Lend a Helping Ham
(Family Features) Preparing the perfect ham for all of your holiday guests to share can feel like a lot of pressure, but complementing the main dish with sides, snacks and desserts can help take a bite out of that overwhelming feeling.
To help fill out your dinner table this holiday season, start with a crowd-pleasing appetizer like Bacon and Cheddar Ranch Dip that can ease everyone into the meal. Serve up a tasty side, such as Balsamic Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables, so that the ham doesn't stand alone. Then, just as dinner's grasp wears away, treat your guests to White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn Bark as a delightful holiday sendoff.
The Perfect Piece of Pork
To make sure the main course this holiday season – a yummy, juicy ham – is cooked and prepared to perfection, there are some simple steps to follow.
While ham can be cooked without thawing, for best results the first step to a tasty ham is properly thawing it in either the refrigerator or cold water. Never thaw a ham on the counter, as it can become subject to bacterial growth when the outside warms but the inside remains frozen. Remember: The larger the ham, the longer it needs to thaw before cooking.
Once the ham is properly thawed, start by heating your oven to 325° F and lining a roasting pan with aluminum foil. You'll want to cook the ham low and slow to avoid drying it out, and lining the pan helps limit the mess. As it bakes, don't forget to flip it over about halfway through the process.
When the ham gets close to being done cooking, take the safe route and check its temperature. The USDA recommends bringing pork to 145° F to help ensure it's cooked thoroughly.
After pulling the ham from the oven, let it rest 15 minutes before slicing. Because the ham will continue baking outside the oven for a short period, allowing it to rest holds in those delicious juices. If you're looking for a different way to please your guests' palates, try glazing it with different mixtures that could include anything from brown sugar to fruit juices.
A Dozen Ways to Dip
Liven up the party platter by transforming traditional ranch dressing into crowd-pleasing dips, just by adding a few simple ingredients. Litehouse Homestyle Ranch Dressing is a versatile base that can be mixed with anything from sriracha to basil and Parmesan cheese to create dips that pair perfectly with fresh-cut vegetables, crackers, bread and more.
Bacon and Cheddar Ranch Dip
- 1 cup Litehouse Homestyle Ranch Dressing
- chopped bacon, to taste
- shredded cheddar cheese, to taste
- assorted dippers
- Combine ranch dressing with chopped bacon and shredded cheddar cheese, to taste.
- Serve immediately with assorted dippers.
Variations: To achieve different flavored dips, use any of the following mix-ins in place of bacon and cheddar cheese:
- Basil and Parmesan cheese
- Barbecue sauce
- Dill pickles
- Chili pepper and lime
- Shredded chicken and hot sauce
- Cilantro and jalapenos
- Garden vegetables
- Roasted garlic
- Caramelized onions and Worcestershire sauce
A Tasty Holiday Treat
As your calendar begins to fill up around the holidays, keeping a few simple ingredients on hand can be the difference between enjoying the festivities and feeling overwhelmed. An ingredient such as popcorn can help you serve up a tasty dessert like this White Chocolate Popcorn Crunch that packs both a festive punch and a sweet crunch. Find more quick holiday recipes at popcorn.org.
White Chocolate Popcorn Crunch
- 5 cups popped popcorn
- 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 12 ounces white chocolate baking chips, chopped white chocolate or white candy coating
- 1-2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (optional)
- Cover baking pan with foil or wax paper; set aside. Place popcorn, cranberries and almonds in large bowl; set aside.
- In double boiler over barely simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring until smooth, or melt according to package directions. (If chocolate is not smooth after melting, stir in 1-2 tablespoons shortening until mixture is smooth and loose enough to coat popcorn.)
- Pour chocolate mixture over popcorn mixture; stir to coat.
- Spread onto prepared pan; allow to cool completely.
- When chocolate is cooled and set, break into chunks for serving.
- Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature.
Roast a Savory Side
Fill your home with the wonderful aroma of Balsamic Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables. Easy-to-make and completely satisfying, this holiday staple is ideal for a crowd and comes together beautifully with a pan that has raised circles for better browning, like the Circulon Symmetry Chocolate sheet pan. For more Circulon cookware and bakeware options, shop Circulon at Macy’s and Macys.com.
Balsamic Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables
Recipe courtesy of Circulon Gourmet Cookware
- 2 onions, quartered
- 10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 turnips, peeled and cut in half to about 2-inch pieces
- 1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
- 1 cup winter squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2-3 potatoes, cut into 2-inch quarters
- 1-2 white or gold beets, peeled and quartered
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 3 sprigs thyme
- Circulon Symmetry Chocolate sheet pan
2 tablespoons oil
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
- Heat oven to 425° F.
- Combine vegetables, olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme; toss well. Spread on sheet pan. Cover and bake 40 minutes.
- Check vegetables and cook another 5 minutes, if needed, or until vegetables are tender but not mushy. Remove rosemary and thyme; add salt and pepper.
- Combine glaze ingredients and cook 5-10 minutes until thickened. Pour over vegetables before serving; stir to combine.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (ham photo)