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Joyful Holiday Cooking: Delicious December Recipes

"Until I discovered cooking, I was never really interested in anything." - Julia Child

Let’s just cut to the chase. We can’t all be Julia Child in the kitchen. That said,  at this time of year, there is a strong chance that you may be tasked with creating a dish for a potluck or putting together an intimate dinner for a few friends. Maybe you’ll just feel like treating yourself to a lovely meal for one. No matter your skill level - or number of diners involved - none of this is cause for panic. There are lots of holiday recipes designed with, how shall we say, those who are not Julia in mind.

Maybe some of these easy-to-follow recipes will inspire you to grab an apron and invite a neighbor or two to join you in celebration of the season.

"Life’s too short. Start with dessert." - Barbra Streisand

You got that right, Babs. Check out these fun, flavorful, stress-free cookie recipes.

Simple Sugar Cookies

These go-to standards are the unsung holiday heroes. They may look basic at first glance but can be easily enhanced with frosting, sprinkles, or candied anything. 

You will need:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk

What to do:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

  2. In a different large bowl, beat butter and sugar until they’re fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla and beat until combined. Then add the flour mixture gradually until combined.

  3. Shape the dough into a disc and refrigerate for one hour.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough to approximately ⅛ inch thick and cut out cookie shapes.

  5. Place cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges are golden.

Pecan Crescent Cookies

A holiday fave, pecan crescent cookies can be whipped up at a moment’s notice.

You will need:

  • 1 cup butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup ground pecans
  • Powdered sugar

What to Do:

  1. Mix the butter, sugar and vanilla, beating until fluffy. Add the flour and nuts to the mixture.

  2. Chill the dough for one hour.

  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  4. Using one teaspoon of dough for each cookie, shape the dough into small crescents and place on baking sheet.

  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

  6. Let cool for 5 minutes and coat with powdered sugar.

"I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food." - W.C. Fields

Sassy Side Dishes

Main dishes may get top billing, but it’s the sides that can steal the show. Check out these easy to prepare, crowd pleasers.

Home Style Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese will hit the spot no matter how young or old your guests.

You will need:

  • 1, 8-ounce box of elbow macaroni
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

What to do:

  1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and boil until cooked through, approximately 8 minutes. Drain the macaroni.

  2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stir in flour, salt, and pepper until smooth, approximately 5 minutes.

  3. Slowly pour the milk into the butter and flour mixture while continuously stirring until the mixture is smooth and bubbling. Add cheese to the milk mixture and stir until melted.

  4. Fold the macaroni into cheese sauce until thoroughly coated.

Buttery Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes always have a place at the table. Even a small taste makes a big impression.

You will need:

  • 4 pounds of potatoes (russet or Yukon gold work best)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ⅓ cup melted, salted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

  1. Peel and quarter potatoes and place in a pot of cold, salted water.

  2. Add garlic to the pot and bring to a boil. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender.

  3. Heat milk on the stove or in the microwave until warm.

  4. Add butter to the potatoes and start mashing. As you mash, add the heated milk a little at a time to achieve a creamy consistency.

  5. Season to taste and serve.

Cranberry Sauce

If you must volunteer to bring something, raise your hand for the cranberry sauce. Everybody will love it – and you – for bringing it and it is one of the easier meal elements. If you are cooking the whole meal, cranberry sauce adds an easy finishing touch that is just right.

You will need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 12 ounces of fresh cranberries

What to do:

  1. Combine water and sugar in a saucepan.

  2. Add cranberries and bring to a boil.

  3. Lower heat and simmer until cranberries burst, approximately 10 minutes.

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast

Forget preparing an entire bird this holiday and focus on the easy parts. Whether you are dining solo or entertaining guests, this easy to prepare herb-crusted turkey breast recipe will be a treat.

You will need:

  • 1, 6-7 pound turkey breast
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon sage
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup dry white wine

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Place turkey breast skin side up on a rack in the roasting pan.

  2. Combine garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste.

  3. Spread half the paste on the skin and the other half on the meat underneath the skin.

  4. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

  5. Roast the turkey in the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours until the skin is golden brown and the internal temperature is 165 degrees.

  6. Cover with foil and rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Carve and serve with the pan juices.

"A party without cake is just a meeting." - Julia Child

I think we can assume Julia meant to include pie in that statement. If your guests don’t go home complaining they’ve had too many cookies and too much pie, well…they’ve kinda missed the point.

Pumpkin Pie

A seasonal staple, pumpkin pie can be completed in just a few minutes. Just remember you’ll need to let it cool for a couple of hours before eating.

You will need:

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1, 15-ounce can of pumpkin
  • 1 ¼ cups evaporated milk or half and half
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 frozen pie crust

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and pour into pie crust.

  2. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 40-50 minutes more until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

  3. Cool for 2 hours and serve.

Whether you’re cooking for one, two, or a crowd, your state-of-the-art Overture senior apartment kitchen is ready and waiting to create some holiday magic. Book a tour at the Overture senior apartment community of your choice today. 

Yule be glad you did! Happy Holidays!