9 recipes to make Christmas dinner merry

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By: Danielle Waldron
dwaldron@flavor574.com

fixedgear/Flickr

It’s one of the last big dinners of the year, bringing friends and family to your happy home. 

The key to a great Christmas dinner is variety: choices of ham or turkey, salads, potatoes and rolls … to say nothing of cookies and candy to come later. If you’re heading to someone else’s house to celebrate, you can even bring a dish to share. 

Don’t spend your whole day over the stove, though. Most of these recipes can be prepared in advance and kept sealed in the refrigerator or prepped a few hours before — leaving you plenty of time to enjoy quality family time.

SPINACH APPLE SALAD WITH MAPLE-CIDER VINAIGRETTE
From Southern Living. Makes 8 servings.  

Dress up your salad for the holidays with apples and nuts. If you are having a syrup emergency, no sweat — you can make your own maple syrup with just three ingredients.  

Ingredients

For the pecans:

  • 6 oz. pecan halves
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger 
  • ⅛ tsp. curry powder
  • ⅛ tsp. kosher salt 
  • ⅛ tsp. ground red pepper

For the maple-cider vinaigrette: 

  • ⅓ cup cider vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup 
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard 
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt 
  • ⅔  cup olive oil

For the salad: 

  • 10 oz. package fresh baby spinach, washed 
  • 1 Gala apple, thinly sliced 
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced 
  • 4 oz. package crumbled goat cheese

Directions 

  1. Prepare the pecans by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Toss pecans in the butter. Stir together sugar and spices in a separate bowl. Add the pecans and toss to coat. Spread a single layer in a nonstick aluminum foil-lined pan. Bake 10 to 13 minutes or until lightly browned and toasted. Cool in pan on wire rack 20 minutes and separate the pecans with a fork. 
  2. To prepare the dressing, whisk together all ingredients until thoroughly blended. 
  3. To prepare the salad, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle with the desired amount of dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle pecans on top. Serve the salad with any remaining dressing. 

BUTTER FLAKE DINNER ROLLS
From Dessert Now, Dinner Later. Makes 2½ dozen rolls. 

Your family will taste the difference if you make these pull-apart homemade rolls instead of the canned dough from the dairy aisle. They take a few extra steps, but will fly off the table in no time. 

Ingredients 

  • 2 large eggs, whisked 
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • 5 ¾ cups flour 
  • 7 tbsp. sugar
  • 7 tbsp. shortening 
  • 7 tbsp. milk powder
  • 1 tbsp. salt 
  • 5 tsp. instant dry yeast
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup butter, melted

Directions 

  1. Place all the ingredients except the butter in a stand mixer with the hook attachment on low speed for 20 to 25 minutes. The dough should form a ball and pull away from the bowl so the bowl looks clean. 
  2. Take the dough out of the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a square, cover with a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes. 
  3. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin into a half-inch thick square. Spread the softened butter on two-thirds of the square. Do a tri-fold by folding the non-buttered side over first, then the buttered side on top of that. Place the dough on a baking sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes. 
  4. Once the butter has chilled inside the dough, flatten the dough again vertically about one-fourth of an inch thick. Brush the melted butter on the center half of the dough. Fold the bottom fourth of the dough up and the top fourth of the dough down so that the ends meet in the middle. Flatten gently with a rolling pin. 
  5. Brush the melted butter on the bottom half of the fold and fold the top half over. 
  6. Using a rolling pin, flatten the strip of dough to 1 inch thick and 3 inches wide, cutting into half-inch thick pieces. Take each piece, lay flat and roll from the top down. 
  7. Put the rolls into a sprayed muffin pan and cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let rise for two hours. 
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes. Brush the hot rolls with the remaining melted butter. 

CREAMY MACARONI AND CHEESE
From Food Network. Makes 12 servings. 

Macaroni and cheese is one of those dishes that sticks around in the family — find a recipe you love, and chances are you’ll make it for years to come. Whether it’s baked, cooked on the stove or smothered in breadcrumbs, it’s hard to mess up when making this comfort food.

This recipe is rich, but was a favorite of mine when I still ate dairy. (If you don’t do dairy, here’s a vegan mac and cheese recipe.) Since this recipe uses the slow cooker, it’s great to make if you have guests dropping in throughout the day. 

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni 
  • 4 tbsp. butter, cut into pieces 
  • 2½ cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten 
  • ½ cup sour cream 
  • 1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup 
  • ½ tsp. salt 
  • 1 cup milk (can use whole, but I used skim) 
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard 
  • ½ tsp. black pepper

Directions 

  1. Boil the macaroni in a 2-quart saucepan in plenty of water until tender, about 7 minutes, then drain. 
  2. In a medium saucepan, mix the butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. 
  3. In a slow cooker, combine the cheese/butter mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper, and stir well. Add the drained macaroni and stir again. 
  4. Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. 

HONEY-ROASTED MAPLE CARROTS
From The Café Sucré Farine. Makes 4-6 servings. 

Pure maple syrup adds just the right amount of sweetness, taking honey-roasted carrots to the next level. 

Ingredients 

  • 2 lbs. carrots, peeled and sliced vertically 
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1½ tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. sea salt 
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh chives
  • ½ cup pomegranate arils or seeds

Directions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a sheet pan. 
  2. Place carrots on prepared pan and drizzle with olive oil, maple syrup and honey. Sprinkle with coriander, sea salt and pepper. Toss to coat by using hands or a spatula until well-coated. Spread carrots on pan in a single layer. 
  3. Roast for 10 minutes and stir. Return to oven and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until tender and caramelized. 
  4. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and herbs over the carrots and serve, adding salt and pepper as needed. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle in pomegranate seeds. 

DUCHESS POTATOES
From The Pioneer Woman. Makes 16 servings.

Duchess potatoes look like a fancy dinner roll but are similar in taste to twice-baked potatoes. If you don’t have a pastry bag for the piping, that’s OK. You can fill a plastic zipper bag with the potatoes and snip off a small bit of the bag in the lower corner to pipe. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs. Russet potatoes, peeled and boiled until fork tender
  • 8 whole egg yolks 
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 stick butter, softened 
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg 
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay boiled potatoes on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly dried on the surface. 
  2. Remove the potatoes from the oven and process potatoes through a food mill. Allow to cool in a bowl for about 5 minutes. Add egg yolks, butter, a couple pinches of salt, a pinch of pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and ¾ cup cream. Stir with a rubber spatula to combine. 
  3. Transfer to a large pastry bag and pipe through a large start tip in an upward spiral motion. 
  4. Make an egg wash by mixing 1 egg with ½ cup heavy cream. Lightly brush the piped potatoes with the egg wash. 
  5. Bake at 375 degrees until potatoes are golden brown around the edges. 

CROCK POT CRANBERRY PECAN STUFFING
From Krafted Koch. Makes 12 servings. 

Give your oven a break with a festive stuffing that is just as good with the turkey as it is as a side. 

Ingredients 

  • 12 oz. bag cubed stuffing
  • 1 cup leeks, chopped
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten 
  • ½ tsp. salt 
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard

Directions 

  1. Toss the cubed stuffing with leeks, cranberries, raisins and pecans in a sprayed slow cooker. In a medium bowl, whisk chicken broth, melted butter, egg, ground mustard, salt and pepper. 
  2. Pour over the bread mixture in the slow cooker and gently fold. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours. 

HONEY-ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH CRANBERRIES AND FETA
From Peas & Crayons. Makes 3 servings. 

Instead of sweet potatoes, switch it up with butternut squash while it’s still in season. This colorful dish is sweet and savory, using ingredients you might already have in the house. 

Ingredients 

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil 
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2-3 tbsp. honey 
  • ¼ cup finely crumbled feta
  • Ground cinnamon to taste
  • Fresh or dried parsley to garnish 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Lightly drizzle or spritz a baking sheet with olive oil. 
  3. Add cubed squash to the sheet along with another drizzle of olive oil. 
  4. Sprinkle with a light layer of salt, pepper and garlic powder to your liking. 
  5. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes on the center rack of the oven. 
  6. After 25 minutes, pull out the pan, add the cranberries, and return to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cranberries start to burst slightly. 
  7. Remove from oven and add a sprinkle of cinnamon along with the feta cheese and honey. 
  8. Garnish with parsley. 

GARLIC-ROSEMARY TURKEY
From Taste of Home. Makes 10 servings. 

You might just be coming out of your tryptophan nap from Thanksgiving or finally finishing one of many leftover turkey sandwiches, but this recipe packs a garlicky flavor for guests who might want turkey instead of ham … or a little bit of both. 

Ingredients 

  • 1 whole turkey, 10-12 lbs. 
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 large lemons, halved
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil 
  • 2 tsp. tried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 tsp. rubbed sage

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut 6 to 8 small slits in the turkey skin and insert garlic under the skin. Squeeze two lemon halves inside the turkey and the remaining halves over the outside of the turkey. Place lemons in the cavity. 
  2. Tuck the wings under the turkey and tie the drumsticks together. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan, breast side up. Brush with oil; sprinkle with rosemary and sage and let roast for one hour. 
  3. Cover the turkey with foil, roast 2½ hours longer or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 170-175 degrees. Baste occasionally with pan drippings. 
  4. Remove the turkey from the oven and let stand 20 minutes before carving. 

SLOW COOKER GLAZED HAM
From Creme de la Crumb. Makes about 8 servings. 

You could get a ham already made from the store, but this recipe is so low-maintenance, you don’t have to. Get any size ham you wish, just be mindful of how much space you have in the slow cooker and how many you are feeding. Heads up: This is one sweet ham. 

Ingredients 

  • 1 fully cooked ham (be sure it will fit in the slow cooker) 
  • 1¼ cups brown sugar
  • ¼ cup spicy brown mustard
  • ¾ cup Dr Pepper (half of a can)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup

Directions 

  1. Score ham by using a sharp knife to cut lines into the ham in a crisscross pattern, about ⅛ of an inch deep. Fill the slow cooker with about 1 inch of water. Place the ham in the slow cooker, cover and cook for 4 to 6 hours. 
  2. While cooking, prepare the sauce by whisking the brown sugar, mustard, Dr Pepper and syrup in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand to thicken for about 10 minutes. 
  3. Drain water and ham juices from the slow cooker. Pour sauce over the ham inside the slow cooker, being sure to cover the whole ham. Cook and cover for another 30 minutes. 

Follow digital producer Danielle Waldron on Twitter at @DanielleWaldron

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