Divine Christmas Eve Menu



Christmas Eve is my favorite family tradition.   My Mexican-Indian grandmother was the matriarch of the kitchen who spent days preparing an incredible feast. There was laughter and joy in the kitchen and the air was heavy with anticipation for the gifts under the gorgeous tree.  Giving to others is something that brings me great joy and I inherited that from my mother; she had a way of making everything special and beautiful with the unique touch of her style & imagination.

This menu is a combination of old favorites, family traditions, and clean eating (sort of — it’s the holidays!!!).

For Dinner

Red-wine braised short ribs

Kale, Potato & Gruyere Gratin

Oven-roasted Carrots with Rosemary

Haricot Vert salad Cherry Tomatoes, fresh corn and Avocado Goddess Dressing

Wild Rainbow Rice Pilaf

Shredded Arugula & Radicchio salad with Crispy Onions

Cornbread Pudding Muffins & Honeybutter

For Dessert

Honey Ricotta cheesecake by Giada De Laurentiis, always a crowd-pleaser

Gluten-free gingerbread men (going to try this recipe)

Raw cacao-maca ganache tarte with vanilla-coconut cashew cream (see below)

Fresh berries and whipped cream



Red Wine Braised Short Ribs


2 Bone-In short ribs per person (I usually buy grass fed meats, but short ribs are the exception; they need a lot of fat to become super tender and the grass fed ones are too lean)

1 organic yellow onion, diced

1 handful of fresh thyme & rosemary, stems removed and roughly chopped

1 bottle of dry red wine for every 8-10 short ribs

If you are cooking for many people, I suggest doing multiple pots of 8-10 ribs and multiplying this ratio.  Don’t try to shove too many ribs into one pot; it won’t cook well.

Let short ribs come to room temp then salt and pepper both sides generously. On the stove top, heat a large cast-iron deep dish (like this one from Le Crueset or equivalent), add a 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and sear short ribs fat-side down for 3 minutes.  Turn and repeat. Remove short ribs, add diced onion and cook until lightly browned.  Add short ribs back into pot, arranging so each one is fat-side down.  Add wine and herbs, turn stove down to simmer at lowest setting, cover and cook for 2 1/2 -3 hours, turning ribs once, about halfway through.  Check again after 2 hours of cooking and use a spoon to drizzle juices on top of the ribs, essentially basting them.  Cover again and turn off pot at 3 hours MAX.  Do not cook longer.  Baste ribs once again with juices and cover.  The longer they sit and cool at this point, the better.  They will become more tender and juicy with about 30 minutes resting time before serving.  Delicious and Done.

Kale, Potato & Gruyere Gratin

This is heavily adapted from this recipe from the New York Times.

I substitute kale for the swiss chard and reduced the number of steps involved.  People are always asking for this recipe.  Here it is:

For 8-10 servings

1 pound organic lacinto kale, stems removed.

3 pounds (6-8 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled.

2 1/2 cups organic heavy cream

1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature

6 ounces grated Gruyere cheese

1 garlic clove

1 small shallot, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 thyme sprigs

1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg


Heat the oven to 350 degrees, with rack in the center. In a blender, add creme, garlic, shallot, thyme, nutmeg.  Blend until well combined, but don’t allow creme to become too thick. Set aside. Using a food processor with a 1/8 inch slicing blade, shred the kale, set aside.  Then run potatoes through the food processor with the same blade (don’t bother washing the container in between!) , cutting them into uniform thin slices.

Working quickly (to avoid the potatoes turning brown), butter a large (12×14) pyrex dish and begin alternating layers in this order: single, slightly overlapping layer of potato, sprinkle salt and pepper, 1/3 portion of the gruyere, half the kale, and 1/3 of the creme mixture.  Repeat once again then top with a final layer of potato, salt and pepper, gruyere, and finally the rest of the cream.  Bake uncovered until top is browned, and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes.

Oven Roasted Carrots

This is a simple recipe, found here, from Jaime Oliver’s “Cook with Jaime”.  The key to them being special is getting the “heirloom” looking ones that are rainbow colored and leaving the stems for a farm-to-table feeling.  Adding a handful of rosemary to his recipe makes it pop even more.

Haricot Vert Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Corn and Avocado Goddess Dressing

This is a photo from my new favorite book, Sprouted Kitchen by Sara Forte.  The recipe can be found here.

Wild Rainbow Rice Pilaf

This is adapted from my Grandmother’s incredible wild rice salad.  She never wrote anything down so I’ve had to improvise and create my own over the years.

For 6-8 servings

2 cups organic wild rice

4 cups filtered water

1 pound spinach

2 cups finely diced shitake mushrooms

1/2 yellow onion finely diced

1 cup diced dried organic cranberries

4 slices of bacon, finely chopped

1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped (measure after chopping)

In a rice cooker, combine rice and water with a pinch of salt.  When cooked, fluff with fork, and cover again for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile in a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat cook the bacon; remove and cool on paper towel.  Using bacon grease, brown the onions lightly, then add mushrooms.  Cook until flavors are fused and mushrooms are browned, being careful not to over cook onions (they will get bitter). Mix the cooked rice, mushroom/onion/bacon mixture, RAW finely diced spinach (it will wilt and cook with the other hot ingredients), toasted pecans, and diced cranberries.  Done.

Shredded Arugula and Radicchio Salad with Crispy Onions

This is my best attempt to replicate an insanely simple and delicious salad from Axe.

For 6-8 people

3 bunches of regular organic arugula, washed, dried and stems cut off

3 bunches of red radicchio

1 1/2 organic yellow onions, chopped into small  1/2 inch pieces (approx)

Organic (raw, if possible) olive oil

2 lemons

In a food processor with a 1/8 inch slicing blade, shred the arugula and radicchio (you will have to work in batches).  Combine in a beautiful big salad bowl.  I like the shallow large ones so the yumminess doesn’t fall to the bottom.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat 1/4 cup olive oil to high heat and add onions, careful not to burn.  Brown them well, stirring frequently, especially as the browning increases.  Add a pinch of salt as they cook.  Well nicely browned, remove and set on paper towel to drain.

Drizzle desired amount of olive oil & squeeze lemon on salad mixture, toss well to coat, then sprinkle half the onions on top.  Reserve the other half for side toppings in case guests would like more.  This is not an “onion salad” the onion is only an exciting surprise with the greens.

Gluten-Free Cornbread Pudding Muffins and Honeybutter

I made these for Thanksgiving and they were amazing.  Recipe here.

Raw Cacao-Maca Ganache Tarte

This is my adaptation from the recipe in Raw Food, Real World by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis of Pure Food and Wine restaurant in NYC.  Their recipe is perfection; decadent chocolate goodness that is also a superfood wonder.  I up the ante by adding a fair dose of Maca, the Peruvian aphrodisiac superfood.  I buy my maca and truly RAW cacao from Essential Living Foods.  They are the ONLY certified raw suppliers of cacao.

Makes one 9-inch tart (about 12 servings)

For the tart crust

  • 3/4 cup raw cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup fine almond flour*
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (or 1/2 cup maple syrup powder**)
  • 1/4 cup organic, extra virgin coconut butter***
  • Pinch of sea salt

*Fine almond flour is often sold in the refrigerated section of health/natural food stores.  You can also make your own if you have a food processor or high-speed blender.

**Difficult to find in stores, but available online at frontiercoop.com or sunorganic.com

***Coconut butter is very different from coconut oil!!

In a large bowl (or standing mixer with a paddle attachment), mix all of the crust ingredients together until they form a dough.  Press the dough evenly into a 9-inch tart pan (or spring-form pan) with removable bottom.  If using maple syrup instead of maple syrup powder, line the bottom with parchment paper first.  Cover and place in the fridge to chill for 1 hour or more.

For the ganache filling:

  • 2 1/4 cups raw cocoa powder
  • 2 1/4 cups organic maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of raw organic maca powder
  • 1 cup coconut butter

Blend all of the filling ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Taste the ganache to make sure that it’s not grainy.  If it is, continue blending until completely smooth.  Pour into the chilled tart crust and place in the fridge to chill and set for at least 3 hours.

For the coconut vanilla cream:

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
  • 1 cup coconut meat
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1/2 cup raw agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup coconut butter
  • 2 tablespoons alcohol-free vanilla extract
  • Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 additional teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

In a high speed-blender, blend all of the cream ingredients until completely smooth. Transfer to a separate container and refrigerate to chill and set for at least 2 hours.  This should make a firm, scoopable cream.  For a slightly softer cream, use half the amount of coconut butter.

To Serve:

Use a chef’s knife to cut the tart in half.  It helps to run the knife under hot water and then dry it with a towel between cuts in order to cut more smoothly.  Cut each half in half again and each quarter into 3 pieces for 12 evenly sized slices. Top each slice with a spoonful of the coconut vanilla cream. Taste and go to heaven.


Embrace your family, enjoy every moment, give thanks and enjoy.


Featured title artwork is Crow version of the Nativity by Fr. John Giuliani.  This post originally appeared here.

Leah Forester Johnson

Leah Forester Johnson is a mother of twins, stylist, and blogger. Blending her interests in parenting, wholesome cooking and style, Leah Forester’s blog is an inspiring take on modern motherhood. Leah assists in facilitating RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) parent-infant guidance classes in Los Angeles.

Website: Leah Forester

December 20, 2012