Christmas Eve Dinner (for an army)

This year I tried to cook foods that caterers make so that I could make most of it ahead of time and heat it up right before everyone came over. Everything came out great, but I definitely could have made less! We had 8 for dinner and I made enough for 16!

Menu (what we cooked):

  • Fried Cauliflower (Mom-Mom Tribiano’s recipe)
  • Stuffed Mushrooms (Elaine’s recipe, from Dom DeLuise)
  • Meatballs (Elaine’s Recipe) & Sausage in red sauce
  • Stuffed Shells
  • Chicken Marsala

The cauliflower cannot be made ahead, but everything else was. We bought fresh stuffed shells from Pastosa. Delicious!

I made the meatballs the night before, and prepared and stuffed the mushrooms, but didn’t cook them, just covered them in cling wrap and tin foil. I also Made the chicken marsala the day before, but kept the chicken and sauce separate until I heated them together on Christmas Eve.

The best part? The leftovers on the days after Christmas!!!


Clockwise from bottom: Chicken marsala, stuffed mushrooms, Mom’s torta, fried cauliflower


Clockwise from bottom: Stuffed shells, fried cauliflower, stuffed mushrooms, torta, meatballs

Mom-Mom Trib’s Fried Cauliflower

1 cup of flour
2-3 tablespoons of grated cheese (Chris adds more cheese but doesn’t remember how much, maybe 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (should be like the consistency of pancake batter…not too thin or too thick…so it coats the cauliflower)


Break apart a medium head of cauliflower.  Try to cut all pieces about the same size so they cook evenly.  Add it to boiling water.  Let water return to a boil and boil for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Test cauliflower with a toothpick to see if it is tender but not too soft.  DO NOT BOIL TOO MUCH OR THE CAULIFLOWER WILL BREAK APART WHEN FRYING.  When done, immerse cauliflower immediately in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  You can do this step a day ahead.  After drying on a paper towel or towel, refrigerate cauliflower until ready to fry.
Put 1/2 inch of olive oil and a garlic clove in a large frying pan.  Heat oil until a drop of batter sizzles.  Fry cauliflower until golden brown on all sides, keeping the oil at a sizzle so cauliflower doesn’t get too oily or soggy. We fried it in an electric skillet that cooks a large amount at a time. For Christmas we doubled this, using 2 heads of cauliflower.

Elaine’s and Dom DeLuise’s  Stuffed Mushrooms

These mushrooms are moist and delicious, the secret is adding soy sauce and water to the bottom of the pan as it bakes, and keeping it covered in foil for a long time, much longer than the recipe calls for, only removing the foil once the mushrooms are soft, then allowing them to brown uncovered for a few minutes. I doubled the recipe.

  • 1 lb mushroom, medium-sized
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 -3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons parsley
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Remove stems from mushrooms, and set caps aside.
Chop mushroom stems.
Heat olive oil in a skillet, and brown onions and garlic.
Add mushroom stems, and brown over low heat.
In a bowl, combine onion mixture with egg, bread crumbs, cheese and parsley, and mix well.
Stuff mushroom caps with mixture.
Place mushrooms on a baking dish.
Add soy sauce and water to the bottom of the dish.
Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes 30 minutes until mushrooms are soft .
Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown, about 10 minutes more.


In progress (2 lbs of mushrooms)


Ready to cook, but I covered them and put in the fridge overnight for easy prep. Then toss in the oven.

Elaine’s Meatballs

  • 1-1/2 lb ground beef (85% lean)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C grated cheese
  • 1/4 C bread crumbs
  • 1 teas. dried parsley flakes
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or chopped with onion
  • 1 teas. salt
  • 1/2 teas. oregano
  • 1/2 teas. dried sweet basil
  • 1/8 teas. pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil (if you are frying them. If you want to bake them, no oil is
  • necessary.)

Combine all ingredients except oil. Shape into approx. 18 meatballs. Either brown them in oil
in skillet or bake them in a 350 degree oven until brown. Turn them over when brown on first
side and then brown on the other. I baked them through and then put them in the sauce overnight, then heated the sauce with meatballs and baked sweet sausage links on the stove for an hour before eating.

Chicken Marsala (from Cooking with Sugar blog)

This marsala is delicious! I added cornstarch to thicken it, and it did better after reheating. I used 4 lbs of chicken which made two large trays, about 32 pieces. I also quadrupled the sauce recipe. It was a lot of work, took hours to pound the cutlets and cook them (I only had one pan in which to cook them so I repeated the process many times), but it was so good I will definitely make this again. The fresh parsley really freshens it up before serving. We had enough food for everyone to take home lots of leftovers. You can eliminate the prosciutto, just season to bring up the salt levels as necessary, but Marsala wine is salty, so you may not need it.


  • 4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds fillet and pounded thin)
  • 1-8 0z. container of fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup of flour, for dredging
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and pepper


On a cutting board, fillet each chicken breast and trim off any fat. Place two pieces of chicken at a time between two pieces of parchment paper as seen in photo below. Pound with a flat mallet, until the cutlets are about 1/4-inch thick.  Set aside and repeat until all the chicken is pounded thin. Put some flour in a shallow dish. Season each side of the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Dredge each cutlet lightly on each side with flour.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, brown a few cutlets at a time for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden. Once the chicken is brown, place the pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet with a rim, or a glass casserole dish. Continue until all the chicken is browned.

Lower the heat to medium and add the prosciutto to the drippings in the pan, sauté for a minute or two until browned. Add the mushrooms, season with a little salt and pepper and sauté until they are nicely browned on each side.  Turn up the heat and pour the Marsala in the pan and boil down for a minute so the alcohol cooks off. Then add the chicken stock and the butter.  Allow it to cook for a minute or two. Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover with foil and place in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes. Remove chicken and sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

CAT’S TIPS TO PREPARE AHEAD: Sauté and brown the chicken breasts (but don’t cook completely), place them in a baking dish or disposable lasagna pan and cover it with foil. Then cook the sauce separately and set aside in a separate bowl. Refrigerate everything and take it out 40 minutes before company arrives. Then preheat your oven to 350 F, pour sauce over the chicken and cook for 20-30 minutes before serving.

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Cauliflower Cheddar Soup

February must be soup month… it’s all I want to make.
This one is great, from the latest (March 2012) issue of Everyday Food. Tastes like a potato cheddar soup but with more flavor because of the cauliflower. I served it with bbq boneless/skinless chicken thighs and leftover roasted potatoes and onions from last night (and you can see my glass of ginger beer in the background… yummy!).
It’s super easy too. Where would we be without immersion blenders?  🙂
Another great veggie option if you switch to vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 med yellow onion, diced small
1 med head of cauliflower, cut into 1.5″ pieces
32 oz fat free low sodium chicken broth
8 oz water
5.5 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded
Kosher salt and ground pepper
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional; I skipped this)

Melt butter in dutch oven. Add onions, cook 8 minutes over med heat until softened, stirring occasionally. Add cauliflower, season with salt and pepper, and cook 12 minutes until just beginning to brown.
Add broth and water. Bring heat up to high and bring to boil.
Then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes until cauliflower is very tender.
Turn off heat, use immersion blender to puree soup.
Add cheddar cheese, stir until melted (you can put the heat back on to low if necessary to melt cheese).
Sprinkle cheese on top for garnish and with cayenne pepper, if desired (I think chives would look nice on top too, but I didn’t have any), and serve immediately.

Serves 6. 212 cal per serving.