Christmas Eve Buffet Cheese Ball

So I think this year, I might subject friends and family to my odd sense of nostalgia and hope I, the one who has this in my memory, am not disappointed.

For some reason, known only to herself (she never did explain it), my mother left me in charge of deciding the food for Christmas Eve. Not the making in all, or even most, cases, but the deciding. In our family which was rather large even though is was just my 3 siblings, me, my parents, and our older siblings kids, we opened presents from each other on Christmas Eve, so it was a night of perpetual snacking and in my case eating enough vanilla taffy to almost (almost, but not quite), make myself sick. Oh, and fudge too. And I don’t even like fudge (Groundhog Day.)

D&D_1499This was one of the things that I wanted every year and also made myself – not exactly difficult even though we had no food processor or mini chopper. You just did it the old fashioned way, by hand – no harm in that. I have no idea where this came from, but in my made-up back-story for it, it was a contribution to a local newspaper from some woman who would call herself by her husband’s name, you know what I mean. Instead of Mary Smith, she would be Mrs. John Smith, like she didn’t have an existence outside of him – yes, going off the rails here a bit, but that kind of thing just makes me slightly crazy.

Here for posterity’s sake.

8 ozs  cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, room temperature
3 Tbs well-drained horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped dried beef

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, horseradish until well blended. Make into a ball and chill. Roll in dried beef until covered. Chill several hours. Let sit at room temperature before serving. Serve with Triscuits or whatever crackers you like, but when I was 12, Triscuits is what I did. And everyone else did too.

Several questions arise – the first being do they still make dried beef in those odd little jars (not that I could tell, and I looked), where is it in the store if they do and what are my other options? I’m thinking pan fried proscuitto minced.
Also – only 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar. First, must be Cabot seriously sharp, but needs to be orange for color contrast and it will most certainly be more than 1/2 a measly cup. Please.
I will taste and check the horseradish level, but must be careful not to blow everyone’s palate. I tend to like just a click more horseradish than most people.

What I did make –

8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1 cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded at room temperature
3 Tbs well drained horseradish
1 cup minced dried cranberries
3 scallions minced
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 Tbs chives, minced
3 scallions, minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries, minced

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, and horseradish until well combined. Add in cranberries, scallions, and pecans. Roll into a ball and cover with plastic and chill until firm.

When ready to serve, mix coating ingredients in a wide bowl, and roll cheese ball in to cover, pressing in as necessary. Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

23 December 2017 – for Christmas Eve.
Never hurts to try something new, esp. if it is really good – and um, it was.

Spinach Dip

I did not make spinach dip this year for Thanksgiving since it was just a family meal and no need for any more leftovers than we already had, so I made this for Christmas Eve. Because for the Boy this is a requirement. You know when he runs out of Hawaiian rolls, he will use regular sandwich bread and make a sandwich out of this.

Not sure how I feel about that, but now that I am thinking on it. This might make a base for a pretty good grilled cheese (w/some cheddar or something) sandwich on some crusty Italian bread from the good old Publix. Might need to give that some more thought and surprise the Boy with it.

D&D_14958 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, drained and all the liquid pressed out
1 can water chestnuts, minced*
King’s Hawaiian Rolls

Mix together cream cheese and mayonnaise. Add vegetable soup mix, and mix to combine thoroughly. No, I mean it. This is important.
Add spinach and water chestnuts and mix. Refrigerate overnight.
Let sit at room temperature for about an hour or so before serving. You do not want it to be ice cold – not good eats. Serve with Hawaiian rolls. Sliced horizontally and then vertically, so you get 4 pieces of Hawaiian bread from each roll.

Serve and make a total pig of yourself. It is just inevitable.

*I think you can get minced water chestnuts at the store, but I like sliced and then I mince them myself. I am not sure the Boy knows they are in there, but …. we’ll just keep quiet about it then, won’t we.

There is nothing terribly special about this, but it is another of those traditions that started back in my trouble youth, as Jimmy Buffet would say – read: early 20s. Another recipe that my mom let me add to the Christmas eve tradition and it just stuck. Nothing wrong with it being vegetarian and I do not do much mayo or any sour cream – the original recipe was overloaded with it. Again my friend Marie is the one that said, put the cream cheese it – have been doing it ever since (like the late 80s – oh, lord).   I added the Hawaiian rolls a few years later and that really works well.

That said, any holiday is better with a great dip. Or two, or ten.

Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles

New in the Christmas Eve cookie/treat rotation – salted caramel snicks. It is basically a thumbprint cookie and you fill the little divot with a home made caramel sauce. Once again, I made the dough, refrigerated it, baked the cookies a couple of days later, again stored in the fridge and made the caramel sauce a day later. Worked out pretty good. Before I went forward with the caramel, I had the Boy test the plain snick and he really like it.

D&D_2523This was really pretty easy to do and when you sort of divide the labour over a couple of days, it is even more so. I like working like this so I can bake/prep a little bit after work each day – gives me some fun without being too terribly stressful. And thinking ahead when baking is always a good thing.

Snickerdoodle Dough:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
12 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Salted Caramel Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Make the snickerdoodle cookies: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar and kosher salt in a medium bowl until evenly combined. Whisk 1 cup of the sugar, the butter, vanilla and egg together in a large bowl until well combined. Pour in the flour mixture and stir with a spoon until the dough just combines.

Stir together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Using a 1/2-ounce ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, portion and roll the dough into 30 (1-inch) balls. Roll each ball in the cinnamon-sugar to coat, and then transfer to the prepared baking sheets, spacing the balls 2 inches apart. Using the end of a wooden spoon or your index finger, press each dough ball in the center to create a deep divot. Refrigerate the dough balls on the baking sheets for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through, until light golden brown on the bottom, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 1 minute on the baking sheets, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the salted caramel filling: Pour the sugar in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook the sugar, stirring occasionally, until it turns liquid and deep amber brown. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until smooth. Add the cream and kosher salt and stir until incorporated. Fill the divot in each cookie with the hot caramel and sprinkle with sea salt. Let the caramel cool for 30 minutes to set before serving. [I just need to make this again to just eat w/a spoon.]

21 December 2017

Source: Ree Drummond

M & M Cookies for Christmas Eve

I have no idea why my mother made M & M cookies for Christmas, but she always did. I love them and make them many more times a year. Usually for Christmas, I just make them with regular M & Ms. I do miss the tan colored M & Ms. Although I get why the blue ones go with the really weird Christmas lights we had. There were red, green, blue, and orange and the bulbs were pretty much huge. So maybe the M & M cookies made sense in a strange sort of way. But blue and orange Christmas tree lights – why?


1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 cups plain M & M’s or more as the case may be.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together Crisco and both sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix to combine. Add vanilla. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in 2 batches, scraping down the mixing bowl as needed. Add M & M’s and stir to combine.  Use a #30 disher to scoop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10 minutes or until golden – turning half way through.

10 December 2005
24 December 2011 – apparently the Boy really likes these
25 December 2013 – for the Boy
8 June 2015 – for the Boy for Bonnaroo
14 August 2015
2 April 2016 – Easter – pastel M & Ms
14 January 2017 – 1/2 crisco / 1/2 unsalted butter
22 December 2017 – Christmas M & Ms – red/green; #30 scoop

Vanilla Taffy

I have never posted this recipe. It is a family recipe that is so special to me. It may mean nothing to anyone else – probably will not. But this is one of those handed-down recipes for something not many people make at all … and there is a story to it.

My mom made this every winter, not every Christmas because this recipe depends on the weather. There has to be low humidity and in the South that usually will only happen sometime between late December and late February. So this did grace the Christmas Eve party on occasion -yes, but there was no guarantee. It is North Florida after all. We oftentimes wore shorts on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This was a recipe from my mom’s mom, Daisy, and my mom would describe how Daisy made it in the winter* and then to get the taffy hard they would toss it in the snow. We never were able to do anything like that, but it is kind of cool to understand where a recipe really comes from.

To be honest, I have never seen a recipe like this. Most people, when they think of taffy, think of salt water taffy which is soft,  but this is not. We (me and the Boy) have taken to calling it crack because when you pull it right and put enough air in it, it gets opaque and, well, looks like crack – at least the kind I have seen on Cops  (read: have no practical experience in the real stuff, but from TV, I can totally see it).DD_9068

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla

Necessary – candy thermometer – not kidding. Necessary.

Place sugar, water, corn syrup, and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Then cook without stirring until candy thermometer reaches 266 degrees.

Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter and stir until dissolved. Pour onto sil-pat lined baking sheet. When still hot, but cool-ish enough to pull, pull small bits in cords until opaque – you will burn at least your thumbs, but probably a couple of other fingers in the process. Twist into ribbons and lay on wax paper-lined baking sheet. When hard, break into pieces (just drop on baking sheet and see what happens) and wrap in cut waxed paper, or if you want to be fancy, wrap in pieces of parchment. We used waxed paper growing up, but I have taken a liking to parchment in the last few years.  

*They also butchered a pig each winter. Something I completely understand, but an not likely to be involved in.

2016 – Tomato Soup with Spinach and Mozzarella

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

We have a relatively new Christmas Eve tradition.  Christmas Eve fondue night. It makes a lot of sense to me – an easy, quick dinner that’s best with friends. With fresh bread, apples, grapes, and cheddar fondue, I was looking for something a little savory to go with it that would bring a different flavors. This recipe has the benefit of being able to make it ahead of time and bake when your ready. dd_1702

1 16 oz package bacon, cut into thirds
1 8 oz package pitted dates
4 ozs cheese – bleu, goat, Brie – whatever sounds good, yes Brie that is what we did
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp chili powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and arrange wire baking rack on top. Spray lightly with cooking spray.

Stuff each date with cheese and wrap with bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place on rack, seam side down. Stir together brown sugar and chili powder and sprinkle mixture over dates.

Bake 20 – 25 minutes until bacon is crisp. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Because if you do not wait it will be very bad (serious burns).

I love any dried fruit wrapped in bacon. Or pretty much anything with bacon (See: baked beans). I was really pleased with this recipe and plan to make it again since the container of dates I bought had enough to do the recipe again.

And believe it or not, if you let the left overs sit out and get to room temperature, they are not shabby like that either. Yes, I did do that. I’m that person.

2016 – A Year Ago – Lime Sugar Cookies


Chex Mix or something like it – round 1

My mom, (here we go again), always made chex mix for Christmas Eve. No idea why really. Actually that is kind of strange – Christmas was always banana nut bread, magic bars, M&M cookies, vanilla taffy, and chex mix, oh, and then the very strange cheese ball that I always made. Once again I mention that. Strange.

Take away story: yes, do let your eleven year-old run Christmas Eve. It makes for some great stories. But not necessarily great cheese balls. Just saying.


This is so not my mom’s recipe, but mine since I decided to make it for Christmas Eve this year. That said, this is an experiment and I want to see what I like and what I want to change. I think my “part 2” will be for the Super Bowl. Yep.

4 cups Crispix Cereal
8 ozs lightly salted cashews
1 cup pretzels twists
1 cups of bagel chips and/or pita chips
8 Tbs unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, bruised – not too mashed
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
4 sprigs thyme
1/4 tsp ground garlic
1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
good pinch kosher salt

In a heavy bottomed pot over low heat, melt butter with garlic, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, ground garlic, Herbs de Provence. Let simmer super low while preheating oven to 250 degrees.

Remove thyme and garlic clove. Add Crispix, cashews, pretzels, and bagel chips to a heavy-duty foil lined baking pan. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture and mix well to combine and let soak in just a bit, 2 – 3 minutes. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes and if you are like me adding just a bit more Worcestershire sauce each time. Spread on paper towels to cool and then store in an zip top bag. I plan to make it dinner several times this week. I mean it is cereal for dinner, right?

Modified from :

Guess I’m not the only person who had a mom that made this for Christmas Eve. Cool.