Since I posted my suggestions for Thanksgiving menu planning last month, I have had several requests for a similar post for Christmas dinner ideas. I’m certainly happy to provide some inspiration, but Christmas Eve and Christmas day menus vary far more widely from family to family. Some have a very traditional holiday meal with a spread similar to Thanksgiving. If that’s the case for you, I’ll simply refer you back to that Thanksgiving post. If you are looking for something a bit different, I’ve put together a handful of menu suggestions.

The menu pictured above is pretty similar to what we will be having this year. Cabernet braised short ribs with orecchiette are a perfect splurge of a main dish, and have the added bonus of making your house smell absolutely incredible. We made this last year for Christmas Eve and it will likely be our traditional meal for many years to come. The rest of the menu is simple and can be mostly made ahead: sparkling cranberry brie bites, massaged kale Caesar salad, and caramel toffee cheesecake bars for dessert.

Scallops are one of my go-to special occasion meals, so the using them for a special holiday meal is a natural choice. These seared scallops with garlic chili butter are wonderful, but these caramelized scallops are equally fabulous. Start out with a minimalistic cheese board including pear riesling compote and crackers. Serve with garlic rice pilaf and baked spinach, and finish with glazed cranberry lemon cake for dessert.

With the cold weather holidays, my mind always goes straight to comfort food. This menu is comfort food central, featuring baked chicken parmesan meatballs in a tomato cream sauce. (Skillet eggplant parmesan would be a similar option if you are looking for a meatless meal.) Start out with a crostini trio, serve alongside classic Caesar salad, and finish with a stunning chocolate candy cane cake for dessert.

Pot pie is another one of those foods that feels both comforting yet slightly celebratory to me. Veggie pot pies with feta scallion biscuits are pictured above, but chicken pot pie with biscuit crumble topping is another great option. Since pot pie is so filling, I usually keep sides minimal. I recommend a simple dip and assorted veggies, such as this kale pesto white bean dip. Sticky toffee pudding is the ultimate dessert of the comfort food genre for me and always a wonderful way to end a meal.

In my family, Christmas has never been much of a food holiday. We do not have a fancy, organized meal. I love the idea of an uber casual pizza party with a simple yet irresistible parmesan crusted goat cheese with basil oil to start and brownies for dessert (salted caramel are my fave but peppermint brownies would be a perfect seasonal option for all you mint lovers out there.) Choose a few different topping options for the pies – my personal favorite is fancified pizza margherita but there are just so many possibilities to choose from!

In our family, brunch is the big meal of Christmas day and I love it that way. I’m not including a comprehensive brunch menu but instead sharing a few of my favorite items to contribute to a brunch. These include cranberry orange cinnamon rolls, gingerbread doughnut muffins, sweet potato scones with maple cinnamon butter, apple cinnamon baked oatmeal, chocolate swirl buns, and baked eggnog french toast.

I hope you find this useful in your menu planning this week. I’d love to hear what you will be making or what your family food traditions are.