Top 5 of the Month: Favorite Holiday Food/Drink

Not your average Christmas meal…

We couldn’t let this month go by without doing some sort of “holiday themed” post. We were scratching our head trying to come up with this months “Top 5” contest thinking of such winners as, “Top 5 Most Friggin’ Annoying Christmas Tunes” and “Top 5 Christmas Sweaters Your Mom Owns” but settled on our original, and simple, idea of asking you to divulge your Top 5 favorite foods and/or drinks that you only really have around the holidays.

The first Christmas Jonny and I spent together was his first Christmas living in America. It was a bittersweet time for him because it was a reminder that he was really, really living in the US and not going home to the UK for awhile. It was also a serious reminder to him that he was stuck spending more time with my family than with his own. Not that there was anything wrong with him thinking this – my family is very loud, very loving and very crazy (in a good way?) and a quiet ‘ole Englishman would sometimes love to press the “mute” button on all of us every once in awhile if he could. That first Christmas, I thought I was pretty clear about our family’s traditions. We “do it up” for Christmas Eve dinner and our Christmas Day is basically spent leisurely opening up gifts and watching 5 reruns of “A Christmas Story” in a row only to be interrupted around 1PM by my mother screaming “brunch is on the table”. Brunch usually consists of some eggs, scrapple, pork roll, bagels and anything else that is found in the fridge. It’s nothing really that special, I guess.

This particular Christmas, I believe we all slept in. If memory serves correct, we all didn’t start opening up gifts till about 1PM and brunch was moved to about 3 or 3.30PM. After brunch we continued our normal Christmas Day which usually also involves a nap. Jonny and I awoke from our nap on the couch to find my sister also asleep and my mom and dad gone. They were invited to the neighbor’s house for dinner as were we. But Jonny was still in his “getting to know everyone” phase and, during this time, he was often treated as a specimen, being poked and prodded as though no one had ever encountered anyone from another country in their life. “So you really are English, Jonny, huh!? That’s soooo cool!”

Ginger Bling Drink
A Ginger-Bling Would be a Fine, Strong
Christmas Drink

Needless to say, Jonny didn’t want to go to the neighbors. He pouted as he looked around wondering what the frig was going on. “It’s Christmas! Where is everybody? When is everyone going to start cooking!?” I sat there unable to really understand why he was so upset, “Well, Jonny, we don’t really cook Christmas Day dinner. We have our big night on Christmas eve. I guess we could just go to the neighbors if you want to eat.” He couldn’t believe it… he began to get very irritated and sad… actually sad! As the night unfolded, we ended having our first disagreement based on our different Christmas traditions. I tried to do the best I could to make him feel better pouring him a huge glass of something strong and telling him we were going to make this work. WE were going to cook our own Christmas Day dinner. In my fantasy we’d start our own tradition. And then we looked in my parents fridge – nothing, not even leftovers from Christmas Eve dinner. We looked in the freezer – holy shit. Nothing but a ball of hamburger meat!!! And then I walked to the pantry with a desperate look on my face and there it was in all it’s glory – a can of Sloppy Joe mix. And that’s what I made my new love who moved across the ocean to be with me – canned slopply joe on toast. Why he’s still here I’ll never know. One thing I can tell you is that sloppy joe’s will NOT be on Jonny’s Top 5 Holiday Food list!

So, without further ado, I have based my Top 5 Favorite Holiday Food/Drink on the traditions I grew up with. You know, those things that only rear their head in December or only on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

  1. My mom’s kind of gross, but very delicious Crab Dip that is on the app table every Christmas Eve (recipe involves mayo, cream cheese, sherry and lump crab or KRAB if you must).
  2. Chestnuts (roasted on an open fire – kidding, we’ve never done that at home)
  3. Egg Nog (the processed kind that is local to the Philadelphia region – ie: Wawa brand)
  4. This delicious appetizer that our good family friend always bring over that involves a dried apricot topped with nuts and some cream cheese. Not sure what the hell it’s called but it’s DAMN good.
  5. Communion. Let’s be honest, the lord’s communion tastes better after 2 cosmo’s, 6 glasses of wine and 2 Sambuca’s before midnight mass.

Hey, Jonny, why don’t you chime in with your Top 5?

  1. mulled wine (gluhwein/vin chaud). Nothing says Christmas to me like the taste and smell of the aromatic spices in mulled wine, not to mention that warm alcohol goes straight to your head.
  2. brandy or rum butter/hard sauce: I actually hate this stuff with a passion, but again it’s redolent of the Christmases of my youth when my grandma (gawd bless her) would have a tiny piece of Christmas pudding topped with about a pint of hard sauce, and then pass out about half an hour later. Not sure whether it was the booze or the cholesterol.
  3. mince pies: another English tradition, but this one I really like. there’s no mince (it’s dried fruit & nuts, sugar and spices) in a sweet pastry sprinkled with sugar. perfect combination is a glass of mulled wine in one hand and a mince pie in the other, possibly mumbling some Christmas carols and trying not to spit raisins and hazelnut bits everywhere.
  4. cheddar cheese and pineapple cubes on cocktail sticks: the essential 1980s hors d’oeuvre that always seems to get resurrected at Christmas.
  5. Christmas cake: again, I’m not that keen on this traditional cake of dried fruit, nuts, sugar and spice wrapped in marzipan (frangipane) and thick white icing which is left to improve for at least a month before Yule, especially since I have awful memories of taking my sister’s Barbie plate and destroying my mother’s perfectly smooth icing one year and making her cry.

Nominate and Win!
Tell us what your top five Holiday comestibles are and win yourself some hand-made sachets of mulling spices and enjoy the holidays with some spiced-up booze!

23 thoughts on “Top 5 of the Month: Favorite Holiday Food/Drink

  1. 1. Party mix. I think it’s the regular chex mix version, but my mom makes it every year and it’s been a Christmas staple for as long as I can remember…best snack food EVAR, and seriously addictive.

    2. Shrimp cocktail…leads the way on Christmas Eve munching.

    3. Eggnog. Never had the real kind, but the dairy-made stuff that you (or at least, we) cut with milk. A small glass of that is enough to last me until next Christmas.

    4. This salad…let’s see, it has raspberries, cashews, apples, with a poppy seed vinaigrette, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. It always makes an appearance on Christmas Day.

    5. HAM! Spiral cut, brown sugar glazed goodness.

    P.S. I’m new to the site and love it. Kinda wandered over here the other day and quickly bookmarked it. Looks like it’s right up my alley. Thanks!

  2. 1. champagne during the appy hours (before the wines) which is generally relegated to the holidays to make them more festive than the usual raucous get-togethers
    2. pizza party after the Children’s Annual Christmas variety review (second generation performing currently-previous generation producing and directing).
    3. all-fish Christmas Eve dinner and gifts for the kids
    4. 24-hours later another fabulous (usually American or Latin-inspired holiday dinner) and Slaughter Santa for the grown ups.
    5. A quite day to digest, rest, and put away dirty dishes on Dec 26.

  3. Hmmmm…..this has me thinking hard. What are mine? Do I have any? Well, sure I do.
    1. Three Layer Bars (or Nainamo Bars or whatever other regional name they go by) Best. Ever.
    2. Sugar Pie. The scraps of pie crust laid out on a cookie sheet and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar to bake. Lovely little tidbits of goodness.
    3. Prime Rib. Probably not this year, but it was a Christmas staple for a long time.
    4.Anything from Robertson Winery in South Africa- Robertson is my maiden name.
    5. Jim Copp Tales and The Harry Simeone Chorale Christmas CD. If you ever heard of these, I will fall over dead. They are so obscure but so beloved in my family.

  4. 1. bread sauce and the stuff that goes with it.

    2. the tin of quality street or cadburys roses some funny uncle brings which despite the other very sophisticated chocolate you stuff yourself with while watching the QUEEN.

    3. the bowl of mixed nuts that sits on the sideboard.

    4 champagne at breakfast

    5 port jelly….with more fine port.

  5. My family stopped having any real holiday traditions in recent years. Coming from divorced parents I have often had to shuffle holidays back and forth with one parent or set of grandparents and then the other. There is also very little consistency in what we eat.

    When I was younger, we always did the traditional Italian thing and Christmas Eve meant fish. We all know how I feel about those things that live in the water. Needless to say it was NOT my favorite holiday. We would have a midday dinner the next day with the major part of the gift opening.

    Christmas dinner has never been all that consistent. Sometimes it was turky. Most times it was ham. One time it was a whole filet mignon with homemade manicotti on the side. My mother now sometimes buys turkey breasts and crab cakes from QVC (really, they’re pretty good). This year it’s going to be a brunch with bake citrus french toast, muffins, bagels, and sausages. At first she was planning to have a spiral ham and some lasagna, but she changed her mind.

    Christmas eve has gone by the wayside due to my brother needing to spend time with his in-laws. Maybe my husband and I will take the Jewish tradition of going to the movies and eating Chinese food on Christmas Eve.

    Some things have been somewhat consistent of the years, so I’ll try to dredge up some memories for my Top 5.

    1. Italian antipasto trays from the deli with sopresata, pepperoni, provolone, fresh mozzarealla, and roasted peppers.

    2. Lasagna or manicotti. These show up pretty often on Christmas.

    3. Eggnog. We always have lots of varieties of booze to spike it with too.

    4. Grits. Whenever there is ham, there are cheese grits (Easter is also big for this). I don’t know how this Italian family living in the northeast managed to become fans of cheese grits, but I don’t quetion it.

    5. Cookies. My mother used to bake a variety of Christmas cookies every year. There were pecan bars, meltaways, cornflake and marshmallow treats dyed green to look like wreaths, and chocolate rum balls. Although Mom has retired from doing this, they will forever be implanted in my memory.

  6. 1. My grandma used to make pfeffernüsse, and I still love them.

    2. Those store-bought pannetone from Trader Joe’s (chocolate and orange only, though, f*** the raisin ones).

    3. Anchor Steam seasonal ales. This year’s isn’t my favorite, but some years they perfectly nail the coriander/orange/juniper essence.

    4. My mom’s cheese ball. I haven’t resurrected this treat since she died, but maybe it’s time for a spreadable cheese with a nutty shell to take its place in my life again.

    5. Hickory Farms booty. My grandma used to go all out and get one of those gift baskets with the summer sausage, the little cocktail weinies, and my favorite, the petit fours.

  7. Hi Amy… I heart this time of year.
    1 – We celebrate Christmas eve like a lot of Italian with the Seven Fish Dinner. (having a virtual one on Italyville… shameless plug!) so that’s my favorite meal… Antipasto di Mare being my #1 dish.
    2- We usually have roast rabbit on Christmas day and it’s deliscious!
    3- Homemade wine…. we make it every year and Christmas has become sort of a testing date… not to mention the previous year’s wine is usually about done, so ready or not!
    4- All sorts of traditional Italian desserts: Panetonne, torrone, pignolata…mmmm.
    5- I love Christmas sugar cookies. It’s true.

  8. 1. Eggnog – hated it as a kid, but TAH-DAH – it quickly became a fave once I was old enough to add booze.
    2. Sees candy
    3. Christmas Eve has been all over the food map, with the last few years doing the Feast of the Seven Fishies – Italian thingy. Super yummy.
    4. Garlic Herb Soup (damn if the entire family didn’t smell like one big head of garlic at Christmas Mass!)
    5. Christmas Dinner – Fondue. Meat/Fish fondue as the main course and finishing up with chocolate fondue. Kids love it. What’s more fun than playing with hot oil? And I’ll have you know we were doing the fondue thing 15 years ago before it made its recent comeback. People would always stare in wonder when I told them of our fondue tradition. Half the time they didn’t even know what it was.

    Great idea for a post. I love hearing about other people’s traditions!

  9. 1. Hot buttered rum
    2. Starbucks peppermint mochas with extra red sprinkles
    3. Persimmon bread
    4. Nanaimo Bars
    5. Yorkshire pudding

    We’re having a party food recipe contest, so if you want to submit one of your favorite recipes (NOT the sloppy Joe recipe!) check out the contest at The prize is a $400 GC to

  10. You want to talk gross? I’ve not had your mom’s dip, but it cannot compare to the fish prepared on Christmas Eve. I can’t recall them all, but the Italian-Americans know the drill… baccala, tripe, smelts, scungilli and calamari. Not fried calamari, which would have been good, but jelly-like and served in gravy over linguini. Fortunately, my mom or grandmom made shrimp scampi for me. (The closest I ever want to come to the Seven Fish is the great restaurant by that name in Key West.) Personally, I think Jonny got off easy with sloppy joe’s.

    Favorite Christmas treats: homemade pizzelles, fried dough dipped in honey (I think the proper name is struffoli), cookies from Isgro’s in South Philly, Baci candy, and eggnog. For something non-sweet, ravioli from Talluto’s (a Philly institution), which my mom always served on Christmas day.

  11. I have a bloke that traveled across the ocean to be with me too! Oh, poor Jonny! My bloke’s family starts making plans for Christmas in July! My MIL bakes this christmas cake you could use as a door stop and which no one ever eats, but we must have it every year. Of course, my bloke has a different problem. He doesn’t quite understand the Italian way which involves sitting at the table all day eating course after course. (lasagna on christmas???!!)
    Loved your post! haha

    homemade hot chocolate, shortbread cookies, roast turkey and stuffing, lasagna, and a mixed vegetable hot or cold antipasti!

    Merry Christmas to both of you!

  12. 1.) Yorkshire Pudding – we try and do as close to an English Christmas dinner as we can due to the fact that my Dad is from across the pond. This dish can make or break our yuletide cheer. I have had my hand whacked with really hard metal spatulas as I mistakenly reach for the oven door I think hides the brussel sprouts, seen my mother weep as the pudding slowly collapses in on itself as she pulls it from the oven and have seen her drink one too many glasses of wine in celebration when it remains light and airy all they way to the dinner table and our ultimately our plates.

    2) Fried Turkey – this one came along with my Brother-in-Law who I secretly hated the shrmip curry my Mom has made on Christmas Eve for as long as I have been on this earth. He is a bit of a redneck and I say that in the best way possible. I mean how could I not love someone who introduced me to the most juicest, flavorful cuts of turkey I have ever had. Let’s not even go into the crispy bits of skin I risk picky off as my Dad takes to carving.

    3) Bloody Mary’s – this is a Christmas morn tradition. Which can do one of two things – it works like the Hair of the Dog and attempts to turn around the nasty effects of too much wine from the night before. Or, with a few glasses it can help make those socks you’ve been getting from Aunt Trudie for the past 30 years seem like just the thing you needed this time around.

    4.) Roast Beef – the smell of it filling the house as it cooks on Christmas day is something I will always cherish. It means home to me. It’s warming, inviting, and let’s me know that even when the presents are unwrapped, I still have one more gift coming my way.

    5) English Summer Trifle – Summer trifle in December, you say? Heck yeah in our house. This is the Pumpkin Pie of this family. My Mom didn’t make it one year and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. A perfect yorkshire pudding would have done nothing to save her. Because we make this out of season, I’m pretty sure that it costs more than that piece of Roast Beef sitting in the oven, but I don’t care. I will give up all my presents for a bite, which after filling myself on appetizers and dinner Christmas Day is usually all I can stomach. Lady fingers drenched in sherry, strawberries, red raspberries, blueberries layered with vanilla custard and almond whipped cream and then it is all topped off with slivered toasted almonds. I eat it for breakfast. Seriously. December 26th I scoop out a bowl and eat what couldn’t be taken in the night before.

    Happy Holidays everyone!

  13. Great post guys! My 5 would be, Homemade cookies that we only make at Christmas time, Timpano, for Chrismas day, Beer battered shrimp that we sinfully fry up and gorge on, Pannetone french toast for breakfast, and Captain Morgan with eggnog!!!

  14. my family has a similar tradition….xmas eve is the biggie…we do it up for eve dinner, head to midnight mass, head home and immediately change into pjs…open presents! (b/c technically…it is xmas now) and have DESSERT 🙂 we like to change up our dishes…so i can’t really think of 5 staples…although pecan pie is a favorite…oh and the next day is devoted to eating swiss colony toffee chocolates…or any other gifted chocolates that are within reach.

  15. I love sloppy joes…

    1. Stollen – German pastry with chocolate and nuts
    2. Eggs Bocuse (scrambled eggs, with sauteed onions and crumbled bacon
    3. Egg Nog
    4. Champagne
    5. Prime Rib Roast

    Cute Story..I had a wonderful christmas and boxing day in London one year, I can understand how Jonny missed all that.

  16. Woah, Sloppy Joe’s are a great comfort food meal during the Christmas season…but I’m more of a finger food type girl.
    1. Artichoke Dip
    2. Deviled Oysters
    3. Deviled Eggs
    4. Brie en Croute
    5. Egg Nog Daiquiri or as we call it in N’Awlins Santa Sauce 😉

  17. My top 5 you-can-only-eat-them at christmas dishes are:
    1. Cheese Logs/Balls with almonds. The regular kind only, because the Port ones are extra nasty.
    2. Beer Cheese Soup
    3. Mulled Wine
    4. The little molded holiday chocolates my mother used to make – the kind where you buy the “chocolate” in a brick, bake until liquid and pour into the little reindeer, santa, etc. plastic molds. Gross, but really really fantastic.
    5. Hominy served with butter. Yum.

  18. i also loved the sloppy joes story, how cute!
    1)i make cookies:tollhouse, shortbread, spritz, candycanes,peanut butter blossoms
    2)mulled wine or cider
    4)plum pudding with hard and soft sauces
    5)bowls of unshelled nuts with a nutcracker nearby, reminds me of my dad who always had one at home…

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