Getting ready for the Christmas Eve Buffet

Since my sister and I have married and started our own families, we decided to split the holidays as follows:  Christmas Eve was with my in-laws and my husband’s family and Christmas Day was with my family.

We are now the only ones left in our state and everyone on both sides of the family has moved to Iowa, Texas, Arizona, or Colorado, so we sometimes spend Christmas Eve alone and get together on Christmas Day, the weekend after, or New Year’s Day.

I don’t mind spending Christmas Eve alone together at all!  (We kind of enjoy it, actually.)  But, I do miss the traditional meal together, waiting to open gifts.

On my husband’s side of the family, Christmas Eve always meant the “Christmas Buffet.”  The Christmas Buffet consisted of hors d’oeuvres, sandwich fixings, and snacks.

A typical menu could include spiral-cut, honey ham sandwiches with assorted cheeses, cocktail meatballs, cheese ball, onion dip, queso dip, Christmas fudge, and the famous CHRISTMAS PUNCH.  (To this day, I have not been let in on the secret formula for this concoction, but I think that Hawaiian Punch plays a big part in the recipe.)

This year, my family is gathering at our house for Christmas Eve.  We will break out the Christmas Buffet for my side of the family as we settle down to wait for Santa.  I do not want to get too far away from tradition, so this is what is in our menu for the 24th:

Hot Caramelized Onion Dip with Pita Chips
Cheese Ball with Crackers
Hummus with Veggies
Assorted Pickles  (See Thanksgiving post.)

Sliced Maple-Glazed Turkey and Ham
Assorted Cheeses
Homemade Bread
Cocktail Meatballs
Little SmokiePigs n’ a Blanket (allegedly for the kids) with homemade mustard
Deviled Eggs (for one nephew)
Mac n’ Cheese (for the other nephew)

So I can have some time to play with the nephews and visit with the family, I started prepping today.  Here is the recipe for “Cocktail Meatballs with Honey BBQ Sauce”:

For Meatballs:

1 lb. lean ground beef (from the local family farmer)
1 lb. light pork sausage (locally sourced if possible)
2 cloves garlic, minced (still have some left from the garden)
2 eggs, slightly beaten (from my friend’s hens)
1 c. Italian bread crumbs
2/3 c. half and half
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1/4 t. rubbed sage
1/4 c. minced onion

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Form into 1 inch balls (a small ice cream scoop works well).  Make into 70-75 small meatballs and place on baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning meatballs for even browning.  (While meatballs are baking, prepare BBQ sauce.) After baking, place meatballs on paper towels to drain.

(Because Mom and I were using the oven to bake a gazillion Neiman-Marcus cookies, I used a stone pan and cooked the meatballs in the convection microwave.)

Ready for the oven.

While meatballs are baking, start on the BBQ sauce.  This recipe makes about three pints.

Honey BBQ Sauce

1 c. ketchup
1 c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. molasses
1/2 c.  local honey
1 t. liquid smoke
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. Ancho chili powder
1/4 t. Tabasco (or favorite hot sauce)
Fresh ground pepper 

Combine all ingredients for the barbecue sauce in a sauce pan over high heat, whisking until smooth.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until thickens.

I stored the BBQ sauce in quart jars and stored the meatballs in a Ziploc bag.  An hour before our buffet, I will throw everything in the crockpot and let it simmer.

One dish down.

Mmmmm—homemade BBQ Sauce also makes a great gift.

In the few days we have left until Christmas Eve, I hope to share some more family favorites.

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