Your holiday meal is one meal of the year that you usually know what to expect and what you will be eating. Different areas of the United States have different holiday traditions, plus families have their traditional dishes that must be prepared. Honor your family traditions and make the traditional foods expected. Then add a new dish that you would like to introduce.
Kick off your holiday dinner with some crowd-pleasing appetizers. Lots of appetizer ideas to serve your family and guests while waiting for dinner to be served. Only offer enough appetizers to take the hunger edge off, but not so much that your guests are full by the time they sit down to the main meal.
Serve light appetizers before your dinner, as you do not want to fill up your guests. Also serve appetizers that can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Many, many more Appetizer Ideas.
Fondue, an ancient Swiss dish, is very easy to prepare, fun to serve, and enjoyable to eat. It is the perfect dish to gather your friends and family to create a sense of intimacy that is informal and memorable.
Cheese Boards – Cheese Plates – Cheese Platters
Entertaining frequently includes some kind of cheese tray, often with fruit or vegetables or meat or a combination of these foods. This is an opportunity to be creative and introduce your guests to some new cheeses. It is great fun!
Pimento Cheese Spread or Topping
This is a variation on the very popular Southern Pimento Cheese Spread. This Pimento Spread has a slight kick without being too much.
Pizza Pub Snack Mix
This is a savory snack mix with influences of pizza flavors using pepperoni bits and cheese crackers. A great salty snack mix to serve while watching a sports game.
Southwest Cowboy Caviar – Texas Caviar
This is a flavor bursting blend of vegetables and beans that makes a nutritious addition to a party as a appetizer chip dip (a lot like salsa). What is also great about this dish, is that you can adjust the ingredients to your family’s taste. Either way you served this delicious Southwest Cowboy Caviar, it is delicious and sure to please your family or guests. Makes a great vegetarian and vegan dish, as it is gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy free.
Tarragon-Rice Stuffed Mushrooms
This is a great low fat and low calorie appetizer to serve your guests.
Soup Course Ideas – Optional Course:
I like to serve a soup course to start the dinner off. Serve a light soup and serve small amounts (more appetizer size). Just enough to delight the taste palates of your guests and family. Lot more delicious Soup Recipes to choose from:
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
This is one of my family’s favorite soup recipes. I have also served this delightful and interesting soup for dinner parties.
Tomato-Basil Crab Bisque
This soup is so good! This is one of the best bisque that I have tasted.
This recipe originally was made at the Four Season’s restaurant in New York. So good!
Old Fashion Oyster Stew
I first tasted this wonderful oyster stew when I was a teenager (and that was a while ago), and I have been a oyster stew lover ever since. This recipe is so easy to make and so delicious!
Main Entree – The Turkey:
Turn off the TV during your holiday dinner. Focus your attention where it belongs on the delicious food and your family and friends. When the dishes are done, EVERYONE can enjoy the games (or the chat in the other room).
America’s traditional holiday turkey dinner meat. It is hard to beat the classic oven-roasted turkey with the wonderful aromas that waft from the oven kicking off the anticipation for the holiday meal. Roasting a large turkey is one of easiest ways to accommodate a large crowd of family and friends. Learn how to safely and easily prepare and roast your turkey.
Turkey Hints & Tips:
How to purchase, stuff, and roast a turkey. Choosing a fresh or frozen turkey. How to thaw a frozen turkey. How to prepare turkey for stuffing.
Guidelines for Brining Poultry
The secret to juicy chicken breast is simple – brine them before grilling or baking! It is very easy and economical, and requires no special cookware.
Using a Cooking or Meat Thermometer
Have you ever cut into a turkey to see if it has finished cooking? Cooking thermometers take the guesswork out of cooking, as they measures the internal temperature of your cooked meat and poultry to assure that a safe temperature has been reached, harmful bacteria have been destroyed, and your turkey is cook perfectly.
Stuffing or Dressing Choices:
Stuffing or Dressing choices are usually made according to the region you live in and also family favorites. Whether you call it “stuffing” or “dressing,” what’s not to love about turkey stuffing? It is often one of the best parts of a turkey dinner. It is so easy to prepare. Also be creative and add your family’s favorite ingredients.
This is my family’s favorite Turkey Dressing/Stuffing recipe that I make every year.
Sweet Onion Cornbread Stuffing
This wonderful cornbread stuffing will delight your family and friends. It is easy-to-make and so delicious! Use it as a great stuffing alongside of your poultry dishes. How about stuffing your next Turkey with this delicious cornbread stuffing?
Cornbread Stuffing with Fresh Figs, Morels, and Foie Gras – Learn about Foie Gras
If you really want to be fancy and step up your holiday dinner, try this unusual and wonderful dressing
Advice on Stuffing a Turkey Safely
To stuff or not to stuff — that is the question on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline. It is an important question to ask as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday draws near, because cooking a home-stuffed turkey can be somewhat riskier than cooking one not stuffed. If the stuffing is not cooked and handled properly, food borne illness could occur.
However, with careful preparation and the use of a meat or cooking thermometerto ensure that safe temperatures are reached, consumers can safely enjoy the traditional holiday stuffing inside OR outside the turkey. The USDA has come up with a one-temperature-suits-all for poultry safety: 165 degrees F. For safety and doneness, the Internal Temperature of the turkey should be checked with a meat or cooking thermometer.
Side Dish Ideas:
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
This mashed potato recipe is perfect. This recipe is classic, simple, and perfectly fits the season. What could go better with turkey than cranberry sauce and some mashed potatoes?
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Save your valuable kitchen time on Thanksgiving or Christmas day by using this easy-to-make mashed potato dish for your next holiday dinner. This recipe is especially great when serving a crowd as it eliminates the mess and last-minute hassle of whipping potatoes. This is the recipe I use every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners.
Other potato dish ideas:
Browned Butter Smashed Potatoes with Butternut Squash
Try something new and impress your family and guests with this delicious combination of potatoes and butternut squash.
Asiago and Sage Scalloped Potatoes
This is my family’s favorite scalloped potato recipe. I especially like to make this delicious potato dish during the holidays.
Grandma Gertie’s Sweet Potatoes
This sweet potato dish is a “must” for our Christmas and Thanksgiving Dinner every year.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Truffles and Bourbon
This recipe is adapted from a dish served at Emeril’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. This sweet potato dish has the most amazing flavor. You will really impress your dinner guests with this dish.
Perfect Turkey Gravy
I can not imagine a turkey dinner without having flavorful homemade turkey gravy. Turkey gravy is so easy-to-make and absolutely necessary with mashed potatoes. Homemade turkey gravy, made using the turkey giblet stock, pan drippings, and meat juices, and drippings from the roast turkey, is an essential part of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Learn how to make perfect turkey gravy and how to use those turkey giblets.
Also included – How To Make Gluten-Free (Celiac Diet) Turkey Gravy.
Cranberry Dish Ideas:
Cranberries are always a requirement for my family.
My son-in-law makes this wonderful family recipe for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner every year.
Cranberry Sauce with Raspberry Vinaigrette
This traditional sauce is enhanced by raspberry vinegar. Very delicious!
Gelatin Salad Ideas:
Blueberry JELL-O Salad
You will find this dessert commonly served at holiday gatherings and special occasions. Even people that do not typically like Jell-O dishes love the texture of this dessert and ask for seconds!
Fiesta Carrot Pineapple JELL-O Salad
This Fiesta Carrot Pineapple JELL-O Salad is a classic JELL-O recipe that is light and refreshing! The whole family devours this JELL-O salad. While the pineapple-carrot flavor combination is unique, they work very well together.
Tangy Tomato Aspic
This gelatin salad is a favorite family comfort food that we make and serve for Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner every year. Very easy to make and so good!
Butternut Squash Gratin
This butternut squash gratin is so good! My husband gave it a 10 rating, and said that I can make it anytime I want – in other words, he liked it!
German Creamed Spinach
This dish is absolutely wonderful! It is a family favorite at our house for all holidays and special occasions. Even children like this spinach dish!
Michael’s Best Button Mushrooms
These mushrooms are so incredibly delicious! This is my “go-to” recipe for both special occasions and dinner parties.
This method of preparing cauliflower is very simple and extremely delicious. If you have never roasted cauliflower, try it now!
Relish Plate (pickles, olives, etc.)
A holiday dinner isn’t complete without a relish plate to nibble on.
Caesar Salad Recipe
My all-time favorite salad is the Caesar Salad. To many, including myself, this is the King of salads. Caesar salads are very easy to make and can be prepared in advance. I always serve this salad with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Fresh Fruit Salad with 1-2-3 Fruit Dressing
This is very refreshing and delicious fruit salad. I use whatever fresh fruit is in season when making this salad. The combination of citrus fruits in the dressing gives the salad a wonderful delicious flavor!
Green Pea Salad
This is a family favorite that I enjoyed when I was young, and still do today. It is a very easy-to-make vegetable salad. Great for taking to a potluck or even your holiday dinners. Your family will love this recipe!
Bread or Roll Choices:
Home made rolls and breads are always preferred, but it you don’t have the time to make your own, purchase top-quality rolls and breads at a local bakery.
Make Ahead Butter Rolls
This is one my favorite roll recipe to use for holiday dinners, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Very easy to make ahead and bake at the last minutes.
Perfect Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
Homemade biscuits are so easy to make, and if you follow a few simple rules, they will always turn out fluffy and delicious.
My family loves cornbread! It is easy to make and so good. Cornbread made in the Northwest is a little sweeter and lighter than the traditional southern cornbread.
Honey Butter is a must when serving cornbread and biscuits for our family.
Various Yeast Breads
In order not to have to heat rolls in my oven, I sometimes make various homemade breads the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Saves me a lot of time on Turkey day and pleases my guests.
Holiday Dinner Dessert Ideas:
Most families serve at least two (2) dessert choices. Homemade pies seem to be a favorite for the holidays.
Pumpkin Swirl Gingersnap Cheesecake
Here is a fun twist for your pumpkin cheesecake. The delicate swirling of the pumpkin in the cheesecake makes a beautifully festive holiday dessert. I usually make this cheesecake ahead of time and freeze it. See How To Freeze Cheesecake.
Pumpkin empanadas are made both on Thanksgiving and Christmas for some Mexican-style Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners.
Pecan Pie – Pecan Praline Pie
The only way this pie could be better tasting is to serve these pies warm and topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
This is a delicious, old-fashion Buttermilk Pie. Do not be put off by the buttermilk – this is a sweet and flavorful pie. My aunt made five pies for a family reunion, and this pie was definitely my favorite!
This is my Mother’s apple pie recipe made with fresh apples. There is nothing as grand as a homemade apple pie. It is so good!
This has been my favorite holiday pie since I was a little girl. My grandmother used to make her own homemade mincemeat.
Now is the time to sit back and relax. Forget about the mess in the kitchen and just relax and enjoy your family and/or friends.
I know, the mess is still in your kitchen waiting to be cleaned up, but now is not the time to jump up and start cleaning. Just relax and visit!
Coffee – How to make a perfect cup of coffee?
How To Use a French Press – coffee press, plunger press and/or press coffee.
Turkey Hints & Tips:
Turkey Basics – How to purchase, stuff, and roast a turkey. Choosing a fresh or frozen turkey. How to thaw a frozen turkey. How to prepare turkey for stuffing.
Guidelines for Brining Poultry – The secret to juicy chicken breast is simple – brine them before grilling or baking! It’s very easy and economical, and requires no special cookware.
Guidelines For Roasting a Whole Turkey – Learn how to safely and easily prepare and roast your turkey.
Advice on Stuffing a Turkey Safely – As the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday draws near, learn how to safely stuff your turkey.
Using a Cooking or Meat Thermometer – Have you ever cut into a turkey to see if it has finished cooking? Cooking thermometers take the guesswork out of cooking, as they measures the internal temperature of your cooked meat and poultry to assure that a safe temperature has been reached, harmful bacteria have been destroyed, and your turkey is cook perfectly.
Making Perfect Turkey Gravy – Hints and tips for making that perfect turkey gravy.
Handling Leftovers Safely – Leftover” foods are cooked foods that you or your family do not eat within 2 hours after they are cooked. Improper handling or storing cooked food is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the home.
Let’s Make Turkey Stock – My favorite thing to do the morning after Thanksgiving and Christmas is to make homemade turkey stock from the turkey carcass. It is so easy to do and so delicious! The turkey stock can be used for a delicious soup or frozen for future use.
Food Safety Pages:
Buffet and Party Safety – Also includes what to do if your guests have been delayed at least an hour
Golden Rules of Food Safety – IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT! If you have any question in your mind about the freshness or safety of eating a food product, throw it out. It is better to be safe than sorry!
Why not try something new for your holiday dinner, how about substituting for one of the following:
Perfect Prime Rib
Definition of Prime Rib: A tender cut of beef taken from the rib primal. A Prime Rib Roast is also often referred to as Standing Rib Roast. It is very tender, flavorful, and usually expensive. Learn how to cook a perfect prime rib roast.
Roasted Crown of Pork Loin
Truly one of the most magnificent of all holiday entrees. Impress your guest with this attractive Roasted Crown Loin of Pork. It is a real show stopper!
Honey-Glazed Ham Dinner Menu
My family thinks this Baked Honey Glazed Ham recipe is better than the commercial one. The honey glaze crackles with good flavor and taste as it has a distinctive flavor can only be achieved with a glaze. This makes a great holiday ham dinner for Easter Dinner, Thanksgiving Dinner, and also Christmas Dinner.
Learn all about the different types of ham and how to cook them.
Learn how to smoke a whole turkey.
Barbecued or Grilled Whole Turkey
This is a very easy and efficient way to cook your holiday turkey. No mess in your oven or the kitchen. A whole turkey may be prepared on either a gas grill or a charcoal grill. Your turkey will be crisp outside and juicy inside.
Cajun Fried Turkey
This is the best way of cooking a turkey I have ever tasted. The turkey is anything but greasy as the deep-frying process seals the outside and the turkey remains incredibly juicy, while the skin gets wonderfully crispy.
This regional delight has become one of the latest food fads. From the outside it looks like a turkey, but when you cut through it, you see a series of rings making up the three birds and three stuffings.
Tofurky/Tofurkey Recipe with Vegan Gravy
Vegetarian/Vegan holiday: – For your vegetarian and vegan family and friends.