Fantastic Ways to Spice Up Your Holiday Dinners

by Sandra LeBlanc 12/20/2020

Photo by Public Domain Pictures via Pixabay

It can be extra work, but holiday dinners are well worth the effort. Marinating your turkey not only adds flavor but helps keep it moist. You can’t go wrong with the Scarborough Fair herbs--parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. But a standout addition with something spicy like a Cajun herb mix or chili pepper will enliven the flavors, and with the size of your bird it won’t overtake the palate.  A hint of sweetness like maple syrup or honey also goes great with poultry, especially with extra black pepper. 

Offer a fresh version of the traditional accouterments with rosemary citrus cream gravy: simmer your turkey drippings with a stem of fresh rosemary, a splash of orange juice, and heavy cream.

Get Creative with Sides

A lentil salad with cilantro and bell peppers spiked with vinegar and creamy mayonnaise tastes fresh, bright and provides a lighter accompaniment to the heavier dishes of the day. Boil and drain a bag of dried lentils as directed, then add 1/2 cup each of diced red onion, bell pepper, mayonnaise, and 1/3 cup vinegar. Finish with fresh chopped cilantro, then salt and pepper to taste.

Give sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce some competition for the sweet-side title and serve a warm quinoa salad with cinnamon and golden raisins.  Add 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/3 cup golden raisins to 3 cups warm, cooked quinoa.  The comfort-food richness belies the many health benefits of the quinoa, a great source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. 

Vegetable gratin also ups the health quotient of the traditional au gratin dish with thinly-sliced sweet potatoes, parsnips, and rutabagas, but still covers it all in creamy, cheesy goodness.  Try for 1/4 inch or thinner slices to get them tender faster, layering them with shredded cheese in a baking dish like scalloped potatoes.  Cover with scalded heavy cream and milk, butter, and fresh thyme, then cover and bake until tender.  

Make-Ahead but Still Spectacular Desserts 

For a convenient eaten-by-hand dessert other than cookies - and you can still skip the dish washing - meringue shells are light, sweet, and feel a little like you’re in a French bakery.  Beat 3 egg whites until foamy, then add 1/4 teaspoon each of cream of tartar and salt.  Beat until still while gradually adding 3/4 cup sugar.  Spoon dollops of meringue onto a foil-covered baking sheet and bake for one hour at 275 degrees for beautiful pavlova-like puffs. 

Another super-easy yet classy dessert:  simmer berries (even frozen) with red wine, cinnamon, sugar, and a little lemon juice until thick, then serve over ice cream or cake.

Follow-up Feast

A fun leftover idea:  Derby hot browns with béchamel sauce - perfect while watching holiday games.  Make the sauce by boiling 2 tablespoons butter, 3/4 cup milk, and 1/4 cup vegetable broth, then thickening with cornstarch and parmesan.  Season with salt and nutmeg.  Pile sliced turkey, cheddar, and sliced tomatoes onto rye for an open-faced sandwich, then broil and top with sauce and bacon strips.

About the Author

Sandra LeBlanc

Your #1 Real Estate Professional for Potomac, Maryland and the surrounding area.