The holidays mean gathering with friends and family and making meals that feed a crowd! Making some of the meals ahead of time helps you enjoy your time with your guests instead of slaving in the kitchen. I put together some of my favorite dishes to make ahead for breakfast, lunch and dinner when I’m hosting guests.
I love my waffle maker and the smell of waffles cooking in the morning is incredible. The night before I set the waffle maker out and I make the batter to keep it in the fridge. Then whoever gets up first (never me because I’m not an early morning riser) can start making coffee and waffles! Your guests want to help out and this makes them feel comfortable in your home and that they are really helping you, the host, by sharing the cooking responsibilities. I set out bowls of fresh berries, dark chocolate chips, maple syrup and whipped cream for extra indulgence.
For lunch I make a gigantic salad and all the components can be made in advance. I cook wild rice in my InstantPot, I roast cubed squash like butternut or kabocha, have pomegranates de seeded in a tupperware and a vinaigrette made and kept in a mason jar. Everyone can assemble and dress their own salad, which keeps the rest of the salad from wilting.
For dinner, I love a good lasagna. There’s so much meat during the holidays that I usually opt for a veggie lasagna. With a light white wine béchamel sauce and vegetables like eggplant and zucchini and spinach, I feel like it’s a good balanced meal, plus you can make it ahead, freeze it and reheat whenever you need it.
Wild Rice and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Mandarin Vinaigrette
For the wild rice:
1 cup wild rice
2 cups of water
pinch of salt
½ vegetable bouillon
For the roasted vegetables:
1 sweet potato peeled and diced
½ butternut squash, peeled and diced
Drizzle of grape seed oil, salt and pepper
Other salad ingredients:
4 cups of arugula
2 cups of spinach
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
Mandarin Salad Dressing:
2 mandarin oranges, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ shallot, diced fine
pinch of dried herbs de Provence (optional, you could also add a pinch of dried thyme)
generous pinch of salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Cook the wild rice (I used an InstantPot and pressed the ‘multigrain’ feature. Otherwise, cook according to the directions on the wild rice box. While the rice cooks, turn the oven to 375. Place the cubed vegetables on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with oil and salt. Toss and spread out evenly on the baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes or browned on the outer edges. While the vegetables roast, make the salad dressing. Simply place the ingredients in a mason jar and shake vigorously. Pile all the ingredients, the lettuces, wild rice, roasted vegetables, cranberries and pine nuts on a large platter. Then drizzle the salad dressing and serve.
Vegetable Lasagna with White Wine Sauce
1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed into half inch cubes
1 medium zucchini, cut into half inch cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
16 ounces frozen cooked spinach, thawed and drained of water
6 cloves garlic, minced
18 ounces fresh ricotta, part skim or whole milk
2 large eggs
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated parmesan
1 cup jarred marinara sauce
1 lb ‘no cook’ lasagna sheets
salt and pepper to taste
For the béchamel:
2 ½ cups Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Chardonnay
½ stick unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
1 bay leaf
1 cup whole milk
½ cup finely gated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Saute the vegetables in the olive oil until slightly browned. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute until vegetables are cooked. In a separate sauce pan, add the Chardonnay and reduce over medium heat until about half of the wine remains. Stir in the butter, bay leaf and flour and whisk until smooth. Add the milk and a pinch of salt. Remove from heat and take out the bay leaf, then stir in the parmesan.
In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs, stir in the spinach, ricotta and mozzarella. In a baking sheet, spread a thin layer of the bechmel on the bottom, followed by a layer of lasagna sheets. Add a thin layer of the ricotta filling, followed by a thin layer of the sautéed vegetables. Pour over a thin layer of the béchamel. Repeat the layers until all the mixture is used. Finally, pour the tomato sauce over the top layer and sprinkle with parmesan.
Bake, covered with parchment paper and foil for an hour, uncover and bake for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Allow to cool before cutting into squares. Freeze or reheat before serving.