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save me from a food-sad Christmas

my mother, who is a very good cook, recently informed us that she will not be cooking Christmas dinner this year. instead, she said she will be 'picking up trays' from the grocery store. i am guessing there will be cold cuts, rolls, cheese platter, etc. we are all disappointed, having had great christmas dinners in the past. when i asked if i could bring something, i was given the limitation of 'not getting in the way in the kitchen'. since she isn't cooking, i don't know what this means except not making a mess or asking for too many tools to cook with. does anyone have any suggestions on a side we could bring (or make there) that would bring back some of that Christmas spirit? it should be easy to make and take less than an hour to prepare. DH and my sister both want a ham, but I do not eat pork, so that it out. please save me from a food-sad holiday.

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  1. Oh dear. Could you whip together a dessert? If this were us (my mother was a great cook too, but now I do the cooking), I'd doctor up some mincemeat, buy pre-made dough, and make some mince tarts and hard sauce.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MMRuth

      what about a nice bread pudding? could be prepped ahead of time and just shoved in the oven when you get there.

    2. What did Mom usually prepare for Christmas?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        sam fujisaka- mom usually made a ham, turkey breast with gravy, mashed potatoes or potatoes au gratin, fresh flaky rolls, and green bean casserole. nana, who won't be there for the first time in 27 years, made sweet potato casserole and an assortment of homemade cookies, including a great cream-cheese based fold-over cookie with raspberry and apricot filing. thanks for all your suggestions, i am really chapfallen about this.

        1. re: njchowgal

          That does sound great. Give Mom a big hug and enjoy the get-together. Be glad to be with family! I'd still do chickens, potatoes, veggies (see below). That cookie, however, might have to be enjoyed in you collective memories! Merry Christmas!

          1. re: njchowgal

            I don't know how old your mom is but at a certain age we (includes you) come to a point where our "executive abilities" fail us. Putting together a huge dinner for a lot of people at an important time requires a great deal of this ability. Each person deals with this in their own way. I watched my mother-in-law do this without realizing what the problem was. Towards the end each brought a dish, or two, and the dinners were perfect; still the organization, for her was a misery.
            Thinking about that, perhaps you could tell her how much her dinners meant to you and offer to take over the organization, each of you learn a dish, and promise to put her kitchen back in apple pie order when you are finished. Working well in advance for next year you might get back to a facsimile of what you had.
            Good Luck ps, don't tell her she is lacking any ability, though!

        2. i would definitely try to do an amazing dessert. You could bake a cake of time, or a pie. You could also make some cookie dough ahead of time, then throw it in the oven towards the end of the meal. Nothing beats a home baked cookie.

          English trifle is a very good, very pretty dessert. If you don't have time to bake, all the ingredients can be bought at the grocery store. Here's a recipe that looks pretty similar to the one I've made. I use fresh berries though, and will make the custard, instead of using instant pudding. http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Berry-Tr... You can also use angel food cake, if you want something lighter.

          1 Reply
          1. re: northside food

            northside food- i like your idea of bringing making a trifle. one stop at wegmans, our local semi-gourmet grocery, should do the trick for the ingredients. then i could put it together without much fuss on Christmas day.

          2. yes, it's very sad. thanks for the suggestions so far, but i forgot to mention that any beef dish and egg-based dishes are also out. also, family is not very fond of anything ethnic. sorry to be so picky, but it is what it is.

            1 Reply
            1. re: njchowgal

              No pork, no beef, no eggs, no ethnic! Is that why your mother quit cooking Christmas dinner? Could you roast a couple of chickens, a bunch of potatoes, and strips of bell pepper and chunks of onion? All takes almost no prep time, very little counter space, just a bunch of oven time. Can do the chicken and potatoes together, followed by the peppers and onions (coated with olive oil).

            2. Go to the local supermarket and buy a ready roasted chicken and salad ingredients. Tear meat from the carcass and chop the salad ingredients. Use romaine lettuce. Get red and green ingredients for the salad like red onion, stuffed olives, green bell pepper, and carrots. Dress with extra virgin olive oil and malt vinegar, the latter having a better flavor than plain old white vinegar.

              Buon appetito e buon natale! Mangia bene!

              1. Gosh I am going to be the downer here and I don't know the ages of your Mom or your Nana but this may be your Mom's way of coping with a tough Christmas... I learned the hard way when my Mom was near her end to let her do her thing and to let mine go...you could bring some gougeres ( freeze and stick in oven when u get there) and champagne and just let her have her day her way...not very Christmas spirit advice and I am not a shrink ...just a daughter who went through alot of phases with an aging Mom....Whatever you should enjoy Her

                2 Replies
                  1. re: capeanne

                    I really agree with you. Let her have it how SHE wants it. It doesn't have to be sad unless people make it sad. Just remembered a story. I grew up in Atlanta in the 50s and 60s and my mother always did a "traditional" Southern New Year's dinner with pork, black-eyed peas, collards, etc. We were all big college footballs fans and she got tired of cooking all day and everyone wanted to make a plate, carry it to the den and watch bowl games. So she started doing "deli" (or whatever that was in the south in the 60s). Well, the word spread and soon her nephews (I was the only girl in that generation) were saying, "hey, Aunt Frances is putting on a spread; let's go there and eat and watch the games." Honestly, I remember those time more than the sit-down traditional dinners we had before. And 30+ years after their deaths, I still do and smile.

                  2. several markets will do an entire turkey dinner for the whole family, with all the trimmings

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chuckl

                      When my children were young, I decided to take over the family Christmas and give my Mother a well deserved rest. She had done the traditional thing for many years, now it was my turn. She was free to bring a dish of some sort but I figured she had earned the right to relax. I continued this until my daughters were married with children of their own. I then announced that if they wanted a big family gathering, it could be at one of their homes. They take turns now, each of us brings some sort of dish, and we enjoy the holiday.
                      Maybe your Mother is just tired and it's time for someone else to step up and take over.
                      I have 4 daughters and 16 grandchildren so it would be alot of work for one person.
                      Merry Christmas!

                    2. So now that the dinner is history, what did you finally decide to do? Did you prepare anything, and if so, what?

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ChiliDude

                        So, the plan was to head out to the grocery store Wednesday night after dinner and pick up the ingredients for a trifle. Around 6pm, we went to the grocery store to find the parking lot empty and the store closed! We passed at least four more grocery stores on the way home, all closed. As you can imagine, I was pretty disappointed and I couldn't believe I didn't realize they would close so early. I guess I just wasn't thinking clearly due to the stress of the situation.
                        Luckily, I brought my computer in the car with my wireless card and re-checked my post. When I saw what capeann had written, it was a bit of a downer, but it did put the situation in perspective. I sought out an OPEN liquor store and bought something I knew Mom would love- Arbor Mist Raspberry sparkling malt beverage (she's the white zinfandel type despite all of our teasing).
                        When I arrived at my parents' house, I focused on appreciating Mom and enjoying time with the family. We all had a great time, and Mom did love the Arbor Mist. So my food-sad Christmas wasn't so sad, after all.
                        As for next time, dh and I have agreed to volunteer for the next one-family holiday and to have it at our house. We will do the roast chickens for sure. Mom never made that, so it will be our new tradition.

                        1. re: njchowgal

                          And all that attention probably made it one of the best Christmas's she's had in a while! Way to go, Gal....you did right!

                          1. re: njchowgal

                            Wow I am so glad for you..Happy New Year and I will toast to your new traditions!

                            1. re: njchowgal

                              Wonderful!! Have a Happy New Year. Next year's Christmas will be great. Be sure to get and use those family recipes before they're lost.

                              1. re: njchowgal

                                I'm glad you had a good time, regardless of food.

                            2. How about a rescheduled Christmas dinner? Cook the turkey and a the go-alongs and invite your friends over on another day. For many years my family went away for Thanksgiving and we'd have the turkey a couple of weeks later. Often we didn't even eat it hot. It was the leftovers we couldn't live without.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Stuffed Monkey

                                I was going to suggest something similar. Start creating your own holiday dinner traditions.
                                Christmas is over, but its still not to late to have a "holiday season party" or New Year's party.
                                Make your own turkey and gravy (very simple to roast a turkey). Mash up some potatoes, and make a quickie green bean casserole. This shouldn't be hard.

                                Ask your Mom or Nana for their recipes too. They probably would be wiling to write them down or talk you through how they have made things in the past. Then you will be able to keep passing down their traditions in your own family, even when they are gone.

                                1. re: Mellicita

                                  Gee thats a sad story - I CHOSE to be alone for Xmas with only my 2 gorgeous toy poodles 4 company. My Great & easy dish was cooked prawns (shrimp) eaten with fresh mango - I live "Down Under" our Xmas is HOTT!!! If you live in a warm State maybe you could have the same- SUPER EASY & Yummy

                                2. re: Stuffed Monkey

                                  Yes, after Thanksgiving at a Chinese restaurant I definitely needed my "fix", so Friday night we had a roast chicken, oyster stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, peas (have to have peas!), gravy that I bought at the local market (they make it) and apple tartes. That made me "happy" again!