Holiday Recipe Reviews

Ok. There are a million holiday recipes that circulate this time of year. And I’m dumb enough to try most of them untested, forty-five minutes before people sit down at the table. So in case you’re wondering, here’s what worked, and here’s what failed. (These are all pictures from the recipe’s websites – links to the recipes are in the titles.)

Image1. Lobster Bisque

Of all the new recipes I tried in December, this was my favorite. Creamy perfection with great lobster flavor. If you are a fan of oyster stew but wish you could still pick out the oysters like you did when you were seven (I know you’re out there), this is a great way to keep it festive and delicious. Don’t pretend it’s healthy, and don’t even start to care. It’s Christmas.

Notes – I used cooking sherry instead of regular, and I subbed in a cup of milk when I ran out of cream. I think I also left out the paprika because that was gone too. It was still great.

Image2. Citrus Salad with Tarragon

I chose this because it looked pretty. Superficial, I know. But when you combine a bunch of different kinds of oranges and drizzle them with an herb infused simple syrup, not much can go wrong. This was a fast, easy addition to brunch.

Notes – Spring for blood oranges – the red innards are what you need to really make the dish stand out. I garnished it with pomegranate seeds because I happened to have some in the fridge. I also used dried tarragon instead of fresh, but I like the idea of using lavender like the recipe suggests. I’d be curious about rosemary as well…

Image3. Cowboy Caviar

My friend Jules turned me on to this amazing dip a few years back. I have some lovely people in my life that are gluten free, so this is the just the thing for them. Plus, the leftovers are amazing on anything – quesadillas, salad, corn muffins – you name it, this dip is up to the challenge.

Notes: I know some recipes call for avocado – DON’T DO IT unless you don’t plan on having any leftovers. This recipe is perfect as is.

Image4. Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread)

Another lifetime ago, I spent a couple weeks teaching English in Brazil. My favorite local dish during my time there? Pao de Queijo – cheese bread. Go figure. It’s the texture, thanks to the tapioca flour/starch (they are the same.) I’d never had anything so soft and chewy and bursting with the flavor of cheese. There are tons of recipes for this bread, and depending on how you like it, feel free to experiment. The one linked here is the super easy, fast version that can be made, baked, and finished in 15 minutes. Perfect party food if you ask me. PS – this one is also gluten free.

Notes: I topped mine with fresh rosemary, and I loved the notch up in flavor. But don’t do dried – it’ll be like eating sticks on top your cheese bread.

Image5. Artisan bread boules

Thankfully I have never had any issues with gluten, because I’m a carb freak. Kudos to anyone who can successfully cut out bread from their diets because I’m sure it’s the reason I’ll never get below a certain size. But seriously, that’s ok. I love bread. I will accommodate its effects on my body with utter graciousness. PS – this is not a new recipe for me, but it’s so awesome it deserves to make the list.

Notes: This yeast bread has four ingredients – count em. 4. Water. Flour. Yeast. Salt. And the method is amazingly simple. The only thing I’ve decided to change consistently is to mix it in my kitchen aid. I know it’s no-knead and all, but I get better results when I let my dough hook go to town for a few minutes, so that’s that.


Alright. It’s not all roses and easy recipes today, folks. Here’s what failed. I’m not going to link or do pictures because that’s just mean. I probably messed something up. But for the record, here’s what didn’t work in my kitchen this month.

1. Black bean dip. This was supposed to be good with crackers and chips, but it really just ended up looking like, well, poo in a bowl. Even a festive red bowl. I had good intentions of trying to make the leftovers into black bean soup, which is probably what I should have done in the first place and skipped the dip. Unfortunately I forgot the bowl in the back of the fridge. Double fail.

2. Peanut Butter Blossoms. Every year someone else makes amazing peanut butter blossoms, and every year Jason and I whisper to one another that we have to figure out how to get this right. And then, every year, we fail. The cookies turn out bready and hard. So if anyone has a great, tried and true recipe for this Christmas cookie favorite, PLEASE SHARE IT WITH ME. There, see? I begged. It’s getting dire.

3. Fudge.  I hope my mom doesn’t mind me sharing this. 🙂 I love you mama! But it was a little bit satisfying to know that I’m not the only one who can’t make fudge. We used Martha Stewart’s recipe and my mom basically manned the task while I ran to the gas station to buy more peanut butter for my peanut blossoms. This was probably not fair, since my mom is allergic to chocolate. But anyway, it turned out hard as a rock for her too. Maybe it’s Martha. Maybe it’s a family trait. Whatever it is, I need a lesson in proper fudge making.


So, there you have it. The good and the bad, according to one time-pressed foodie-wannabe mother of three. I have one more group meal to go, which is family Christmas Eve. I’m planning on making Ham Balls (even though the name gives me the willies) because I can prep them, freeze them, and then pull them out and time bake them while we go to Christmas Eve service at our church. They are saucy and sweet. Generally crowd friendly. And well, they look pretty fun all stacked up on a platter, and that’s enough for me.


Merry, Delicious, Christmas.





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