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Last-Minute Christmas Menu, Cooking Light-Style

We’ve been there before… time got away from you and now there are less than 48 hours until Christmas. You have no idea what presents you’re getting your loved ones, let alone what you’ll be preparing for all the meals. Sure, leftovers are a given at some point, but you need to prepare food first for there to be leftovers. If only there were some source you could place faith in to quickly and easily get your meals sorted so all you’ll have to sweat this Christmas are what presents to gift the ones you love.

via GIPHY

Well, fret not! Cooking Light is here, and we’ve curated a last-minute menu of Christmas meals to get you from Christmas Eve safely through to December 26. Bonus: all these meals were made by our test kitchen professionals, so you already know they’re going to be healthier for you and save you time. Win-win.

Below you’ll find recipes to take you from Christmas Eve dinner through to Christmas Day dinner, desserts included. Speaking of inclusion, we’ve also added vegetarian options for the meat-free readers here. And the majority of our selections came from the Cooking Light Diet, meaning you can also schedule these meals into your weekly meal plans.

OK, that’s enough from us. Time’s wasting, and you’ve got food to buy and cook. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve Dinner

Photo: Brian Woodcock
Photo: Brian Woodcock

Cooking Light Diet member Liz Striegl says her family makes lasagna every year on Christmas Eve, and this recipe is always a hit. So trust us: Listen to Liz.

This recipe can be scheduled in Cooking Light Diet meal plans!

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner
Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

We’re keeping our veggie mains fairly comparable to our meat mains in the off chance you end up preparing both. That’s why we went with this cheesy, protein-packed bake here.

This recipe can be scheduled in Cooking Light Diet meal plans!

Photo: Caitlin Bensel
Photo: Caitlin Bensel

We’ve also decided to keep sides light and to a minimum for Christmas Eve, since Christmas Day will require loosening of belts and such. This superfast, 5-ingredient salad will pair well with either main and not leave you too full for dessert.

This side can be found in Cooking Light Diet meal plans!

Randy Mayor
Randy Mayor

Finish Christmas Eve with a flourish, courtesy of this sinful layered dessert that Cooking Light Diet member Michele M. Handal-Werner calls “my absolute favorite from CL!”

Christmas Brunch

We’re skipping the whole breakfast/lunch routine because hey, it’s Christmas. The kids woke up at like 5:30 a.m. and will be taking a nap sooner than later, and who wants to make three meals on their day off? Not us. Serve these with a side of fresh fruit, or just a small glass of mlk and the wisdom of eating something fairly light before the main event.

Photo: Ditte Isager
Photo: Ditte Isager

We’re rolling out two vegetarian options here [no pun intended]. You could go with mouthwatering morsels made with roasted delicata squash. Or, if cinnamon rolls aren’t your thing, we’d suggest…

Photo: Jan Smith
Photo: Jan Smith

…these decadent beauties! The wonderful thing about this recipe is you can prepare it at the same time as Christmas Eve dinner and then just pop the toast in the oven whenever it’s time to brunch on Christmas.

Christmas Dinner

We’ve arrived at the headliner. We’re going all out on this meal, but feel free to omit a side or dessert if you’re cooking for less or don’t want as many leftovers. The best part about this last-minute Christmas menu? All of the recipes below (desserts excluded) can be ready to eat in under 45 minutes. That should spare you some extra minutes to get any outstanding gifts.

Photo: John Autry and Randy Mayor
Photo: John Autry and Randy Mayor

Incredibly tender filet topped with a chive-horseradish butter may sound like an overly indulgent main, but at only 220 calories per serving, you might even end up going back for seconds.

This recipe can be scheduled in Cooking Light Diet meal plans!

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

This creamy, umami-packed mushroom extravaganza surprisingly comes together in less than 30 minutes. Sub in full-fat sour cream if you can’t find the crème fraîche.

This recipe can be scheduled in Cooking Light Diet meal plans!

Photo: Brian Woodcock
Photo: Brian Woodcock

Almost everyone loves garlic and melted cheese, so we’re combining those two passions into a side that might actually be antithetical to the whole Christmas spirit: i.e., it’s so good your family may fight over the pan.

This recipe can be scheduled in Cooking Light Diet meal plans!

Photo: Jennifer Causey
Photo: Jennifer Causey

Because is it really even Christmas without a casserole? This riff checks all the boxes: sweet and savory, creamy and crunchy.

Greg DuPree
Greg DuPree

Admittedly, this salad has been added to the menu to make us feel better about overindulging on everything else at dinner. That being said, it’ll be the best Caesar salad you’ve ever had.

This recipe can be scheduled in Cooking Light Diet meal plans!

Photo: Jennifer Causey
Photo: Jennifer Causey

There are folks who like pie and don’t like cake. There are people who love cake and loathe pie. Then there are people who like both. We’re straddling the fence, putting the ball in your court, and letting you decide whether to make one or the other, or both. So you can choose this holiday classic…

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

…or the most beautiful chocolate cake known to mankind.

Or, again…you could bake both.

December 26

You deserve a little rest. Eat what’s left over. Cheers!

Start your new year off the right way—with less stress! Subscribe to the Cooking Light Diet today and start receiving customizable meal plans featuring thousands of healthy, delicious recipes.