in my family was always sweet potatoes.  You can serve plain yams with butter, candied yams made with butter, brown sugar and mini marshmallows melted on top, or sweet potato bon-bons, made by shaping the yams into balls and rolling them in corn flakes or frosted flakes.

Another must was always mashed potatoes.  One way to make your dish seem like authentic home-made mashed potatoes, but with less effort is to make mostly powdered mashed potatoes (use a high quality brand such as Idahoan or Betty Crocker), but boil up two or three real potatoes and smoosh them up, mixing them in with the powdered ones to give them the texture of real home made mashed potatoes.  Be sure to leave some bite-sized chunks.  To add fluffiness and a bit of flavor, add half a cup of milk and half a stick of real butter to the mix.

One more must that always complements mashed potatoes nicely is stuffing, also called dressing in some parts of the country.  Make some brown gravy for guests to use with both the potatoes and the stuffing.  Some other nice additions to the meal are cornbread, dinner rolls, green beans and of course the ubiquitous cranberry sauce.  Finally, rice is a good addition if you serve roast beef.





The Main Course

I would call this the "meat and potatoes" of any holiday dinner, but we've already covered potatoes, so we'll just stick with the meat.  Christmas dinner is no time to serve bologna sandwiches.  The main choice for Christmas dinner of course is turkey, but you can also opt for either ham or roast beef.  If you stay with the turkey, try something a little different by ordering a smoked turkey from a speciality meat retailer. What a treat! Another choice is to serve at least two of these three main dishes so your guests can choose or have both.

For roast beef, a great way to cook it is to put it in a crock pot with water filled to at least half of the height of the roast beef and let it cook for 4 or 5 hours.  You can add in some beef broth and/or onion to flavor the beef further if you'd like.  Serve this with brown gravy, making gravy from the liquids surrounding the roast beef itself if you can, but if not you can always use canned gravy or a gravy mix.

For ham, you can bake this yourself, but perhaps a better option is to order your ham from a specialty store like New Braunfels Smokehouse, who makes a wonderful ham with a thick shell of brown sugar coating the entire ham.  It comes spiral sliced so it's easy to simply put out and serve.  It's more expensive than doing it yourself, but it will save you a ton of time and effort and the results are great.

Dessert

Mmm.  Hopefully everyone has saved a bit of room for this part of the meal.  After a wonderful Christmas feast, the coup de grāce is the dessert.  A great choice here is jello.  Jello may sound a bit plain, but it's very easy to remedy that by adding to the basic mix.  You can make cherry jello and add halved red cherries to the bottom, orange slices to any citrus flavored jello, sliced strawberries and/or bananas in strawberry jello, or marshmallows to any flavor at all.  Shaved or shredded coconut is also a possibility, but children tend not to like this and many people are allergic, so if you serve this, make sure you have another type to offer as well.

When you're looking for Christmas dinner ideas, another absolute must is pie.  It's nice to serve at least two types of pie, with the top choices being pumpkin pie and pecan pie.  For pumpkin pie, add cinnamon to give it a special flavor, and for pecan pie, be sure to add real vanilla extract and maybe some allspice to make it a pie they won't forget.

Although you may not think it seems like a Christmas dessert, a huge hit with kids is always rice krispie treats.  Sometimes you can even find the cereal in Christmas colors.  This is very easy to make, but for it to be at its best, you have to watch it carefully.  Before starting, be sure to have a pan ready to place the mix in as soon as it's done.  Wash your hands thoroughly before you start because you'll need them and there won't be time to wash them in the middle.  Coat the pan with a non-stick spray and have all of your ingredients measured and completely ready to go before you start, because timing is crucial for this to come out fresh and chewy rather than stiff.

Starting off with a large, deep pot, melt half a stick of butter.  The moment the butter is melted, put an entire bag of marshmallows in.  The mini ones melt better and more evenly than large ones.  Keep the burner on relatively low heat.  If you melt them quickly you'll end up with hardened marshmallow which makes the treats stiff and not too pleasant to eat.  Continually stir while you're melting the marshmallows and the moment that they are all melted add all 6 cups of the cereal.  Using a stiff wooden spoon, quickly stir the mix until none of the cereal is dry.  Turn off the heat and immediately pour all of the mix into the prepared pan.  Allow to cool.

If you can't find any red and green cereal to use, you can always use the regular rice krispies and simply sprinkle some red and green colored sugar on top.

Thus ends an excellent holiday meal.  Time to head into the family room and talk or play games while the food digests.  Have fun, and have a wonderful holiday season!


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