If you are trying to make the holidays less stressful, keeping your Christmas dinner simple makes perfect sense. But there is no reason why simple can't also be delicious and special. Keep time spent cooking and money spent on fancy ingredients to a minimum while maximizing flavor and originality. Keep your dinner companions in mind as you create a simple menu -- some people want to stick with traditional holiday fare while others might be more daring.
Keep the Turkey
Simplify a roast turkey dinner by roasting two half-breasts. These cook in less time than it takes for a whole turkey and takes less trouble to carve. Instead of the fat- and sodium-laden green bean casserole with onion rings, serve fresh green beans sauteed in olive oil and dressed up with sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Round out the menu with a green salad made special with unusual lettuces and green olives and a cake topped with toasted coconut.
Pork Loin Roast
A marinated boneless pork loin from your grocery takes only 30 minutes to cook and comes already seasoned. Saute red cabbage with apple cider and vinegar to go with an apple-flavored loin or saute green cabbage with a bit of white wine vinegar and mustard to go with a lemon garlic pork loin. Add a green salad with sweetened cranberries and candied walnuts. For dessert, roast or microwave pear halves with butter and lemon juice and serve them with caramel ice cream.
An Italian Christmas
To simplify a traditional Italian Christmas lasagna dinner, use no-bake lasagna sheets, buy prepared meatballs from your local deli or make your lasagna vegetarian. Heighten the lasagna's flavor by simmering jarred pasta sauce for 30 minutes with sauteed onions, mushrooms and red wine. Continue the Italian theme with an antipasto appetizer of sliced salami, olives and store-bought marinated mushrooms or beets. Serve a green salad, made special with bagged, fancy lettuce and serve garlic bread alongside. Try ice cream with Italian cookies for dessert.
A Vegetarian Feast
Roasting vegetables in the oven is as easy as tossing them with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. To turn the vegetables into a Christmas feast, splurge on different types of mushrooms, use brightly colored red peppers and add flavorful garlic cloves. Prepare a bed of quinoa or quick-cooking polenta cooked with vegetable stock and white wine, and set down wedges of bright, roasted kabocha or butternut squash. Finish the dish with goat cheese or feta crumbles. Add a green salad alongside and silky chocolate cake for dessert.