Every home has its own recipe for a magical holiday season: the decorations handed down from year to year, the silly traditions, the board games, the songs. And of course… the food. These things bring us comfort. They bring us joy. No matter how wintry the world feels, we know they work – and we know they can re-energize us for the year ahead.

At ActiveCampaign, we wanted to share even more of that comfort and joy this year. That’s why we’ve reached out to top marketing influencers, ActiveCampaign partners and customers, and asked them for the foodie secrets of their festive seasons. Which are the special treats they’ll be cooking up for friends and family? And what’s the recipe for recreating them so that they create the same warm, holiday glow every time?

The holidays aren’t just a time to glow, though. They’re also a time to grow. As an extra special serving suggestion, we’re pairing our influencers’ recipes with some of our own. These ‘serve with’ suggestions are automation recipes from ActiveCampaign that you can put to work to deliver personalized experiences for your audiences – and keep hitting your marketing objectives over the holidays and beyond.

Each week we’ll be presenting recipes for a different course of this festive feast. Then, on December 9th, we’ll be rounding out the festivities in a special, yule-log fireside chat with the one-and-only Ann Handley. Ann is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, and one of the wittiest and well-informed marketing thinkers out there. She’s perfect company for sitting around a festive fire, enjoying a post-dinner cocktail – and setting the marketing world to rights.

We’re kicking off our feast with a round of seven starter suggestions. If these tantalize your taste buds, you’ll be able to download all of the detailed recipes in full from our special Home for the Holidays site, where you can also sign up for our full festive cookbook:

Starter Number 1: Christmas Cheese in a Puffy Jacket

From Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

“In some high-minded households, this could be known as “Brie en croute.” But my family always called this Christmas Cheese in a Puffy Jacket. Because it’s cheese. At Christmas. And it’s wrapped in a jacket of puffy crust. (And “crusted cheese” sounds gross.) While we celebrate Christmas… you can substitute any holiday of your choosing. Celebration Cheese in a Coat? Absolutely! I might like that better, actually.”

“You can even go to the trouble of decorating Brie’s Puffy Jacket with the trimmed bits of pastry. Cut out baby holly leaves and berries for a holiday theme – or how about a mini-Patagonia label? I’m kidding… but wouldn’t it be great?”

You will need:

  • 1 8-oz. wheel of Brie cheese
  • 1/2 package puff pastry, thawed for a bit
  • 3-ish tablespoons of red pepper jelly
  • 1 egg white mixed with 1-2 teaspoons of water

Delicately unwrap the pastry (treat it with love and respect… it’s waited all year for the holidays). Wrap Brie in the pastry with a spread of hot-pep-jelly (you can cut her in two and position one half on top of the other with jelly in between if you’re feeling fancy). Fold the pastry over her in a snug jacket, seal the edges, brush with the egg/water mix and bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit / 200 Celsius until it’s the color of FIIIIIVE GOL-DEEEENNNN RINGZ…..!

Serve with:
Lead Magnet Delivery and Deal Creation Automation Recipe

Exquisite delivery of lead-generating assets to boost conversions and build your email list. This automation recipe takes potential customers’ details in style and tees up the right people at your business with the way to get in touch… seamless service all round.

Starter Number 2: N’awlins Shrimp

From Justin Gray, CEO and Founder, LeadMD

“The funny thing is, when I was growing up, my mom was a self-admittedly terrible cook – but when my brother and I went to college she transformed into some sort of Julia Child. This was one of the first of her dishes that I tasted that floored me (it was when I was home from school during the holidays). She always serves it on New Year’s day and I’ve carried on that tradition. It’s great for when everyone is ham and turkey’ed out!

I’ve downsized it from main course to appetizer as it is actually massively unhealthy due to all of the butter – and so best to consume in small portions. The sauce is really the star, and you’ll go through a lot of bread sopping up the butter-filled goodness. The first time I made this dish on my own I accidentally doubled the butter, and everyone raved about it – I’ll leave that decision up to you. Heart attack sold separately. This also works well as a ‘first date’ dish as it tastes incredible, doesn’t take a lot of time and is very hard to screw up. However, it did set my wife up for a lifetime of disappointment.”

You will need:

  • 2 lbs shrimp (roughly 21-25 of them), peeled and deveined
  • 1 large lemon, cut in 12 small wedges
  • 1.5 cups of Emeril’s Essence Spice (the original calls for you to make your own “BBQ spice” but I find this to be better and EASIER!)
  • 4 tbsps olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (to make two tbsps)
  • 3/4 of a cup dry sherry
  • 3/4 of a cup cider vinegar
  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes, cut in 1/8-inch dice
  • 1/2 a cup butter
  • 1 sourdough baguette (cut into 1” rounds)
  • 1 bunch green onions, root ends removed and cut in two-inch pieces
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley, leaves only, minced

Mix the shrimp, spice and lemon wedges and leave them to marinate for a couple of hours (you can use a bowl or a Ziploc bag). Then place a large sauté pan on the stove over medium flame. Add the olive oil, then the minced garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes aromatic (about 30 seconds) but don’t let it brown. Add the spiced shrimp (discarding the lemons) and toss them until half-cooked. Then remove from the stove, add the sherry and cider vinegar, swirl to deglaze and return to simmer on the stove. Add the tomato juice and allow the liquids to reduce by a quarter, which should take about three minutes. Then add the remaining butter, the Roma tomatoes and the green onions. Stir gently until the butter melts and incorporates, about one minute. Place the spicy prawn mix in the center of a serving dish, sprinkle the parsley on top, and serve immediately with toasted or fresh sourdough slices.

Serve with:
Quote Request Notification Automation Recipe

Use the details a contact has already provided to automate the process of putting together a quote when they request it. This automation ensures your quotes will be as relevant and suitable as those perfectly timed spicy shrimp.

Starter Number 3: Mom’s Chicken Soup

From Doug Kessler, Creative Director and Co-founder, Velocity Partners

“You’ll see why it’s called Jewish Penicillin and is the ultimate pandemic comfort food.”

You will need:

  • A whole chicken (or parts that would kind of add up to a whole)
  • Carrots, a few, chopped
  • Onions, a few, chunked
  • Parsnips, a handful, chunks
  • Swede (Rutabaga), handful, chunks
  • Parsley stalks and some leaves
  • Peppercorns – 7 (EXACTLY 7) (Kidding)
  • Maybe a good chicken stock cube if you’re in a rush but if not, don’t worry
  • Salt
  • Dill

Okay, so: huge pot. Put everything in except the dill. Fill with cold water. Bring to an almost boil, then simmer for, like hours. Simmer even more. More simmering.
When you can’t stand the amazing aroma any more, still simmer for a while. Maybe even fridge it overnight and start simmering again tomorrow (sadist). Put in bowls, with chunks of the chicken and all the other bits and bobs. Add the chopped dill to each bowl. Sprinkle.

Maybe also some egg noodles. Yeah, definitely some egg noodles. Stand back and kvel*. What time do I come over?

*kvel, Yiddish: to swell with pride, usually in one’s glorious children but in this case, a soup.

Serve with:
Product Fit Onboarding Survey Automation Recipe

It’s the onboarding equivalent of Doug’s chicken soup… you take your time, do everything to the right rhythm and end up with a warming experience at the end. This automation takes a new contact who’s subscribed to your list through the experience of welcome emails, product exploration and a timely survey to help explore how you’re meeting their needs.

Starter Number 4: Devils on Horseback

From Jason Miller, Head of Brand, ActiveCampaign

What’s not to love about this British classic? It’s sweet and savory, half man and half beast, and it would make a great name for a heavy metal band. For all of those reasons, it’s one of my favorite foods in the UK.

You will need:

  • 12 prunes
  • 12 rashers of bacon
  • small handful fresh parsley, to garnish

Wrap each prune with a rasher of bacon, pop them on a baking tray and roast in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit / 200 Celsius for eight minutes.

Serve with:
Welcome Series Automation Recipe

Create welcome email series that turn initial contact into a personalized introduction to your business. They’re warm, welcoming and irresistible – just like those bacon-wrapped prunes.

Starter Number 5: Avocado Fries

From Suki Fuller, Analytica Storyteller, Miribure

“Wholesome, indulgent and heart-warming all at the same time – for me these are the holidays all over.”

You will need:

  • 1 tbsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp Onion salt
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 2 tbsp Milk for dipping (I use Oatly)
  • Lots of breadcrumbs
  • 4 Avocados, sliced
  • Avocado oil

And for the dipping sauces…

  • 2 tbsp sour cream + franks hot sauce mixed together
  • Horseradish sour cream sauce
  • 2 tbsp sour cream + green dragon hot sauce

Slice the avocados into the shape of your fries. Mix a base coating of flour, onion salt and garlic powder and coat the fries in it. Dip in the milk and then coat the fries in breadcrumbs until extremely well covered. Place them on a baking tray greased with the avocado oil (or lined with parchment paper) and then bake at 430 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes, until they’re as crispy as you like.

Serve with:
Form Personalization Follow-up Automation Recipe

Turn contact details into segmented, personalized emails that introduce relevant offers and give contacts a taste of the value you’ll provide for them.

Starter Number 6: Curried Cheese Rye Rounds

From Tricia Miller, Senior Director EMEA Marketing at Twilio

“My mother, Peggy Reilly, was a consummate host and entertainer. Her Christmas parties in the 80s and 90s were legendary. She had a knack for throwing elaborate parties with delicious food and wine and singing but what really drew a crowd was how she made people feel.

She was always taking in strays whether they were Brits living in California who weren’t travelling home for the holidays, college roommates, or other transplants from the East Coast whose own extended family, like ours, were some three thousand miles away. She welcomed everyone with a huge smile, open arms and a great glass of Chardonnay; if Peggy was hosting you always were made to feel like a VIP.

My Mom loved Christmas. The music, decorating the tree, and of course filling the house with the aroma of delicious food. This recipe is a classic. What could be more 80s than Rye Rounds (which are square by the way), cheese, mayo, diced black olives and spring onions, or scallions as she called them, and curry powder!?

But as dated as the ingredients might sound, this one is a crowd pleaser.

I hope you enjoy it! This will be my 14th Christmas without her, but her love of Christmas lives on in all who graced her door.”

You will need:

  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 can diced black olives
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp curry
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • Rye bread, cut into rounds

It couldn’t be simpler: mix all the other ingredients together and then spread the mixture on top of your rye rounds. Place under the broiler or grill for two to three minutes only – and keep a close eye on them in case they burn!

Serve with:
Twilio SMS Message Automation Recipe

Created with our partners at Twilio, this automation schedules personalised messages around key dates in your contacts’ records. Use it to remind people about meetings, say congratulations on their birthday… or just wish them Happy Holidays!

Starter Number 7: Dumplings with Cabbage and Mushrooms

From Mikołaj Podgórski, Product Marketing Manager, Survicate

“A traditional Polish treat for Christmas Eve that you’ll find yourself eating all year round.”

A staple of the Polish diet with many different shapes and flavors dating back to cookbooks from the 17th century. What started off as a peasant food would later become the food of the noble. This recipe puts an all-time classic on your holiday table by celebrating the magical combination of cabbage and mushrooms. They’re delicious.

You will need:

  • 9 glasses wheat flour – 9 glasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 spoons thick sour cream
  • 900 grams cabbage, finely chopped
  • 60 grams dried mushrooms
  • 2 large white onions, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Oil, salt and pepper

Make the dumpling stuffing by pouring boiling water over your mushrooms, covering and leaving for three hours, then straining and finely chopping. Boil the cabbage for 20 minutes and then drain. Fry the onion in a pan until golden brown, then add the cabbage, mushroom and bay leaves. Pour in about 100ml of water, cover and stew for a few minutes, mixing from time to time. Uncover and fry until the water evaporates, then add salt and pepper.

Make the dough by mixing the flour with the eggs, sour cream, oil and pinch of salt. Mix the dough, while gradually (and carefully) adding warm (freshly simmered) water. Then knead, cover and leave to rest for about 15 minutes. Take a quarter of the dough at a time (leaving the rest under a wet cloth) and roll out thinly before cutting circles with a glass. Put stuffing in the middle of each circle, then fold in half and press the edges together to make each dumpling. Leave your prepared dumplings under the same wet cloth to avoid them going dry. Then cook by boiling water, adding salt and oil, throwing in a handful of dumplings and simmering until five minutes after they float to the top.

Serve with:
Referrals from NPS Surveys Automation Recipe

This recipe helps to translate the promoters identified in NPS surveys like Survicate’s into subjects for reviews, case studies, testimonials and other referrals. It’s a case of getting full value from the fine-flavoured experiences customers have with you.