Christmas Roundup: The Culinary Edition

I love food.

I love food in the spring. I love food in the summer (hello local corn on the cob and fresh berries). I love food in the fall. But most of all, I love food at Christmas.

There just isn’t another time of year where I eat all my favourite things in such quick succession. I paced myself and tried to make sure I felt okay physically (not too much dairy, light on the breakfasts) – and it was delicious.

*Please note: the photo above is not from our Christmas dinner; in fact I only have TWO pictures from the entire week of feasting. Food photography is not my forte. I took a picture of the seafood casserole and even though it is objectively one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten, it is white and yellow and looked very unappetizing in photos.

CHRISTMAS EVE…EVE | Seafood casserole, curried rice with shrimp (both out of a Company’s Coming cookbook – talk about a blast from the past) and pecan pie with ice cream. My husband grew up loving this seafood casserole and rice combo, but I only started making it two years ago. It has quickly morphed into a family favourite, and I only make it for his birthday + Christmas, so it definitely feels special. It’s rich and filling and decadent (hello, lobster, scallops and shrimp). Bonus: the leftovers are absolutely fantastic and the adults polished those off on Christmas Eve!

CHRISTMAS EVE | Lunch was our beloved mini donair pizzas. I make the meat and sauce but buy pre-shredded cheese and Naan. Donair is a unique form of spiced ground beef, very popular in Eastern Canada. There are entire restaurants devoted to donairs; the meat is shaved off a giant spit and folded inside soft pitas with onions, fresh tomatoes and a delicious sauce. I make ours in pizza form, topping Naan bread with donair sauce, meat and cheese and broiling them for a few minutes. I served diced fresh tomatoes and fried onions on the side. Dessert at both meals was a smorgasbord of edible delights – my Mom’s sweetened condensed milk squares (AKA 7-layer bars), homemade fudge (brown sugar and chocolate) and homemade peanut butter balls.

Supper was my Mom’s homemade Mac n’ Cheese – the kids favourite meal at Grammie’s house – though the adults enjoyed leftovers of seafood casserole.

CHRISTMAS DAY| Breakfast always, always involves cinnamon coffee cake (monkey bread that I make with fluffy buttermilk biscuit dough) and we had scrambled eggs with bacon.

Lunch was assorted meats, fancy cheeses, crackers, dips, and other cold finger foods. We started doing this last Christmas and I think it will be a tradition moving forward. John has assumed responsibility for this meal and it feels like a nice reprieve on Christmas Day. I grew up always having a huge turkey dinner, but I like being able to relax and put everything on paper plates after the morning chaos and excitement. Dessert was unbaked cherry cheesecake – my absolute favourite dessert.

Supper was meatballs in the slowcooker. Again, this was a new idea from last year. We all love meatballs, and being able to put something in the slowcooker allows us to go off on a Christmas Day adventure (last year to Peggy’s Cove, this year to a local beach). I think, weather permitting, we’ll aim to make this another annual tradition for our family. It’s so nice to get outside and stretch our legs!

BOXING DAY | Turkey, turkey, turkey! Stuffing (StoveTop, because I’m fancy like that), corn, squash, homemade pickled beets, canned cranberry sauce and…of course…unbaked cherry cheesecake.

We ended up having enough cherry cheesecake to each have a wedge one meal per day for almost a week (the kids sometimes opted for cookies – which just meant more cheesecake for me)! I’ve had my fill for the season and won’t have another one until my birthday…but it was so, so delicious.

LEFTOVERS | While there was a lot of cooking up front, we then lived on leftovers for days and my fridge is now almost completely bare. I made a soup with all the leftover turkey and veggies which fed us for two meals + some skillet cornbread; I made turkey filling for sandwiches. We finished up dishes of Mac n’ Cheese, meatballs and rice, and a few remaining donair pizzas. We’ve picked away at the peanut butter balls, cookies and fudge and everything is stashed in the freezer so we can slowly dole out the remaining stash.

I have to say, though there were a lot of decadent treats, overall, I’m happy about how I paced myself this year. For the most part, I didn’t feel overstuffed and would often stick with a single serving of items, not feeling the need to go back for seconds. Some of this might have been related to feeling overtired (so not as hungry), but I did try to be more conscious about what I was reaching for, when, and why. Christmas still felt very indulgent, but not to the point of regret (mostly)!

What about you – any favourite Christmas treats? Do you love leftovers as much as I do? Anyone gearing up for a sugar detox in the New Year?

Header photo by Libby Penner on Unsplash

14 thoughts on “Christmas Roundup: The Culinary Edition”

  1. I am with you on the sugar detox. Not sure if I start on the first but it is definitely coming up.

    It is so interesting to see what kind of food lands on the table over the holidays. When at my parents we always have the same dish It is a very local thing and I was planning on blogging about it but I just didn’t find time. I guess it will be a post for next years NaBloPoMo.

    Fun thing though. We hardly ever have desert over the holidays because we eat so much anyways and if its candy.

    1. Oh I love holiday desserts; I’ve really stopped doing much baking during the year (by my standards at least; I grew up having dessert twice a day!)…so Christmas is definitely a period of real indulgence!

  2. Wooo! That does sound an indulgent and delicious Christmas. I donโ€™t have a traditional Christmas food tradition as we keep changing stage of life (babies, toddlers, kids now) and traveling around the world with different traditions. This year since we have been out, eating while traveling always feel too much, at least for me, it either gets boring (same omelette for 4 days) or too greasy or salty and not enough vegetables. I think if we could travel amd cook ourselves I would be happier at food front. But as I get older, food becomes a minor annoyance that I donโ€™t mind anymore while traveling, relative to the other experiences we get. Definitely packing snacks is key for us, not all healthy snacks especially for kids but at least we have accessible to known food.
    I am intrigued to know how you make the seafood casserole, can you share the recipe? Both my husband and I love seafood.

    1. I don’t have an exact recipe for the seafood casserole as I combine a few different recipes but here is the gist:
      I make a big batch of homemade fettuccine sauce (1/4 flour + butter, some concentrated chicken stock, basil, garlic, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, and a can of full-fat coconut milk – my recipe calls for cream, but I use coconut milk instead because of lactose intolerance); to the thick sauce I add a large can of defrosted lobster, cooked scallops and cooked/deveined shrimp. I mix in about 1/2 cup shredded cheese and 1 cup of Ritz crackers/breadcrumbs. Once it’s in a casserole dish, I top it with more cracker or breadcrumbs and pour a bit of melted butter over the top and bake for about 45 minutes!

  3. I loved reading this rundown of the Christmas feasting! No-bake cherry cheesecake was one of the first desserts I learned to make as a kid. I was recently served some for the first time in a decade and it was just as delicious as I remembered!

    Holiday and seasonal food traditions are so fun! We had a cheese/charcuterie board on New Year’s Eve, followed by some traditional Dutch treats and that may be our tradition going forward!

    1. How have I not managed to sneak you a piece of unbaked cherry cheesecake? This is a real travesty. I’ve made a note and will make sure you get some next time I make a batch!!
      Sorry we couldn’t join your New Year’s Eve shindig – sounds delicious and we’ll take a raincheck for sometime soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Oh yes, I loved this post too! I love hearing about delicious food and Christmas traditions. We have a lot of foods we make every year- I still made it all, but since my son and I got sick not as much of it got eaten. That was okay because we had leftovers for much longer- I love having delicious leftovers in the fridge!

    1. I honestly think I like leftovers of almost everything better than the actual meal!
      The lady I boarded with while in university knew someone who LOATHED leftovers and would actually throw out any remaining food after a meal. Aside from the horrific waste of it all, I just couldn’t fathom someone who didn’t like leftovers? I just thought everyone considered them to be objectively delicious.
      My one caveat is salad; most salads do NOT store well as a leftover (aside from potato salad which seems to get better with age).

  5. This all sounds so delicious and lovely! We are still figuring out our traditional meals for holidays. I miss spending Christmas with my family as my mom is an excellent cook and there are so many dishes to choose from! But we haven’t spent a Christmas with my family since 2016 when we spent Christmas Eve with my parents and then drove back to Minneapolis on Christmas morning to spend Christmas Day with my MIL. I could not handle that kind of turnaround with kids and it’s really hard to leave my MIL alone for Christmas but she would not enjoy Christmas with my family because it is kind of chaotic w/ lots of people, many of which are kind of, well, loud! It’s jarring for me, honestly, as an introvert so kind of a no go for her…. But so it goes. You have to make sacrifices when combining families and traditions!

    All that said, we typically go to my husband’s cousin’s for Christmas Eve and they have heavy aps and drinks. They asked us not to bring a single thing and said – ‘seriously, we mean it, don’t bring anything. It’s hard enough to get out the door with 2 kids.’ So I very much enjoyed just showing up with our kids and enjoying the merriment. On Christmas Day, my MIL and husband made a Spanish Tortilla for brunch – it’s an egg, ham, and potato dish that is very popular in Spain. My husband studied abroad there and his parents came to visit so it’s a dish they all love, and it’s GF so safe for me to eat. Then I made ham, potatoes, and asparagus for a early evening dinner. The adults enjoyed it. Paul didn’t eat any of what I made and Will sort of ate some ham but then threw it on the floor… such is life with kids.

    My mom sent me some heath candy and peanut brittle but that was the extent of my ‘treats’ for the season. GF baking is really tricky and usually pales in comparison to glutenous versions of things, so I didn’t bother making anything. My MIL brought kiss cookies and Ande’s mint cookie for Paul and Phil to enjoy, though. So the holidays are just not quite super festive for me, or not like they were as a child when my mom made a ton of different treats. I didn’t know about my GF intolerance back then so ate lots of kiss and sugar cookies and gingerbread men. I used to have a cookie decorating party with my college friends and their kids and I would make GF sugar cookies for that, but I haven’t had it the last 2 years thanks to Covid. But hopefully next year my kids will be vaxxed so we can resume that tradition!

    1. Treats are so tricky with allergies and intolerances and often a lot of extra work for not the best bang-for-buck. Sigh. Sorry some of those festive items are no longer really options for you.

      That sounds lovely – to just show up! You’re absolutely right that just getting out the door with two little kids is an epic adventure. And there is something so luxurious about not thinking about the food (because you have to buy, plan, prep etc – it’s a multifaceted thing). I’m glad you got to enjoy some yummy meals.

      I haven’t had peanut brittle in YEARS. My Mom always used to make it, but hasn’t in years and years…and so I just haven’t had any. Maybe I should ask her to make some next year. That would really “take me back.” Such a nostalic flavour.

  6. Oh wow, you did eat well over the holidays… but please tell me that the picture of the cherry cheesecake was not ALL of the cheesecake, which you said lasted you for a week!
    I start feeling like other people eat EXTREMELY small portions, or Jon and I are big eaters ( I am suspecting we are). LOL

    I love that you have all these food traditions around the holidays. We didn’t have any specific foods that we would eat every year, but my parents – both fantastic and passionate cooks – would come up with a Christmas menu (usually 3-4 courses) every year. Now that they’re getting older, my sister has taken over the preparations of some of the dishes, but my parents are still very much involved in the planning.
    I miss this.

    1. That was the small cheesecake! I made both a 8×8 (pictured) + a 9×13. It did last a long time because it’s pretty rich, but we all still ate very generous portions. My mouth is literally watering right now as I remember the cheesecake. It’s just so good.

      I think it’s so lovely to have the menu idea; I know you talk about doing this now on Christmas Eve. I do have the kids do place cards for guests (usually as a good way to entertain them for an hour when they’re anxious for people to arrive), but aside from one time we did a “restaurant” supper for the kids, I’ve never printed off a menu. But it sounds so fun and would definitely elevate the experience.

  7. I find families’ food histories so interesting. I’m so curious to know how the seafood casserole came to be your husband’s family’s dish, and how you then adopted it as your own. Also? The donair sounds sort of like an gyro, based on the “shaved off a spit” description, but you also said that it is a spiced form of ground beef so then I wasn’t sure. I’m curious about the special sauce, too. (Starts googling donairs…:>)
    I’ve never heard of an unbaked cheesecake, either, so I clearly learned a lot from your family’s Christmas culinary favorites. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. My mother-in-law made the seafood casserole for special occasions; it is pretty “luxurious” if you like seafood with lobster and scallops.
      The donair IS like a gyro, but with a specific set of flavours (the spiced ground beef has a lot of garlic); and the sauce is iconic in eastern Canada.
      Unbaked cherry cheesecake is MY FAVOURITE DESSERT. It is delicious, but I think a huge part of the appeal for me is that is a flavour I have had every single Christmas since I was born (I was about 7 months at my first Christmas, so may have had cherry cheesecake literally every Christmas since I was born). Yum. I’m already looking forward to my birthday when, for the last few years, my husband has made me an unbaked cherry cheesecake.

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