Our favorite Holiday Dinners

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, my mind starts thinking about Christmas food. When my mom was with us, we would start talking about what cookies we were going to bake, the candy we would make and the dinners we would make ahead and have in the freezer when the kids arrive. The first couple of years without mom were rough and probably our Christmas menu was not up to norm, but this Nanny is now back in the saddle and planning some yummy meals and desserts for when the kids arrive.

This year our family will be with us for 6 nights. Christmas day is ALWAYS the traditional turkey with stuffing and pies and Christmas Eve something easy like Honey Baked Ham. The other 4 nights I like to have preplanned with most of the meals all made a head and in the freezer. This year our menu will include:

Our grandsons

Mexican night– our grandsons love all food Mexican and so we started a tradition of having Mexican night during the holidays.  This year our meal will include Queso and chips, Chicken and Beef Tenderloin Tamales from the Tamale Company and our chicken tacos. Dessert to be decided. We would highly recommend buying from this tamale company in Texas. They are well price, ship quickly, freeze well and are delicious!

Beef Tenderloin– Our family loves beef and so at Christmas we splurge and get a really good cut of beef tenderloin. This is the night I keep thing simple as the beef carries the whole meal and is such a treat. We serve this with Sweet Potato Fries, a nice big salad and fresh bread. I am a huge fan of Barefoot Contessa. We have all of her cookbooks and make her dishes frequently. I love to recommend her Slow Roasted Filet of Beef with Basil Parmesan Mayonnaise. For dessert we like to serve pies with this meal and this year will include my grandmother’s apple pie and Byron’s favorite pecan pie. For prep, I will make the pie shells ahead of time in the freezer and will actually make the apple pie unbaked ahead of time as well. It’s easy to thaw out the morning of, wash with milk and sugar and bake. We always have a good quality vanilla ice-cream to go with the pies. The rest of the meal can be prepped just a few hours before your meal time as the meat cooks slowly in the oven for up to 1.5 hours depending on how well cooked your family likes your meat. The kids always love to help cutting up the sweet potatoes and making salad.

Lasagna Night- who doesn’t like a homemade lasagna, with good red wine, garlic bread and salad-yum! Our family recipe comes with a story. Many years ago my mom was invited to dinner at a neighbor’s house. They were Italian and my mom always commented on what good cooks they both were. That evening she was served lasagna and was so impressed that she asked her friend for the recipe. She could not stop talking about it and during our next visit she served us this lasagna. Oh my goodness- it was so flavorful and unique in that each portion is a rolled up lasagna. (rather then placing the noodles lengthwise in the pan you roll each piece up) After I got home I asked my mom for the recipe and she told me she would go to the bank the next day and get a copy in the mail to us. (back then the bank was the only place you could get copies:) I still have that copy which was originally written by her neighbor. I have adjusted some of the ingredients over the years and can call this version my own.  I have never taken a picture when we make this but will certainly get a great shot when we serve it this year.

Roll Up Lasagna
Recipe type: Lasagna
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 12
I usually make the sauce and meatballs one day and then put everything together the next. it is a little labor intensive but well worth it!
  • Tomato Sauce
  • 3 large (28oz) cans plum tomatoes with basil
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • ½ cup fresh basil, slivered
  • ½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1½ lbs mixed sweet and hot sausage
  • Meatballs
  • 1 lb good quality ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • ½ fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 cup fresh grated pecorino romano cheese
  • ¼ cup of tomato sauce from above
  • Lasagna
  • 1 lb curly lasagna
  • 2 lbs whole milk ricotta
  • 1 lb mozzarella ( shredded or thinly sliced)
  • 8 oz. romana cheese
  1. Tomato Sauce- Puree tomatoes in blender. In a large pot place 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Brown garlic in pan until lightly browned and aromatic. Add the tomato puree, paste, fresh basil & parsley, and salt. Simmer for ½ hour. Add the sugar, wine to taste. Fry the sausage in a separate pan and slice into thin slices. Add to the tomato sauce.
  2. Meatballs-- Mix all the ingredients together and make medium size meatballs. Fry in a fry pan with olive oil until browned on all sides and fully cooked.
  3. Lasagna- Cook lasagna according to package directions, adding 1 teaspoon of olive oil to the boiling pot. Cook till very al dente (don't over cook) Drain lasagna and place on counter lined with saran wrap. Add three Tablespoons of the tomato sauce to the ricotta and mix well. Spread a light layer of the ricotta, mozzarella and roams cheese on each slice of noodle. Roll up.
  4. In your lasagna pan ladle 3-4 spoons of the sauce. Place rolled up lasagna with the edge down in the pan. Once all the pieces are used place the meatballs in-between and paddle the remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle left over cheese on top.
  5. Heat thoroughly in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes
Chili Night- Black and White Bean Turkey Chili

Our kids make chili frequently for their families. I never really thought of chili as being special until I had a bite of this turkey chili. Oh my -a couple of years ago I attended a pot luck dinner and loved this chili recipe and thankfully Chef Carol ( the former chef of our Cooking Schools at the inn) was willing to share. The secret ingredient is the Expresso Powder and tequlila:)

Black and White Bean Turkey Chili
Recipe type: Chili
Serves: 8 portions
This can easily be made weeks before and frozen into appropriate size containers
  • 4 Turkey thighs
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves of garlic, whole
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1- 14 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 small can mild green chilies, drained and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can white beans, drained
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • ¼ cup tequila
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon expresso powder.
  1. Place the turkey thighs in a large dutch oven with a bay leaf, garlic and stock, just to cover. If you need more liquid, add water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer and poach for 1 hour. Leave in the stock to cool just until you can easily handle the meat. Remove the thighs and reserve the stock in a separate container. Take the turkey off the bones and cut into bite size pieces.
  2. In the same pot that you cooked the meat, add the olive oil and heat. Then add the tomatoes and cook on high until the liquid is evaporated. Reduce the heat and add the chilies, garlic, turkey and beans. In a small bowl mix together the flour, tequila, honey and all the spices until smooth. Add some reserved stock to create a smooth liquid. Add the tequila and spice liquid to the pot and stir on medium heat until the chili begins to thicken. Add liquid to create the desired thickness. Simmer for 30 minutes. You can make this ahead and refrigerate for up to 5 days- it keeps getting better and better with time.
Always feel free to call us if you have any questions about the recipes I mentioned above. We love to share and are always here to help.

From our family to yours may your holidays be filled with lots of yummy food!



2 thoughts on “Our favorite Holiday Dinners

  1. Everything sounds delicious.
    What a great idea to share friends & or family recipes. Many special memories come to mind year round and during the holidays, thanks to my Mother. I was fortunate to have several friends Mothers recipes too! I love to cook

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