Monday, December 23, 2013

Last Minute Christmas/New Year's Menu Ideas for Busy Cooks

 (Photo credit: Epicurious)

Tomorrow night is Christmas Eve, and it's the "Big Night" for my family. We celebrate with most of Europe, with the whole family gathering for dinner. We head off to church together, and come home for dessert and then we open our gifts. The next morning, we sleep in, call each other, thank each other for our gifts.  Game over. Christmas Day has always been uneventful for me, as I gather all the Christmas paper and choose which bows and gift bags can be recycled for next year. It's a good morning to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and stay in my pajamas for most of the day.

 (Since I've published this post, I need to update that the Prime Rib Dinner turned out to be stellar. You can view the recipe/directions by clicking here.)

My husband finds this to be very odd, since he's born and bred from the Midwest. To him, Christmas Day is when the true celebration begins. So, I'm adding a new tradition of making Christmas Day Brunch for just the two of us-- unless my son doesn't have to work at the restaurant.  Any gifts that have his name on it, are reserved to be opened on Christmas Day

I'm very grateful to be on vacation, and that I have three days to unwind from work prepare for our Christmas Eve Dinner.  Of course, I've managed to pin all kinds of recipes for cookies, cheesecakes, macarons, and cakes. I have most of the ingredients to prepare all of said recipes....but, let's get real.

Full-time working people don't have that kind of time!

Last weekend, I  made  Peanut Butter Chewies, which were gone in 24 hours. I made a big serving of White Chocolate Chex Mix, which disappeared before I could even photograph it in a festive bowl. Bah!

Maybe you're like me? Time is always at a premium, and you want to keep things "real" and simple. You're fretting or undecided on what you could make. Here are a few tried & true recipes that aren't terribly difficult to make.

I never truly found out how to spell this appetizer that my mother made for us. She call is "Cherve" or "Sharvay" or... heck, I don't know how it's spelled  All I can tell you is that it's cream cheese & butter with paprika and chives-- and if I don't make this as an appetizer, and serve it with crackers, or sliced baguettes, there are some very sad family members.

This is the time of year when I can buy organic duck breasts at Whole Foods. It's a decadent and pricey treat, but making it at home was much easier than I imagined it would be. It's also a lot less expensive, and is perfect for a New Year's Eve dinner for two (or three, because my son adores duck).

Cornish Game Hen with Pomegranate Molasses sounds and looks fancy.  Again, this wasn't a lot of fuss to make, as a romantic dinner for two.  I learned how to make my own pomegranate molasses, and it's easier than you'd think.  Again, it's less expensive than going to a high-scale restaurant which is a big bonus.

I show you to to make it, here.

I'm not a big fan of Brussels Sprouts, but my husband adores them. These Roasted Brussells Sprouts, with citrus zest and a pecan vanilla butter, drizzled with the Pomegranate Molasses changed my life. It's a colorful and festive side dish-- and pairs beautifully with any Christmas Day dinner-- be it turkey, prime rib, pork or chicken (probably, not fish, but...)

This Fillet of Beef au Poivre goes waaaaaaaaaay back in my recipes archives-- when I was using my old point-and-shoot camera.  This is the method that I now use to cook perfect steaks-- sear and roast in the oven. This might look fancy, but it's super fast and easy to make.  I've made this for New Year's Eve at home, and my husband loves and appreciates this.  Once again, this is less expensive to make at home and fool-proof (as long as you follow the directions and use a meat thermometer.)

Last, but certainly not least-- Ina Garten's Baked Scampi is one of these easiest "fancy" dinners you could prepare.  I've made this many times, and have used scallops instead of shrimp.  It's fool-proof, I tell you. NOTE: I cannot vouch for any "alterations" of the recipe.  I've followed Ina's instructions, as written, and turned out with perfect results every single time. 

 So, you've got dinner covered-- but what about Christmas Day breakfast or brunch?

This Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Pecan filling is very easy to make. It's perfect for a buffet table, or to nosh on while the kiddos are tearing into their gifts. 

 Ina Garten's Blueberry Crumb cake is pretty easy to make (not too fussy) and is perfect for breakfast/brunch.

I got up at 5:30am to make these Baked Cheese Blintzes with fresh blueberry sauce (I made the sauce the night before) to take to an event.  They're a whole lot quicker to make than the crepe-style blintzes-- and they're an Ina Garten recipe.  I love these.

Do you have leftover eggnog? Or, like my husband, do you dislike eggnog?  Fear not. These Eggnog & Vanilla Bean pancakes are made from scratch, and takes about 5 minutes longer than opening a box of pancake mix. They have a hint of nutmeg and notes of custard-- and they are fluffy enough to soak up pure maple syrup. Yum.

When I make Candied Bacon, that is roasted in the oven, the bidding gets "high" over who gets the last slice.  I show you how to make a disposable "bacon rack" out of heavy aluminum foil. Clever, I tell you!

Yes, I have a girl crush on Ina Garten.  Her Cranberry-Apple Cake is a very fast dessert to make. I have a leftover bag of fresh cranberries, so most likely, this will be made on Decemer 26th-- when the last of the formal china is put away, and I begin to get mentally prepared to box up Christmas, until next year.

If you aren't following me on Facebook, I hope that you will "like" my page. I try to keep in touch more often, by sharing recipes and interacting with the many friends I've met via the internet. I do read each and every comment you leave, and I so appreciate it.  I am always available via email ( and I try to answer emails as quickly as I can.

For tomorrow night, this beautiful prime rib is tucked in our refrigerator.  I have decided to forego our more traditional German recipes. My son and niece love German food, but they are now young adults-- and so it's a more "American" Christmas Eve Dinner.

However-- I will be sound asleep on Christmas Day, while most of America has little kids up bright and early to see what Santa brought them.

I wish each and everyone of you a Blessed and Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth.


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Joanne said...

Normally my family only celebrates Christmas day but this year the.boy and I are splitting up Eve/Day between my family and his. Which means double the food making. Eek!

Sam Hoffer @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I would have a difficult time deciding between your duck or that gorgeous beef.

My family as well as my husband's always celebrated on Christmas day, but we go to my BIL's house and his family observes your Christmas Eve tradition. Still, my husband and I wait until Christmas morning to open presents. As a child, I begged to open presents on Christmas Eve, but that was never going to happen in our house :)

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

bellini said...

So many wonderful ideas Debby. Merry Christmas to you and your daily. I like your new holiday tradition. When we lived closer to our families we celebrated with my family Christmas Eve, spent Christmas Day at hem just the three of us, and spent Boxing day with the in-laws. I liked that tradition.

Jamila said...

COOKED delicious