The holidays are drawing near — and what better way to celebrate than with a home-cooked meal? No matter what holiday your family celebrates, coming together for a delicious, tradition-filled feast is likely a part of the plans.
We asked readers and our lineup of bloggers for some of their family’s favorite seasonal recipes. Here are a few of their holiday must-haves to give you inspiration for filling your own table.
Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shanks
Submitted by Karen Nochimowski, of Momma Chef
“Our family, like most, has tried-and-true holiday traditions that we follow and cherish each year. But I also try to come up with something new for many holidays that I hope will turn into time-honored traditions. This year, I created a perfect dish for Christmas, Easter and Passover — braised lamb shanks. The pomegranate juice adds a bit of sweetness that brings out the delectable flavor of the lamb. With the beautiful presentation, no one will believe that it took just five minutes to create.”
3 lamb shanks (about 4 pounds)
2 C pomegranate juice
¼ C honey
1 T chopped rosemary
1 tsp. salt
3 chopped garlic cloves
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Mix pomegranate juice, honey, salt, chopped rosemary and garlic in a large Ziploc bag. Add the lamb shanks to the bag and, if possible, let it marinate several hours in the refrigerator.
This recipe can be made in a slow cooker or Dutch oven.
If making in the oven, pour all ingredients in a Dutch oven add ½ C water. Bake for 3 hours at 300 degrees.
If making in a slow cooker, pour all ingredients in the slow cooker, add ½ C water, and cook on high for 6 hours.
Lamb shanks are wrapped in many layers of plastic; make sure to remove all layers before cooking.
This dish is best served over a bed of mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach.
Before serving, drizzle with fresh or frozen pomegranate seeds.
Overnight Mashed Potatoes (Party Potatoes)
Submitted by Erika, of Strongsville
“My family has been making overnight mashed potatoes for the holidays for as long as I can remember. It has more ingredients than just regular mashed potatoes and takes a lot more time — it actually has to sit overnight. It’s a favorite of many and we all look forward to eating it.”
12 medium potatoes — peeled, cooked and hot
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, room temperature
¼ C butter
½ C sour cream
½ C milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ C finely chopped onions (or 1½ T minced onions)
1 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1½ tsp. onion salt
2 T butter, sliced thin
Mash potatoes in a large mixing bowl.
Add cream cheese and butter in small pieces until melted.
Mix in sour cream.
Combine beaten eggs, onion, milk and seasonings in a separate bowl. Add to potatoes and beat until fluffy.
Place in a greased 9×13-in. casserole dish.
Top with butter slices.
Refrigerate for several hours (or overnight).
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Best Baked Beans
Submitted by Candace, of Brooklyn
2 large cans of vegetarian baked beans
1 small can baby beans
1 large tomato
1 large green pepper
1 large red pepper
½ medium red onion
Squirt of ketchup
Blob of brown sugar
Open beans and put in slow cooker.
Dice tomato, peppers and onion, and add to beans.
Squirt in the ketchup, add a blob of brown sugar, and mix all ingredients.
Let simmer in slow cooker until everything smells delicious and is hot (an hour or so, on high).
Serve with all the delicious dishes of the day!
Submitted by Melissa Carney, of I Crashed the Web
“My mom is Italian and Catholic, and my dad is Jewish, so the holidays were always a time of varying celebrations at my house. That’s likely why one of my favorite Christmas cookies is my mom’s rugelach, a traditional Jewish cookie. Rugelach is Yiddish for “little twists” and these cookies are delicious cinnamon croissant-shaped cookies. The smell of cinnamon invades your house as you bake them, and you can’t help but feel like the holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate) are here.”
For the dough:
2 sticks butter
8 oz. cream cheese
½ tsp. salt
2 C flour
For the filling:
1½ C sugar
1½ T cinnamon
¾ C walnuts, finely chopped
2 sticks butter
(melted 2 T at a time)
Mix butter, cream cheese, salt and flour to create the dough. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
While the dough is refrigerating, prepare filling. Mix sugar and cinnamon. Prepare finely chopped walnuts and set aside from cinnamon/sugar mixture.
After an hour, remove dough from refrigerator. Cut dough into four equal parts and flatten each like a disc.
Melt butter as needed, 2 tbs. at a time. Roll each dough quarter into a 14-in. circle and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar combo and then sprinkle nuts on top.
Cut dough down the middle and slice like a pizza, into about 16 wedge-shaped pieces. Use a pizza cutter dipped in flour to cut.
Roll dough slices into a croissant shape, starting from the larger end and ending with the smaller end.
Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
While still hot, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture.
Chiffon Pumpkin Pie
Submitted by Jen Rome, of Why CLE?
“This is the pumpkin pie that my Great Grandmother would always make for Thanksgiving. It’s light and layered and unlike any other pumpkin pie I’ve ever had. For me, when I took over making Thanksgiving dinner for my family, this was the one recipe I really wanted to get right. We’re traditionalists at the holidays. We don’t make a lot of fancy, foodie recipes this time of year. We make the recipes that have been served for generations. So when I discovered that I could make Great Grandma’s pie and it would taste just like the original, it was quite an achievement!”
1 C pumpkin puree
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 can evaporated milk
½ C milk
1 C sugar
3 eggs, separated
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Add sugar, spices and salt to pumpkin. Mix well.
Beat egg yolks and add to pumpkin mixture, along with both kinds of milk. Mix well.
Stiffly beat egg whites and gently fold into pumpkin mixture.
Pour into pastry-lined pan.
Bake in 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.
Lower heat to 350 and bake about 40 minutes longer or until firm (knife inserted in pie should come out clean).
*Note: this makes a lot of filling. Sometimes it’s easier to fill part-way and then ladle the rest into the pie pan in the oven. Also note that if you make this too late the day before Thanksgiving, you will, in complete exhaustion, drop it face-down on the floor and find yourself at the 24-hour grocery because you have to remake it. True story.
Cornflake Holiday Wreaths
Submitted by Abby Thome, of The Thome Home
“My husband’s family has made these every holiday season for over 20 years. It’s such a fun, kid-friendly recipe that brings a smile to everyone’s face. They keep well in an airtight container to share with family and friends.”
1 stick of butter
1 (10 oz.) bag of marshmallows
Green food coloring
4½ cups cornflake cereal
Red M&Ms or Red Hots to decorate
Melt butter in a saucepan and add marshmallow, stirring until melted.
Turn off heat and add 1-2 teaspoons of green food coloring.
Stir in cornflakes and mix until fully incorporated.
Let cool slightly.
Scoop cereal into balls, and set on parchment paper to cool further.
Use fingers to create a circle in the middle and mold into “donut-like” wreaths
Add red candies for decoration
Submitted by Stephanie Pappas, of snackdinner
“While the cookies may look similar from year to year, the recipe is always changing, influenced by my loved ones. There’s my grandmother, whose recipe and cookie tin collection have inspired my own. There’s my mom, whose carefully-stocked larder I’ve emulated so that I can bake whenever the mood strikes. There’s my dad, who gave me the spatula attachment to upgrade my stand mixer as well as the hammer I use to tap the mixer’s hinge pin back in place. There’s my other grandmother, who gifted me said stand mixer that I can’t bear to replace. There are my siblings, to whom I send an in-process picture of venetians every year. There’s my sister-in-law, who encouraged me to start baking in metric, and my husband, who bought the kitchen scale to force that issue. There’s my mother-in-law, both for the gel paste that elevates these cookies in whatever color I make them, and for the cezve that makes melting the chocolate so much easier. This recipe always breaks from tradition, because each year I fold in some new lesson from my family. This isn’t a recipe. It’s a patchwork quilt.”
The recipe appears on the snackdinner blog.
Submitted by Kevin Payne, of Family Money Adventure
“I remember being a kid and waking up early on Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait to open all the presents I had been examining for what seemed like forever. My dad, however, had other plans that included coffee, showering and getting ready for the day, and sometimes eating breakfast before we could touch a present. It drove us kids crazy! As a parent, I feel it’s my duty to pass on at least some of my childhood misery to my own kids so when we are celebrating Christmas at home, I make a big breakfast for everyone. I am an early riser, though, so they don’t wait as long as I used to. The menu varies year to year, but lately, Monkey Bread has been the family favorite. Honestly, I just use one of the thousands of recipes on Pinterest except I add vanilla because it’s basically my favorite thing ever. As the house baker, I add it to everything I bake. Monkey Bread is so easy to make, which is perfect if kids are helping to make.”
Christmas Toffee Crack
Submitted by Jaclyn Musselman, of Coffee, Pancakes & Dreams
I think our family enjoys baking and cooking the days leading up to the holiday season even more than the actual holiday. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the kids and I are always in the kitchen making cookies or chocolate treats. One of our favorite treats, that barely lasts around our house more than a day or two is Christmas Toffee Crack. It is a simple recipe that we usually have the ingredients for in our house all the time! This recipe is a indulgent and addicting, so it is one we only make around the holidays. While there are many variations of this treat around, we keep things simple with the original recipe.
Secret Family Recipes
We get it — some things are sacred. As such, we can’t expect everyone to divulge the recipes of their time-honored family favorites. Here’s a tidbit about these well-loved menu items.
Submitted by Jessica, of Parma
“Three pies in one large, rectangular pan: pumpkin, apple, and pecan. This is an important tradition because everyone enjoys one or more of these pies, so everyone is happy with dessert. This year we are adding a cherry pie.”
Joey’s Candied Yams
Submitted by Yamilet, of Cleveland
“These yams are cooked to perfection with condiments, then baked with coconut cream and marshmallows. It was made by my brother and has become a favorite amongst our family. We are a close-knit family, but holidays bring us even closer!”
Grandma’s Homemade Stuffing
Submitted by Katherine, of Brooklyn
“It was grandma’s recipe, and we all helped chop and prepare this together. The parade was on… (it was) just great holiday fun.”
— Editor’s note: While Katherine didn’t share exact quantities, we do know this recipe features multiple loaves of bread and multiple sticks of butter, as well as onion, celery and parsley. We love how her description included memorable family antics, such as: “Turn on parade…loudly,” “Make fun of each other’s chopping skills,” and “Devein turkey liver and chop. With lots of ewwws.”