So Christmas is just around the corner and I am busy making my list and checking it twice. But my list has nothing to do with naughty or nice, it is all about food. Although I like to change-up our Christmas Eve dinner from year to year, this year we are doing Italian, there are some foods that HAVE to be included because without them, it just wouldn’t be Christmas. I must admit, that along the way a few have dropped off, like the watermelon pickles my parents put out every year. I never liked them and got tired of throwing away the still full jar come April. Most have made the cut and I eat them ONLY around the Holidays, so I look forward to them with giddy anticipation. What follows is my holiday must haves…
The first dish that I HAVE to place on our Christmas table is going to seem very strange to most, but my Mother made it every Christmas and my Holiday table seems incomplete without it. What is it? Chili con Queso made with Velveeta and jarred salsa. I know! Oh, will I ever fully break the chains of my Mother’s Velveeta obsession? Probably not, because since she has passed, as strange as it seems, making ANYTHING with Velveeta makes me feel close to her, especially this dish. For those of you uninitiated into the Velveeta tribe, I will explain this dish. You taker a pound of Velveeta, cut it into squares and place into a microwave safe dish. Then you dump a jar of salsa on top, microwave and you are ready! It is warm, gooey, slightly spicy and I will share a secret, it makes a fabulous spread on crusty Italian bread sandwiches.
The next dish I must have was also one of my Mother’s favorites (yes, you detect a theme here), spinach dip. Not the hot kind that almost every restaurant serves these days, although I do make a version of that and love it, the cold version. You know, a packet of vegetable soup mix, 1/2 mayonnaise, 1/2 sour cream and a thawed box of frozen spinach. I always serve it in a hollowed out round of rye bread. It IS good. But what wouldn’t be with mayonnaise and sour cream?
I am now back to Velveeta, but I must credit my sister Judy with this Holiday favorite. There is no “real” name, we all just call it Christmas bread. Take a cocktail rye loaf and put it in a VERY large piece of foil. I spray the foil with a cooking spray first. Then, put slices of Velveeta between each slice. This is very time-consuming and every year when I am making it I start mumbling and cursing about halfway through the cheese placement. Once the cheese is in place, sprinkle a chopped bunch of scallions along entire loaf. Wrap in foil and place in oven until cheese is melted. No particular temperature, because, well it is the Holidays and there is always something already in the oven. It is cheesy with a slight onion taste and just delicious. I like the spinach dip ON this bread.
Some holiday favorites don’t require any preparation. I always must have a very runny, over the top triple creme brie. And no, not wrapped in puff pastry and baked. Just that decadent, wonderful cheese with some fruit and bread. To drink with that brie cheese I must have champagne. For me it just isn’t the holidays without at least a couple of bottles of it. A box of See’s Candy, nuts and chews, is also required at our Holiday table. Honestly, I could be happy with the brie, chocolates and champagne.
So, there you have it. My Holiday favorites. More than favorites really, these foods are a link to Holidays past and all the memories that went with them. That I only have them once a year, makes them that much more special. So, I am off to check my lists and make sure I have all the ingredients necessary to create my favorite dishes. You will know me in the grocery store, I will be the disheveled woman with four lists and three pounds of Velveeta in her cart. Happy Holidays!