Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christmas - The Food!

This being the first major holiday we hosted at home, it was my first time making a big holiday dinner.  And, of course, I got in way over my head and decided to do it all from scratch.  Many thanks to the several food blogs I got my recipes from!

Let's start with dessert (because we all know that's the best part!):

Pumpkin Pie with homemade whipped cream
 Recipe: Pumpkin Pie from Paula Deen
I've made this pie several times since I first discovered the recipe a few years ago.  Not bragging, but EVERY time I make it, there are rave reviews.  The addition of cream cheese lightens up the texture and gives a little different flavor.  I've had people tell me, "I don't really like pumpkin pie, but this is good!" (BTW I cheated and used a pre-made pie crust because the thought of making pie crust is anxiety inducing) 

Recipe: Whipped Cream from  
Its so simple (and even easier with an electric mixer) and tastes so much better than the stuff in the can or tub.  Just try it once and you'll never go back!

Onto dinner!  We had a Honeybaked Ham as the centerpiece.  While the instructions were to just bring it to room temperature, I stuck it in the oven to warm it through.  If all our food was going to be warm, I wasn't serving room temp ham.

The sides included green bean casserole, macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, a veggie platter and cranberry-orange sauce.  And I made biscuits to go with it all.

Left: Green Bean Casserole, Right: Macaroni & Cheese
Recipe: Green Bean Casserole  by Alton Brown via Brown Eyed Baker
If you like the usual Campbell's soup version, you'll LOVE this!  And if you don't like the canned soup stuff, I think you'll still like this.  I cheated and used the canned fried onions because, really, I had enough going on in the kitchen.  This dish was my favorite of the night.  

Recipe: Classic Macaroni & Cheese from Cook's Illustrated via Annie's Eats
This wasn't all I hoped it would be.  While it was creamy and cheesy and had a nice crunch from the topping, there was something missing.  To be fair, I left out the dry mustard because I didn't have any and subbed some medium cheddar for part of the colby jack because I didn't have enough colby jack.  So perhaps those changes altered the final taste.  Honestly, this got better when reheated I think. I think I'll have to keep searching for the perfect mac 'n cheese recipe.

Cranberry-Orange Sauce
 Recipe: Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce by Two Peas and their Pod
I made this particular version for the first time at Thanksgiving.  It consists of water, sugar, cranberries, orange zest and orange juice.  So simple, so easy, so delicious.  I accidentally put too much orange zest in this time, giving it a strong citrus taste, but I still think it was pretty good.  Plus the leftovers can be used to make all kinds of things from cranberry cream cheese spread to cranberry muffins!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Recipe: Mashed Sweet Potatoes inspired by Paula Deen
I didn't follow her recipe exactly, but I mashed up the potatoes after boiling, added butter until melted then incorporated honey, cinnamon and salt to taste.  These were simple and delicious!  A little sweet, a little salty with a hint of cinnamon...mmm.  I ate these multiple times as leftovers and plan to make these throughout the year!

Cream Biscuits
Recipe: Cream Biscuits by the editors of Cook's Illustrated via Smells Like Home
I've never made homemade biscuits before because I've always been intimated.  I've heard stories of rock hard pucks or tasteless and crumbly mounds of dough.  I know the key is cutting in ice cold butter, etc and that's too much work when I'm making all this other stuff.  I came across these biscuits and knew I had to try.  These things are amazing!  Soft, buttery, flaky.  And no cutting in butter!  Just heavy cream, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder stirred with a wooden spoon and cut out.  I actually bought some  cream today so I can make them again! 

The spread
I had so much fun cooking up Christmas dinner for my family.  It was hectic and stressful and messy, but very rewarding!  I hope you get in the kitchen and try one of these recipes for your loved ones.

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