Food Friday: Holiday Menu Planning 

I don't know about you, but right now I am trying to figure out the menu for not one but several holiday dinners to come in the fairly near future. To try and minimize stress with these events which are supposed to be fun, I've decided to do a little advance planning and let you in on it too.

Sometimes it's best to stick to tradition, and include menu items you know are family favorites. But particularly when you have more than one meal to present during the holiday season, you can afford to be a little bit creative. Let's take a quick look at four different cuisines which you might consider. Christmas is really big in each of the five countries which I will present, but you can probably think of many more countries that cherish the holiday as well. You can explore their cuisines too. Suddenly there is no shortage of menu ideas when you consider it in this framework. The challenge will be choosing what to leave out ! 


A Mexican inspired Christmas “ Navidad” 


  • Virgin Margaritas
  • Quesadillas with fresh salsa for starters 
  • Ponche - a hot fruit and cider punch 
  • Mexican Christmas Eve Salad _ this is colorful salad mixture of lettuce, beets, apple carrot, pineapple, jicama, pecans and pomegranate seeds. 
  • Tamales with a chocolate chili mole sauce. 
  • Rosca dee Reyes- A sweet spicy fruity bread containing assorted dried  or candied fruits. 


A French Inspired Christmas “Noel” 


  • Champagne, Perrier
  • Amuse bouche ( hor d’oeuvres) - olives, seasoned nuts, vegetable platters with dips etc. 
  • Boeuf (beef) Bourguignon ( A thick stew made all day with red wine and meat cooked until fork tender eaten with crusty baguettes. ) 
  • Haricots Verts ( green beans roasted with olive oil) served with lemon 
  • Salade Nicoise - Tomatoes, boiled eggs, and tuna on a bed of greens 
  • Diverse fruit and cheese platter 
  • Buche de Noel- An amazing rolled chocolate sponge cake filled with mocha cream, frosted with chocolate buttercream to look like a log and garnished with meringue mushrooms
  • Sorbet 


An Italian Christmas “ Natale” 


  • Pellegrino 
  • Antipasti- tuna, fresh salmon, cured meats, olives, cheeses, bruschetta, crostini, Caprese salad- with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes
  • Pasta, such as ravioli filled with extravagant fillings, such as meat, spinach, ricotta, figs, and even chocolate and candied citron. 
  • Parmesan chicken in red sauce 
  • Lemon tart 
  • Gelati


Scandinavian Christmas recipes “ Yul” 


Glogg- spiced mulled wine 

  • A “ julbord” , meaning a smorgasbord especially for Christmas
  • Cold foods like Gravlax ( salmon cured in sugar, salt and dill), cured meats, cheeses, pickles, beet salad, breads and butters
  • Warm foods like meatballs in berry sauce, potato dishes and cabbage dishes. 
  • Desserts like Pepparkakor ( gingerbread cookies) and saffransbullar ( sweet buns)



One traditional Christmas in America, with some twists


  • Turkey
  • Mash potatoes
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Green salad 
  • Asparagus
  • Pie À la mode


Turkeys is front and center at Christmas time as well as at Thanksgiving. But this time give it a little twist. Consider encrusting the bird with herbs, or having it smoked. For the stuffing, go beyond simple breadcrumbs and try wild rice stuffing. Try a twist on traditional cranberry sauce and add orange. For your salad, add every favorite salad ingredient you can think of from olives to capers, dried cranberries, two colors of tomatoes, and even candied nuts. For the mashed potatoes, consider the very exotic purple potato, or for a very healthy twist, sweet potatoes. If you really want some color on your table try all three. And whatever you do with the potatoes, flavor them well with olive oil, butter, sour cream, salt, pepper and even herbs, garlic, or cheese. Regarding your traditional pie, consider one two fruits not one. Great combinations are apple raspberry, or rhubarb strawberry.

Warning: Each of these menus require several days preparation and several people to accomplish. But, as I read through all my material about holiday and meal traditions the world over, I realized that the affectionate time and extra effort spent preparing these magnificent celebratory meals together is the essence of the holiday. 

Merry Christmas all week long to all the cooks !