In other words, “How to Have Yourself a Merry Little No-Cook Christmas Eve”…
If you’re anything like me, you’ll still have a million to-dos left on your list come December 24th: gift-wrapping, making cookies for Santa, tidying up the house, mailing out the last of those Christmas cards, ensuring Christmas outfits are clean and pressed and ready to go… it makes me short-of-breath just thinking about it. And once those items are checked off, I want to turn 100 percent of my attention to two things: faith and family. I’d like to spend time playing with my kids, talking about the Nativity story, singing Christmas carols, helping them select gifts for their siblings, attending Christmas Eve service, and putting my time and energy where they belong this time of year.
This is why, as much as I love being in the kitchen, I have a no-cook policy for Christmas Eve dinner. Over the last few years, I have perfected the art of making a festive, comforting, well-rounded Christmas Eve dinner out of a “grazing board”: essentially, it’s an array of meats, cheeses, breads, vegetables, fruits, and nuts that we can graze on over the course of the evening. I pick up everything a few days in advance, so the meal is entirely stress-free. The only thing that I have to do in the kitchen is wash a few vegetables and assemble the presentation. It’s the epitome of low maintenance.
Here are the advantages of a meal like this: You can serve this dinner to five family members or 25 guests without significantly increasing the workload. And kids love the novelty of something different (“cheese and crackers for dinner? Really?”). In the hours leading up to the meal, you’ll be hanging out with friends and family, rather than worrying about overcooking whatever’s in the oven or burning whatever’s on the stove.
This casual dinnertime setup also allows us to spend more time at the table, leisurely grazing on our meal and hanging out together. We’ll turn on Christmas music in the background, look through our stack of Christmas cards, and thank God for our friends and family. And if we play our cards right, and the offerings are delicious enough, the kids might even sit still long enough to hear the story of the Gospel.
While we plan to do this on Christmas Eve, it would make a wonderful option for Christmas lunch or dinner — whenever you want a special meal but you know you won’t have time to be cooking.
Here is the menu I have planned for this year’s Christmas Eve grazing board:
Cheese Board (How to Build a Cheese Board)
- 4 cheeses: one aged (Gouda), one soft (Brie), one firm (Pecorino-Romano), one blue (Gorgonzola)
- Fresh fruit: I want to make the selection as seasonal as possible, so I’m sticking with the best of late-fall/early-winter fruits, including tangerines, oranges, pummelos, persimmons, apples, and pears. I selected a variety of colors for variety and visual effect, and sliced and peeled each fruit so it was easy for everyone to eat. For the apples and pears, I waited until the last minute to slice and then coated in a little bit of lemon juice to prevent browning.
- Vegetable crudite: I again wanted to include specifically in-season vegetables, so I included carrots (scrubbing well, but leaving tops on for visual effect), radishes (again, scrubbed clean but with their tops on), and endive leaves
- Nuts: Walnuts, both in-shell (you can put out a nutcracker) and shelled, and pistachios, and chestnuts (to be honest, these were just to add variety in color and texture! Chestnuts need to be roasted before being eaten)
- Bean dip (I used hummus sprinkled with fresh parsley and smoked paprika)
- 2 types of bread (french and whole grain), sliced into pieces about the size of one or two bites
- Crackers (I used water crackers)
- Cranberries (not edible, just for color)
Charcuterie Board (How to Build a Charcuterie Board)
- Hummus (I used this as a plant-based alternative to a traditional meat pate)
- Portabello “bacon” (another plant-based alternative to smoked meat like bacon or sausage)
- Onion and garlic jam (I found mine at Trader Joe’s)
- Cranberries (not for eating, just for a little color)
- Arugula and Microgreens (to add some color to the presentation)
- Christmas cookies
- Chocolate Chip Cookies (tahini optional but such a good addition!)
- Spiced wine (a nice warm option for a chilly winter night; recipe here on the blog)
- Apple-cranberry shrub cocktail (a cold option; recipe here on the blog)