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Food Matters

All about fresh, flavorful food


Alternative Christmas Dinner Ideas

Most American households serve a traditional dinner for Christmas (and Thanksgiving), which includes stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and a vegetable dish. My family is no different—my maternal grandparents serve a turkey dinner and the paternal side, which has many more mouths to feed, goes all out with turkey, ham and homemade chicken noodles. Two huge meals in a few days time are daunting, and after Thanksgiving my vegetarian appetite for these courses has been more than satiated.

If you find yourself in a similar situation; simply want to add variety to your typical fare; or are looking to start your own holiday traditions, these alternative ideas are sure to please any palette.

Family enjoying Christmas dinner
Photo by Fotolia/dglimages.

Swap Meats

Rather than preparing a turkey or ham this year, consider serving something a bit more special. Roasted goose or duck, duck breasts and braised lamb shanks aren’t dishes we’re likely to make on an average day. These recipes take no longer to cook than a turkey or ham, and will add a new level of allure to the table.

Skip the Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are simple, comforting and loved by all, but there are so many other types of potatoes to try: potato gratin, duchess potatoes, scalloped potatoes or herb-roasted potatoes. All of these recipes are simple enough to make, but provide a fresher take on the traditional potato dish.

Stews & Soups

Luckily, my holidays are the best both worlds: On Christmas Eve we have homemade chicken and noodles then, Christmas Day is the traditional turkey dinner. However, depending on your holiday traditions, you could easily replace turkey with a hearty soup or stew. The benefit of soups and stews? They usually take less time to prepare, which means you can enjoy your meal, guests and conversation much sooner.

Spice Up Your Sides

Typical holiday side dishes include cranberry sauce, fresh veggies with dip, and green bean casserole. While all of these are delicious, we just had them in November! Consider roasted Brussels sprouts in place of green bean casserole and a delicious chutney instead of cranberry sauce.

Go Vegetarian (or Vegan)

Skip the meat entrée altogether and opt for a hearty, meat-free meal with a nut roast, mashed cauliflower and your choice of veggies. These dishes meet the needs of anyone in your family or social circle who might have a special diet and they’re often easily made dairy- or gluten-free, as well.

Dessert, Please!

No holiday meal is complete without something a little sweet. Pumpkin pie, gingerbread, peanut butter balls and peanut clusters seem to be common staples for dessert menus. The world of desserts and baking is so vast, why stick to the same dishes every year? Keep your favorite dessert on the menu, but add variety with no-bake mint chocolate chip pie, pecan pie tarts, tres leches cake or any other tasty treat that appeals to you.

What non-traditional dishes grace your Christmas table? Let us know your favorite alternative holiday recipes, if you try any of these ideas and how they go over with your guests.