Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Cheer

December is an interesting month, sitting at the end of the year like a bookend.  For most of us, regardless of our nationalities or religious beliefs, it's a month of indulgence.

We eat too much, drink too much, spend too much money on family and friends.  More often than not, the recipients of our generosity either didn't need the gift, or groan (inwardly) at the thought of:  Now, where do I put this!?

Open houses and holiday parties abound, sporting tables laden with yummy things to eat, all stuffed with calories while lacking in nutritional value.  It's rare that anyone even bothers with fruit plates anymore.  And if there's a platter of cut veggies, you can bet there's some sort of Mayo and/or sour cream concoction into which we may dip those healthy veggies.

We attended a delightful Open House last Saturday night in a home decorated like the ultimate Christmas vision.  In addition to a table covered with tantalizing appetizers, there was also a dessert bar.  This year two platters sat side by side:  one carefully stacked with tiny cream puffs, the other artfully arranged with bite-sized squares of Nanaimo bars.

A group of people hovered in a semi-circle around this delectable display of sweetness, pretending to be interested in what another guest was saying.  But we all knew what they were doing:  watching and counting and keeping track of the rate at which these sweet morsels were disappearing.

Retail store sound systems blare Holiday music; shelves are crammed with must-have merchandise; the whole place decked out with tinsel, ornaments, and blinking lights.  "Buy, buy, buy" ... is the message we are blasted with inside the store.  "Give, give, give" is the one that assaults us as we haul our purchases past the bell ringers with those incessant bells and their big red pots filled with donated dollars.

It's usually cold here in December, often with snow or ice on the ground.  We wake to frosty mornings where grass and driveways are white and steps are slippery.  And we end the month with credit card balances bulging with expenditures for things people didn't need.  Then we're left with having to find a place to put all the stuff we didn't need.

All the while ... music is playing, bells are ringing, snow is falling, cars are slip-sliding on the roads, and the numbers on our scale creep upward with the bounty of Holiday Cheer we have consumed.  Be sure to "Read more" for two great Holiday recipes.

Here is my favorite dish to donate to pot-luck Open Houses.  It's easy to make, cooks in 30 minutes, and tastes scrumptious.  It's also filled with fat and calories ... but who cares?  Tis' the season, right?

Hot Reuben Dip

1 14-oz can/jar of sauerkraut
1-2 TBS of sugar (if desired)
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 1/2 cups of Corned Beef, sliced, then chopped into small pieces (about 1 pound)
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 loaf of rye bread (Jewish or other), toasted and cut into quarters

Pour the sauerkraut into a colander.  Drain and dry with paper towels (getting out most of the moisture).  Then sprinkle with at least 1 TBS of sugar (to taste) to "harness the sour taste" of the kraut.  Combine all ingredients, except the bread, and mix thoroughly.  Spread into a 9" quiche dish or 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.  Bake uncovered in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until golden on top.

Serve with toasted rye brad squares.  Put 2-3 spoons into the dip to aid spreading onto the bread.

The Real Savior:  Holiday Punch

Then, to ease all of your anxieties that build up over the course of the Season, have some of this lovely Open House Punch, made from the recipe shared by our hosts of last Saturday night's soiree.  After a couple of glasses of this, you will feel a sense of mellowness and calmness.  Trust me.

Open House Punch

1 Fifth of Southern Comfort (Note to spiritual neophytes:  this means one whole bottle, not 1/5 of a bottle)
6 oz. frozen orange juice
6 oz. frozen lemonade
6 oz. lemon juice
3 liter bottle of 7-up or Sprite

Mix together and add ice (but not too much!)  Then garnish with colorful things such as orange slices and whole berries.

Serve in a pretty glass punch bowl with some kind of large, decorative (or not) ladle.  If you watch people serving themselves, you'll notice they do their best to avoid both the ice cubes and the garnish.


  1. I generally try to make my gifts either the practical kind (this year, it's gas cards) or the edible kind, unless I'm absolutely certain that the person I'm giving to needs and/or wants it.

    I wish I could drink beverages of the alcoholic kind, so I could try out your punch. When it comes to SC, omitting it can make a difference in the overall flavor; I wonder if there's something non-alcoholic that can be substituted.

  2. your punch sounds wonderful, I like Southern Comfort!

    Over here, fruit platters are becoming more popular, as a nutritious alternative to cakes etc, though there are still plenty of those around too!

  3. Don't be watering down my punch with your stinking ice! Your the best BL!

  4. How did I miss this? I'm ready to party!!