Christmas, Part 1

The more families grow and change, the harder it is to celebrate holidays on their actual date. Fortunately, Dave’s family was kind enough to change the calendar for our particular gathering this December.

003We’ll decide when Christmas is, thankyouverymuch.

After working on Friday, packing, and food prepping, we left Green Bay around 9:00pm and headed down to Illinois for Christmas Part One with Dave’s immediate family.


After the two and a half hour drive, we were greeted with a familiar house and a lovely holiday tree bedecked with three times the amount of lights we have.


Illinois didn’t receive nearly the amount of snow Wisconsin did, but the light dusting was perfect for a white Christmas.


Christmas Eve morning breakfast was perfect, homemade toasted sourdough bread and butter.


And then it was time to get down to business, following the Dowe Christmas Rules.


We started at the top of the list: each couple must provide three finger foods/appetizers for group consumption.

Dave and I started with our Spinach and Feta Puffs, courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine.


  • 1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp chopped dill
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed, rolled out to a 12 inch square and kept chilled

To prepare:

  • Squeeze spinach until dry, forcing out as much water as possible (too much water will make for a soggy filling; you should have about 2/3 cup well-drained spinach). Mix spinach and next 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg to blend; fold into spinach mixture.
  • Cut puff pastry into 3 equal strips. Reserve 1 strip for another use. Cut each remaining strip into 3 squares for a total of 6. Place a square in each muffin cup, pressing into bottom and up sides and leaving corners pointing up. Divide filling among cups. Fold pastry over filling, pressing corners together to meet in center. DO AHEAD Spinach puffs can be assembled 3 hours ahead. Cover puffs and chill.
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Beat remaining egg to blend in a small bowl. Brush pastry with egg wash (this will give the pastry a nice sheen). Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let puffs cool in pan for 10 minutes. Run a sharp paring knife around pan edges to loosen; turn out puffs onto rack to cool slightly before serving

012My brother made these for our Halloween dinner, and they were just as good this time. Spinach and feta is definitely a winning combination.

We remade our Catfish Cakes with a Lemon Caper Dill Sauce and our third appetizer was bacon-wrapped, almond-stuffed dates.


Bacon + anything is also a winning combination. We used Smokehouse almonds, and the combination of sweet, salty, and smokey was fantastic.

While we worked on our three finger foods, Dave’s dad Barry started by painstakingly creating phyllo cups for a spicy beef salad.


When Dave’s mom Kathy got home from work, she set to task on off-the-menu items like a cheese and antipasto plate with crackers and vegetables and dip.


Dave’s sister Ali and her wife Jaimee arrived with most of their food already prepared.


The Torta, in particular, was wonderful: a trifecta of layered sundried tomatoes, pesto, and cream cheese studded with pine nuts and served with baguette slices.


When all was said and done, it was a feast for kings.


Before we dove into the food, Ali & Jaimee deviated from their Black Velvet drink to instead make Flaming Butterbeers.


They could only get one of the butterscotch and rum shots to light up, but it was so cool.


Not to mention delicious! I had a Harry Potter themed 24th birthday with a butterbeer competition, and this may have stolen the show. Just in case I decide to do another…

I stuffed myself with a little bit of everything.


I love spicy food, but I had to pick some of the peppers off these spicy beef phyllo cups so I wouldn’t start crying and ruin the evening. 🙂

And no Christmas is complete without cookies!


We had peanut butter blossoms, chocolate cookies with dried cherries, coconut macaroons, and my own Grinch cookies.

After eating, we played Taboo and Scattergories (I sucked at both), and then watched Home Alone. After a bit of clean-up, I was exhausted and so overjoyed to be able to fall asleep in front of the fireplace.


A must for my dream house.

Christmas morning breakfast was traditional Dowe spread of coffee, tea, orange juice, and cinnamon rolls.


Ali requested they be presented in tree form, which was very festive indeed. The rest of the morning was a traditional mess of wrapping paper, presents, and thank yous galore.

Dave’s family is always incredibly generous, and I was bestowed with some new coasters, a stepping stool (no more climbing on the counter!), candles, a subscription to Food Network Magazine and Cooking Light, the movie Julie & Julia, and a new board game, Wits and Wagers that I’m very anxious to play.

And then it was time to say goodbye. Dave and I made the trip back home to our kitties so he could get ready for work on Christmas Eve day. Today I’ll be making my food gifts as well as my offerings for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts…three more Christmases to go (including Christmas morning at my parents)!



One thought on “Christmas, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Slow Sunday | Designs on Dinner

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