Quick and Easy

The Chillest-Ever Holiday Dinner (No Oven Required)

Bonus points if you never change out of your pajamas.

December 15, 2020
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food Stylist: Lauren LaPenna.

We've partnered with Sprouts to share ideas for the most laid-back, utensil-free holiday meal you can imagine. And since you can buy all the elements in just one shopping trip—even for feasts that are gluten-free, organic, or plant-based—the prep work is zero fuss.

While a happy, raucous holiday dinner—full of aunts and uncles, grandparents, and toddlers in seasonal onesies, with everyone sprawled across the house sipping eggnog—is my favorite part about the season, it’s just not in the cards this year.

But instead of being bummed about what I’m missing, I’m pretty psyched about what I’m getting in return: a mellow night spent in cozy pants snacking on my favorite foods, with no roasting pans to scrub.

While I love to cook, this year I’m mostly being let off the hook—and instead cooking up ways to make this celebratory season tasty, and entirely no-pressure. A grazing-friendly holiday feast with hardly any cooking or hassle sounds exactly my speed. Frankly, turning on the oven feels like overkill when you can count your guests on one hand—or in my case, on two fingers.

My plan? A night of no-utensil snacking with the flavors I look forward to most around this time of year. First I’ll prep some savory and intensely creamy pumpkin dip—it’s just a matter of mixing canned pumpkin, chopped bacon, shredded cheddar, and cream cheese with some spices in a bowl, microwaving that, and then stirring it up. (Stirring: Yep, I can definitely handle that.)

Next to it, I’ll put out a tray of crudités, trying to keep my color palette as warm and wintry as possible (think: rainbow carrots, red peppers, and radicchio leaves). Since my boyfriend can’t resist a bowl of mixed nuts, I’ll grab an assortment from the bulk department at Sprouts, then toss them in a hot pan with oil, sugar, cinnamon, and thyme. (And yes, they technically involve cooking, but they really couldn’t be simpler.)

That seems like enough work on the apps, so for the main event, I think I’ll keep things even easier. I’m planning to lay out seedy, cranberry-studded crackers and put thin slices of smoky speck on top. Then I’ll add a morsel of gorgonzola, for a salty-funky punch of flavor. It’s a canapé with substance and style, and hints of the flavors you’d find in a classic holiday meal. Plus, I can’t resist a meal that’s primarily cheese- and meat-based, so it's a good thing there's an impressively deluxe selection of both in Sprouts' deli department.

As a kid, I always asked my mom to make an icebox cake for special occasions—the fact that she could turn cookies into cake in the fridge overnight made her seem like some kind of kitchen magician. (She made hers with whipped cream between layers of those Famous Chocolate Wafers, which have an old-school charm all their own.)

As a holiday-appropriate tribute to her, I’ll finish my no-pressure evening with gingersnap mini icebox cakes (a twist on the classic recipe). I may even make the whipped cream from scratch, if I’m feeling wildly ambitious. Then, let’s be honest, I’ll probably fall asleep in front of an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. This is my truth.

Part of me—the extremely lazy one—feels like this is how holiday meals were always meant to be: fancy-feeling but easy-peasy, eaten in front of the television while wearing an oversized sweatshirt. I know this situation is an anomaly, though—soon enough, families across the country will be back together, shouting inside jokes over a complicated roast turkey while the white wine flows. It’ll be as wonderful as it sounds. But this year, I’ll appreciate a quiet night with my shoes off, eating a meal that takes minutes to set up, being exactly as relaxed as I want to be. Who could argue with that?

What’s the one dish you’re most excited about eating this holiday season? Tell us in the comments!

We’ve teamed up with Sprouts to share ideas for a low-key holiday meal that still feels like a seasonal celebration. With prepared sides, high-quality meats, and enough organic, gluten-free, and plant-based options to satisfy any eater, Sprouts is a one-stop shop for your special-occasion meals. From flour to flowers, deli meats to dark chocolate, you’ll find it all there.

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