Ever wonder what Cooking Light staff members serve for the holidays? Here's your answer.
Chocolate-Cherry Chunk Meringues
"For the meringues, you bake them in a sheet pan then break them off, almost like white chocolate bark. They make a great gift―I gave them as a gift to a friend who said she swore off a 20-year cookie habit thanks to these."
―Mary Kay Culpepper, Editor-in-Chief
Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
This salad is a feast for the eyes, and a welcome relief from the brown and gold tones on the Thanksgiving table. Sweet-tart blood oranges and a honey vinaigrette offset the bitter edge of the endive and radicchio (you can also use milder romaine lettuce hearts). If you can’t find blood oranges, try ruby red grapefruit or pretty pink Cara Cara oranges.
Molasses Crinkle Cookies
These soft, chewy, beautifully spiced gingerbread cookies look like they just took a romp in fresh snow—a holiday look that saves you the trouble of having to ice each one. A dual coat of granulated and powdered sugar will help the slightly sticky dough balls hold their shape and get that crinkled texture.
Herb, Lemon, and Garlic Turkey
Instead of a wet brine, this bird uses an overnight dry salt and sugar cure, which concentrates flavor. If you want to leave the skin on, it will add 25 calories and 1g of sat fat per serving. Hard herbs (fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme) hold up beautifully while roasting, imparting a woodsy, savory note to the meat. Soft herbs (parsley and chives) garnish the turkey and perk up the finished gravy. The wine in the roasting pan will keep the bird moist as it roasts and flavor the pan drippings used for the gravy.
Maple-Caraway Brussels Sprouts
Layer upon layer of bold flavor earned these Brussels sprouts our test kitchen’s highest rating. The sprouts get deeply caramelized in toasted caraway and browned butter, then are quickly finished with a sweet and pungent mixture of maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and sherry vinegar. Caraway has an anise-like flavor similar to fennel seed. Add to roasted carrots or parsnips, or sprinkle over whole-grain rolls or crackers. Start the caraway and thyme in a cold pan so they can infuse the butter as it browns.
Potato and Parsnip Gratin
The addition of parsnips is an elegant twist to this traditionally all-potato dish. Parboiling and drying the sliced parsnips and potatoes first will keep them from absorbing the sauce in the oven so the gratin stays creamy. Half-and-half is our dairy of choice for this dish—a combination of equal parts cream and whole milk that gives the sauce its body while keeping the saturated fat at just 3g per serving. Toss the vegetables gently with the sauce so the slices don’t fall apart.
Holiday Coconut Cooler
Wow your guests this holiday season with a whimsical white cocktail. A mix of coconut milk and coconut rum adds Caribbean flair, making even the coldest winter days feel bright and blissful. Entertain a crowd with ease by making a double or triple batch ahead of time—just give it a stir right before garnishing.
Creamed Greens with Farro
This dish takes its cues from classic creamed spinach and raises the bar with braised mixed greens, whole-grain farro, and a crisp panko crust. Hearty yet not heavy, and gorgeous straight out of the oven, this is the kind of side that looks and feels holiday special. Swiss chard and dark, bumpy lacinato kale both wilt down fairly quickly; their texture and vibrancy will stand out once combined with the creamy three-cheese sauce. The farro can be cooked, drained, and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week before Thanksgiving.
Overnight Caramel French Toast
"I love this because it can be put together the night before and baked the next morning. It smells wonderful when it bakes. It is a great Christmas morning dish, and also nice to serve to overnight guests during the holidays. Serve with coffee and fresh fruit."
―Vanessa Johnson, Test Kitchens Director
"You really have to think ahead of time with this recipe, but it makes a great gift, and it's actually really simple to make. I gave it to my sister a few years ago. It's great to give with a set of nice martini glasses and a decanter. You can even attach a cute recipe tag for cranberry martinis."
―Mary Creel, Projects Editor
Cider-Braised Mussels with Bacon
"Mussels take about 5 minutes to cook, but they impress everyone you serve. I love the mix of sweet and meaty flavors the cider and bacon add to briny mussels in this dish. My favorite way to eat them is straight out of the pot with my fingers―no silverware―just a loaf of bread and some paper towels."
―Jason Horn, Editorial Assistant
Espresso Crème Brûlée
"It’s a favorite of mine because it is largely make-ahead, it’s very easy to prepare but makes a big impression. People love crème brûlée so I know guests will be happy, and I particularly like the espresso flavor. It’s a sweet dessert that isn’t too sweet―it’s just right."
―Kathryn Conrad, Test Kitchens Professional
Pecan Sticky Rolls
"I love sweet bread for Christmas morning, and I've tried just about everything. These are my new go-to. The dough is just divine, and they're ooey and gooey and everyone just loves them. This year will be my first time making them for Christmas; it's a Christmas tradition in the making."
―Ann Taylor Pittman, Food Editor
"I always bring this to parties. It was a 'Lighten Up' recipe, and it's the perfect way to illustrate to my friends that light can be deliciously deceptive!"
―Cindy Hatcher, Associate Editor
Pumpkin Pie Cake
"My boyfriend adores pumpkin pie, but I went out on a limb and made the Pumpkin Pie Cake last winter. Now he has a new favorite holiday dessert. The great thing about this cake is that it looks and tastes like you spent the whole day slaving over it, when in reality it couldn’t be easier or more beautiful."
―Holly Kapherr, Intern
Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions
"This dish roasts for a long time, which is great, because then the potatoes are very soft and sweet. Everyone we've ever served it to has absolutely loved it, and it's so easy to make."
―Maya Metz Logue, Art Director