easy holiday dinner recipes for the rookie

[ 0 ] December 12, 2011 |

You’re all moved into your new house. Finally – a house. Gone are the days of that cramped 1 bedroom apartment in the 3-storey walk-up. You have an actual kitchen and a table and an oven that fits regular-sized cookie sheets. Life is good. Then the phone rings. And it’s Mom. Or Dad. Or Grandma. Or the siblings.

Guess who’s coming to Christmas dinner?

Before you panic too heavily and ultimately regret your moves altogether, remember that all those people also had their first big family dinner, too. Anyone can come up with delicious and easy holiday dinner ideas – even you. The important thing is to know your limits. Now is not the time to think big. Now is the time for humble pie. Or a simple pumpkin pie with store-bought crust.

the turkey

Frightening? Are you kidding? Other than the unbelievably long roasting time, cooking a Christmas turkey is the easiest part of prep. Let’s go with an average weight of the bird as 15 pounds.

  1. Preheat the oven to 475.
  2. Rinse the turkey with cold water and take out the gross bits. Inside the turkey, there should be a bag with things like the giblets and neck. We’ll just throw those out.
  3. Separate the skin from the breast a little. Pour in some melted butter. If you’re feeling fancy, you can also put thyme or rosemary in there.
  4. Brush the top with more melted butter and turn down the oven to 325.
  5. Cover with foil loosely and throw it in the oven. For perfect cooking, use about 20 minutes per pound as a rule. Baste about once an hour or so. Once you take it out of the oven, let it sit for about 20 minutes to let the juices seep in.

mashed potatoes

It’s time to put away the instant potato flakes and graduate to the real thing. One of the best things about mashed potatoes is the price. They are CHEAP and easy! All you need is butter (see a trend?), milk, maybe some sour cream if you want, and lots of potatoes.

  1. Peel potatoes and put them in boiling water for about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Drain the water and mash them, slowly adding a pinch of salt, a 1/2 cup of milk, a little butter, and sour cream if you want extra zip. If you want to go really crazy, try a bit of garlic salt or cheese.


This is the real stuff, not canned. But if you’re worried about going too crazy on your first try, canned is perfectly acceptable. Just make sure you squish them up so the lines of the can aren’t visible anymore.

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add 1 cup of sugar. Add cranberries.
  2. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the cranberries start breaking. Done!
  3. For some extra zest, add grated orange peel, pecans or nutmeg.

pumpkin pie

I’m not going to lie – I bake a bit and my first pie crust was a complete failure. So, unless you’re confident in your baking skills (and your oven), there’s no shame in buying the crust. It’ll still be delicious, and you can always try the crust when you’ve mastered the rest of the recipe.


  1. Beat eggs, 1 can of pumpkin, 1 1/2 cups of half & half, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice and 1 teaspoon of ground ginger.
  2. Pour mixture in pie crust.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes at 350.

And there you have it! Not only is it easy to make Holiday favorites, but it’s actually relatively inexpensive – running only about $40 bucks for the whole thing. And that’s without coupons.


Have you ever cooked a big holiday dinner? What tips can you share with us?


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About Lindy: Lindy started writing at age 8, when she completed her first story entitled Clio the Talking Cat. Fast-forward a few years into the future, and she’s happily moved on to writing celebrity shopping and frugal posts. Lindy lives with her cat (who doesn’t talk), enjoys lazy weekends at the cottage and old episodes of The Golden Girls. View author profile.

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