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Christmas can be overwhelming for the cook. It can mean two big meals one on Christmas Eve, another on Christmas Day. It can require a breakfast before or after presents are opened. It also seems to demand an array of cookies.
My mother declared an end to this craziness years ago. She would spend hours preparing a big meal that we would be too full to eat because we had stuffed ourselves on appetizers. One year, she said, No more. She let us have our shrimp with cocktail sauce, our triple-cream brie, our buffalo chicken dip and then set out a pot of soup and ham sandwiches for whenever hunger struck again.
In that spirit, we offer five recipes to make this years holiday meals easier on the cook.
Theres a recipe from the Food Networks Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten for a minestrone to serve with ham sandwiches in the spirit of my mothers approach. Theres another Garten recipe for caramelized bacon, an appetizer that you can probably pull together with ingredients already on hand.
Since make-ahead recipes are so useful this time of year, we share one for a slice-and-bake spice cookie; the logs of dough can be stashed in the freezer and baked as needed. Theres an easy red zinger punch that can be served to the children or spiked for the adults.
Finally, we offer a recipe for morning glory muffins, which can be pulled from the freezer and thawed before serving with fruit for a relaxed breakfast.
The best holiday gift to ourselves may be a break from crazed, under-appreciated cooking.