Happy Holidays!! At our house, we love to really throw down for the holidays. This year will be no different! But you have to remember that it's not all about the food... it's about spending time with friends and family! With that in mind, we have put together this "Make Ahead Christmas Dinner Ideas" recipe roundup to help moderate your time in the kitchen during the holidays.
CHRISTMAS DINNER IDEAS
Over the years, we've enjoyed Christmas dinner a lot of different ways. I can remember way back to when I was really young my Aunt cooking huge roasts with so many sides you could sink a ship. My Papa would always get the charred end bits that smelled divine. It was a delicious but stressful affair. But I also remember fondly that she used to make Jello Fluff which was my absolute favorite dessert in the world. It's funny because I haven't thought about that in probably 25 years now. It still makes me smile from ear-to-ear. I might have to dig out that recipe somewhere.
When I started to cook Christmas dinner for the family about a decade ago, we went through various themes (French brasserie style, Simply Seafood, Lamb Delight etc) which was really fun... for a while. It was a lot of work, but to see the enjoyment on the faces of the people I love was worth the investment of time. Then it started to become really stressful with timing needing to be "just right" to get everything plated and on the table. I found myself shoveling through my food so I could get back in the kitchen for the next course. I was missing the experience.
Now that our kids are old enough, I find that I want to spend as much time with them throughout the day as possible. The kitchen has taken a back seat to making memories and being present in their lives during a special time. Instead, I try to make as much of the food for Christmas dinner ahead of time. All I have to do now is reheat and serve. This is why we put together this list of Christmas Dinner Ideas (including some starters, mains and sides) that you can make ahead of time. Eat delicious food, but spend time in the moment with the people you want around you.
ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS
Over the last several years, we have changed our holiday tradition for Christmas Eve. For years, we would feast on delicious ham that my mother-in-law makes along with family side dishes that we only experience one time a year. The carrot souffle is fantastic. We found that with a huge Christmas Eve dinner and another rich Christmas Day Dinner that we were really overdoing it.
So, we decided to open our house to friends and family on Christmas eve for a Mexican Fiesta. Sounds strange, right? That's the point! It's different and unexpected. People love to come and spend the evening sampling salsas, noshing on guacamole and homemade tortilla chips. You can make taco salads or create a burrito like no other. And don't even get me started on the margarita bar!
We love opening our house for everyone to congregate, meet new people, catch up with old friends and enjoy a light and satisfying meal. Even for our Fiesta, I'm able to make everything ahead of time... so I can spend time catching up. This year is particularly important because we have been gone from the States for almost seven months. The last thing I want to do is be running around the kitchen like a madman.
I hope that this quick list of Make-Ahead Christmas Dinner Ideas will give you some inspiration so you can spend more time enjoying the holidays and less time in the kitchen!
MAKE AHEAD RECIPE ALTERATIONS
You'll notice that I have included some things like my Ultimate Iceberg Wedge Salad and might be thinking "how do I make that ahead of time?" Well, it's easy. Go ahead and slice the wedges, cover with cellophane and store in the fridge. Make the dressing ahead, the bacon bits, the candied walnuts. Store and then simply assemble. To make 10 of these salads on Christmas day will take about 10 minutes total if you plan ahead.
The same can be said for any of the chicken dishes. Make the chicken ahead of time, allow to cool and then store properly in the fridge. When you need to reheat, allow it to come to room temp and reheat with a bit of chicken stock or water. If the chicken has a topping, make that in advance and reheat in a non-stick pan. If it is a creamy topping, plan to thin with just a touch of water or milk.
If you have any questions on how to make any of the Christmas Dinner Ideas ahead of time, please comment or contact me! I'll get back to you just as soon as I can.
Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!!