Christmas Dinner: 14 Easy, Elegant Recipes

12/20/2015 08:31 am ET | Updated Dec 20, 2015
Jennifer Segal

The holidays are all about spending time with your friends and family -- not slaving away in the kitchen all day. That's why you'll love these recipes. From appetizers to dessert, they're all special enough to impress your guests, yet easy to check off your holiday to-do list.


If you're ever in need of a festive and elegant dish to make for a party (and aren't we all right about now?), this dip will save the day. Whether you serve it with crackers and cocktails, or set it out on a brunch buffet with bagels, it's always a hit. Even my husband, a true blue New Yorker and self-professed expert on all things smoked fish related, gives it a big thumbs up. GET THE RECIPE


Sweet, salty, spicy, and rosemary-infused, these nuts are the perfect nibbling food. Serve them with cocktails, enjoy them as a snack or give them as a gift. But don't say I didn't warn you: they are crazy addictive! GET THE RECIPE


This has got to be the easiest butternut squash soup recipe ever. You start with pre-cut squash from the supermarket, then you basically throw everything in a pot, simmer it, purée it and you're done. It's still everything you expect a classic butternut squash soup to be: silky, slightly sweet and full of flavor. GET THE RECIPE


With shredded kale, crisp pancetta, tart apples, and pecans in a zingy maple vinaigrette, this festive salad hits all the right taste buttons. GET THE RECIPE


With a fluffy inside and a toasty crust, these rich and buttery biscuits are the best to ever come out of my oven. They're easy to make: you can throw the dough together in ten minutes and enjoy the biscuits with your meal less than fifteen minutes later. GET THE RECIPE


This is my favorite brisket recipe, and it's surprisingly simple to make. There's no wine, stock or bottled sauces added; instead, the brisket is cooked on top of a massive heap of onions, which slowly caramelize and release their juices, making a flavorful French onion soup-like braising liquid all their own. It's perfect for entertaining because it feeds a crowd and is best made ahead of time. GET THE RECIPE


Chicken Marbella is probably the most famous dish to come out of the beloved Silver Palate Cookbook by Julie Rosso and the late Sheila Lukins. I grew up eating this dish -- in fact, my mother still makes it on holidays and special occasions. The chicken is marinated in garlic and herbs, and then baked with wine, brown sugar, prunes, capers and meaty green olives. GET THE RECIPE


This classic dish involves layering thinly sliced potatoes with heavy cream (a lot of it!) and grated cheese in a gratin dish, and then baking it until the cream reduces and blankets the potatoes in a rich, creamy sauce. I'd say the dish is worthy of a special occasion -- it is -- but the truth is that eating it is a special occasion in and of itself. GET THE RECIPE


This creamy gratin is perfect for the holidays because it can be made ahead of time. It's easy too -- unlike most vegetable gratins, which are made with a Béchamel sauce, this one is made more simply (and decadently) with heavy cream. GET THE RECIPE


Always a favorite, these carrots are roasted in a high temperature oven until caramelized and tender-crisp -- a cooking method that intensifies their flavor and brings out their natural sweetness. You can make them ahead of time and reheat in the oven when ready to serve. GET THE RECIPE


Focaccia is a flavorful and easy-to-make Italian flat bread that feeds a crowd. This classic version is topped with coarse salt and fresh rosemary but other toppings can be added, such as thinly sliced tomatoes, olives or grated cheese, to name just a few. It's delicious warm out of the oven and as sandwich bread the next day. GET THE RECIPE


If you're a fan of Baileys Irish Cream as I am, you'll love this fun twist on tiramisu from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson. With layers of espresso-soaked lady fingers and light mascarpone cream, it looks and tastes impressive yet is almost ridiculously easy to make. You spend 20 minutes putting it together, if that, then just pop it in the fridge overnight. GET THE RECIPE


This warm, comforting cake is a twist on the classic English dessert, sticky toffee pudding -- which is not really pudding at all, but rather a warm, moist cake made with finely chopped dates covered in a sticky toffee sauce. Though it looks impressive, it's easy to make: the cake is nothing more than a delicate banana bread baked in a cake pan, and the toffee sauce is simply a combination of butter, cream, brown sugar and corn syrup. GET THE RECIPE


Inspired by the almond biscotti served at the celebrated Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, these Italian-style cookies are made by forming a fragrant, almond-studded dough into loaves, partially baking it, slicing it and then baking it again. They are everything you want biscotti to be: buttery, lightly sweet, crunchy but not tooth-shattering -- and delicious with after dinner coffee, tea or dessert wine. GET THE RECIPE