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Christmas Snacks and Bites for a Downsized Dinner

21 December, 2020
Christmas decorated table with nuts

Photo: iStock

Christmas Mini Mains

Serving miniature versions of classic dishes and incorporating some of their elements is an ideal way to pack seasonal flavours into scaled-down bites. Sandwiches, buns, pasties, sliders, and even muffins are lovely vehicles for seasonal delights. 

French Dip Squares 

Like many iconic foods, the French Dip is of disputed origin. Substantial evidence supports the famed Los Angeles restaurant Philippe’s claim as the sandwich’s original vendor. Legend states that, while making a sandwich, restaurateur Philippe Mathieu accidentally dropped the sliced French roll into a pan of hot jus and decided to serve the wet sandwich anyway. Origin story aside, the French Dip’s reputation as one of the world’s best sandwiches has been firmly cemented in the annals of culinary history. This version of the famous sandwich may be pint-sized, but it is rich and filling (thanks in part to a generous heap of caramelised onions).

French Dip Squares Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 (8-ounce) tubes refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup whole-grain mustard
  • ½ pound deli roast beef, patted dry
  • 9 slices provolone
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce



  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9"-x-13" baking sheet with cooking spray. Place one unrolled can of crescent dough on a prepared baking sheet and pinch together seams.
  2. Bake until edges are slightly golden, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, caramelise onions by heating a large skillet over medium heat; melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add onion and 2 sprigs thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and turn slightly golden. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and caramelised, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Build squares: spread an even layer of mustard onto the prepared crescent, leaving a 1/2" border clear on all edges. Top with a layer of roast beef and a layer of provolone. Top with caramelised onions.
  5. Unroll the remaining tube of crescent rolls and place on top of the onion layer. Press seam into the bottom crust to seal all edges. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and brush all over the top of crescent dough, then sprinkle with parsley and salt. 
  6. Bake until dough is golden and cooked through, about 35 minutes. (If the dough is browning too quickly, cover with kitchen foil.)
  7. Let cool 15 minutes before slicing into squares.
  8. Meanwhile, make jus by melting the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant. Add beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, and remaining 2 sprigs thyme, stripped from stem. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes until reduced slightly. 
  9. Serve squares with au jus on the side for dipping. 


Elevated Christmas Bites

One of the most beloved aspects of holiday dining is the special nature of mealtimes. With foods that aren’t typically enjoyed every day, celebratory dinners simply feel different. One way to preserve a bit of that luxuriousness is by creating elevated small bites. Downsizing dishes allows for less usage of costly ingredients and is a cost-effective way to add a touch a richness without breaking the bank. A wee dollop of caviar, a slight shaving of truffles, or similar, catapults small bites to an otherworldly level. 

Olive Tapenade-Polenta Napoleon


Photo: Iris McCarthy

If your holiday dinner was a competition, these tasty stunners would surely win first prize for aesthetics alone. The kaleidoscopic colours of this dish will add some colour to your dining table, and the combination of briny olive and tangy tomatoes with the warm, slightly crisp polenta makes this a restaurant-worthy nosh.

Supplies Needed

  • 1 1-inch ring mould (or cookie cutter)

Olive Tapenade-Polenta Napoleon Ingredients

  • Cooking spray 
  • 2 16 to 18-ounce tube prepared polenta, ends trimmed and cut into 12 1-inch slices
  • ⅔ cup soft sun-dried tomatoes (drained, if packed in oil)
  • 1 15-ounce jar prepared olive tapenade
  • 1 small package microgreens


  1. Preheat broiler. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. 
  2. Use the ring mould to press out circle shapes in each polenta slice.
  3. Place polenta slices on the prepared baking sheet and coat with cooking spray. Broil in upper third of oven until starting to brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Turn and broil until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes more.
  4. Transfer the polenta slices to a clean cutting board and cut each into quarters. Top each wedge of polenta with 1 sun-dried tomato about 1 teaspoon of the tapenade. Garnish with microgreens.


Christmas Cheer(s)

Nothing says ‘happy Christmas’ like celebrating with a signature drink. It may not feel like it, but we’ve got plenty to toast to this year - friends, family and, hopefully, brighter days ahead. 

Mistletoe Mule


Photo: Iris McCarthy

Winter holidays practically beg for sidling up to a roaring fireplace with a warm drink, but this chilled drink toasts the holidays and pays homage to the season with familiar flavours - but with a slight twist. This drink is teeming with the warm, spicy flavours of a traditional Moscow mule but is completely non-alcoholic (feel free to add a jigger or two of vodka or gin).

Supplies Needed

  • Copper mule mug(s)

Mistletoe Mule Ingredients (This is an ‘eyeball recipe’ and doesn’t have measured ingredients; make according to taste.)

  • Crushed ice
  • Club soda
  • Ginger beer
  • Ground cardamom
  • Small piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • Squeeze of lemon wedge
  • Cinnamon stick, for garnish
  • Sprig of rosemary, for garnish
  • Lemon peel, for garnish


  1. Fill a chilled copper mug halfway with crushed ice. Combine remaining ingredients in a shaker and pour into mug.
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