Make a frugal holiday meal fancy

Chadwick Boyd is a food and lifestyle expert, magazine contributor and cookbook author. Find his work at


This year’s holiday meal can be fancy without breaking the bank. These frugal yet festive recipes include classic pimento cheese transformed into a bubbling, crowd-pleasing appetizer, an eye-popping crispy potato pavé, an elevated spiral-cut ham, and elegant cheesecake with tangy buttermilk and hints of mandarin orange.

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Baked Pimento Cheese

This is the kind of golden, bubbling appetizer that guests fawn over during the holidays. The chopped pecan and crushed butter cracker crust elevates the dish with little fuss or expense.

Surround the pimento cheese with specialty crackers, like Italian mini Croccantini or Raincoast brand crackers, found in the deli section of the grocery store.

Quick-blanching carrots with trimmed tops, cauliflower or sugar snap peas for just 1 minute in boiling water then cooling immediately in ice water intensifies their color and makes the overall presentation noticeably fancier. Crisp endive, gem lettuce, radicchio or radishes with their leaves scattered around the dip step up this appetizer, too.

Tricolor Potato Pavé

Potato pavé, the French word for “paving stones,” is a decadent dish long reserved for fine dining. This year, though, thanks to British cook Poppy O’Toole and her TikTok video, the recipe has inspired home cooks around the world.

This recipe takes traditional potato pavé up one more notch, using three different colored potatoes to create a tricolor effect. Its preparation spans two days, so plan ahead. The effort creates a showstopping potato dish.

Stuffed Spiral-Cut Ham with Cranberry Barbecue Sauce

A spiral-cut ham for Christmas has been a tradition in many homes for years. This recipe, with additions ranging from mandarin orange to ginger ale, brings big flavor, whimsy and beauty to the holiday table with minimal additional cost and effort. The barbecue sauce can be made several days ahead and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

Buttermilk Cheesecake Tart with Gingerbread Crust and Bay Leaf Caramel Sauce

The tang of the buttermilk with hints of orange zest adds an elegance to classic cheesecake flavor while the gingerbread cookie crust brings a festive holiday touch.

A 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom is optimal, though it can be made in a 9-inch pie plate.

If desired, garnish with sugared bay leaves and fresh cranberries, but remove prior to eating. To make sugared bay leaves: Brush bay leaves with beaten egg white, sprinkle with granulated sugar and let dry on a baking rack for 1 hour.

Caramel Sauce with Bay Leaves

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