I’ve always longed to host holiday parties. I don’t know why, but I have the sincere desire to to cook for a lot of people. I personally always thought it would be cool to host a large family dinner for the holidays – just once. Growing up as a military brat, we moved around every four years and during about half of those holidays, we weren’t near our family. So, we would celebrate Christmas just the four of us.
And the years that we were near family, we still didn’t do the whole family dinner scene. I can remember when I was about 5, we lived in the same town as my grandparents and fairly close to my mom’s family. On Christmas morning, my brother and I would wake up our parents and eagerly open all of the gifts from Santa. We would usually have breakfast, but then instead of spending the morning and afternoon playing with our new toys, we instead got dressed up and went to have 2nd Christmas with the family. This meant a lot of being quiet (or running outdoors because us kids got too loud), waiting around as everyone took turns opening gifts, or boredom because we just really wanted to be home. I recall my mom saying how bad she felt that we didn’t get to spend much of our Christmas at home, and once we moved away I think we were all a bit relieved that we got to stay home!
When I went off to college and became too busy to come home every Christmas, I was still very near my dad’s side of the family. Every year, they would all gather at one house and have Christmas dinner. All my cousins, aunts, and uncles would be there. But every year, I opted not to go. Surprising, I know, but for some reason the idea of a quiet Christmas at home had grown on me. Even once I met my husband, we opted to spend Christmas at home one year, just to try it out. It’s not that we don’t enjoy spending time with family. There’s just something relaxing about waking up in your own bed and knowing that you don’t have to go anywhere, you can literally stay in your PJ’s all day, and you don’t have a 5-10 hour drive home within the next 24-48 hours.
So you must be thinking, “Wow Erin, but it sounds like you would prefer to be alone – why the desire to cook for people??” Well, that’s simple: I’m a total people pleaser. Oh, and I love cooking. I would actually find it kinda relaxing to cook a big feast, have everyone over for said feast, and then after everyone has gone home, relax with a glass of wine or hot cocoa. So I would have my quiet time in the morning and in the evening, but during the day it would be loud, busy, and boisterous. Maybe I’m just mentally preparing myself for the craziness of Christmas once I have kids, but somewhere in the day I would like to spend it with other people – family and friends.
So with this in mind, I’ve crafted my final holiday menu for you. It is complete with some delicious offerings to keep you munching all day long. But nothing heavy enough to distract you from the actual dinner, of course. I hope you find something that catches your eye and tastebuds!
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancakes with Peanut Butter Cup Syrup
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- ¼ oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (approx. 2 tsp.)
- 2 tsp. all-natural peanut butter
- 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
- 1 T coconut flour
- 1 T baking powder
- ½ tsp sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ cup pumpkin puree
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 T raw honey
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Combine maple syrup, chocolate, and peanut butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients for the pancakes. Mix well and set aside.
- Combine pumpkin, eggs, honey, almond milk, and vanilla extract in a small bowl; whisk to blend.
- Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture and mix until a smooth batter forms.
- Heat a greased, nonstick skillet over medium heat.
- Pour ¼ cup of pancake batter into pan for pancake and cook for about 2 minutes, or until bubbles in center of pancake begin to set. Flip pancake; cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until underside is browned.
- Top each pancake with 1 tablespoon of syrup and enjoy!
Vanilla Nog Shake
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup unsweetened milk
- 1 tsp rum extract
- 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 cup ice
- Blend all ingredients together until smooth!
Autumn Apple Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup halved pecans
- 2 T feta cheese
- 1/2 granny smith apple sliced
- 1/2 fuji apple sliced
- 2 slices bacon cooked and chopped
Maple Dijon Vinaigrette
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 T apple cider vinegar
- 1 T maple syrup
- 1 and 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- salt & pepper to taste
- Add the spinach to a medium size bowl or plate.
- Top with dried cranberries, halved pecans, feta cheese, sliced apples, and cooked bacon.
- Mix all the ingredients for the maple dijon vinaigrette in a small bowl or jar. Shake to mix and pour over the salad.
- 1 bottle Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay
- 8 oz. sparkling apple cider
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cranberries, halved
- 3/4 cup cranberries, whole
- 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
- 3 rosemary sprigs
- Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir together to ensure the sugar dissolves.
- Chill for at least 4 hours to allow all the flavors to meld together. Serve chilled or over ice.
Roasted Cranberry & Goat Cheese Flatbread
- 1½ cup fresh cranberries
- 3 T dark pure maple syrup
- 1 T finely chopped shallot
- ½ tsp chopped dry thyme
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 Stonefire flatbreads, (14.1 oz package)
- 1, 4-ounce package fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Mix cranberries, maple syrup, shallot, thyme and salt in an 8 by 8-inch baking dish. Roast, stirring once or twice, until the cranberries burst and the mixture is bubbling and caramelizing along the edge, about 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and stir until the cranberries are broken down and the mixture is thick. Set aside.
- Lay flatbreads out on a plate. Spread the hot cranberry mixture over the flatbreads, dividing evenly.
- Top with the goat cheese. Place back in the oven and cook until the cheese is softened and flatbread is crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Cut into 8 small wedges and serve warm.
Coq Au Vin
- 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 T all-purpose flour
- 4 slices bacon, roughly chopped
- 1 T unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 package white or baby bella mushrooms, quartered
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 large sprigs thyme
- Arrange chicken on a large sheet of waxed paper or baking sheet. Season both sides with salt and pepper, then lightly coat chicken all over with flour and set aside.
- Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden and just crisp, 3 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels and set aside. Discard drippings and wipe out skillet.
- Melt butter or oil in same skillet. Add mushrooms and cook until edges begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add carrots, onions, garlic and salt. Cook until vegetables just begin to soften.
- Transfer vegetables to crock pot and add broth. Arrange chicken on top. Sprinkle bacon over chicken. Add thyme sprigs, then cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours.
- Season with salt and pepper, then serve.
MASHED Garlic CAULIFLOWER
- 1 large cauliflower, chopped into small florets
- 3 oz. low fat cream cheese
- 2 T unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 T fresh rosemary, chopped into small pieces
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Once boiling, cook the cauliflower for 8-10 minutes or until fork tender. Remove and drain cauliflower.
- Place cauliflower along with all other ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy.
Roasted Butternut Squash Winter Salad
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 T olive oil, divided
- 2 cups farro
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 T butter
- 1 shallot or onion, finely diced
- 4 cups finely shredded kale
- 1/4 cup feta cheese
For the Cranberry Dressing:
- 3 T balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with foil.
- Place the butternut squash on the baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Roast the squash in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until fork tender.
- While the butternut squash roasts, place the farro and about 4-5 cups of cold water in a saucepan. Season with kosher salt and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once the farro comes to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cover for about 40 minutes.
- When the butternut squash is tender, remove from the oven and set aside.
- In a deep-sided sauté pan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots/onion and garlic; cook for a minute or two, or until the shallots are translucent.
- Stir in the kale and allow to wilt a few minutes before adding butternut squash and farro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the balsamic vinegar over the mixture and mix in fresh cranberries. Cover with a lid and allow to cooke 5-10 minutes, or until the cranberries begin to pop.
- Transfer the salad to a serving dish and serve warm with feta cheese.
Mini Eggnog Cheesecakes
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs or Biscoff cookies
- 2 T unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 T granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 8 oz dairy-free cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup eggnog
- 1/2 T all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the cavities of a 12 cup mini cheesecake or a muffin pan.
- In a food processor or large bowl, combine crust ingredients. Divide evenly between prepared cheesecake cavities. Firmly press down to create and even crust. Bake for 5 minutes.
- Remove crusts from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
- Meanwhile in a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together sugar and cream cheese. Add
- eggnog, flour, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Mix until well blended.
- Add egg, mixing only until just combined.
- Pour the cheesecake filling onto each cookie crust, about 3/4 full.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until centers are only slightly jiggly.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour.
- Transfer to refrigerator to chill 4 hours or overnight.
Mini Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Kiss Cheesecakes
- 24 whole oreo cookies
- 6 T butter, melted
- 16 oz. softened cream cheese 2
- 4 oz. melted dark semi-sweet chocolate (I used Hershey’s special dark chocolate chips)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 24 whole candy cane Hershey Kisses
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly spray a mini cheesecake pan or muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a food processor, grind Oreo cookies to crumbs. Pour in melted butter and mix again until well mixed.
- Spoon about a tablespoon of cookie mixture into each cheesecake well. Press down and set aside.
- In a stand mixer, whip cream cheese and melted chocolate together. Scrape sides and mix again until evenly mixed.
- Stir in eggs, being sure to scrape the sides down.
- With mixer on low, stir in sugar.
- Spoon cheesecake filling over top of each crust and bake 15-20 minutes or until cheesecakes are set.
- Cool cheesecakes to room temperature, then remove from pans and refrigerate.
- Before serving, top with one candy cane kiss.