Best Cook Smarts Recipes for the Holidays

Whether you’re looking for a delicious dish to bring to your next holiday gathering or if you need a quick and healthy dinner during these busy months, look no further than our Kitchen Heroes’ top picks of the season!

  • By Jackie Sun
  • November 22, 2017

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we can’t wait to dig into all the good eats that will be gracing our dinner tables. Even though the Cook Smarts team is scattered across the States, we’re all still making some or all of the recipes from our Thanksgiving recipe book, Fulfilled, so it’ll kinda be like we’re eating together. 😉

If you’re like us, though, Thanksgiving dinner isn’t only a one day event. We’ll be popping into friends’ and families’ homes throughout this 4-day weekend to enjoy fantastic company and food. And Christmas will be here before we know it, so that means even more gatherings and shared meals!

Because there are so many opportunities to eat with loved ones, we decided to round up some of our BEST recipes to make it easy and delicious for you this holiday season.

Our wonderful community of Kitchen Heroes helped us out with the task of rounding up these top meals, so a huge thanks to them! They provide us the best feedback so our meal plan service is constantly improving. With that said, you know these recipes are top-notch!

Best Side Dish Recipes

If you’re still in need of a side dish for Thanksgiving or if you are looking for a simple side to bring to a Thanksgiving potluck, look no further than these recipes:

Roasted Broccoli

The easiest and budget-friendly side dish that can feed a crowd. Everyone will be grateful to see this tasty green at the table amidst all the heavy carbs. We love roasting broccoli with garlic and tossing with a balsamic vinaigrette for something a little more special. Try out the recipe here:


This Roasted Balsamic Garlic Broccoli Only Takes 15 Minutes of Prep

A quick balsamic vinaigrette and some garlic is all it takes to make your roasted broccoli extraordinary. Make a big… Read more.

Orzo Pasta Salad

Our meal plans have featured a couple of orzo pasta salads for a main dish, but our Kitchen Heroes love them as a hearty side dish, especially when contributing for a potluck. Try our Orzo Pasta Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash for a festive dish, or our Orzo & Spinach Salad, which gets a boost of healthiness from tomatoes, mushrooms, and cauliflower.

Smashed or Hasselback Potatoes

Move aside, mashed and baked potatoes! Smashed and hasselback potatoes make meals much more fun. They both yield a crispy exterior with creamy interior. In other words, dreamy potatoes that will please everyone. Skip the oven and stick to the stove with our recipe for Smashed Potatoes, or try Hasselback Potatoes – we provide instructions for baking them in the oven.

Best for Gatherings & Special Occasions

For intimate gatherings, impress with this all-time Kitchen Hero favorite – Maple-Dijon Panko Salmon. It’s super easy to throw together, but everyone will feel like they are eating out at a gourmet restaurant!

The crunchy panko topping is a delicious blend of sweet and savory flavors, and at this time of the year, we like to serve it with a simple spinach salad tossed with pears, apples, or clementines and nuts, like walnuts, pecans, or pine nuts.

Best “Impressive in a Pinch for Time”

While we’re on the topic of impressing guests with little effort, these two popular meals got a tie from our Kitchen Heroes. For the record, they are both worth trying!

Steak with Miso-Lime Butter

Steak itself is already an ingredient that most people like to save for special occasions. Slather it with a savory, flavorful miso-lime butter, and we take something delicious and make it extra special.

Skillet Enchiladas

Skillet enchiladas look like you spent a lot of time making it, but it’s quick to make and looks beautiful at your next potluck gathering. Try our Black Bean & Spinach Skillet Enchiladas for a meatless version, or go for our hearty Chicken, Kale & Black Bean version.

Best Dish for Autumn

While our Kitchen Heroes loved any kind of dish with butternut squash for this time of year, it was these two recipes that won this category:

Baked Butternut Squash Risotto with Mustard Greens & Pecans

Our Kitchen Heroes rave about our baked risotto recipes simply because they are so much easier to make than the traditional stovetop version, and it gets just as creamy. It’s also great for special occasions and is impressive in a pinch of time, so really, this recipe wins all.

Turkey, Brie & Cranberry Melts with Green Beans

Okay, so it really is Thanksgiving season now – this recipe was first featured in late August as a “Thanksgiving-in-the-summer” meal – but that doesn’t mean you should write this off. If you have turkey and cranberry sauce leftover from your Thanksgiving feast, add some creamy brie, sandwich between two slices of bread, and keep the Thanksgiving vibes going strong.

Now let’s get into some categories that will help you during this holiday season. There is so much going on during the holiday season and we get so busy, sometimes we’ll opt for the unhealthier route. Too tired to cook, too braindead to meal plan . . . we get it. That’s why we love the following Kitchen Hero recommendations.

Best for Leftovers

Slow Cooker Turkey & Sweet Potato Chili

This is another all-time Kitchen Hero favorite that has popped up many times on our meal plan service. Healthy and hearty, this chili is made in the slow cooker, so you can let it simmer away and develop flavors while you do whatever else you need to do. Make a double batch of this chili, so you can freeze it for nights when you just don’t feel like cooking, or have extra for the week.

Best Slow Cooker Recipe

Irish Beef Stew

Slow cooker recipes are definitely huge easy-dinner hits with our cooking community. Hearty and comforting, this stew chock full with beef stew, carrots, and potatoes will satisfy everyone, whether you are cooking for the family or bringing something made-ahead for a gathering.

Best Make-Ahead Meal

Chicken Banh Mi

Make-ahead meals are perfect for nights when you need dinner on the table pronto. Make the veggie slaw and Sriracha mayo 3 days ahead of time, so when dinnertime rolls around, you only need to cook the chicken and assemble the sandwiches. This is also a fantastic meal for after Thanksgiving dinner, as you can use leftover turkey in place of chicken for an even easier meal!


Chicken Banh Mi with Sriracha Mayo

Banh mi's are classic Vietnamese sandwiches that are filled with all sorts of goodies, but we keep it simple with… Read more.

Best Family-Style Dinner

Chicken Fajitas

The best kind of dinner to get on the dinner table quickly is the one where you don’t have to worry about plating and portions. Fajitas let everyone assemble their own meal, which means one less thing for you to do. For a one-pan oven recipe, try our Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas. Or make ahead of time with the slow cooker for our Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas.

All of the recipes above can be found as part of our meal plan service, which can learn more about and subscribe to here.

From now until Tue, December 5th, we are also offering a special 30% off discount on any of our meal plan subscriptions.

Use code JOYFULEATS at checkout and start enjoying all the recipes above that have been specifically picked out for you from our Kitchen Heroes.

We hope you love these recipes as much as our Kitchen Heroes do. Happy Feasting!

As always, we’re here to help you live your best life in the kitchen and provide delicious memories for you and your family. Join our cooking community by signing up for our newsletter below, and we’ll send you great cooking tips and resources that will help you raise your kitchen IQ and cook with confidence.

Cook Smarts Recipe: Turkey, Brie & Cranberry Melts with Lemon Green BeansCook Smarts Recipe: Sheet Pan Chicken FajitasCook Smarts Recipe: Skillet Enchiladas with Black Beans & SpinachCook Smarts Recipe: Orzo & Spinach Salad with Roasted Tomatoes & MushroomsCook Smarts Recipe: Smashed PotatoesCook Smarts Recipe: Baked Butternut Squash Risotto with Mustard Greens & PecansCook Smarts Recipe: Maple-Dijon Panko Crusted Salmon with Spinach & Pear SaladCook Smarts Recipe: Skillet Chicken Enchiladas with Black Beans & KaleCook Smarts Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken FajitasCook Smarts Recipe: Steak with Miso-Lime Butter & Sauteed Garlic Bok ChoyCook Smarts Recipe: Slow Cooker Irish Beef StewCook Smarts Recipe: Orzo Pasta Salad with Roasted Butternut SquashCook Smarts Recipe: Slow Cooker Turkey & Sweet Potato ChiliCook Smarts Recipe: Chicken Banh Mi with Sriracha MayoCook Smarts Recipe: Garlic Roasted Broccoli with Balsamic Vinaigrette


Try our award winning meal plan service for free

Get our Meal Plans

The convenience of meal kits without the waste

Share the love!

Join our community

Enjoy free tips in your inbox

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
How can we help you in the kitchen?

Join our community

Enjoy free tips in your inbox

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Sign up for the Cook Smarts Newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Privacy Policy: We hate SPAM & promise to keep your email address safe.

Skip to content