By Karin Calloway

Karin Calloway is a working mom living in Augusta, Ga., with multiple freelance jobs and a ton of dirty dishes.

Make Ahead Christmas Eve Dinner

There is much to do on Christmas Eve besides cook. There are last-minute gifts to wrap, holiday guests to enjoy, Christmas Eve services at church...the list goes on. While the evening pulls you in multiple directions, there is nothing like welcoming the holiday with a home-prepared meal. The solution? You'll find it in this month's make-ahead menu.

Sit around the tree while you and your guests munch Cheddar and Mustard Seed Biscotti spread with cream cheese and Easy Winter Tomato Jam, and then head to the dinner table to enjoy our hearty Pork, Cider and Root Vegetable Ragout served over Creamy Oven-Baked Polenta. For dessert, head back into the den and sip spiced cider while you and your guests enjoy some White Chocolate Cranberry Bars.

Putting everything together is a snap with a little planning and preparation. Make the biscotti and tomato jam early in the week and store the cooled biscotti in an airtight container and the jam in the fridge. The ragout can be made ahead and frozen, or put it together a few days before Christmas Eve and reheat before serving. The creamy polenta is the only menu item that requires any real attention before serving, but our recipe cooks up practically unattended in the oven. Bake and cool the cranberry bars a few days ahead and store them in a container in the refrigerator.


Recipes:

White Bean and Butternut Squash Ragout
Crisp autumn air usually means you’ll see me with a butternut squash in my grocery cart. This sweet, orange winter squash just says “fall” to me and I like to serve it in soups, layered in lasagna or roasted as a side dish.
Cheddar and Mustard Seed Biscotti
Biscotti are usually sweet, crunchy cookies perfect for dipping in a cup of coffee, but the concept translates into savory munchies that can be served on their own or spread with cream cheese and Easy Winter Tomato Jam.
Creamy Oven-Baked Polenta
Making polenta could be described as a workout for your upper arms, since most recipes require lots of stirring. But making creamy polenta doesn’t have to be so much work.
Easy Winter Tomato Jam
Tomato jam is a sweet and spicy condiment usually prepared with end-of-the-season ripe tomatoes. But when all you can find is pale supermarket tomatoes, this version, which uses canned tomatoes, is perfect for winter preparation.
Pork, Cider and Root Vegetable Ragout
A hearty stew is the perfect winter main dish, and our Pork, Cider and Root Vegetable Ragout is a thick, satisfying stew that’s packed with flavor. Chunks of pork tenderloin, sweet potato and parsnips simmer up in a combination of apple cider and dark beer.