Tree Trimming Night
Tree trimming is best done on a full and happy tummy -- try our make-ahead menu for a night filled with cheer and good food.
Just so you know, I am the type who has been forbidden by family members from playing Christmas music until Turkey Day has come and gone. But, oh, happy day, I am now free to put on my favorite cheesy version of "Let it Snow" and strew Christmas paraphernalia left and right. My spouse indulges this behavior for one and only one reason: Tree trimming is best done on a full and happy tummy and is always accompanied by a liberal topping off of the ceremonial eggnog glasses during the actual event.
An easy, mostly make-ahead, yet festive evening meal allows us to recuperate from the stresses of tree hunting and gathering before we move on to actual decorating. Thus fortified, I can demonstrate some of my many Christmas talents, and so can you.
Pork Medallions with Cranberry and Fig Chutney
- Pork Medallions with Cranberry and Fig Chutney
- Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Sauce
- Bulgur-Wild Rice Casserole
- Chocolate Pound Cake
The classic combination of pork and cranberries gives your mouth an early little taste of Christmas. The entree comes together fast, and you'll be glad to have a hearty meal under your belt before tackling those tree lights.
View Pork Medallions with Cranberry and Fig Chutney recipe
Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Sauce
Nobody will turn up his or her nose to brussels sprouts when they're flavored with a refreshing lemon sauce and dill. Steaming the sprouts in chicken broth helps them keep their holiday green color.
View Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Sauce recipe
Bulgur-Wild Rice Casserole
Bulgur and wild rice make a winning whole-grain team in this made-in-heaven match for the pork medallions.
View Bulgur-Wild Rice Casserole recipe
Chocolate Pound Cake
It wouldn't be a holiday without a healthy dose of chocolate. Get your fix with this rich, moist pound cake. It tastes even sweeter because you can make it up to three months in advance.
View Chocolate Pound Cake recipe
Creamy and delicious, our classic rum-and-bourbon-spiked eggnog is just what you need to reward yourself after creating the world's most perfectly decorated Christmas tree -- again.
View Eggnog recipe
Up to three months ahead...
Up to 2 days ahead...
- Make Chocolate Pound Cake and freeze according to recipe directions.
Up to 24 hours ahead...
- Prepare Cranberry Fig Chutney and refrigerate.
Up to 12 hours before or the night before...
- Prepare Eggnog base and chill.
Night before or up to 8 hours ahead...
- Prepare Bulgur-Wild Casserole to stage just before adding mushrooms, walnuts, and fresh herbs. Transfer to casserole dish and refrigerate.
Just after getting Christmas tree home (or 3 hours or so before dessert)...
- Prep pork tenderloin -- trim of fat and cut into medallions.
35 minutes before serving dinner...
- Thaw Chocolate Pound Cake at room temperature.
30 minutes before dinner...
- Stir mushrooms, walnuts, and herbs into casserole. Bake as directed.
15 minutes before dinner...
- Prepare brussels sprouts start to finish.
As the ornaments come out of their wrappings...
- Prepare pork medallions and reheat chutney in microwave or on stovetop.
- Whip cream and fold into Eggnog base. Make a little extra whipped cream for a dollop for the pound cake if you're feeling decadent.
Each year, we follow the same routine: We go to the Christmas tree lot and fret interminably over tree choices, vexing the poor attendant who develops tree-twirling elbow. I am all about fluffiness and proportion. My spouse, on the other hand, will invariably choose an enormously rotund tree that will not make it through front door. A compromise of sorts will be reached and the tree will be stuffed, and I MEAN STUFFED, through the door.
After New Year's and the sad onset of tree rigor mortis, it will need to be cut into pieces for removal out the door, but, hey, that's months away. And if all it takes to delight your spouse for weeks is a fat, sparkly tree, who's to say practical is always right? Here's my checklist (not always heeded, but good to at least have a plan) for a happy Christmas tree experience.
Cranberry Eggnog Rolls
- If you're going to have cozy fires in the fireplace and a real tree during the Christmas season, make sure you've had your chimney swept recently.
- Make sure your vacuum cleaner works -- lots of pine needles are headed your way. On the bright side, every time you vacuum, your house will smell like the forest.
- Measure your door and bring a tape measure to the lot or farm. (This may not do any good, but at least you've made a valiant effort.)
- Find the tree stand and put in car for trip (if the trunk won't fit or those darn screws have rusted out, now is a good time to know).
- Bring extra string and bungee cords for strapping the behemoth to the car.
- Check the lights before you put them on the tree. If it seems like you will have a nervous breakdown trying to find out the cause of malfunction, just buy a new set. Really.
- Bring out the boxes of decorations before you go out for tree, so you're ready to go when you get back and are rarin' to go.
- Buy at least one new Christmas CD or make a surprise compilation to play while trimming.
These rich yeast rolls are holiday showstoppers -- eggnog is not only in the rich dough, but a part of the sticky cranberry topping.
View Cranberry Eggnog Rolls recipe
Pear and Cranberry Panettone Pudding
If you managed to refrain from drinking all the eggnog in one night, try this holiday pudding -- it's great for a holiday brunch.
View Pear and Cranberry Panettone Pudding recipe
For the coffee-lovers in the crowd, this 'nog with hints of cinnamon and orange is sure to please.
View Cappuccino Eggnog recipe
Pumpkin Creme Caramel
Pumpkin isn't just for Thanksgiving. This elegant, creamy individual dessert is restaurant-worthy and surprisingly easy!
View Pumpkin Creme Caramel recipe
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