Ask the cook: Simple homemade holiday dinner

Diane Balagna

The Menu:

  • Appetizers
  • Mixed nuts
  • Raw veggies with Ranch dip and/or hummus
  • Main course
  • Ham with brown sugar and cloves
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Corn and green beans
  • Hot rolls
  • Dessert
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Apple pie à la mode
  • Chocolate chip cookies

Grocery Shopping

This meal serves four to six people.

The key to a successful holiday meal is timing. Once you’ve got the itinerary, you’re all set.

First, start the day before with grocery shopping and making your desserts.

Buy a can of pumpkin pie filling (not just canned pumpkin) and the recommended ingredients on the recipe on the label (usually eggs and milk).

Buy a can of apple pie filling and two frozen pie shells. Buy a package of Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookie mix and the ingredients listed on the back (a stick of butter and an egg).

Baking Desserts

Pre-bake the pie shells until no longer frozen with just a hint of brown on the edges. If they get too brown during baking, put some aluminum foil over them.

Bake the pumpkin pie according to the recipe on the label.

Make the cookies according to the recipe on the back.

Put the apple pie filling into the pre-baked pie shell and top with the apple cobbler topping:

Apple cobbler

  • two cups whole grain oats (not quick cooking oatmeal),
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • 3 tbs. canola oil
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup nuts of your choice (walnuts and/or almonds are good)
  • ½ stick of butter cut in ¼ inch piecesMix these ingredients together and sprinkle over the apple pie filling. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Two hours before dinner, put out your appetizers.


A can of mixed nuts in a nice bowl and a spread of veggies like celery, carrots, sliced red pepper, grape tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower are all great options.

Add your favorite dip such as ranch, bleu cheese or hummus.

Dinner Course

If you buy a frozen ham, it needs two days to defrost in the fridge.

After 30 minutes of baking at 350 degrees, pull the ham out of the oven and make diamond shaped cuts along the top of the ham about an inch deep.

Mix ½ cup brown sugar with 3 tbs. canola oil to make a thick paste and spread over the top of the ham.

Between the diamond shapes, insert the long ends of whole cloves for a decorated look.

Cover the dish with a lid or with aluminum foil and continue baking for another 15-30 minutes.

Every 5-10 minutes after adding the brown sugar, take a large spoon and drizzle the brown sugar drippings at the bottom of the pan over the top of the ham.

Remove and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

You should remove the cloves before serving, because they don’t taste good. They will make your kitchen smell heavenly.

While the ham is cooking, peel and dice three or four large potatoes into 1-2 inch chunks. Put them in a large pot and cover with water.

Bring to a boil and continue boiling gently for about 30-45 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

Drain the water and put the potatoes into a mixing bowl.

Add ½ stick of butter, ½ cup milk and ¼ cup each cream cheese and sour cream. Mix on medium with a hand-held blender until smooth.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Set aside and keep warm with a towel. Use store-bought jarred turkey or ham gravy.

While the potatoes are boiling, in a smaller pot, boil a package of frozen green beans for about 5-10 minutes.

Drain the green beans and place in a serving bowl.

Add sliced almonds and sprinkle a little bit of shredded Swiss cheese on top.

While the green beans are boiling, in your smallest pot, put in one can of golden whole kernel corn and one can of creamed corn.

Mix well, warm through and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside in a small serving bowl.

When you take the ham from the oven, put in a dozen dinner hot rolls for about 5-10 minutes or until gently browned.

Place Settings

Take out and place on a serving dish or in a bread basket lined with a clean kitchen towel. For a twist on the regular butter, try herbed butter or honey butter.

Sit down to the feast you’ve put together with family and friends. Happy holidays!

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