Interactive Holiday Dinners!

Have some fun with it! Make the meal selection into a game! Let everyone pick an ingredient for the holiday meal.

We spend our holidays with my sister and her family, and they are great hosts. Being the host, though, shouldn’t mean that all responsibilities come down to you. Since we both love to cook, we become co-chefs for the meals in the house. We have different tastes, resources, and cooking methods, but it all works out for a great culinary experience for the entire family. The goal our the first meal, though, is great food that doesn’t take hours to prepare.

This past Christmas, my sister and I had both purchased main entrees for four family meals. We had our plans for Christmas Eve, Christmas Dinner, and subsequent meals during our visit. I brought some appetizers and snacks to add to the counter of munchies she had, and we all got full before it was time to cook Christmas Eve dinner! We had so much food in the fridge, we didn’t even know where to begin. And because we were full, we were just stressing about what exactly we wanted to make. We had drawn a blank – no ideas at all and we had all this great food.

The parents were talking about cooking shows they watch (my favorite is MasterChef Australia), and that gave us an idea! We were going to make our own version of Chopped meets MasterChef. Everyone would participate by choosing an ingredient for our basket, and we’d then come up with a plan.

Each person would first draw a number to determine in which order they’d pick food. Then they would draw a category: Main Course, Starch, Veggies (we did 2), and a Wildcard! The family would secretly select an ingredient from the counter and place it in a covered basket and then go back to the living room. When everyone was done picking their items, we would reveal the entire basket!

We had five people, so it worked out great. If you have more people, you could add categories such as Starter, Sauces & Condiments, Soup, Salad, Breads, Fruit, Dessert, and more. You can also add different categories such as style of cooking (grill, baked, broiled) or type of cuisine (Japanese, French, American). If you’re a competitive family, you could add more “fun” by selecting kitchen gadgets that need to be used (blender, grinder, whisk).

We pulled out our Main Course options: Lump crabmeat, Dry-packed Scallops, and The Butcher’s Market Signature Marinated Sirloin Tips.

Then, the Carb choices: baked potatoes, Betty Crocker’s Au Gratin Potatoes (amped up with real butter, Half-n-Half, and topped with real cheese, these boxed taters are simple & to-die-for!), Alessi’s Mushroom Farro, and Near East’s Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous.

We wanted two veggies sides, so our options were: Brussels Sprouts, Sugar Snap Peas, Broccoli, Carrots, and Salad.

Once the ingredients were revealed, my sister and I would then determine what we were going to make. This turned out to be one of the most enjoyable meals for us to cook as we planned each item, divided the courses between us, and timed everything to go on the table at the same time (which is a chore in itself).

If you’re wondering what we ended up with, our Christmas Eve meal was:

  • Broiled Backfin Crabcakes
  • Seared Scallops with Mango Chili Salsa
  • Au Gratin Potatoes topped with Broiled Tillamook Cheddar
  • Brussels Sprouts with Butter-Poached Garlic & White Balsamic
  • Sugar Snap Peas with Lemon Butter

Dad said this idea was as fun of a surprise as opening presents.

The following night, we had a delicious Roast of Prime Rib for Christmas Dinner with some of the ingredients we didn’t choose the first night.

We decided that this would be a fun, new tradition in our household for our family get-togethers.