Saturday, December 10, 2016

My Attempt at Christmas Dinner


Last week, I decided to take a stab at making an early Christmas dinner with all the fixins. Being with family for the holidays is wonderful, but we're also starting our own traditions that we can carry on with our children for years to come.

I've come to really enjoy cooking, but I was still a bit nervous about how it would turn out. With a little help from the internet, I came up with my own recipes for all the dishes, and surprisingly, the meal turned out great. It took about three-and-a-half hours to prepare.

Here are the recipes, complete with pictures:

Christmas Ham with Sweet Glaze

Ingredients:
Fully cooked spiral ham (mine was 10 pounds)
½ cup water
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 Tablespoons honey

Glaze:
¾ cup ham drippings
3 teaspoons honey
1-1/2 Tablespoons flour
½ cup water

Line large pan with a few layers of aluminum foil. Add ½ cup water to pan. Remove packaging from ham, and rinse. Place in pan flat side down. (I started off with the ham in a Dutch oven but ended up moving it to a larger pan so it would be easier to baste.)

Score ham lightly with a knife in crisscross pattern. Mix 2 Tablespoons brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cloves together, and sprinkle over ham. Drizzle 2 Tablespoons honey over ham.


Cover ham tightly with foil, and bake according to instructions on package (approximately 15 minutes per pound at 275F). Baste ever 30 minutes. Don’t overcook, or ham will become dry. 


When ham is finished, prepare glaze: In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together ham drippings, honey, flour, and water. You can either set the glaze on the table or drizzle it over the ham and cook for an additional 10 minutes. (I just set it on the table.) 


Fancy Bread Stuffing

Ingredients:
15 pieces of bread (I used whole wheat)
5 Tablespoons butter
½ large onion, minced
4 celery stalks, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced.
1/8 cup olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¾ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Tear bread into bite-sized pieces.


In a large skillet, melt 3 Tablespoons butter on medium-low heat, and add onion and celery. Cook 3 minutes, and add garlic. Cook until onion and celery are translucent (4-5 minutes).

Add an additional 2 Tablespoons butter to skillet, and add bread. Stir, and drizzle 1/8 cup olive oil over mixture. Cook another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. If pot becomes dry, add more oil or butter.

Turn heat to simmer, and add mixture of chicken broth, egg, and apple cider vinegar. Stir briefly, but don’t over stir, or bread will become mushy. Liquid should soak in immediately. Turn heat off.

If your pan is not oven safe, transfer stuffing to greased baking sheet. If it is oven safe, leave stuffing in pan. Sprinkle spice mixture over top of stuffing. Fluff with a fork to combine.

Cook 2 hours at 275F (until bread is golden brown). Stir occasionally while stuffing cooks.

Mashed Potatoes with Gravy


Peel and steam (or boil) as many potatoes as desired until soft. Mash immediately with desired amounts of butter, milk, and sour cream. Serve hot.




I used chicken broth to make gravy. Here is the recipe:

2 cups chicken broth
2 Tablespoons butter
4 carrots, chopped
2 Tablespoons onion, chopped
4 Tablespoons flour
Salt and/or garlic powder to taste

Heat chicken broth in a saucepan over medium-low heat. (Do not bring to a boil.)

In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, melt butter, and sauté carrots and onion for approximately 5 minutes.


Stir in 2 Tablespoons flour, and cook 1-2 minutes. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly. Add another 2 Tablespoons flour. Bring to a boil, and simmer (whisking constantly) until gravy reaches desired consistency. Strain gravy to remove carrots and onion. Add salt and/or garlic powder to taste.



Baked Sweet Potatoes

Rinse sweet potatoes, and wrap each in a wet paper towel. Microwave 3 minutes, and add more water to paper towels. (Just put the plate under the sink and run about 1/8 cup water on top of sweet potatoes.) Microwave until soft.

Slice in half, and serve with butter (can add brown sugar, if desired).

Savory Green Beans with Bacon

Ingredients:
3 cups frozen green beans
3-4 slices raw bacon
1 small onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Place green beans in medium-sized saucepan. Add 1-1/2 cup water. Cut bacon into bite-sized pieces, and add to pot. Add onion, garlic, vinegar, and ground pepper.

Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 2 hours. Make sure the pot doesn’t boil dry. (Add more water if needed.)

Drain and serve. (Make sure not to accidentally dump half your green beans in the sink while draining them like I did...)



43 comments:

  1. Anonymous12/10/2016

    I have never in all my years, and I've lived a lot of them, have seen sauteed carrots in gravy. No thanks!

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    1. It definitely seems strange, but once you strain the carrots and onion out, you can't tell they were there. I do agree that it's odd though.

      Ellie

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    2. I have not either but it would at flavor and some nutrition to the gravy.

      Delete
  2. Anonymous12/10/2016

    Well done Ellie! I still remember cooking Christmas dinner for the first time 23 years ago...I followed the recipes and a timetable for the whole cooking experience in a magazine called Essentials lol I remember ticking everything off as I went along. Happy memories :)
    Bee

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    1. What a great memory, Bee. A timetable definitely would have helped!

      Ellie

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  3. Shela G12/10/2016

    I cooked Ham,homemade Mac and cheese, cornbread and made a salad for Christmas last year my in laws joined us and it was wonderful. I Loved cooking for the family. Very good memories☺ This year my husband and I decided to do Roast Beef not sure what I will make with it yet. A tradition my husband and I started years ago was watching it's a wonderful life together Christmas night we call it our chistmas finally.

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    1. That sounds like a delicious Christmas feast, Shela. I absolutely love homemade mac and cheese. Where did you get your recipe from?

      Ellie

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  4. Anonymous12/11/2016

    Hi Ellie!
    Wow!that looks like a lot of work!
    Was this dinner just for you and Mr handsome or for other guests too?
    It all looks so yummy!
    Mr Handsome has a proverbs 31 wife for sure!

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    1. Hi there,

      Thank you for your compliments! :) The dinner was just for us. I invited my brother-in-law, but he was out of town.

      Ellie

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  5. Anonymous12/11/2016

    Lol. Loved the pictures. Especially your little accident. You definitely have a sense of humor.
    You and Mr handsome sound like a great couple.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. I'm glad you enjoy my sense of humor. :)

      Ellie

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  6. Anonymous12/11/2016

    A few tips from someone who has cooked at least 60 Christmas dinners and also that many Thanksgiving ones, too.

    Go easy on the ground cloves. They can be overpowering. Mr. Handsome might think they smell like an old toothache remedy... I don't think I've ever used more than 1/8th or 1/4th tsp. of cloves in anything. That full tsp. on the ham sounds like a lot, especially if your guests aren't clove fans.

    I don't use more than half whole wheat bread in any stuffing, and really, you don't need anything other than white bread or a nice egg/potato bread. Whole wheat, I think, makes the stuffing "heavy."

    Watch the amount of rosemary in the stuffing. Again, another powerful herb that not everyone cares for. You might want to omit it and use poultry seasoning instead. That has a balance of herbs and spices, none of them too overpowering. You might want to add some dried thyme (even though it's in poultry seasoning) instead of the rosemary. Thyme is great with chicken or chicken broth and will, along with the poultry seasoning, give you that traditional "holiday" herb-y taste you're after.

    I like how you "cook" the flour first for the gravy, but am a little concerned about how you throw in extra flour later. That flour could taste "raw." (Does it really need that much flour?) My hint is that McCormick makes good gravy mixes. I either use them as is or add a packet into my homemade gravy. Shhh...our little secret.

    You don't need to wrap sweet potatoes in wet paper towels before microwaving. They'll cook fine without. Don't forget to pierce the potatoes in 5 or 6 places with a sharp knife, or you could be giving your microwave a thorough cleaning that you did not plan. Also, try cooking the sweet potatoes ahead sometime, removing the insides, and mashing them with orange juice, brown sugar, and butter. You'll thank me later! Just use the OJ as if you were mashing white potatoes and adding milk. They only need a sprinkling of brown sugar (light or dark, doesn't matter), and maybe two pats of of butter (for 4-6 potatoes). You can make this ahead, refrigerate, and microwave before serving. Yummy!

    I'm not crazy about "mush-tables" (mushy vegetables...must be a southern thing), so I'd saute the bacon, onion, and garlic (minced) first, then remove them from the pan and set aside. I'd cook FRESH green beans in a little boiling water (or the bacon drippings) until JUST tender (al dente), drain (without dumping!), and add the seasonings back to the beans. Done in a jiffy! I don't think I'd cook frozen beans for 2 hours. Another tip: Add a packet of no-salt-added beef bouillon powder to the water whenever you're cooking green beans, fresh or frozen. Dee-lish.

    Nice first dinner try, though. I grew up cooking holiday dinners, so this is old hat to me. I started cooking at about age 2, just as soon as I could scramble up onto the counter to hang over the mixing bowl and help. :)

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    1. Anonymous12/12/2016

      Ellie must be getting wise from all the great information and tips she gets, like these. I would like to add a comment that green beans are easy to grow and blanch and freeze so remember that during the growing season and you could be eating your own produce. Good work Ellie, I admire you, you certainly beat me in every department.

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    2. Thank you for all the tips! I really do appreciate it, and I took note of everything you said. I sure would love to have a Christmas meal at your house. You sound like a pro.

      Ellie

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    3. I've never blanched veggies, but I'll have to look that up. I really wanted fresh green beans, but the ones the store had were in pretty bad shape. Stocking up the freezer during summer is a great idea.

      And I definitely am getting wise from all the tips. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

      Ellie

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    4. Anonymous12/13/2016

      Nothing wrong with learning from the experienced mothers and grandmothers out there. They have good practical wisdom. I sure wish I had mine still around to consult sometimes...

      Delete
  7. Melissa12/11/2016

    My friends and I have turkey potlucks occasionally because we all love turkey dinner. It has been such a fun way to learn to cook a turkey dinner! May I recommend trying breakfast sausage in your stuffing. It adds some fat and flavour. Yours does look very good though!

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    1. Thank you for the breakfast sausage idea, Melissa! Out of curiosity, can you purchase turkeys off-season? I've never seen them at the grocery store, but maybe I just haven't looked hard enough.

      Ellie

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    2. Anonymous12/13/2016

      Frozen turkeys are in the meat case year-round. They only get the spotlight near Thanksgiving and Christmas, though. Some of the best turkeys I've ever had were plain old store brand, frozen. You can also buy frozen turkey breasts (sometimes fresh, too), and usually fresh turkey legs. I love to cook those! They are inexpensive and meaty. If you have someone who likes dark meat in your house, roasted or braised turkey legs will be a big hit!

      I always do my turkeys in a Reynolds roasting bag, following the directions on that package, not the turkey label. That is very important! You don't always get a perfectly browned turkey when cooking in a roasting bag, but who cares? The skin is the first thing cut off and discarded anyway.

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    3. That's good to know. Thanks! I'll have to tackle a whole turkey as my next culinary project. :)

      Ellie

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    4. Anonymous12/14/2016

      Cooking a turkey is no harder than cooking a chicken. It just takes longer & lower temp. Buy the Reynolds bags. Be sure to shake the required flour in them, make the slits, and use the oven temp. they say. Don't let the bag touch the oven elements or walls. Move or remove an oven rack as needed before heating the oven. Put the turkey in a big enough & STURDY enough shallow roasting pan. Those flimsy disposable aluminum roasting pans they sell at the grocery store are a hot grease accident waiting to happen. Those pans buckle! It's good to invest in a big "real" roasting pan for the holidays. Line the pan with 1 or 2 layers of foil before putting in your bagged turkey, for extra ease of clean-up. Use an instant-read meat thermometer in the thigh of the turkey to make sure it's done. Don't rely on those pop-up timers stuck in the turkeys. They can be inaccurate. Shoot for 165 minimum (in the breast) and 175-ish in the thigh. Take the turkey out of the oven, leave it in the bag, cover it with foil, then put a heavy towel on top of the foil. I use a folded-over old bath towel. Let it sit like that for about 20 minutes while you make the last-minute meal items. After the turkey has rested, it will be ready to carve.

      If you have any questions about turkey defrosting, because there are umpteen BAD bits of advice about that floating around the internet, ask here, or call the Butterball Turkey Talk Line - their help line. Those women are trained home economists and food experts, and will not lead you wrong when dealing with raw poultry.

      You do know never to put any greasy poultry drippings down your sink drain? There will be a lot of drippings from a cooked turkey, and they will be greasy. I always save empty large tomato or other big cans and use them to collect the drippings I don't use in gravy. You can use a ladle or a bulb baster to remove the drippings and transfer them to the can(s). Put the can(s) in the freezer, covered with foil, and then the next time your trash is collected, remember to move the cans from the freezer to the trash bag. (I actually post a note on the back door to remind me.) Out the door that mess goes! Otherwise, you'll eventually clog a plumbing line if you try to put it down the drain.

      I don't like to cook my stuffing inside the turkey, but often oven space is limited. I've found that if I put my uncooked stuffing onto two pieces of foil, then fold the foil up like a long "packet," tightly sealed, I can tuck these packets in vertically beside the turkey in the oven and not block air circulation. (I lean them towards the turkey.) I stir the stuffing at about the half-way point and again at the 3/4 point. It always comes out moist and browned. Takes about an hour? Sometimes I give it a few minutes more after the turkey is out of the oven, or I turn off the oven and leave the stuffing packets in there for a little bit while the turkey rests.

      Of course, if you're opening your oven door while cooking the turkey, you might need to adjust the time a little more. If dinner's at 6, I shoot for the turkey coming out of the oven at 5:30. That way, if it needs 10 or 15 minutes more, it still will have time to rest and dinner won't be too delayed.

      Good luck. It will eventually all become so easy that you won't even have to think hard about it. I've even made holiday dinners with one hand in a brace!

      Oh - I forgot to address brine. I don't do it to poultry. Never saw the need to. Cooking bags & gravy are enough for my satisfaction. Why bother with extra work? Did your mother brine a turkey? Did you complain if she didn't or feel the meal was ruined??

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    5. Wow, that's super helpful! Thank you for taking the time to write that up. I truly do appreciate it. I don't think my mom ever brined her turkeys, and they turned out good. :)

      Ellie

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  8. Anonymous12/11/2016

    In the UK we make our Christmas ham slightly differently. Boil your gammon in water with roughly chopped carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves and ten black peppercorns for about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the weight. Then remove the skin, leaving the fat which you score into a diamond pattern with a knife. I then glaze with orange marmalade that's been gently heated, and stud each diamond point with a clove. Then roast uncovered for about half an hour. We eat this cold on Boxing Day in my family with cold turkey, salads and baked potatoes.
    Bee

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    1. That does sound quite different, but it sounds tasty! Growing up, my family always did something special on Boxing Day, too. Usually fancy soups.

      Ellie

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  9. Anonymous12/11/2016

    Looks great Ellie! Maybe you can do a post on favorite holiday movies? Kid and adult...

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    1. Thank you! That's a great idea for a post.

      Ellie

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  10. Anonymous12/12/2016

    2 hours of cooking for frozen beans? It might be overcooked? And I am not sure about boiled bacon...

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    1. Anonymous12/12/2016

      Agreed. No reason to do that to an innocent green bean. And bacon is much tastier when fried crisp. What website gave the idea of 2 hours of cooking? Were they using a recipe from "back in the day" when bean varieties could be stringy and tough?

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    2. I thought it was strange too, but it turned out great. Different than anything I had ever had, but it was tasty. I created the recipe after looking at several recipes for southern style green beans. Believe it or not, some of the recipes had you simmer the beans for 3-4 hours. That was one of the things I did differently in my recipe. Lol.

      Ellie

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    3. Anonymous12/13/2016

      Fresh beans can be ready in 5-6 minutes. No need to cook the daylights out of them.

      Delete
  11. Anonymous12/12/2016

    It all looks yummy! Good job!

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    1. Thank you! :)

      Have a blessed day.
      Ellie

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  12. Anonymous12/12/2016

    Any ideas for a yummy vegetarian christmas dinner?

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    1. Hmm, that's a good question. Does anyone have suggestions to share? Perhaps the main dish could be a bean and rice dish? Along with the regular mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, etc. You could also make mac n cheese. Here in the South, mac n cheese at Christmas and Thanksgiving is a staple.

      Ellie

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    2. Anonymous12/13/2016

      http://www.ricardocuisine.com/holidays/index.php?c=fish-and-vegetarian

      I did not try these dishes, but I am a fan of Ricardo, so I guess they are delicious!

      Josée

      P.S Ellie: https://www.ricardocuisine.com/en/articles/food-chemistry/614-a-beginner-s-guide-to-canning

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    3. Anonymous12/15/2016

      So many possibilities for vegetarian, but the first thing that comes to my mind, if they still eat egg & dairy, is a nice big quiche. You can make one with broccoli, spinach, or zucchini and chopped red peppers (sauteed or fire roasted) for Christmas colors. Then I would make a marinated chickpea and edamame salad (drained canned chickpeas, frozen shelled edamame cooked for a few minutes, celery, onion, pepper, salt, garlic powder, and fresh chopped parsley, with a dressing of half fresh lemon juice/half olive oil). You could roast some sliced root vegetables - carrots, parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes, etc. Rice pilaf or another grain of some sort would work as a side dish. So would a tossed salad - wild arugula, beets, goat cheese, walnuts, and a homemade vinaigrette dressing. Shredded zucchini fritters. Sauteed chiffonade of Brussels sprouts with pecans and dried cranberries. I could go on and on. Look online for more ideas, or in the vegetarian cookbooks at the library. Ok, now I'm hungry!

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    4. Those all sound like tasty ideas!

      Ellie

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  13. Anonymous12/13/2016

    Do you have roast potatoes in the US? They are a vital part of an English Christmas dinner! And brussel spouts lol
    Bee

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    1. Hi Bee,

      My mom often makes Brussels sprouts for Christmas and Thanksgiving. In the US, we usually have mashed potatoes, but we eat roast potatoes at other meals. What spices do you like to cook your roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts with?

      Ellie

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    2. Anonymous12/16/2016

      Hi Ellie :)
      We steam our Brussels until they are just done, and then toss them with tiny pieces of fried bacon. The roast potatoes are my husband's speciality, and he often just sprinkles them with rock salt flavoured with herbs before they are roasted, or sometimes a teeny tiny sprinkling of curry powder! He makes the best roasties ever lol
      Bee

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  14. What are ham drippings? (:
    Good job on those recipes!!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Luba. Ham drippings is just the juice that ends up at the bottom of the pan when the ham is done cooking. :)

      Ellie

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  15. For our stuffing we do half white bread and half corn bread I don't know how but it makes it taste better and the corn bread soaks up the moisture so it isn't super watery.

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