What a week! We had the opportunity to host Chris’ family at our condo for Christmas and spend some time with my family as well. I know many friends who split time with their families every Christmas Eve and Christmas because both sides live in the same area. This year is the first time we’ve really tried to visit with both back-and-forth since we were all in Northern Virginia for the week.
Though there was much planning and driving involved, it was wonderful to be able to spend time with each family separately and all together.
This is not the first time I’ve cooked meals over Christmas, but it is the first time we’ve hosted at our home. As I reflect on both experiences, this year was a bit easier to navigate since I was in my own kitchen AND my parents graciously invited everyone over for Christmas dinner, so the main meal was not my responsibility!
I’m slowly learning that it’s a lot easier to make old standby recipes when hosting — leaving creative kitchen endeavors for just Chris and I. While I was tempted to use this week as an opportunity to add new dishes to my repertoire, I am thankful now that I didn’t… especially with cooking many meals back-to-back!
It’s no surprise that the visit started off with my favorite homemade mac ‘n’ cheese from the Pioneer Woman. This version involved whole wheat flour with a cheddar, gruyere, and brie mix. I topped it with sautéed spinach and chopped red bell peppers to add some nutritional value plus a little holiday cheer!
I was proud of how the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day brunches turned out. One of my most frequently viewed blog entries is this make-ahead brunch party post, and I borrowed from it for both days. It was ideal to make brunch in advance the night before! For Christmas Eve, we ate baked French toast stuffed with sliced pears, raisins, and chopped pecans. On the side, we had turkey bacon wrapped green beans. Maybe green beans seem weird for brunch, but I figured they were more seasonal than asparagus. The result was crispy and delicious! Scroll down to the very end for the recipe.
Christmas Eve dinner in the Anderson family is traditionally chili, so I was glad to make my go-to turkey chili recipe with homemade guacamole, Greek yogurt, and cheddar cheese toppings. I also made a vegetarian version which was the exact same recipe, but minus the turkey and plus a little cooked quinoa. I made a LOT of chili, so it served as an easy meal to heat up here and there throughout the week.
I already shared about my favorite cookies to make this time of year. Oh, the peppermint!
On Christmas morning, we went with smitten kitchen’s spinach and cheese strata for brunch. Always a hit! On the side, I served a simple helping of roasted potatoes.
As I mentioned, my family was very kind to host all twelve of us for Christmas dinner! We squeezed in at two tables put together in our dining room, complete with name cards to promote flowing conversation. It was a great time. My mom’s food was incredible, as usual, with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, a kale-citrus salad, rolls, biscuits, cranberry sauce, and our Greek favorite, homemade spanikopita.
I contributed two dishes that I neglected to photograph, but that I would highly recommend. For an appetizer, I made How Sweet Eats’ creamy feta dip with jalapeños, which is modeled off of the very addicting crazy feta dip at Cava Mezze restaurant. As a side, I made Love and Lemons’ rosemary roasted veggies, an outstanding dish with SO much flavor between the parsley, rosemary, maple syrup, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar! I chose butternut squash and broccoli for the veggies in this dish. At the end of the evening, there was none left.
As the week winded down, we enjoyed leftovers and dined out. Our final night ended with a fun family “beer pong” competition (the cups were filled with water for most of the game). I popped popcorn and baked Annie’s Eats’ spinach and artichoke dip, with the addition of chopped red bell peppers, for game-time snacks.
Our last meal was simple grilled cheese sandwiches consisting of provolone, sliced apples, freshly ground black pepper, and whole grain bread. We finished off the chili on the side.
All in all, the meals worked out very well in terms of quantities and end results. I love that one of Chris’ brothers is a vegetarian, so I always have a good excuse to make a lot of veggie-friendly meals!
I hope you had a wonderful, relaxing time celebrating Jesus’ birthday with family and friends this week! Merry Christmas!
- 1 lb green beans, washed and trimmed
- 1 package turkey bacon
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
- Line a baking pan with foil.
- Toss the green beans in olive oil and a few dashes of salt + pepper.
- Wrap a bundle of 4-6 green beans in bacon, and place seam-side down.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice, until bacon is cooked through and beans are crispy.