Christmas Cooking For Dummies book cover

Christmas Cooking For Dummies

By: Dede Wilson Published: 10-16-2001

Look no further for tips and recipes for whipping up a dazzling array of delicious holiday meals — without stress!

Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year -- and Americans traditionally love to celebrate the season with food, food, and more food. This easy guide shows cooks of every generation how to plan and prepare scrumptious seasonal treats. It includes:

  • 100 delicious recipes for hassle-free holiday meals, including Warm White Bean Dip, Four-Cheese
  • Spinach Lasagne, and Chocolate Truffle Tart
  • Tips, checklists, and charts, plus step-by-step guides and shopping lists for special holiday meals, including a Christmas Tree-Trimming Party
  • A special section on Christmas decorating and food gifts from the kitchen
  • 16 pages of color photos featuring holiday meal recipes and kitchen-made gifts and decorations

Articles From Christmas Cooking For Dummies

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105 results
105 results
Christmas Eve Seafood Stew

Article / Updated 11-20-2020

An Italian Christmas Eve tradition involves a multi-course seafood dinner where you might enjoy a delicious seafood stew. This holiday dish is sure to impress. just round it off with some crusty bread and perhaps a salad and cheese course. Although this is a low-fat recipe, it doesn't skimp on flavor. Low-Fat Seafood Stew Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 25 minutes Yield: 8 servings 1/4 cup olive oil 2 large yellow onions, diced 1 fennel bulb, chopped and diced, fennel tops reserved 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon thyme 2 teaspoons crushed rosemary 1 bay leaf 4 cups bottled clam juice 2 cups dry white wine 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped 2 dozen small clams, scrubbed 2 dozen mussels, scrubbed 2 pounds sea bass fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces 2 dozen large shrimp (20 to 25 shrimp per pound size) Three 4-ounce frozen lobster tails, defrosted, cut into thirds Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and sauté until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes total. Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf and sauté 3 minutes more, or until the onion is translucent. Add the clam juice, wine, and tomatoes. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. When the liquid is at a simmer, add the clams and mussels and cook 2 minutes. Add the sea bass, shrimp, and lobster tails and cook for a few more minutes until the shrimp is pink and the fish and lobster is opaque. Be careful not to overcook. While the stew cooks, chop the fennel fronds. Ladle into bowls, top with fennel fronds, and serve immediately. Break up this recipe to make your last-minute preparations as brief as possible. Prepare the recipe through Step 2 either the morning of the dinner or the night before. Just bring the liquid mixture to a boil and proceed from Step 3.

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Cassoulet: An Inexpensive Main Dish for Christmas

Article / Updated 12-05-2016

Cassoulet is a festive, budget-friendly main dish that's just right for a family Christmas dinner. This version of the classic French casserole makes a rich bean stew full of five types of meat. You can make it a month ahead and freeze, so it's a perfect dish for holiday entertaining. This cassoulet benefits from an overnight rest in the refrigerator. Serve this with crusty bread and a green salad for a complete meal. Rich Bean Cassoulet with Five Meats Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 1 1/2 hours Yield: 8 to 10 servings 6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch wide pieces 2 onions, diced 2 celery stalks, diced 2 carrots, diced 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 teaspoons thyme 1 bay leaf 4 chicken thighs 1 pound cubed lamb (2-inch pieces) 1 pound cubed pork (2-inch pieces) 1 pound kielbasa or garlic sausage, cut into 1-inch thick slices Two 15-ounce cans Great Northern beans (or other small white beans), drained 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice 1 cup dry white wine Pepper to taste 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs, preferably from French bread 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley Sauté the bacon in large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat until it’s just beginning to crisp, about 6 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat and discard the rest. Sauté the onions, celery and carrots in the bacon fat over medium heat until the veggies soften and begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the thyme and bay leaf and chicken thighs. Brown thighs over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Remove the thighs and add cubed lamb and pork. Brown the cubes, about 5 minutes. You don’t have to cube the pork and lamb yourself. Ask your butcher to make the lamb cubes from the leg and the pork cubes from the loin, both of which are leaner than the shoulder. You should be able to make this request of supermarket meat department butchers. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add the bacon back into the pot, along with the thighs, sausage, beans, tomatoes, and wine. Season with pepper and bring to a boil over medium heat. Top with the breadcrumbs, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 1 hour, or until the topping is crisp and the cassoulet is bubbling. Top with parsley and serve immediately. To make this dish ahead, prepare through Step 3 without preheating the oven or bringing the ingredients to a boil. Cool to room temperature, place in an airtight container, and freeze for up to a month or refrigerate overnight. Defrost and/or reheat, bring back to a boil, and proceed with Step 4. Two kinds of bay leaf are on the market. Some come from California and have a quite strong flavor. Turkish bay leaf is preferred. It is milder and has a depth of flavor that the domestic variety just can’t match. Try using a bay leaf in salt-free dishes to perk up the flavors. And don’t forget to remove the bay leaf after cooking. You don’t eat it!

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How to Make Turkey Soup Out of Thanksgiving Leftovers

Article / Updated 04-26-2016

Most people have a mountain of leftover turkey the day after the big Thanksgiving meal. This soup is a creative and easy way to make use of those tasty leftovers, even if they are just scraps. Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 35 minutes Yield: 10 servings 5 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 onion, chopped 1 garlic clove, minced 3 celery stalks, diced 3 carrots, peeled and diced 1 teaspoon thyme 1 teaspoon sage 3 large all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels 1/2 cup frozen lima beans 6 cups turkey or chicken broth 1 1/2 pounds (about 3 cups) cooked leftover turkey, diced or shredded 1/2 cup frozen peas 1 cup heavy cream 1 cup whole milk Salt and pepper to taste Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, thyme, and sage and cook until the vegetables soften, about 12 minutes. Add the potatoes, corn, lima beans, broth, and turkey and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the peas, cream and milk, season with salt and pepper, and heat over medium heat, but do not let the soup boil. Serve immediately or cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat gently. You don’t have to use the precise frozen vegetables listed in this recipe. Use whatever you have or even leftover vegetables from the night before. Just replace with equal amounts. If you use cooked, leftover vegetables, just add them in Step 3 with the cream and milk. Per serving: Calories 294 (From Fat 171); Fat 19g (Saturated 11g); Cholesterol 72mg; Sodium 735mg; Carbohydrate 21g (Dietary Fiber 3g); Protein 11g.

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Simple Ideas for Thanksgiving Decorating

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Even though Thanksgiving conjures up images of pilgrims and Indians, you can choose from a variety of colors and styles aside from this traditional theme for decorating. Choose from the many colors, items, and accent pieces in the following table to get ideas or inspiration for your Thanksgiving decorating. Because Thanksgiving is centered around celebrating a bountiful harvest, preserved flowers and displays of fruit fit into the decorating scheme. Although you may not like the idea of decorating with potatoes or rhubarb, you can refer to their colors when choosing accessories or accent pieces. Of course, if you want to decorate with sweet potatoes, don’t let anyone stop you! Inspiration Pieces for Thanksgiving Colors Fabrics Botanicals Accent Items Deep tones of reds or wines Velvets Pumpkins and gourds Woven baskets Browns Chenille Autumn Leaves Wreaths made of natural materials such as vines, wheat, leaves, twigs, or berries Purples in eggplant or grape Heavy cottons Twigs Metals in antiqued gold, bronze, or rust finishes (pewter is pretty for this holiday as well) Greens: from deep sage to light pear Fleece Sheaves of wheat Earthenware Golds: from bright yellows to antiqued gold Tweeds Nuts Candles in pillars, tapers, or votives Creams: from ivory to white Flannels Chrysanthemums Pilgrims Oranges: from pumpkin to sweet potato Wools Roses Native American Indians Tapestries Fruit: pomegranates, cranberries, grapes, blackberries, kumquats, apples pears Cornucopias Vegetables: corn, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, beets, squashes

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Ten Ways to Use Turkey Leftovers

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Most Thanksgiving hosts find themselves with a ton of turkey leftovers. Well, lucky you! If you are already tired of reliving the same dinner over and over, you can whip up many, many dishes with this bounty. Simply shred or dice the cooked turkey and create a Turkey omelet: Whip up an omelet and load the middle with turkey and your cheese of choice. Burrito: Warm some tortillas and fold up turkey, rice, beans, and cheese. Top with salsa and sour cream. Sandwich: Yummy! White bread, stuffing, turkey, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Stuffed potato: Bake a potato, stuff with lots of shredded cheese, steamed broccoli, and turkey, and return to the over until bubbling. Turkey salad: Combine cooked turkey with curried mayonnaise, add diced celery and chopped parsley, and season to taste. Caesar salad: Crown a salad with warm turkey and top with a Caesar dressing. Curry: Sauté onion and garlic, and then add curry spices, turkey, and some canned tomatoes. Serve with rice and yogurt. Turkey Soup: You can boil the turkey bones to make a broth, add minced vegetables, and turkey you have a hearty meal. Turkey casserole: Throw chopped turkey into a casserole recipe, such as turkey tetrazzini, or turkey and wild rice casserole. Turkey pot pies: Combine broth, vegetables, and leftover turkey in a pie pan or casserole dish, top with a baking mix crust, mashed potatoes, or pastry crust and bake!

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How to Make Royal Icing

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Royal Icing for decorating sugar cookies is easy to make and can be tinted any color. Cookies decorated with Royal Icing harden to a solid finish, making the cookies perfect for hanging on the Christmas tree, stacking in tins, or mailing to friends. Royal Icing Preparation time: 8 minutes Yield: 2/3 cup 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted 1 large egg white (or an equivalent amount of reconstituted powdered egg white) * Using a balloon whip attachment, combine the confectioners sugar and the egg white in a mixer’s bowl on low speed. Turn the speed up to high and whip until the icing is thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add a little water for a thinner consistency or more sugar for a thicker consistency. Use the icing immediately or refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to one week. You will need to re-beat the icing before using. Although Royal Icing can be stored, it’s best used fresh. It’s so quick to make that preparing it right before you use it isn’t difficult. * If you have a compromised immune system or are very young or elderly, your doctor may suggest not eating raw eggs. Meringue powder, which can be purchased at craft stores and anywhere cake decorating ingredients are found, can be used in place of egg whites. Substitute 5 tablespoons meringue powder, reconstituted per the manufacturer’s instructions, for one egg white. Here’s what you need to know about making and working with Royal Icing: You can use food coloring to color Royal Icing. Paste colors are best. They can be found at craft stores that have a cake-decorating section or they can be bought through mail order companies. Use tiny bits at a time, as the coloring is very concentrated. Just add a dab, beat it in, assess the color, and then add a bit more coloring, if desired. Very dark colors can be difficult to achieve. If you add too much color, the icing begins to taste a bit off. Be judicious. To completely cover a cookie with icing, make a thick icing and pipe an outline all the way around the border of the cookie. Use a pastry bag with a #2 tip. Allow the border to dry, then flood the cookie with a thinner icing. Two colors of icing can be marbled together. Make an outline in one color. Partially flood the interior with that color and the rest with an alternative color. Draw a toothpick this way and that through the two colors to create a marbled appearance. Flavoring may be added, as well as coloring. Vanilla extract is an obvious choice, but it adds color. Look for colorless vanilla extract or use artificial vanilla. Another option is almond extract, which is colorless. After making Royal Icing, keep it covered with a damp cloth or a crust will form. While the icing is wet, you can sprinkle colored sugars on top for color, texture, and sparkle.

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How to Make Velvety Rich Spinach Lasagna

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You may not think of lasagna for Christmas dinner, but it’s a real crowd pleaser that's inexpensive to make. This meatless recipe for spinach lasagna is a great make-ahead dish that you can freeze and then reheat in the microwave. This dish is velvety rich and will satisfy both vegetarians and meat eaters. It has a cream sauce enhanced by mascarpone (cheese #1) and sun-dried tomatoes, then layered with pasta, spinach, sautéed onions, red wine, ricotta (#2), mozzarella, (#3), Parmesan (#4), and Romano (#5). The sun-dried tomatoes and spinach give it a delicate red and green Christmas theme. Serve with a big green salad with tangy balsamic vinaigrette and a loaf of crusty bread. Velvety Rich Spinach Lasagna Tools: 4-quart baking dish (15 x 10 x 2 inches) Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 45 minutes Yield: 12 servings 1 pound lasagna noodles 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 4 cups whole milk, at room temperature 3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (yields 3/4 cup) 1 cup mascarpone 1 pound fresh spinach leaves, stemmed 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 medium onions, sliced 3 cloves garlic, minced 1/4 cup dry red wine 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese 1 pound mozzarella, grated Salt and pepper to taste Boil the lasagna noodles per the manufacturer’s instructions. Drain and rinse with water to prevent sticking. You can also use no-boil noodles. Boiling lasagna noodles is no big deal, but in some markets you can find no-boil noodles. They are somewhere between fresh pasta and dried and can be layered with the other components of the recipe without being boiled first. They cost more but save you time. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F now if you will be baking the lasagna right away. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the flour. Whisk until smooth and cook for 2 minutes, whisking often, to remove the raw taste from the flour. Slowly whisk in the milk and chopped tomatoes. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a simmer and thickens, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the mascarpone, season liberally with salt and pepper, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the onions until they’re very soft; add the garlic and continue to cook until the onions begin to caramelize, about 8 minutes total. Add the red wine and cook for 1 minute until the onions absorb the wine. Season with salt and pepper. Rinse the spinach leaves and shake off the excess water. Place in a large pot, cover, and cook over medium heat until they cook down, about 5 minutes. The water clinging to the spinach leaves is enough to steam them. Drain in a colander and squeeze out excess water. Place in large bowl and stir in ricotta, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses. Season with salt and pepper. To use frozen spinach instead of fresh, buy a 1-pound bag or a box of frozen whole leaf spinach, cook it according to the package instructions, and drain well; then proceed with the recipe. Layer the lasagna in a 4-quart baking dish (15 x 10 x 2 inches): Spread one-third of the cheese/tomato sauce evenly across the bottom of the dish. Top with one-third of the noodles, cutting the noodles to fit, if necessary. Spread half the spinach mixture on top, then half the onion mixture. Sprinkle with one-third of the mozzarella. Repeat. The final layer is made with noodles, sauce, and mozzarella on top. You can substitute skim mozzarella and ricotta for the whole milk versions if you like. Any way you make it, however, this dish is rich. If you can’t find mascarpone cheese, substitute an equal amount of ricotta. Bake immediately for about 45 minutes, or cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to two days. You can also freeze the uncooked lasagna for up to a month. (Remove the plastic and bring to room temperature before baking.) If your oven is full, you can microwave the lasagna, but you'll probably have to cut it in half and put the halves in smaller pans; measure your microwave! Microwave at full power for about 20 minutes. Regardless of how you cook it, the lasagna should be bubbly and lightly browned on the top. Let rest for 5 minutes after removing from oven and serve.

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Easy Family Meals for Christmas Morning

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Whether you're having breakfast or brunch on Christmas morning, make it easy to prepare. Here are some inexpensive ideas for feeding your family on Christmas Day. Set out a glass bowl of granola, pitchers of juice and milk, a platter of fresh fruit, a bowl of vanilla yogurt, and a basket of muffins or breakfast pastries from the bakery. Make coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, and you’re ready. How about bagels, smoked salmon, and cream cheese? Add a platter of sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, some lemon wedges, and a sprinkling of capers. Prepare a breakfast casserole the night before and just shove it in the oven in the morning. For a sweet fix, offer some cream cheese mixed with honey, raisins, and chopped walnuts. This is great spread on whole wheat bagels. In fact, making cream cheese spreads is easy. Try chopped sundried tomatoes, fresh herbs, or classic chive — you name it. Make a big batch of oatmeal and serve with a buffet of add-ons: dried fruit, nuts, coconut, diced apples or pears, sliced bananas, applesauce, cinnamon, yogurt, milk, sunflower seeds, and mini-chocolate chips, if you’re feeling decadent. If you just can’t handle making breakfast first thing, serve juice and coffee and yell, “Presents!” really loud. No one will notice the lack of food.

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Classic Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Nothing says “Christmas” like these delectable sugar cookies with icing. Bake them for the family or offer them as small holiday gifts to friends and coworkers. Enjoy the sugar cookies plain, or dress them up for Christmas with Royal Icing. Classic Sugar Cookies with Optional Icing Recipe Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 8 minutes; 2 hours cooling time Yield: Thirty-six 3-inch cookies 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature 1-1/2 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 large eggs 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour Sugar or colored sugar (optional) Beat the butter in a mixer until it’s creamy. Use a flat paddle attachment on medium-high speed. With the mixer running, add the sugar gradually and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the salt and the eggs, one at a time. Mix well after each addition. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Use large eggs, or the balance of the recipe will be thrown off. Turn off the mixer and add about one-third of the flour. Incorporate the flour on low speed, adding the rest of the flour in two batches. Beat just until blended. Scrape the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the wrap to help shape a large, flat disk. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or until it’s firm enough to roll. At this point, the dough may be refrigerated for up to two days or frozen for up to one week. (If you freeze the dough, allow it to defrost overnight in the refrigerator. If it’s very firm, allow it to sit at room temperature until it’s the proper consistency for rolling). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness; cut out cookies with the cookie cutters of your choice. Transfer the cookies to the prepared sheets. Sprinkle with plain or colored sugar, if desired. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the edges have just begun to turn golden. For even baking, rotate the sheet pans once while the cookies are baking. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on pans set on cooling racks, and then transfer the cookies directly to the racks to cool completely. Repeat with your remaining dough, cooling the pans between uses. Decorate with Royal Icing, if desired. Store the cookies at room temperature for up to two weeks or freeze for up to one month. If you’re going to freeze them, then freeze them undecorated. Make sure to use real vanilla extract in this sugar cookie recipe. You should almost always use real extract instead of imitation vanilla. Here, where vanilla is the principal flavor, using the good stuff is all the more important to making delicious sugar cookies with or without icing.

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Creating an Antipasti Tray for Your Christmas Party

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

In Italy, antipasti can include rice dishes, egg dishes, fish and shellfish, and more, but for your pre-Christmas dinner purposes, a lighter selection is just fine and will fit into even a tight budget. Many dishes that Italians consider as appetizers can easily be found readymade. Just gather together purchased and homemade foods and arrange them on a large platter or on a series of smaller dishes. Go to a bakery and buy some focaccia, which is a flat bread. It comes with a variety of toppings, from sun-dried tomatoes to pesto to rosemary. All of the varieties are delicious and perfect for this purpose. Just cut the bread into small squares or rectangles and set out in a basket. Or buy a pizza shell from the bread aisle of the supermarket, spread it with pesto, sprinkle with a light layer of shredded mozzarella, and bake until golden. Cool slightly, cut into pieces, and serve. Consider buying some thinly sliced prosciutto, which is a delicious cured ham, and an assortment of hard and soft salamis. Roll the prosciutto around spears of cantaloupe or steamed asparagus. Serve the salamis on thinly sliced bread rounds or squares. Some deli cases have a platter of roasted vegetables that you can buy by the pound. Alternatively, you can roast your own veggies at home. Just toss some vegetables with olive oil and roast in a 375-degree oven until browned and tender. Try sliced bell peppers of all colors, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, onion wedges, and fennel. Season with a little salt and pepper, if you like, and arrange on a platter. Preparing a pepper for a vegetable platter. Roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, pepperocini (pickled hot peppers), mushrooms, and a few other vegetables can be found in jars on the grocery shelves. Some even come marinated in a vinaigrette. These are great timesavers. Giardiniere is a pickled vegetable mixture principally made from cauliflower and carrots that can often be found jarred or at Italian delis and will also save you time. Marinated vegetables are usually easy to find, but they’re easy to make, too. Steam broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, beets, or whatever else you like. Steam very lightly so that they retain some crispness and their vibrant colors. Then just toss with a flavorful vinaigrette. Don’t forget about a selection of Italian cheeses ¯ a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano, some fresh mozzarella, a semi-soft fontina, and a sheep’s milk pecorino. Credit: Corbis-Digital Stock

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