christmas food debrief 2011.

I was so excited to have the opportunity to cook for 8 people this past weekend!  Of course there was some nervousness as well: I wasn’t in my normal kitchen (though Chris’s family’s kitchen is obviously bigger and more advanced than ours, so that’s nice!), I haven’t cooked back-to-back meals for 8 people before, and I was attempting a few dishes that were new for me (a turkey breast, for example).  But overall, the experience went well!  There were only a few setbacks, but in the end, pretty much all of the food turned out to be eatable and even delicious.

Here is a breakdown of the weekend:

Friday:  Our plane landed in Boston on Thursday evening, and we’d placed a massive Peapod order the day before.  Unfortunately, as we were waiting for the delivery to arrive on Friday morning, we realized that the order had never gone through!  (First major setback.)  I am not very good at coping with unexpected changes to plan–as those who know me well can attest–so I was devastated by this turn of events!  Luckily, our shopping cart was still saved on Peapod, so we printed it out and then had a very specific grocery list in our hands (arranged by section!) of what we needed to buy.  Two and a half hours later at the store, we had two whole shopping carts full of food!  Crazy.

  • LasagnaWhen we returned from the store, I started making 3 lasagnas.  My goal over the weekend was to make extra of everything, and so this meal left the family almost 1.5 lasagnas.  Though I made the lasagna generally the way I usually do (similar to this recipe, but with ground beef), I did try out a few changes.  I made tomato sauce with canned tomatoes roasting over the stovetop for awhile.  I’ll share this recipe sometime, because I’ve been using it a lot lately.  Unfortunately, in this particular instance, the sauce came out a little watery.  I frantically started Googling “watery tomato sauce” and ended up adding cornstarch as well as uncooked mushrooms to thicken the sauce.  I didn’t see the results in the moment, but the lasagnas didn’t come out dripping!  Thank goodness.  There is nothing worse than watery lasagna! I also used a large package of shredded mozzarella to save time (instead of cutting up slices from blocks), and was satisfied with that decision.  I served the lasagna with Caesar salad (packaged) and garlic bread (love the grocery store kind that you can just heat up in the oven!).

Saturday:  Christmas Eve.  This was a day of delicious meals in and of themselves–including chili (an Anderson family Christmas Eve tradition)–as well as Christmas Day food prep.

  • Blueberry Pancakes:  Pancakes from scratch are the best.  I doubled this recipe, added 2 packages of blueberries, and it was the perfect amount!
  • Bacon:  I baked three 12oz packages of bacon (in shifts) throughout the morning.  I stretched them out on wire racks over foil-lined pans, then cooked them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.  All of this bacon was used for: A side with the pancakes, the chili that evening, and the quiche Christmas morning.  Whew!
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies: Two dozen were gone within the day.  I will mention that my family has access to a very secret and amazing recipe… that I would never be allowed to share online.  However, I actually just used the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip package this time.  I do regret not mixing in some bacon drippings!  I’ve heard that is divine.
  • Chicken Tacos:  This was our Christmas Eve lunch… a big hit!  I made the chicken filling based on this post from The Pioneer Woman.  It was delicious, though I may add some more spice in the future.  I set out a table of the chicken, guacamole (6 avocados – yum!), shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, salsa, and warmed tortillas.
  • Cranberry Sauce:  Easy to make ahead of time.  My mom recommended using a recipe with apple juice, so I found this one that worked out really well!
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dip:  I also put this together ahead of time for the next day, because I figured everyone might be hungry while waiting for the big Christmas meal to finish.  I was so glad I made it, because we did end up eating a lot later than I hoped!  Fabulous recipe.  I doubled it, and threw it all in a 13 x 9 pan.  I added chopped red bell pepper, and served the dip with carrots and tortilla chips.
  • Pumpkin Pie:  My mom made this Bourbon Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel at Thanksgiving.  It was so good that I asked her for the recipe and tried to replicate her masterpiece.  I made two pies on Saturday, and everyone seemed to enjoy them on Christmas Day.  My streusel topping didn’t look as nice as my mom’s, but it was still quite good!  Great texture.  I missed the bourbon taste (didn’t purchase any, so just used vanilla extract), but it was a good dessert all in all.
I definitely appreciated being able to use a stand-up mixer after reading about my friend Ginny’s “stiff peak” troubles in London!
  • Chili:  As I said before, this is the traditional Anderson family Christmas Eve dinner meal.  It’s definitely a handy choice in that you can just start it in the slow cooker and then eat the meal whenever!  Their family recipe includes: 4 cans stewed tomatoes, 4 cans kidney beans, 1 pound ground beef, chopped up bacon.  I threw in some red pepper flakes to add more spice, but that was it!  Yum.

Sunday:  Christmas Day.  The second setback of the weekend occurred when the oven was somehow turned off around the time that I started cooking the turkey and the ham!  So 40 minutes later, I open the oven to check on the meat out of curiosity… and they were cold to the touch.  Terrible!  So with the preheating and all, our meal was pushed back almost an hour!  I was thankful for the spinach & artichoke dip, along with everyone’s patience!

  • Quiche:  Quiche is another Anderson family tradition… the delicious choice for Christmas breakfast!  I tend to struggle with egg to milk ratios, as well as filling up the pan too low or too high (sometimes overflowing into cooked eggs on the bottom of the oven!).  I also struggle with allowing enough time for the quiche to cook!  So because of my history of frustrating quiches, I found a great recipe to help me with my proportions and cooking time.  I also woke up early to make sure I had more than enough time before the family started rolling in.  I really only used the recipe for an egg to milk/cream guide (used a combo of both), tripling it for a 13 x 9 pan and an overflow circular pan.  The fillings included: Mexican cheese, bacon, broccoli, chopped red bell pepper, and chopped onions.  It was probably the best quiche I’ve made in a long time!  So glad.
  • Ham:  Both of the meats went very smoothly!  I cooked them both in oven bags at 350 degrees F (once the oven got started for real, that is), and just added some spread/marinade before bagging them to get going.  For the ham (about 7 lbs, spiral-sliced), I just used the brown sugar and honey glaze that came with it.  Chris & I also pressed in some cloves, and added red pepper flakes to give it a little zip.
  • Turkey:  Also pretty easy, all in all.  I bought an approximately 5 lb turkey breast, which I rinsed in the sink and patted dry (these are all my mom’s instructions, by the way).  Then I rubbed it with butter, adding oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, garlic salt, rosemary, red pepper, salt, and pepper.  Yum.  It took maybe 1 hour and 15 minutes for the button to pop.  Grandma made the gravy, which I’m sure was great (I don’t really like gravy).
  • Stuffing:  Chris made Stover’s stuffing in the microwave, and I was very grateful for all of his help.  I’m sure the stuffing was delicious as well… again, I delegated the two food items that I don’t personally like.  :)
  • Potato Rolls with Caraway Salt: This recipe was another first-time experiment.  The rolls turned out fine, but of course didn’t come out quite how they looked in my Bon Appétit magazine. I think the problem was that I missed the step about the dough rising overnight, and then all of a sudden I was reading the recipe on Christmas morning.  Oh well.  I maybe overdid the caraway seeds too (or it’s possible that I just don’t like caraway seeds!), because the flavor wasn’t ideal in my opinion.  That’s okay!  Still eatable, though not the biggest hit.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Basic technique, nothing fancy.  See here for the guide.
  • Green Bean Casserole:  The recipe on the back of the fried onions package has always worked well for me!
That concludes my Christmas cooking adventure!  After the Christmas dinner on Sunday, we just ate leftovers through the next day.  I’m hopeful that the family still has some leftovers as I write!  This was super fun, and a big learning experience for me about cooking, feeding large groups, timing, etc.  Very grateful.  Merry Christmas!


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  1. Boston Dad says

    Thanks for the gift of your talents and time . The meals were a wonderful addition to the holidays. I particularly liked the blueberry pancakes made from scratch.
    Boston Dad


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