The Christmas Cookie Challenge, hosted by Alison Sweeney, is a furious but festive battle to determine the best cookie baker in the country with the winner taking home $10,000. Five bakers’ holiday delights were judged in three rounds of competition by chef and culinary entrepreneur Sharone Hakman, American Idol-winner and seasoned baker Jordin Sparks and Food Network Star Season 12 finalist Damiano Carrara.
Christmas is only four days away, and if you’ve been tasked with hosting at the last minute, or if you’ve simply been procrastinating making a menu for the holiday dinner while you focus on gift shopping (and wrapping) and cookie baking (and eating) instead, you’re in luck. It’s not too late — even if your plan is to entertain on Christmas Eve. Below is a complete, at-the-ready menu of dishes that will take you and your party guests from bite-sized appetizers to a comforting first-course pasta to a meaty braciole, all the craveable side dishes and, of course, a sweet ending of chocolatey cookies. Best of all, each recipe can be ready in hurry — just 45 minutes or less.
Whether you like your ham crosshatched or spiral-sliced, spicy or sweet, we’ve got just the recipe for your Christmas feast. The differences may seem subtle at first, but choosing the right glaze or spice rub to suit your palate will make a world of difference.
Fig-and-Orange-Glazed Ham (pictured at top)
You can’t go wrong with a classic spiral-sliced ham dressed in a super-seasonal fig-and-orange glaze. For the best flavor results, spoon half of the glaze over the ham before baking and save the rest to drizzle on top once the ham comes out of the oven.
If the seasonal tradition in your home calls for a wake-up-worthy breakfast or brunch on Christmas morning instead of a grand feast at dinnertime, you’re in luck, because these savory and sweet recipes will start your holiday on a hearty note. Read on below for classic picks like baked eggs as well as crowd-pleasing ham, dressed-up bacon and cornbread casseroles.
Panettone Bread Pudding
A favorite among many Italians during the holiday season, panettone is a sweet, soft-inside bread often studded with dried fruits. Here Ina Garten lets the bread sop up a rich, creamy custard laced with almond extract, so when it bakes, it’s full of moisture and flavor. For welcome crunch, she blankets the top of the bread pudding with sliced toasted almonds before it goes in the oven.
In tonight’s brand-new seasonal special, host Alton Brown decked the diabolical halls of the Cutthroat Kitchen arena with a holiday-themed Naughty vs. Nice battle. Of course no celebration of the season is complete without Santa Claus — and with that, a peek inside Santa’s workshop. Chef Jackie got an up-close and personal look at this miniature house when forced to make a snack for Santa, and so too did judge Antonia Lofaso when Alton challenged her to make a dip in the same space on the After-Show. The catch for Antonia? She had to harvest all of her ingredients from the doors of an advent calendar, which Chef Jackie also had to do, thanks to a double sabotage in Round 3.
It didn’t take long for Chef Antonia to realize the limitations — and potential hazards — of Santa’s tiny workshop. “I’m totally going to hit my head — ow!” she exclaimed. After discovering the first set of ingredients, which included mascarpone and ciabatta, in doors one through five, Antonia got to work on a crostini-and-dip plate; ultimately she made do with little else, as many of the remaining doors provided her with seemingly useless goods, like fortune cookies and pineapples. “I’m feeling good about this now,” Antonia said as she kneeled down in the prep area of the workshop and got to work.
As you shuttle from at-work celebrations to cocktail parties and host casual family gatherings and the elegant Christmas Eve feast alike, there’s no shortage of opportunities to indulge in your favorite fare during the holidays. But perhaps the best, most-decadent dishes come not from the savory buffet, but rather from the dessert table, in the form of decadent cakes, cookies, trifles and fudge. Check out Food Network’s favorite holiday desserts below, each a wow-worthy pick sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Gingerbread and Lemon Curd Trifle with Blackberry Sauce
Bobby Flay celebrates the beloved flavor combo of gingerbread and lemon in his layered trifle, featuring a crimson-colored blackberry sauce, which he whirls in the blender for smooth results. Follow Bobby’s lead and save time in the kitchen by opting for store-bought lemon curd; it brightens up the fluffy whipped cream layers in his big-batch dessert.
If Valentine’s Day is for chocolate, Halloween for candy and Thanksgiving for turkey, then Christmas may be for cookies. Just as you likely wait all year to dig into Mom’s famous peppermint spritz or your own special recipe for chocolate-cherry chunkies, your favorite chefs, too, are indulging in their holiday cooking cravings come December. FN Dish checked in with stars like Giada De Laurentiis, Katie Lee and Michael Symon to find out which cookies are their favorites — click the photos above or below to hear what they had to say.
We’ve all been there: You can’t seem to track down the perfect gifts for those last few people on your holiday shopping list, so you do the inevitable and resort to a series of gift cards. Are they still thoughtful gifts? Absolutely. But perhaps they’re just not ideal for the holidays, right? This year, skip the hours spent combing the aisles for that just-right present and ditch the gift-card game once and for all; what your friends and family will surely appreciate is an edible homemade gift full of holiday cheer. No matter whom you’re shopping for — the chocoholics, the caramel mavens, the drink connoisseur — there’s indeed a treat for everyone on your “nice” list in this ultimate collection of edible delights.
Quick and Easy Peppermint Fudge
It takes only a few pantry ingredients to make The Pioneer Woman’s fuss-free fudge, which she sprinkles with crushed peppermint candies for flavor and seasonal flair.
Whether your holiday plans include an elegant cocktail party, a traditional seated feast, a seasonal open house or some combination of these events, the key to easy, enjoyable entertaining at any party is a go-to menu of eats and drinks. This holiday season, stick with Food Network’s best bets for crowd-pleasing fare, from simple sausage balls and shrimp cocktail to hearty ham and sweet, buttery cookies.
Italian Sausage Balls
Reinvent the usual Southern appetizer with Italian flair by opting for sweet Italian sausage instead of the plain variety and pairing each baked sausage ball with classic Italian ingredients like creamy mozzarella and fragrant basil. Since these appetizers are served on toothpicks, guests will be able to easily snack with their hands.
The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is unofficially known as holiday baking season, but those who are sensitive to or intolerant of gluten needn’t miss out on all the sweet seasonal treats that are typically laden with wheat flour and other gluten-containing ingredients.
A blend of white rice, tapioca and buckwheat flours gives these spiced classics their authentic crunch. Now everyone can indulge in the season’s favorite cookie.
Get the Recipe: Gluten-Free Gingerbread Men