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Makeshift Christmas Meals

Makeshift Christmas Meals
Lauren Englisbe

Surprise! It’s Christmas Eve, and your favorite flaky brother Kenneth just backed out from hosting this year’s holiday dinner, completely last minute!

Classic Kenneth.

And guess who it falls to — yet again — to once again sweep in and save the day? Why, you, of course! (P.S. aren’t you getting just the teensiest bit tired of not having these boundaries clearly defined? Maybe some group therapy would be a good addition to your Christmas list, I’m just sayin’.)

Sorry, I’m getting sidetracked. Let’s save those tough conversations for another day and get down to business. What the heck are you going to cook? First things first, it’s time to do a quick inventory of your pantry to see what you can whip together, and then it’s time to hunker down and prepare some Olympic-style makeshift meals.
We’ve got you covered with dishes that you can throw together using basic ingredients you’re super likely to have on hand. You can do this!

Cocktail Hour

"Oh, this old thing? I just threw it together!"

Good news: if you’re making a whole Christmas dinner from the contents of your fridge, no one is going to expect you to serve a Mad Men-inspired cocktail party. However, if sipping on a libation and nibbling at mixed nuts is going to get you through the night in one piece, you’d better make it happen.

Bacon-wrapped potatoes: If you don’t have bacon in your fridge, the Ghost of Christmas Ron Swanson will haunt you.

Cocktail meatballs: Shove these in the crockpot and forget about them.

Spiced nuts: Steal all the cashews when no one’s looking, I won't tell.

Stuffing-stuffed mushrooms: You’re already making stuffing anyway (see Side Dishes, below), so let it do double duty.

Bruschetta: This is THE simplest appetizer. You’re just toasting bread and then being called a genius. You’re welcome.

Main Courses

Remember, your Christmas dinner could always be worse.

Ok, so this could get tricky. I’m pretty sure you don’t just happen to have a 20-pound turkey in your fridge, buuuuuuuut you likely have boneless chicken breasts and veggies. Totally doable, my friend.

Christmas Day chicken: C’mon, it says “Christmas Day” right in the title. Plus, this gives you a chance to finally get rid of all those Ritz crackers you have lying around.

Chicken breasts Dijon: You probably don’t have leeks. So double up on onions or just skip them, no one needs to know!

Chicken breasts with mushrooms and wilted frisée: Hahahahaha, frisée, get out of here. Forget that, use whatever mushrooms you have in the fridge, and use an onion instead of a shallot.

Roasted vegetable lasagna: Because you still have to feed your vegetarian guests! If you don’t have squash, sub with whatever veggies you do have. How about zucchini or carrots?

Side Dishes

Christmas...means something.

Side dishes are the easiest way to get rid of food that’s been in your pantry for forever. Not that you want to give your relatives botulism or anything, but you know what I mean. (I HOPE.)

Stuffing: Remember how I told you we were making stuffing? Here it is. If you have a few loaves that’ve gone stale, they’ll be perfect here. No, I’m not joking, the recipe actually calls for this.

Green beans: For extra flavor, try crumbling in a quarter or a half of a bouillon cube.
Roasted potatoes: The secret? Add ALL the rosemary. Looking for something more traditional? Mash them or make potatoes au gratin.

Glazed carrots: Literally just bung these in a pan with butter and sugar. Better yet, make the kids cook these while you put your feet up for a sec.

Candied sweet potatoes: These aren't everybody’s cup of tea, but you can still guilt trip people if they don’t eat them. That’s the real fun of hosting!


Don't fret, li'l fruitcake. Your day will come.

You did it, you’re almost done! Ideally your guests have brought you a darn pie in return for your day of absolute panic, but there’s no guarantee.

Two-step pound cake: This recipe tries to get all fancy, calling for a tube pan. I’ll tell you what, you just put that dough in whatever pan you want, and you get to living.

Bread pudding: Do you still have bread left? Listen, I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but maybe check the pantry before you head out to Costco next time. (By the way, if some awful person gifted you with a fruitcake, you can totally use that sucker for your pudding.)

Mulled wine or cider: Forget the “eight cinnamon sticks and two star anise pods” nonsense and just pull out the bag of mulling spices that you bought on a whim at the market.

Eggnog: Perfect if you have an… egg-cess of eggs.


Need to stock up before Christmas Eve? Ok, ok, I take back what I said about your Costco card. Head over to Costco on and you just shop in bulk to your heart’s content!