The holidays are a seemingly never-ending parade of dinners, get-togethers, pot-lucks and open houses. Having a few go-to recipes can make home cooking a snap during these hectic days!
1.) Always make a salad. Salad is light and filling, and can be as festive as you want to make it!
Cherry, Almond and Herb Salad
(Food Network, Aida Mollencamp)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
5 ounces washed and dried lamb’s lettuce, stemmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup dried tart cherries
In a small skillet, toast the sliced almonds until just browned; set aside.
Combine the herbs and lettuce in a bowl and toss to combine; set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar and season well with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed. Top with the cherries and almonds and serve immediately.
2.) Break out the slow cooker. From chili to brisket, you can double whatever recipe you’re making to feed a crowd or to have another meal ready and waiting in the freezer for the following week.
Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker
Makes 16 servings (about 4 pounds of cooked meat)
2 tablespoons kosher salt, preferably smoked
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons garlic powder (no salt)
2 teaspoons onion powder (no salt)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 pork shoulder or pork butt (7 to 8 lbs with bone, 6 to 7 lbs if boneless)
2 medium onions, quartered
1 1/2 cups cane-sweetened cola (not diet)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Heat the oven: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 500°F. (Use convection if you have it.) Fit a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
Make the rub: Place the salt, brown sugar, paprika, black pepper, chili powder, smoked paprika, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, cornstarch, cayenne, and celery seed in a small bowl and mix to combine.
Roast the pork: Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Evenly coat the meat with rub. Reserve the remaining rub. Place the meat on the wire rack fat-side up if possible. Roast until the meat is sizzling with a bit of char on the edges, about 10 minutes, but don’t let the spices burn and turn acrid.
Prep the slow cooker: Meanwhile, place the onions in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Sprinkle with the reserved rub. Pour in the cola, vinegar, and Worcestershire.
Add the meat: Carefully transfer the meat to the slow cooker. (Try stabbing a fork into each end to use as handles.) Cover and cook on LOW until the meat is soft enough to pull apart with a spoon, 14 to 16 hours.
Shred the meat: Transfer the meat to a large bowl and let stand until cool enough to handle. Pull the meat apart into large chunks or shred with a fork, discarding any bone, connective tissue, and large clumps of fat.
Strain the liquid: Pour the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl and discard the solids. If you are serving immediately, spoon off as much fat as possible from the surface. For best results, refrigerate until the fat solidifies and collects on top, then scrape off and discard the fat (keep the meat covered and refrigerated during this time).
Moisten the meat: Toss the meat with enough defatted cooking liquid to moisten. Serve the meat warm, or let cool, cover, and refrigerate to use in other recipes.
Make ahead: The spice rub can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few months.
Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
3.) And of course, there must be dessert! The holidays call for decadent confections of all kinds. Here’s one of our favorites!
Festive Red Velvet Cake
Makes: 12 to 16 servings
Prep 50 mins
2-layer size package German chocolate cake mix
8 ounce container dairy sour cream
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup cooking oil
Red food coloring (2 tablespoons)
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups coconut shards, purchased coconut chips or flaked coconut, toasted Sugared cranberries (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9×1-1/2-inch round cake pans or two 8x8x2-inch square baking pans or coat with nonstick spray for baking; set aside.
In a large bowl, beat cake mix, sour cream, water, oil, eggs, and food coloring with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl. Beat mixture on medium speed for beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. Spread batter evenly into prepared pans.
Bake cakes for 25 to 30 minutes for 9-inch pans or 30 to 35 minutes for square pans or until a toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans. Cool thoroughly on wire racks.
Spread White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and over sides and top of cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Cover and chill cake to store. If you like, garnish with sugared cranberries. Makes 12 to 16 servings.
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
4 ounces white baking chocolate
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 8 – ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
4 cups powdered sugar
In a small saucepan, melt white baking chocolate over low heat, stirring frequently; cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a very large mixing bowl, beat butter, softened; cream cheese, softened; and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds or until smooth. Gradually beat in 2 cups powdered sugar. Beat in 1 tablespoon milk. Gradually beat in an additional 2 cups powdered sugar. Beat in melted white chocolate until well combined. If needed, beat in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make frosting spreading consistency. Makes about 2-2/3 cups.
4.) Don’t forget the kiddies!
Quick kid-friendly “gingerbread” houses
1 box of graham crackers
3 egg whites, room temperature
4 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. of cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Assorted candies for decorating
- Start with a stiff cardboard base covered with aluminum foil for your “lot.”
- Out of the graham crackers, cut two long pieces and two short pieces, each with points on the end.
- Make “glue” (royal icing) by beating egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and vanilla for 7-10 minutes, or until very stiff.
- Glue two whole graham crackers on top for roof after gluing the four pieces above together to form base of the house.
- Use glue to attach gumdrops, peppermint drops, chocolate sandwich cookies, M&Ms, etc.
- For a shingled roof, add rows of vanilla wafers or dried banana chips.
- Make a front porch with additional graham crackers and candy canes as posts.
- Licorice works well for trim, and you can add a dusting of snow with coconut.