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Thursday, December 14, 2023

Christmas Menus

I've been slowly whittling away at the Christmas menus over this last week. I simply don't have the energy to do as much as usual.

I started with lasagna, vegetables, and homemade cookies for Christmas Eve. Then that was simplified to homemade pizza, veggies, and cookies. And now we're leaning toward take-out Chinese for Christmas Eve.

For Christmas Day breakfast, we began with a sausage and pepper egg casserole, bacon, almond bread, muffins, fruit salad, juice, and coffee/tea/cocoa. This meal too needed to be simplified. We're now planning on ham slices, deviled breakfast eggs made the day before (bacon bits mixed in with mayo and egg yolk to stuff the whites), a fruit bowl from the produce department (probably watermelon chunks), almond bread (already baked and in the freezer), muffins, juice, coffee/tea/cocoa. My husband will be in charge of the hot drinks, I'll bake and freeze a batch of muffins in the next couple of days, my daughters will do the deviled eggs, and I'll heat the ham slices.

We had planned on doing a Christmas lunch a few hours after the breakfast, but really, who are we kidding? None of us will be eating our Christmas breakfast at a usual breakfast hour. My son keeps late hours as a software engineer, and they often don't arrive for a breakfast at breakfast hours. So, we'll skip the lunch idea, do brunch using the breakfast menu, and somewhere around 1 or 2 in the afternoon I'll add a bowl of chicken salad (made the day before) and some rolls (already baked and in the freezer) to the remains of the breakfast spread. If we happen to have tangerines on hand, I'll add those, too.

Christmas Day dinner -- this is the big meal of our celebrations, so I didn't want to cut back too much on my efforts for this meal. But this is also the most complex of our Christmas meals. Much of it needs to be done just before serving. So far, I have steaks in the freezer from our latest beef delivery. My plan is to make Steak Diane, which is done on the stove. My daughters have volunteered to make a dessert for us. I still need a starchy dish (perhaps popovers or potatoes au gratin) and 2 vegetable dishes. I have a coupon for a free bag of salad mix at Fred Meyer. I'll get that and perhaps some vegetables to roast in the oven. I would also like to make my mother's creamy jello salad in tiny wreath molds. I may be able to un-mold those onto individual plates the day before, allowing me to take my time with this part of preparation. Can you see any other aspects of my meal prep that can be done ahead of time?

How are your holiday meal plans coming? What's on your menus for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?


  1. Even with your scaled back plans, that's still a lot of food and quite ambitious. We are having a few people over on Christmas Eve for Chinese (great minds :)) and then going to my sister's house for dessert. We'll have a simple breakfast the next day (cereal or scrambled eggs) before we go to my FIL's for Christmas dinner. Everyone brings something, but the problem is many in the crowd do not take part in the planning until the last minute, so we never quite know what they will show up with. That makes it hard to know if the basics of the meal are covered. It drives me crazy, but we never go hungry, so I guess I need to relax a little.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      That must be frustrating to not know what others will bring to Christmas dinner. As you said, there's always plenty to eat. So that's good.

  2. We are going with a very average holiday. Years ago when the children were little we did a breakfast casserole and then mid afternoon had a big meal except if hubby had to work. Then we still had breakfast casserole but we often just had mac and cheese from a box for Christmas dinner. Now that the kids are all grown up, we have elderly parents that only come for dinner. I keep it simple for them with mashed potatoes, a roasted meat and a vegetable or two. Maybe a soft type of dessert. The two kids that live close by will probably come for Christmas also. I'll throw in an easy game and this year will be Christmas bingo with small prizes. We won't have a big breakfast for just the two of us and I often just skip breakfast as I often do on many days anyway. All my meal prep will come from the freezer and pantry once again. Beef roast, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, Christmas cauliflower with peas, dinner rolls, beef gravy and tres leches cake.

    1. Hi Alice,
      Your plans for Christmas dinner sound delicious and I'm sure will be very appreciated by everyone. Yum, yum, yum. They don't sound at all simple to me, by the way.

  3. Live and Learn, I empathize with the unorganized potluck style. I find this sort of thing very frustrating, as well. We've run into it a number of places. As you said, there's plenty of food... but it's silly to have either repeats or missing "expected" items when a couple of simple communications could have at least allowed anyone who cared to tailor what they bring (like you and me, perhaps) to make more useful and/or harmonious choices.

    Lili and Alice, both of your meal plans sound very yummy. Lili, nothing obvious jumps out at me for other make-aheads, unless one of your veggies at dinner was another salad-type dish, or you did day-before prep on potatoes au gratin. (I haven't made those in a while, but I know you can pre-prep scalloped potatoes, so I assume also au gratin?) I think we've discussed before our love of popovers, and if you have the oven space/timing, those are a lot of satisfaction for pretty simple prep, at least. ;)

    I don't know if I discussed our Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws or not, but like you, I had to scale back a little from my normal "holiday dinner" standards/aspirations, due to health/time issues. We generally do something special for breakfast, a hot appetizer with crudites midday, and then the big meal mid- to late-afternoon/early dinnertime (depending on if we have guests with preferences or not.) What I did at Thanksgiving was to offer my in-laws basically our normal "family" festive meal (we always do our own turkey/ham dinner for any holiday, even if we eat somewhere else, too), rather than a "guest" menu (I love to entertain and do a really fancy spread) which I thought would have enough variety for everyone to find "enough" to eat, while providing appropriate items for our special needs folks, as well. Turned out, what's a normal "family" spread for us was oodles of food and plenty of options for them, with desserts they wanted to bring. Like you, Lili, I spread out the pre-prep over a couple of days, and kept those days' meals as simple as possible. This was just enough paring back to allow some rest time in between things, until an hour before the hot appetizers were scheduled to be served... when all the guests descended early, so the last couple of hours was fairly non-stop "cooking in a fishbowl" (we have a tiny house.) LOL But it all turned out well, we had a fun day, and I wasn't too exhausted after.

    As for Christmas menus, I'm still scratching my head. Normally by this time of the year, we'd have made tamales, which we normally send home with one DS for his traditional Christmas Eve dinner, and we also often do that. But I haven't had time or energy for that, so we'll probably do an Italian fondue or nachos. I think we'll probably do just a three-person Christmas Day, and we have a ham in the freezer, as well as some horseradish cranberry relish. That's a good start. :) I'll be thinking over your ideas, and looking at those of others who post for ideas. (wink) We LOVE steak Diane, Lili, and Alice, hooray for tres leches cake! :) Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      I've been keeping your advice in mind all weekend, keeping the rest of the week's meals simple on days when I'm pre-prepping Christmas.
      I've been thinking if I could just do a second salad as the other veggie. That might be a good way to go. And for the potatoes, I'm also thinking about ways I could pre-do those. I've got try-colored potatoes to work with, purple, red-skinned, Yukon gold. I've been thinking of leaving the skins on, cutting into chunks, sprinkling with green onions (from the freezer), and grated cheese before baking. I don't know if I could bake those ahead of time or if just washing the potatoes and grating the cheese ahead of time would be enough pre-prepping so on Christmas I didn't feel harried.

      Your Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner plans sound like they should be much more doable for you, given your limitations this year. And really, it's not about what you eat, but what you're celebrating and who you're with. I think fondue or nachos would be yummy for Christmas Eve. Ham and your condiments sounds like an excellent start for Christmas dinner.

    2. Lili, I love the tri-colored potatoes, and we've used those in years past -- bags of little ones. Our family loves roasted cubed potatoes, and I HAVE done those ahead one time when oven space was limited (they take a while to get really soft inside and browned outside), and reheated them. But the thing that was the tastiest about the first time we did that was that I roasted them with fresh rosemary. Has to be fresh to get the best effect. I had a plant that year, but another year I found some fresh in the produce department. Doing the roasted chunks (or wedges) lets you enjoy each of the colors, and it's okay if there are more purple (seems like there always are?) than other colors. :) Hang in there, Sweetie! Sara

    3. Hi Sara,
      Thank you for sharing your experience. I do have fresh rosemary growing under lights this winter, so that's a possibility for these potatoes. I may roast these a day ahead and then reheat on Christmas Day. That would simplify meal prep for the day of. Thank you!

  4. Hi Lili - A couple of thoughts here on the make ahead aspect of your Christmas Dinner - for your starch, could you make some kind of mashed or garlic mashed potatoes? These reheat well in the oven or crockpot. If you are unable to use dairy, I have subbed chicken broth and some of the potato water in each of these with success. For the garlic mash - adding extra fresh or frozen herbs. Also, a homemade green bean casserole of some kind might do for a veg, again making it the day before and then popping it in the oven on Christmas Day. Or perhaps a roasted veg, such as broccoli, green beans, or carrots just tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper and baked right before the meal. Not sure if these are to your family's tastes, but they came to mind when reading your post.

    1. Hi friend,
      Garlic mashed potatoes sound really yummy. I've been tossing around the idea of either mashed potatoes or baked potato chunks. I have 3 colors of potatoes to work with, as I mentioned above. I have more of the purple than the others, so I could do a purple mashed potatoes and do those a day ahead, then reheat.
      I also like the idea for roasted vegetables done in the oven at the last minute. I could ask my daughter-in-law to watch over those. Even a simple roasted carrots side dish could be tasty. Hmmm, now you've got me thinking. I do have lots of carrots already here, so that could be one of our sides. Thank you!

  5. Lili, you've done a good job of planning simplified meals. I'm in favor of the roasted veggies that were mentioned, above, but I know that oven space can be at a premium when preparing for holiday meals.

    I have overextended myself with hosting events at my house. I held a party for the young adults from our church this past Sunday, I'm hosting Christmas eve for my extended family, and I'm hosting a baby shower in early January, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about simple meals. For Christmas eve, I have decided on a baked potato bar. We are supplying the baked potatoes and chili as a topping and I have assigned other toppings to the rest of the attendees. I've also put my brother in charge of beverages and have told everyone that if they have cookies to share, to bring them along. Our house isn't large, so I'm trying to minimize a lot of up-and-down traffic. I'm borrowing a crockpot and a few chairs, but all in all, I think it will be manageable.

    My husband will do the Christmas day dinner and it will be just the 4 of us. I'm counting on a long winter's nap in the afternoon. ;)

    1. Wow, Kris, you are the busy hostess! I really like your idea for the baked potato bar. Do you keep the potatoes hot in a crockpot? Good on you for asking other attendees to bring toppings and cookies. Your Christmas Eve dinner should all go smoothly.

    2. Yes, I will make the potatoes in crockpots. I'm debating on the easiest way to serve toppings. I think I may have 2 identical sets of toppings at different ends of the table(s) to allow easy access. And perhaps 2 big bowls of chili at both ends. Lots of logistics to figure out.

    3. Good luck with your Christmas Eve dinner, Kris!

  6. We're kind of casual about Christmas meals, and it varies from year to year (my mom ALWAYS did another turkey). Christmas Eve is my birthday, so we don't do a holiday meal that day. Christmas morning, we often have cinnamon rolls or sticky buns or something like that, which I've prepped ahead of time and only need to bake that morning. For our big meal, this year we're also doing steaks, accompanied by baked potatoes, veggies TBD, and dessert TBD, possibly a cheesecake.

    Sounds like you are making the right decision for yourself to scale back somewhat this year. Good for you! The memories will be just as special.


    1. Hi Cat,
      you're absolutely right, the memories will be just as special. Will you ben doing steaks on a grill or indoors? Do you have wintry weather there yet?

      In years' past, we were more casual about Christmas dinner, mostly because I was exhausted by the late afternoon. We did McDonalds and a movie for.Christmas dinner many years. Then we switched to homemade pizza. And then last year I decided to do a nice dinner. So thats' where I am this year, too. I just need to find ways to simplify doing nice dinners.

      Your cinnamon rolls or sticky buns for Christmas breakfast will be very appreciated by your family, I'm sure. What do you make for yourself that's gf?


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