35 Christmas Recipes to Prep This Weekend
The days leading up to Christmas are like the calm before a storm. Use this weekend, before company starts rolling in, to plan ahead and prep crowd-friendly breakfasts, apps, snacks, casseroles, and wow-worthy mains. These recipes will last in the fridge or freezer, and a few sealed on a counter, until your guests arrive and are ready to chow down.
Brown Sugar-Spiced Nut Mix
From the Kitchen of…Cheryl Slocum, Senior Food Editor
A bowl of nuts in their shells was a coffee table staple for Thanksgiving snacks when Cheryl was young. "Operating the nutcracker was a real draw for us little kids," she says, "but our tastes have evolved to this sweet-hot crispy mix."
Achieve a bronzelike patina on these candied nuts by keeping a close watch near the end of their roasting time. Too long and they'll overdarken and take on a bitter flavor.
Umami Grilled Leg of Lamb
This impressive main is very tender and loaded with dynamic flavor. The doneness of the lamb varies depending on what part of the meat you eat from, making it perfect for a crowd with different preferences. Most grocery stores carry deboned leg of lamb in spring, but you can also ask your butcher to cut the lamb bone out of the leg and to butterfly it. If the meat is thicker than 1 inch anywhere, cut it down to size or cook it longer. Know your grill and make sure to use a thermometer.
Make-Ahead Coffee Cake
"I adapted this cake from my daughter's school cookbook." Julie DeSchepper, 61, Overland Park, Kan.
Brussels Sprouts Casserole
This solid casserole is perfect for a winter gathering and would especially be welcome around the holidays. The strong flavors of sharply biting Brussels sprouts and salty bacon are rounded our with creamy, cheesy goodness while buttery breadcrumbs add a nice crunch. It’d make a perfect side for roasted chicken or pot roast, but it’s also a nice addition to a Thanksgiving or Christmas table.
Smoked Turkey Breast
Smoked Turkey Breast is a winning choice for your Thanksgiving table or any dining occasion. This turkey breast is bursting with smoky flavor, incredibly moist, and super tender too.
Breakfast Buffet Bake
This super easy breakfast bake is basically a loaded breakfast casserole: It’s heavy on the onions, peppers, and sausage, but lighter on the eggs, so it’s an inverse of your typical breakfast casserole. The layered format and ease on the eggs keeps this from getting soggy. You can go ahead and cook this ahead of time by cooking the hash browns ahead of time, then layering on the onions, peppers, and sausage before covering and refrigerating overnight. Then, simply add the custard the next morning and bake. If you can’t find frozen hash patties, you can use shredded hash browns instead. Simply spread about a pound of frozen hash browns in the baking dish and bake at 400 until cooked through. Then go on with the rest of the recipe.
Looking for a side that’ll stand out this Thanksgiving? Look no further than these charred, super tender carrots cooked in a spiced harissa oil. Smoky sweet carrots are balanced by brightness from the lemon zest, and the harissa paste mixture helps the carrots achieve a nice spice crust and char in the oven. Reserve some of that oil and drizzle it on at the end for a burst of flavor.
Our Cannoli Cheesecake has that classic cannoli flavor you love, but with a creamier, more palatable texture. It’s super smooth, and easier to make than full-on cream cheese-based cheesecake. The secret to the unbeatable texture is adding a dish of water to the oven—the steam helps set the cheesecake without overcooking it. Garnish with whipped cream for a little extra pizzazz, or dust with powdered sugar right before serving to play up the cannoli factor.
Nacho Sausage Balls
Nothing says PARTY like two of the all-time greatest finger foods uniting as one. And that is exactly what is happening with these Nacho Sausage Balls. Adding chorizo, Mexican cheese, pickled jalapeño, cilantro, and crushed nacho cheese flavored Doritos to the mix gives traditional sausage balls a hit of spicy personality. They’re perfect for tailgating or holiday parties—plus, these next-level sausage balls can be made ahead of time and frozen for up to 1 month. For ease, form the sausage ball and freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet; once frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe container. When you’re ready to serve, pop them straight from the freezer to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve your nacho sausage balls with favorite nacho condiments, like sour cream, salsa, and guacamole, for dipping.
Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins
When our crumbly-crisp topping meets the light, fluffy belly of this muffin, you'll swoon.
Spicy Pimiento Cheese Sausage Balls
If you thought you had your perfect, go-to sausage ball recipe—wait until you’ve tried these. Using prepared pimiento cheese in this party food favorite eliminates the need to shred cheese when it comes time to prep your sausage balls, and keeps them from drying out in the oven—as sausage balls are prone to do. In other words, this ultimate appetizer recipe is as genius as it is delicious.
Tres Leches Bread Pudding
Everyone who tasted this bread pudding loved it, and we bet everyone you make it for will love it too. This bread pudding has classic tres leches flavors: It’s super creamy and milky, and lightly spiced with cinnamon, but not overpowering. Instead, the cinnamon adds warmth. The dulce de leche's deep caramel flavors take this to the next level. You can find canned dulce de leche right by the sweetened condensed milk. Feel free to let this soak overnight in the fridge before baking—you’ll just need to skip the hour at room temp if you decide to. Serve with even more dulce de leche and a warm cup of coffee.
Spinach, Bacon, and Gruyère Breakfast Strata
This dish has fewer than 20g of total carbs--about half of what you'll find in classic bread-based casseroles. Greek yogurt, eggs, and cheese pack a mighty protein punch, while a touch of bacon seasons to perfection. The strata is best if allowed to soak overnight. Not only does this build in make-ahead convenience, it also allows the bread to fully absorb the egg mixture--yielding a creamy texture inside, while the top bread pieces get delightfully crisp.
Candied Bacon Sticks with Garlic Butter Drizzle
Sweet and salty bacon wrapped around crunchy breadsticks makes for heaven on a stick. Crunchy, salty, and with just the right amount of garlic to give bacon the upper hand (not that it needs it) these crispy appetizers are the perfect way to get the party started. Thin breadsticks can be found in the cracker aisle at the grocery store, and be sure to use thin-sliced bacon to easily wrap around these breadsticks. Feeling even more daring? Uses these flavorful sticks to stir up a savory-sweet cocktail.
Million Dollar Dip
Million Dollar Dip is like pimiento cheese, but better. The mixture of cheddar cheese, bacon, almonds, green onions, and mayonnaise will please anyone with a cracker or slice of celery. According to The Vintage Church Cookbook, it originated in the Neiman Marcus department store restaurant in the 1950s and became an instant favorite. This recipe doubles effortlessly, so go ahead and make a bigger batch. If there are any leftovers, you can always use it in a sandwich.
Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas
A home cook’s definition of misery: inviting friends over for breakfast and hectically running around the kitchen while everyone else mingles and knocks back mimosas.
With this recipe, you can entertain with ease. Assemble this make-ahead breakfast special the night before and wake up to fully loaded enchiladas for ten or more. Minimal fuss, maximum flavor. After all, who can resist fluffy, soft eggs, salty ham, and melty cheese cocooned in warm tortillas? Absolutely no one. Got leftovers? Much like chili, these enchiladas are even better reheated the day after.
Warning: You will lick your plate like a hungry animal.
Note: Allow for eight hours of chilling time.
Are you ready for the only holiday pie recipe you’ll ever need for the rest of your life? Because this is it. Packed with gingerbread flavor, this pie isn’t for the faint of heart. Gingerbread always packs a punch, especially in a crunchy crust, and paired with a luscious, creamy filling, the flavor and texture combination create an unforgettable pie. You’d think a pie this delicious was labor intensive, but it’s actually quite simple: The secret comes from using cookie butter as a base for the filling. You can make this pie up to three days in advance, and then just grab it and go when you’re heading out. Sprinkle more gingersnaps on top for an even gingerier experience.
Cheddar Cheese Shortbread Crackers
These crisp, buttery crackers make an impressive hostess gift alongside a bottle of wine. We’ve included a classic Cheddar option, as well as three creative flavor variations if you want to mix things up: Pimiento Cheese,; Pecan-and-Thyme; and Bacon, Borubon, and Benne Seed.
Slow-Cooker Prime Rib
Here’s that super tasty holiday dinner recipe you’ve been looking for. In addition to adding loads of flavor, the seasoning and overnight sitting makes for the best crust that’ll keep the juices sealed once the roast is put in the slow cooker. You can find rib roast at most grocery store meat counters. Ask your butcher to trim, remove the chine cone, and tie the roast. Serve with red wine, roasted vegetables, and salad.
Ranch Mashed Potatoes
Not to brag, but this is the best version of homemade ranch mashed potatoes around. The fresh herbs really add some zing to this side and beautifully complement sour cream and buttermilk’s tang. For the fluffiest mashed potatoes, place the potatoes back in the pot after draining them and put them on low heat—this will remove any extra and unwanted moisture. This recipe will also work with russet potatoes instead of Yukons or plain yogurt instead of sour cream. Thin out leftover mashed potatoes with a splash of milk or water.
Savory Ham, Cheese, and Chive Scones
These savory scones are flakey, cheesy, rich, and uber-delicious. Similar to biscuits in texture, method, and ingredients, you’ll want to make sure you’re ingredients are good and cold to ensure the tenderest, flakiest scones possible. The scones can be made into whatever shape you like, they’ll bake just the same. Hearty, portable, and guaranteed crowd-pleasers, these ham, cheese, and chive scones would be perfect to pack up for a brunch or morning tailgate.
French Onion Cheese Ball
Rather than serving French Onion soup topped with bread to a crowd, serve a more easily-shared, portable version with all of the same flavor. A French Onion Cheese Ball with toasted baguette slices makes the perfect game-watching appetizer and it much less likely to spill during the celebration of a big play.
Chai Swirl Cheesecake Bars
These eye-catching dessert bars taste like your favorite chai latte, reimagined in cheesecake form. Featuring flavorful swirls of chai-infused cream cheese filling, each bite offers richly aromatic, spiced flavor set against a cool and creamy vanilla cheesecake backdrop. They’re a simple dessert to make, but undeniably impressive.
Piña Colada Snack Mix
Everyone’s favorite beach drink becomes crunchy in this snack mix filled with flavor: Sweet, rich coconut, tangy lime and pineapple, and saltiness. You’ll find dried fruit in the produce sections of most stores. We used large coconut flakes. Toss in the fat before you add salt and seasoning to ensure an even dispersal. This makes a lot, and will easily cut in half, but leftovers hold really well in a sealed bag. Serve with actual piña coladas, or your favorite beer.
Hoppin’ John Casserole
Get all your New Year’s good luck in one dish with this casserole full of bacon, peas, rice, and collards. The mixture of soft rice with tooth collards and peas, plus chopped bacon makes for a nice variety of textures. It’s great on its own, but it’s also a great side dish for fried chicken or pork chops.
Cinnamon Apple Pull-Apart Bread
For a special breakfast that’s sure to impress, this easy Cinnamon Apple Pull-Apart Bread is a must. Not only is it a looker, but every fluffy crevice and golden fold of this loaf is smattered with irresistibly buttery, apple and cinnamon-brown sugar goodness. Using canned biscuits keeps this pull-apart bread recipe simple enough for bakers of all skill levels; however, it’s what you bring to the convenience dough product that yields a treat that tastes completely homemade. If you find that your melted butter begins to re-solidify slightly after you’ve stirred in the vanilla extract, no worries—just pop it back into the microwave for a few seconds and proceed with brushing the biscuit dough rounds. When arranging the stacks of dough into your pan, keep in mind that the dough will need space to rise and expand a bit as it bakes. A tangy cream cheese drizzle over the warm cinnamon-apple bread is certainly a welcome finishing touch, but it’s not essential if you’d rather dig in immediately.
Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
"I always make stock well before Thanksgiving in the slow cooker, and then freeze it," says Diane Morgan, Cooking Light contributor. "This way the gravy is never lacking deep turkey flavor."
What's the key to a this fabulously convenient make-ahead gravy? A good turkey stock. In November, it's easy to find turkey wings, which make an especially rich stock. Try this classic gravy; it can be made ahead, cooled, and frozen up to two months. To thaw, all you have to do is reheat over medium-heat. Make sure to stir continously with a whisk to break up any chunks.
Pistachio Tahini Cinnamon Rolls
Delicious and not too sweet, the flavors of tahini, pistachios, and cardamom combine beautifully in a fluffy, light roll. These cinnamon rolls take a little extra time, but they’re so worth the effort—especially since most of the work is hands-off. Working with yeast is nothing to be afraid of. If you’re worried about your water being too warm or cool, use a thermometer to keep the temperature in check. These rolls would be fantastic at breakfast or brunch, but they’re also perfect for a snack or treat with a cup of coffee or hot tea.
Classic Focaccia Bread
Our classic, standard focaccia recipe yields an oily (but not overpowering!) and flavorful loaf that’s super crisp on the bottom, just like a really good pizza crust. If you have the right tools, focaccia isn’t difficult. Letting the dough sit overnight helps it relax and will make a better bread. This bread also pairs fantastically with marinara, so feel free to chop it up like breadsticks and dip to your heart’s content.
Cauliflower-Goat Cheese Casserole
This simple but hearty casserole has a good balance of sweet-vegetal cauliflower, deeply sweet shallots, and tangy goat cheese, while pine nuts provide some tastiness and textural contrast. Parcooking the cauliflower keeps it from mushing out in the casserole, and using a shortcut like pre-floreted cauliflower helps get this done super fast. Go for a goat cheese log instead of crumbles—it melts much more easily. It’s easy enough for a weeknight, but is tasty and comforting enough for a special occasion.
Icebox Dinner Rolls
Slow-Cooker Spiral Ham
This feast-worthy spiral-cut ham couldn’t be easier to make. And if you’re sick of overly sweet sauces, you’re in luck—this one incorporates your ham drippings to create a flavor that’s savory, sweet, and salty. If your ham doesn’t fit in the slow cooker, you can trim off the top edge until it does. Then just toss those trimmings down in the slow cooker. You’ll need a turkey baster to evenly distribute those juices, so don’t settle for a spoon.