Our favorite non-traditional holiday recipes

Our favorite non-traditional holiday recipes

by Stripes Staff
Stripes Japan

My husband is a shift worker, which means that more often than not, he can be found hard at work on Christmas day itself. But that doesn’t stop us from celebrating the festive season. We’ve adapted to his schedule by inviting our friends to come by any time before or after December 25. Rather than serving a sit-down dinner, we like to keep a large tray of homemade lasagna at the ready. When guests show up, there’s nothing easier than reheating this universally-loved dish, which seems to taste even better when warmed up the next day anyway. We prefer the European version of lasagna, which relies on Béchamel sauce instead of the ricotta filling favored by American cooks.

Homemade Italian-Inspired Lasagna

by Karen Bradbury

Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes (30 minutes active)

Servings: 8 - 10, depending on portion size

1 400 gram / 14 ounce jar spaghetti sauce (Pasta Sauce)

1 400 gram / 14 ounce can chopped tomatoes (gehackte Tomaten)

2 tablespoons mixed Italian spices

500 grams / 1.1 pounds freshly ground beef or beef-pork combination

1 large white onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 500 gram / 18 ounce box of lasagna noodles (Lasagne Platten), the type that need not be boiled before use

Two 250 milliliter / 8.5 fluid ounce packages of Béchamel sauce, sold in Tetrapacks

1 200 gram / 7 ounce package grated Mozzarella cheese (Mozzarella gerieben)

Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F.

In a large saucepan, combine spaghetti sauce and chopped tomatoes. Season with Italian spices and allow to simmer on the stove over low heat.

Dice the onion and sautee it in olive oil that’s been preheated in a frying pan. Once the onion has browned, add the ground meat and fry until it is cooked through. Add the meat to the spaghetti sauce / chopped tomatoes, allowing the mixture to gently simmer as you prep the remainder of the ingredients.

Into a deep-sided, approximately 9-inch x 13-inch non-stick pan, pour exactly one-third of your meat sauce. Cover sauce with the noodle plates, breaking them up to fit in the pan as necessary. Pour contents of one package of Béchamel sauce over the lasagna noodles. Cover with another layer of noodles, the next one-third portion of the meat sauce, the second box of Béchamel sauce and so on. The top layer should be one of the meaty tomato sauce.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for half an hour. Remove from oven and sprinkle top with the grated Mozzarella. Return to oven and bake just long enough for the cheese to turn golden and slightly crispy. Allow the lasagna to stand for several minutes before cutting into it; otherwise, it will be too runny.

We love this lasagna as it remains moist with subsequent reheatings. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!


These easy nachos make for a fun and spiced-up holiday snack, appetizer or main!

Tiring of turkey and, quite frankly, a bit intimidated to try my hand at prime rib, many years ago my husband and I decided to go the non-traditional route for Christmas. We’ve done lasagna, pulled pork and even chicken and waffles one year. However, the perennial favorite with the teens and my husband are nachos — beefy, crunchy, rubber cheesy goodness. You can customize however you prefer and try different variations with whatever ingredients you have on hand.

Simple Nachos

by Stacy Roman

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: Approximately 4

1 16-ounce block of Velveeta, cubed

1 14-ounce can Rotel, undrained (I use Original, but you can spice it up with Hot or tone it down with Mild)

1-pound ground beef (you can use other ground meat, or omit entirely)

1 packet taco seasoning (I prefer the low sodium, or make my own)

1 large bag of tortilla chips (Tostito’s Cantina Style is our go-to chip)

In a large skillet, cook ground beef over medium-high heat until done. Drain grease and return to pan. Add taco seasoning and cook according to directions on packet.

Using a medium saucepan, combine Velveeta cubes and Rotel. Stir over low heat until melted and well combined.

Divide chips into individual bowls, top with taco meat and pour desired amount of cheese mixture over chips and meat. Garnish with your favorite toppings, such as sour cream, guacamole, jalapeños, extra tomatoes, olives, Tapatio sauce, etc.

Note: These are also great using leftover grilled chicken, pulled pork (minus the BBQ sauce) and steak. You can also add refried or black beans instead.


This potato lefse is a common addition to the holiday table in Norway, made tastier with some butter.

My mom never wore white shirts except for one day a year. Growing up, this special Friday in early December would be devoted to lefse making, and with flour covering the kitchen, the white shirt was necessary. Lefse is a thin, potato flatbread from Norway and is often made for Christmastime. The lefse-making process always went more smoothly when there were two people, so my part-Norwegian mom would team up with a friend’s part-Norwegian mom, one of them the designated roller and the other the cooker and flipper. Having access to a lefse griddle, rolling pin and stick makes the process smoother, but it is not necessary.

The most common way to flavor lefse in Norway is a smearing of butter, but if you want to go very traditional, grab the lutefisk too! You can also go the sweet route with a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon or slathered with your favorite jam or chocolate-hazelnut spread.

Norway's holiday Lefse

By Anna Leigh Bagiackas

Start to finish: Approximately 15 hours, with potatoes sitting overnight

Serves: 6-8, makes about 25 sheets

5 pounds of Idaho russet potatoes, peeled

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

To cook the potatoes, place them in a saucepan and add enough water to cover generously and salt the water. Cover and cook at a slow simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are tender when poked with a fork, about 40 minutes. Drain and push the potatoes through a ricer and into a bowl.

Stir together hot riced potatoes, butter, cream, sugar and salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, cut flour into potato mixture in a large bowl with a pastry blender until combined. Knead the flour in with your hands, if necessary. Shape the dough into a long roll, approximately 3-inches wide in diameter. Cover with plastic wrap and keep cool until ready to roll.

Heat lefse griddle to 500°F (260°C).

On floured, cloth-covered surface, roll 1/3-cup portions of dough very thin with floured lefse rolling pin. Using wooden lefse stick or thin spatula, transfer carefully to hot griddle. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until light brown spots appear on the bottom. Remove from griddle; let cool on brown paper or dishtowels.

Fold into quarters. Store refrigerated in plastic bags or freeze until ready to use.

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