April 19th, 2018

From Our Table: Getting organized for the Christmas meal

By Medicine Hat News on December 20, 2016.

Christmas Day is just five sleeps away and I’m sure everyone can feel the growing excitement in the air!

For those of you like me who will be hosting the Christmas meal this year it’s time to get the menu finalized and the ingredients organized. In fact being organized for the Christmas meal is not only a big time saver it also cuts back on the stress of the meal preparations big time.

Let’s face it, Christmas day is already busy with gift opening and company and you really want time to visit with family and friends and not be in the kitchen all day. I find that the more recipes I can make ahead of time the more I enjoy the day.

I especially like to make the potatoes ahead to avoid the mess of potato peels and the seemingly inevitable boiling over, leaving water all over the stove.

It’s also great to have a few salads done up ahead as well. My mom makes one of my favourite salads with cottage cheese that I mentioned in my Thanksgiving column that can be made up ahead. Kent’s mom also has a delicious molded salad with pineapple that is a make-ahead side dish. I also frequently make a marinated salad both because it is a family favourite and super nutritious but love that it can be made even a couple days ahead to really get the flavour spread throughout.

The layered salad recipe I’ve included today is also a family favourite that is a make-ahead side dish. It looks lovely, too, when you can see the layers through a glass bowl. When making this salad I do find a difference in flavour if I make my own homemade bacon bits and use the fresh grated Parmesan cheese instead of the powdered. But as with most recipes feel free to personalize it to fit your family’s flavour choice.

From Kent, myself, Josiah, Zachary, Levi and Benjamin (who are all home from university which I’m over-the-moon happy about — go figure!), we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful family and friend filled holiday with lots of love, laughter and maybe even a little flavourful food.

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.


1 head of iceberg lettuce

3 green onions, sliced thin

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup mayonnaise (possibly more)

1 to 2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup bacon bits

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced

cherry or grape tomatoes sliced in half


Wash lettuce thoroughly then tear into bite-size pieces and place in the bottom of a medium-large serving bowl. A glass or clear bowl looks nice with this salad so you can see the layers.

Sprinkle sliced green onion on top of lettuce then top with the chopped celery, followed by a layer of sliced water chestnuts then a layer of frozen peas.

Drop the mayonnaise by the teaspoonful over the top of the peas and then spread out as evenly as possibly. If you need more mayonnaise to make a thin layer to cover use a bit more at a time.

Sprinkle the mayonnaise layer evenly with the garlic powder and then the sugar, followed by the bacon bits and then the Parmesan cheese. Top the cheese with the egg slices and then decorate the top with the cherry or grape tomato halves and a sprinkle of parsley.

Cover the bowl with cellophane and refrigerate overnight until ready to serve.


5 lbs potatoes

1/4 cup milk

18-oz package of cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

3 Tbsp butter

3 Tbsp Boursin cheese (we like garlic and herb)

1 tsp onion salt

1 tsp butter

1 to 3 Tbsp parsley

Peel potatoes, cut into pieces that are the same size so it will cook evenly and place in pot of water with just enough water to cover them.

Boil until all pieces are tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Drain and place in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher. Add milk, cream cheese, sour cream, butter, Boursin cheese and onion salt. Beat with a mixer until very smooth. If they seem too thick add more milk a very small amount at a time until it is the consistency you want.

Place whipped potatoes in an oven safe serving dish if you are making them up ahead of time. If you are serving immediately put into the serving dish of your choice, spread evenly and top with 1 tsp of butter in the centre and sprinkle evenly with parsley. If you are making them ahead place in an oven safe serving dish so they can be reheated. Cover with cellophane and tin foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

To reheat remove cellophane and just cover with tin foil. Place in preheated 350 F oven for about 1 hour or until heated throughout.

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