We may not have spent time inside with family this holiday, but we did exchange food and gifts and Facetimed.
Of course it wasn’t perfect, but for being in the midst of a global pandemic, it was good enough.
It reminds me think of that Big Bang Theory episode where Leonard hauls around a virtual, mobile version of Sheldon on a screen to participate in life virtually from his room.
This year, our parents both prepared meals that tied in favorite family food traditions.
One meal that Jake’s family dropped off was his mom’s famous holiday eggbake and cinnamon rolls. We eagerly await this special combination every holiday. The cinnamon rolls are like monkey bread – the biscuit balls crackle with sugar-butter-cinnamon butter shellac. We still dip them in butter, anyway.
There’s a lot of eggbakes in the world and many cinnamon rolls, but they’re never the same or as satisfying as hers.
My folks prepared my childhood favorite Christmas dinner – Honeybaked ham and homemade raisin sauce, cheesy potatoes with crushed cornflake topping (don’t come for me with your whole cornflake topping feelings), and broccoli salad.
Growing-up, we kids fought over the cheesy potatoes. My parents made extra so that there was plenty of leftovers for the kids. They sent the college students back to the dorms with some, too. I can’t remember a single Easter or Christmas without cheesy potatoes.
Cheesy potatoes are sometimes called Funeral Potatoes, although I have never actually seen them at a funeral meal. At work we chatted about them at work on Christmas Eve Day. “My nephew said that if I didn’t make cheesy potatoes for Christmas dinner last year, he wouldn’t come!” my coworker recounted – we laughed but also agreed. We take cheesy potatoes seriously in Minnesota.
Here’s how my family makes our cheesy potatoes.
I made my mom’s artichoke dip. It’s the easiest dip to make: Mix and bake two cans of chopped artichoke hearts, one cup of good mayo (regular Hellman’s or Duke’s), one cup of parmesan cheese, and a little garlic, until bubbly and golden brown. This dip only made an appearance during my childhood as an appetizer before Easter and Christmas dinner. I remember my mom setting the glass dish on a hot plate where it would continue to bubble as we grazed around the center island.
Both families blessed us with an abundance of Christmas cookies and treats.
My godmother packed a box of her greatest Christmas cookie hits – buttery almond spritz, chocolate cookies with a little cherry hidden under the icing, tiny, round toffee-flecked orbs of shortbread, homemade caramels wrapped in red and green waxed paper, tangy lemon sandwich cookies, and peanut butter blossoms. We fought over the pieces of buttery See’s peanut brittle surrounding the Christmas cookie platters Jake’s mom shared.
These meals brought tastes of comfort and joy to a very strange holiday season.
And a new tradition. . .
A fancy ass charcuterie platter. If we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic, we would have liked to host a Die Hard dinner party. Instead, I ordered a fancy charcuterie platter to enjoy at home.
Choosing one was the hardest part. Our local restaurants advertised the most beautiful charcuterie and cheese boxes for take-out this holiday season. I finally chose one from a business I saw on Instagram @theboardinghouse_mpls. The photos of their fall-themed boxes with vegetable pumpkins and ghost cookies drew me in.
We snacked on the mid-sized box ($55) over the week. I loved that it combined high and lowbrow treats like prociutto and a Little Debbie Christmas tree cake. A splurge, but let’s be real, it would cost more than that to buy each and every ingredient.
To order, watch their Instagram posts and direct message them for an order form. Pay can be through Venmo. Curbside pick-up at their address. can text when you arrive.
The take-out charcuterie platter + Die Hard tradition will continue.
For New Year’s Eve?
Make your own Red Lobster feast. We bought frozen snow crab legs and reheated them in the oven with butter, Old Bay and lemon juice. This method from Delightful E Made’s blog is easier than my previous boil/steaming method.
Every time I make crab legs at home, I’m reminded how easy they are to prepare – when they’re pre-cooked, you are simply reheating them. And they’re so much cheaper to prepare at home- we bought ours at a local grocery store for under $20/lb.
I like to joke about eating local seafood from Lake Superior – the joke started when we first saw that Red Lobster located near the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, MN in Canal Park. Someday the joke will get old.
Of course we bought Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix from the grocery store. They’re good but never quite as good as eating fresh ones in the restaurants. My secrets to making Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix at home?
- Add more than 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and shred it yourself.
- Mix the batter until it just barely holds together.
- Double-baste. Brush the biscuits with the butter-seasoning mix. Pop in the oven until they crisp again, and then brush one more time before serving.
We ate our meal and watched Wonder Woman 1984. I knew something was wrong when I started laughing during what was supposed to be a very emotional scene. At seven months pregnant, I should have been sobbing, but I laughed so hard my mascara ran off my face. The movie didn’t get better. In fact, it got worse and I couldn’t stop erupting in laughter. Not the super hero movie we wanted or expected, but probably deserved. So 2020.
I’m not going review the year or set goals. Simply wishing us all a better and healthier new year. I believe that things can always get worse, but, if they can get worse, that means they can also get better.
I love how you were able to capture so many family food traditions even though this holiday season looks different. I was just talking to someone about Honeybaked ham—she keeps kosher now, but her favorite childhood sandwich was ham and cheese. She still gets one for the road every year when she visits her family for Christmas. Those food memories are powerful.
Also enjoy the last few weeks of your pregnancy! This time last year I was about where you are and so eager to meet my baby.
Cheesy potatoes for life – my college called them “party potatoes” and yes, the best if crushed corn flakes. And about every 10 days i go through red lobsters order form, saying that this is the day I’m ordering a feast…and then i dont. I might have to try your oven version for crab legs!