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Toi Degree column: Traditional vs. modern holiday meal menus


Toi Degree

Toi Degree

We are right in the middle of the holiday season; Thanksgiving has come and gone and now, it’s on to Christmas! What will you make for dinner?  Will you stick to traditional family/holiday favorites, or will you choose something more modern?

As for traditional, comfort often lies in tradition, the tradition of getting together with family and friends and feasting on quintessential holiday dishes. This traditional feast features a satisfying spread of comfort foods that we look forward to all year long.

As for modern, today’s families crave a more relaxed, stress-free, and fun atmosphere. Recipes can be used that give a new twist and anything but traditional. This is a way to avoid the dreaded pre-meal meltdown by bucking traditions and trying a new approach.

Here’s how many of our traditional menus look:

• Seasoned Roast Turkey

• Glazed Honey Ham

• Giblet Gravy

• Cornbread-Biscuit Dressing

• Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes

• Swiss-Squash Casserole

• Green Beans with Mushrooms and Bacon

• Grandma Erma’s Spirited Cranberry Sauce

• Quick Yeast Rolls

• Elegant Pumpkin-Walnut Layered Pie

While this is a lovely menu with most of the holiday favorites that we all have come to love, these take a really long time to prep and prepare. So, how can you make the same delicious recipes with a modern twist?

What about this menu? Although it is said to be traditional, to me it seems very modern with a change from the usual.  These are quick and easy:

• BBQ Spice-Rubbed Turkey Breast

• Gruyere Cheese Straws

• Wild Rice Dressing

• Bibb lettuce Salad with Smoky Ranch Dressing


• Citrus Tapenade Game Hens

• Honestly Good Mashed Potatoes

• Fresh Citrus and Cranberry Salad


• Spice-Rubbed Ham with Apple-Maple Sauce

• Sweet Potato Casserole with Gingersnap Cookie Topping

• Peas, Carrots, and Mushrooms

• Green Beans with Lime

These are great menu ideas that step a little outside tradition. I would suggest you add a few additional sides (rolls and a dessert or two). This spin will come with a lot less planning, fuss and headache.

These recipe ideas were taken from Better Homes and Garden’s Best Christmas Dinner Menus and can be found at:  http://www.bhg.com/christmas/recipes/christmas-dinner-menus/  You can also find additional recipes for sides here:  http://www.bhg.com/christmas/recipes/christmas-side-dish-recipes/   These will help you tie your meal together and provide more options.

I hope these spins will assist you with making your Christmas dinner a new and exciting one, and who knows?  It may even become your new “Modern Traditional Dinner.” To learn more about modern cooking, join Danelle Cutting and Toi Degree on Friday, Dec. 16, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. for an entire meal, from appetizers to the main course and everything in between. Registration is open and will be until Dec. 12; the cost of the workshop is $20. Registration forms can be completed using this link:  https://www.go.ncsu.edu/modernholidaycooking

Payment must be received in order to be placed on the official class roster.

Happy Holiday Cooking!

For more information, contact Toi N. Degree, Family and Consumer Education Agent, Rowan County Cooperative Extension, at 704-216-8970 or e-mail toi_degree@ncsu.edu

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