After months of trying out new recipes while sheltering in place, our culinary prowess gets the perfect opportunity to shine: the holidays. More specifically, holiday dinners. Whether you’re a traditionalist or a reinventor of vintage ideas, feasting on delicious seasonal foods is one holiday tradition we actually get to keep this year. We looked around the country for inspiration and even crossed an ocean or two to find the best recipes to show off our quarantine kitchen skills.
From sweet treats to savory entrees and irresistible appetizers, these amazing recipes are sure to lift the spirits in what will certainly be one of the weirdest holiday seasons of our lives thus far.
For Pre-Dinner Snack Attacks: Irresistible Appetizers and Sides
One of the best parts about spending time in the kitchen on a big meal is the chatting and snacking done in between chopping, stirring, and checking the oven. These 15 holiday appetizers are easy to make and even easier to eat, leaving you time to focus most of your energy on cooking the main entree. We also love this festive Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Christmas Tree and Homemade Cheese Ball, but full disclosure: your hands are going to be a bit preoccupied going back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths) of these oh, so tempting snacks.
Of course, a great meal is nothing without a mouthwatering side or two. For something light but packed with cold-weather flavors, we recommend this Savory Pumpkin Soup. We’re also suckers for the classics (because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). Our traditional go-to’s are crunchy, streusel-covered Sweet Potato Casserole and savory Homemade Stuffing.
The Star of the Show: The Main Course
Holidays are one of the few times that we would be willing to make a dinner that takes 5+ hours to cook, and we like to make the most of these rare once-or-twice-a-year moments. If you’ve always cooked your turkey in the oven, try smoking or deep-frying it this year for a mouthwatering twist on an old favorite.
Cooking a whole bird can seem intense for first-timers, but don’t worry. Check out these helpful guides for thawing and cooking turkeys for a beautifully cooked bird each time. Most likely, you’re going to have leftovers—save yourself from yet another cold turkey and mayo sandwich with these delicious and creative leftover turkey recipes.
Then again, maybe birds aren’t your thing. For a sophisticated take on holiday dinner, try this robust Classic Beef Wellington. No meat? No problem. We gathered up our favorite holiday dishes for vegetarians and vegans so you can enjoy a flavorful, diverse spread of animal-free foods.
The Cherry on Top: Brownies, Puddings, Cookies, and More
Savory sides and delectable entrees are great and all, but there’s a good reason there’s always room for dessert. These deliciously sweet concoctions are the perfect way to end a holiday feast, and they’re also great to enjoy the next morning with a hot cup of coffee. Yum.
Cookies and Christmas are like birds of a feather, and luckily, there is no small shortage of delicious cookie recipes to try. For a not-too-sweet cookie that is impossible to stop eating once you’ve started, we recommend Nana’s Classic Christmas Cookies circa 1961 (needless to say, this quintessential cookie has withstood the test of time). Gluten-free sweet tooths will love these buttery, jam-filled Thumbprint Cookies. You can also surprise your Starbucks-loving relative with a perfect copycat batch of the coffee shop’s Cranberry Bliss Bars.
Ooey-gooey Pecan Pie Brownies and Classic English Toffee kick the sweetness up a notch with the addition of light corn syrup. To satisfy any salty-and-sweet cravings (or for the perfect sweet treat for the dedicated Ohio State University fan in your life), try these easy-to-make Peanut Butter Buckeyes.
Winter Spice Blends: The Key to That Signature “Holiday” Flavor
Holiday treats wouldn’t be the same without holiday spices. Warm, cozy blends of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, and cloves give seasonal desserts their signature, snuggly flavor. We love this Pumpkin Roll swirled with decadent cream cheese filling, but because one pumpkin spice-flavored treat is never enough, we also found 16 other perfectly spiced treats to enjoy in prime PSL season. For unique flavors you might not have any other time of year except over the holidays, try this Classic British Christmas Pudding.
Still looking for inspiration? Check out these fifteen unique and creative Christmas Holiday Cookie Ideas. And while we hope you’ll spend your holidays safely socially distanced, if your corona quaranteam is made up of many players, make sure every mouth is fed with these Holiday Desserts for a Crowd.
Enjoy the Christmas Spirit(s) in More Ways Than One
Planning a holiday spread can be an exciting time to test new techniques and experiment with different flavors, but actually preparing said massive spread can be stressful. Enter nosy in-laws, kids hopped up on sugar, and a never-ending to-do list, and it might be time to get an extra boost of the Christmas “spirit” from the bottle.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to pour a glass of holiday spirit to everyone’s taste. Incorporating seasonal flavors like cinnamon, cranberry, apple, and maple offer interesting and complex flavor combinations that are bound to take the edge off of a holiday stress headache. These wintry Christmas Cocktails look as good as they taste, from sugar-rimmed Clausmopolitans to Gingerbread Eggnog to Jingle Juice.
For a crowd-pleaser that’s sure to warm even the chilliest of noses and toes, try a traditional mulled wine. Robust red wine is mixed with brandy, honey, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and orange peels to create a deliciously toasty, spiked punch that can be made in fifteen minutes.
Alternatively, enjoy the Christmas spirit sans booze with these sophisticated mocktails that offer the fun of sipping on a masterfully-mixed, aesthetically pleasing creation without the post-Christmas hangover. Kids and grown-ups alike are bound to love this Harry Potter-inspired Pumpkin Juice made of pumpkin puree, apple cider, and pumpkin pie spices.
Don’t Forget the Most Important Meal of the Day in the Holiday Hubbub
We can get so focused on what we’re having for holiday dinner; it’s easy to overlook the most important meal of the day amid all the preparation for the evening. Holiday breakfasts offer more time to connect and spend quality time with family, prevents the mid-afternoon hangry blues, and is yet another excuse to show off your gourmet chef skills.
For sleepy parents (ahem, elves), a hot cup of coffee the morning after an all-nighter in Santa’s workshop is a much-needed necessity. Put a festive twist on your morning cup of joe with this minty and chocolatey Peppermint Mocha Latte. Not a java fan? Try this decadent French Hot Chocolate (or Chocolate Chaud) instead.
Our favorite time to whip out our festive breakfast spreads is in the days following Christmas and before New Year’s, a time for lazing around the house in new Christmas pajama sets and tinkering with new toys and gadgets. Time never quite seems real in these last few days of the year, but an Eggnog French Toast Bake, a stack of Peppermint Hot Cocoa Pancakes, or a green and red-sprinkled air-fryer donut or two is bound to clear even the frostiest of festive fogs.