Christmas Eve Easy Suppers, Last Minute Gift Ideas

After an easy supper on Christmas Eve, serve a hot chocolate tray with cocoa and white chocolate to sip while reading the story of Jesus’s birth. Arrange assorted toppings, including candy canes or peppermint sticks, mini marshmallows and whipped cream, among other favorites. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY

By Ann Cipperly

As Christmas approaches this week, the days get busier with last minute shopping, wrapping gifts and getting ready for breakfast and dinner on Christmas Day. Plan an easy supper with soup, sandwiches and cookies on Christmas Eve. Serve hot chocolate as the story of Jesus’s birth is read, and send little ones to bed with the true meaning of the celebration.

While you are in the kitchen cooking this week, double a few recipes to have extra to share as last minute gifts. Cheese straws are a favorite with almost everyone. Mary Alsobrook Carl had a cottage business called The Last Straw for many years. In one year she would use over 400 pounds of cheese in making the crispy straws, as their popularity grew.

After she went to work full time and gave up the cottage business, she graciously shared her famous recipe. If you don’t have a cookie press for making cheese straws, you can roll the dough into logs, chill, then slice and bake following directions. Wafers will take about ten minutes or a little longer for desired crispness.

Mary’s recipe for the cheese straws came from Mrs. H. F. Finch, known to Mary as “Miss Dollie Mae.” While Mary knew Mrs. Finch, she did not discover her cheese straw recipe until later when she found it in an old cookbook at her mother’s home. Over the years, Mary perfected the method.

When making cheese straws, be sure to grate the cheese and not use packaged shredded cheese. The packaged cheese has an ingredient to prevent the cheese from sticking together that doesn’t work well in making cheese straws or wafers.

Two other delectable last minute food gifts are Debbie Whitley’s Reindeer Food and Ellen Canada’s House Specialty Chex Mix with Nuts. These are also great to mix up for snacks to have on hand for the family during the holidays.

Homemade cookies are also good for last minute gifts. When baking for your family, double the batch to have extra to share. Children will enjoy helping, and let them go with you to deliver the cookies. It is a good way to teach them to think of others and share.

If you have to work on Christmas Eve, getting ready for the big day can be more difficult. When I worked full time as an editor at a newspaper, Christmas Eve was always a busy day. Since the Christmas Day paper was one of the largest of the year, there were articles to finish and more pages than usual to layout. When I got home, I was generally exhausted, and there were gifts to wrap and lots of cooking.

We almost always had out-of-town company from Don’s family coming in on Christmas Eve, which meant serving a nice meal. I remember one year after getting home from work, making a shrimp stroganoff that I thought would be an elegant supper. When I served it, a new spouse for one of our guests said he couldn’t eat shrimp. I had to quickly scramble to make another dish too.

Over the years, I have learned that Christmas Eve calls for an easy supper, such as soup and sandwiches with a plate of cookies for dessert. If you need an appetizer, set out a plate of cheese and crackers with grapes or apple slices if you have them or a dish of nuts.

A pot of potato soup with assorted toppings will appeal to all ages. In the recipes, there are two options. One recipe is a classic version that can be prepared in a slow cooker or on the stove top. Lorna Roberts’ recipe is a quick and easy version using frozen hash brown potatoes. Both versions are delicious served with assorted toppings.

If you can find ripe avocadoes, the bacon and avocado sandwiches are easy to assemble and tasty. You can also add bacon and avocado in a grilled cheese sandwich. If you have a picky family with everyone wanting something different, then arrange a sandwich bar for everyone making their own.

A favorite at our house is Judy’s Curried Cheese Spread on English Muffins. I always think of Judy Gullage, who was an amazing, sweet lady, when I make these, as she would serve them at meetings in her home for the Muses Study Club.

If your family likes pimento cheese sandwiches, offer it as a rolled sandwich or spread melted butter on the outside and toast them. One afternoon when I need a quick appetizer, all I had was pimento cheese and bread and decided to spread the cheese on a slice of bread and roll it up, then spread with melted butter and bake them. Since they were popular, I make them now to serve with tomato soup.

Look over the recipes and see which recipes work best for your family. Make it a tradition to read the Christmas story after supper and serve warm cups of hot chocolate. You can arrange a hot chocolate bar with candy canes, peppermint sticks, mini marshmallows and whipped cream. Some people like to include chocolate chips and caramels, but keep it simple for children, not adding too much chocolate, which can keep them awake.

As you prepare for Christmas this week, maybe your house isn’t decorated like those in glossy magazines, and there is not much under the tree, but you can have a glorious celebration with your family and the most wonderful gift that is priceless. The greatest gift the world has ever known can’t be found in a department store or under a tree. It came to Earth over 2,000 years ago and was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a lowly manger.

Wishing each of you a Merry Christmas and that you find joy for every day of the year with the greatest gift in your heart.

Hot Chocolate Bar

Prepare Hot Chocolate and serve with candy canes or peppermint sticks, mini marshmallows and whipped cream, among other favorites.

Hot Chocolate

½ cup sugar

¼ cup cocoa (Hershey’s)

Pinch of salt, optional

1/3 cup hot water

4 cups milk

1 tsp. vanilla

In a saucepan, mix sugar, cocoa and salt (if using); stir in water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly and boil for two minutes.

Stir in milk and heat until hot, but do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Makes about six servings.

Hot Dark Chocolate

Prepare as above using dark cocoa and add more sugar if needed.

Hot White Chocolate

4 cups milk (can use 1 cup half and half for 1 cup of the milk)

1 cup quality white chocolate chips or chopped bar

1 tsp. vanilla

Place milk, white chocolate and vanilla in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir or whisk constantly until chocolate is melted. Do not boil. Serve warm.

Hot Mocha White Chocolate

12 oz. quality white chocolate

1½ cups half and half or milk

6 cups hot coffee, regular or decaf

Whipped Cream

Combine white chocolate and half and half or milk in saucepan; heat while stirring, until melted. Pour mixture into hot coffee. Top with whipped cream. Serves six to eight.

The Last Straw Cheese Straws

Mary Alsobrook Carl

Great to have on hand and for gifts. If you don’t have a cookie press, you can roll the dough in logs, chill, slice and bake at 350 for about ten minutes or until desired crispness.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. cayenne red pepper

1 stick salted butter, softened

1 lb. extra sharp cheese, grated

Combine flour, salt and red pepper in a food processor. Add softened butter. Add grated cheese a little at a time. Allow dough to mix thoroughly in the food processor. Place cheese dough into cookie press with star tip. Press onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cut into desired length.

Bake at 350 until crisp.

Reindeer Food

Debbie Whitley makes this tasty mix sometimes for Christmas gifts. You can omit the dipping sauce.

3 cups Honey Corn Chex cereal

3 cups Rice Chex cereal

3 cups Wheat Chex cereal

1 cup mixed nuts or pecans

1 cup Bugles

12 Tbsp. butter or margarine

4 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1½ tsp. seasoned salt

¾ tsp. minced garlic

½ tsp. onion powder

1 Tbsp. Thai Chili Roasted Garlic Dipping Sauce from Wild Thyme, optional

Melt butter and mix with all ingredients and pour over cereal and nuts. Pour into a large rectangle metal pan and cook at 250 degrees for 1 hour, mixing every 15 minutes.

House Specialty Chex Mix with Nuts

Ellen Canada takes this delicious mix to family gets together for the holidays. It is also a popular gift for friends.

6 Tbsp. butter or margarine

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3 tsp. Jane’s Krazy salt (seasoned salt)

¼ tsp. ground red pepper

¼ tsp. chili powder

2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce (to taste)

3 cups each: Wheat Chex, Corn Chex and Rice Chex

1 ½ cups mixed nuts

Melt butter in large roasting pan in 250-degree oven. Stir in seasonings until mixed well. Then add cereals and mixed nuts.

Bake at 250 degrees for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread out to cool on paper towels. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks (it probably won’t last that long).

Candied Pecans

2 egg whites

1 cup sugar

4 cups pecans, whole or chopped

½ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat egg whites until foamy; gradually add sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in pecans. Pour butter into a rimmed cookie sheet. Spread pecan mixture over butter.

Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Easy Butterscotch Pecan Log

Goes together quickly and nice for gifts.

12 oz. pkg. butterscotch flavored morsels

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

Pecan halves

Melt butterscotch morsels; stir in sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and chopped pecans. Chill until firm enough to shape.

Roll into one large or two smaller logs. Press pecan halves into sides to completely cover. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill until ready to slice and serve.

Snow Covered Almond Crescents with Oatmeal

Janet Barlett

1 cup butter, room temperature

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

½ tsp. vanilla

2 cup plain flour

¼ tsp. salt (optional)

1 cup oatmeal

½ cup finely chopped almond or pecans

Extra confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla. Add flour and salt and mix well until blended. Stir in oats and nuts. Use a level measuring tablespoon and shape into crescents.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 14 to 17 minutes or until bottoms are light golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Sift confectioners’ sugar over warm cookies.

Nutty Turtle Cookies

½ cup sugar

¾ cup butter

1 egg yolk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1½ cup all-purpose flour

11 oz. can mixed nuts or chopped pecans

1½ cups semisweet chocolate

2 tsp. shortening

Gradually add sugar to softened butter with a mixer. When creamy, add egg yolk, vanilla and flour. Beat well. Make dough into balls and put on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten dough into round circles and press nuts into tops of cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 13 minutes.

While cookies cool, place shortening and chocolate into a double broiler, stirring constantly until melted. Spread chocolate mixture over the top of the cookies. Let cool until chocolate hardens. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Church Windows

Lucinda Samford Cannon

1 stick butter

12 oz. chocolate chips

1 tsp. vanilla

12 oz. colored mini marshmallows

1 cup pecans, minced

Melt butter in large saucepan and add chocolate chips. Stir constantly over low heat. Add vanilla, pecans and marshmallows. Mix well. Place on wax paper. Makes 4 logs. Refrigerate. When ready to serve, slice rolls about ¼-inch thick.

Curried Cheese and Olive Topped English Muffins

Judy Gullage was a gracious lady and would made these for the Muses Study Club.

3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 can black olives, sliced

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup green onions, chopped

1 tsp. curry powder

English muffins, split and toasted

Blend first five ingredients together. Can be made ahead. Pile cheese spread on toasted English muffins halves. Broil until cheese melts. Cut into quarters.

Roast Beef Rolls

Pam Hope

½ cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted

2 pkgs. party dinner rolls

2/3 cup peach preserves

½ cup mustard/mayonnaise blend (Dijonnaise)

¾ lb. deli roast beef, chopped

½ lb. thinly sliced Havarti cheese (I shredded mine)

Slice party rolls in half, horizontally. (Do not separate rolls.)

Spread top half of rolls with preservers, and sprinkle with walnuts. Spread bottom half of rolls with mustard/mayonnaise blend.

Top bottom half with roast beef and cheese. Cover with top half. Cover with foil.

Can freeze at this point. To heat, let thaw overnight in refrigerator. If cooking immediately, cook at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Let sit for a few minutes before cutting into individual rolls.

Kathryn’s Avocado and Bacon sandwiches

2 avocados

Lime or lemon juice

4 oz cream cheese

8 slices fried bacon


8 slices sandwich or sourdough bread

Salt and pepper to taste

Mash 1 avocado and mix with softened cream cheese, a small amount of mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste.

Slice other avocado and squeeze a little lime or lemon juice to prevent darkening. Spread avocado mixture on sandwich bread, then add bacon and sliced avocado.

Toasted Rolled Cheddar Pecan Sandwiches

You can also pimento cheese spread to make these rolled sandwiches.              

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted, or small jar pimentos, drained

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 Tbsp. mayonnaise or more

Thin sandwich bread, white or wheat

Butter, melted

Combine first three ingredients.

Remove crust from thin sliced bread. Flatten with a rolling pin. Spread 2 teaspoon of filling on bread slice; roll up. Spread with melted butter. Rim edges of rolls if needed and cut in halves.

Chill or place on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly brown. Cam freeze ahead.

Ham , Shrimp or Chicken Chowder

Mary Ann Swanson

2 cups diced potatoes

½ cup sliced carrots

½ cup sliced celery

¼ cup or more chopped onion

1½ tsp. salt

Two 14 oz. cans chicken stock or water

¼ cup butter or margarine

¼ cup flour

2 cups milk

2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

1 lb. can (2 cups) cream style corn

2-3 cups diced ham, cooked chicken or 1 lb. shrimp

Combine potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and salt; cover with chicken broth or just enough water to cover, about 2 cups. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes; do not drain.

In a large pan, melt butter; add flour and blend. Stir in milk and cook until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened. Add cheese, corn and potato mixture with liquid.

Stir in ham or shrimp; cook until well heated. Can use cooked or fresh shrimp. If using fresh, cook three minutes until shrimp are pink.

Shrimp Bisque Patricia Fox

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 lb. raw shrimp, shelled and deveined

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped

4 cups seafood or chicken stock

½ cup fine breadcrumbs

1/2 cup or more heavy cream

2 Tbsp. dry sherry

Salt to taste

Pinch of cayenne pepper

3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in skillet; add onion and garlic. Sauté until slightly softened. Add tomatoes and stock; cook until tomatoes are softened, about 5 minutes.

Set aside half of shrimp. Add remaining shrimp to broth with breadcrumbs. Cook over medium heat until shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree soup mixture in processor or blender until smooth.

Return mixture to pan; add cream, sherry, salt and pepper.

Slice reserved shrimp into one-inch pieces. Just before serving; add shrimp and cook until pink. Garnish with parsley. Makes 6 to 8 servings. Better prepared a day or two ahead.

Stovetop or Slow Cooker Potato Soup with Toppings

Adapted from Pat Wingfield’s recipe

6 large russet potatoes (can use Yukon Gold) , peeled, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped

Three 14 oz. cans chicken broth

3 tsp. minced garlic

2½ tsp. salt

Pepper to taste

1/3 cup butter

1 cup (4 oz.) sharp Cheddar, grated

1 cup heavy cream or half & half

Toppings: sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, chives, crumbled cooked bacon or chopped ham

Stovetop Version:

Combine potatoes, onion, chicken broth, garlic, salt and pepper in large Dutch oven pan. Bring to a boil; simmer until potatoes are tender.

Coarsely mash mixture; stir in butter, cheese and heavy cream. Serve toppings of choice. Makes 8 servings.

Slow Cooker Version:

Combine potatoes, onion, chicken broth, butter, salt and pepper in five qt. slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for four hours or on low for eight hours. Coarsely mash mixture; stir in cheese and heavy cream. Serve topped with dollop of sour cream, crumbled cooked bacon and grated sharp cheddar.

Easy Potato Soup with Assorted Toppings

Lorna Roberts

Top with shredded cheddar, diced ham or bacon, if desired.

32 oz. frozen diced hash browns, divided

1 cup chopped onion

1 can chicken broth

2 cups water

1 can cream of celery soup (undiluted)

1 can cream of chicken soup (undiluted)

2 cups milk

Combine half of the hash browns with the onion, chicken broth and water in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Add remaining hash browns and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Stir in soups and milk; heat thoroughly.

Makes 2 quarts. Serves six.

Easy Tomato Basil Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans Italian style diced tomatoes

4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

2 tsp. dried basil (can use fresh)

1 cup half and half

Heat oil over medium heat and cook onions until tender. Add in garlic. Add the tomatoes and broth and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup, if desired. Before serving add in the half and half and basil.

Toasted Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Drizzle

Janet Morehouse

7 oz. pkg. coconut flakes

1 cup chopped pecans, optional

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. vanilla

30 saltine crackers, finely crushed

3 egg whites

2 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut and pecans into 15 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake 10 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring frequently. Cool.

Combine milk and vanilla in large bowl. Add coconut mixture and cracker crumbs; mix well.

Beat egg whites in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add to coconut mixture; stir gently until well blended. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the coconut mixture, 2 inches apart, on lightly greased baking sheets.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

Drizzle melted chocolate over cookies. Place in wax paper-lined shallow pan. Refrigerate until chocolate is set. Makes 3 dozen.


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