Pull Out the Pizelle Maker: It’s Weird Holiday Food Time!

by Charlotte on November 26, 2012 · 35 comments

It’s not just families that makes weird food for the holidays apparently. Peppermint potato chips?! On second thought, sweet-and-salty is a pretty awesome flavor combo…

“Wow, you must really love cooking!” a friend exclaimed yesterday when she dropped by unexpectedly to find me under a pile of dirty dishes surrounded by 72 muffins (however would I learn my twelvesies time tables if it weren’t for muffin pans?!), two loaves of whole-grain bread (hubby found a hand-crank wheat grinder on sale and the kiddos think it’s more fun than the Wii), two large pans of enchiladas, a pan full of boiling chicken and a very suspicious-looking batch of chocolate chia seed pudding*.

“No,” I sighed as I surveyed the mess that would make a frat party look like a Norwex party. “I just prefer it to the alternative.”

The truth is I don’t love cooking. But luckily I don’t hate it either because with the way I prefer my family to eat combined with my control-freak nature the only other alternative would be a very expensive food bill or, you know, hosting The Swedish Chef on a student-muppet exchange program. (Better him than Elmo! Sigh… poor Elmo.) And my predilection – if not my less-than-stellar kitchen skillz – come in handy, especially this time of year.

Fire up your ovens, Lords and Ladies! It’s holiday cooking time! Which for many families is code for “break out the old family recipe that is supposed to remind us of our cultural heritage that we only eat once a year.” Just like every family has a skeleton in their closet, each clan also has that one really crazy dish in their repertoire that has to be served every year much to the delight (or chagrin) of the members. Up here in Minnesota, the Scandinavian influence is so strong that “lutefisk” – white fish soaked in lye – is so popular they even sell it in giant jars at Costco. (I’ve lived here six years now and still haven’t had the guts to try it. And I’m a girl who will pretty much eat anything.) Another winter fave here is “hotdish” which is Scandinavian for “we’re too good to call it a casserole like everyone else” with the perennial favorite being the horrid (sorry Gym Buddy Allison & Krista!) Tater Tot Pie.

I saw this at Target the other day. So much of this baffles me. First, there is nothing velvet or chocolate in red velvet cake (as far as I can tell it’s just regular cake with red food dye?) and second, when did red velvet chocolate cake become a holiday flavor??

So after chowing down this past weekend on my mom’s pretzel Jell-O salad a pretzel Jell-O  dish (Confidential to the reader who commented that she forgot the sugar in the pretzel crust this year: we did too! We also still ate it!) I decided to find out what other weird things people eat for the holidays. Here are some of my favorite funny, but delicious (or so they say), holiday recipes from weird-o friends around the country:

In Utah, one friend reports a holiday potluck must-have with “a Lime Jello layer, then this white layer that has Velveeta cheese in it, then a cherry jello layer on top.” If this sounds crazy just remember that Utah officially designated Jell-O the official state snack food.


A friend from Texas reports an annual New Year’s Eve dish of black-eyed peas stewed with okra. Although he notes dryly, “I do not personally observe this tradition.” And it may be one reason he doesn’t live in Texas anymore.


In Ohio, about as far from the ocean as you can get, a friend’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner is oyster stew. She explains, “It’s disgusting but my mom thinks that everyone must love it because we do it every year! Uh, mom, we do it every year cause you make it every year! Stop making it!!”


Finally, in my own family, no holiday celebration would be complete without the Hearts of Palm Salad. You marinate a can of hearts of palm (yes, the middles of palm trees are edible! I’d love to meet the human who figured that one out.), artichoke hearts, baby corn, olives and cherry tomatoes in Italian salad dressing and then serve over a bed of greens. No one eats the greens but it we like the health halo so we keep doing it. Seeing as my mother comes from strong German stock, I always assumed the recipe came from Deutchland. “Oh heavens no!” she retorted. “I found that in a magazine one year when I was trying to be fancy! They don’t have palm trees in Germany!”


With all the emphasis on watching our waistlines during the holidays – if I hear one more time about how “the average American gains 7 pounds over the holidays” I’m going to whack the speaker over the head with their scale – it can be easy to forget that food is nourishing, uniting and even entertaining. So instead of focusing on how that bon-bon is going straight to your bon-bon, let’s remember all the great – and strange – holiday foods you grew up with and what they mean to you.


Do you have a funny, off-beat or crazy holiday recipe that’s become a tradition in your family? What kind of holiday cooking do you do? Do you healthify anything?? Feel free to share links to your fave recipes/stories! Would you eat Peppermint Pringles?


This is actually an ice-cream turkey put out by Baskin Robbins this year. When I first saw the pic I thought it was a glammed-up Tofurkey but no, that shiny stuff is caramel. 


*This all was not part of a holiday bake-ganza, actually. Every Sunday I do a crap-ton of cooking to get ready for feeding my family (that includes one son who ate eleven ounces of frozen yogurt in ten minutes this weekend during our family’s first (expensive) excursion to Cherry Berry).

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Stefanie November 26, 2012 at 8:41 am

Other than the “Green jello and marshmallows concoction someone brings every year, we have a pretty typical meal. I do make a point not to make it a healthy cooking day though. I feel that If the day is a holiday – it is a holiday in every way. My healthy recipes can come back the next day. I don’t think I will be trying the peppermint Pringles though ….. Here is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe which you could make more like Christmas by adding white chocolate chips or crushed peppermint. You just can’t beat the soft texture of these cookies! http://allrecipes.com/recipe/award-winning-soft-chocolate-chip-cookies/


Heather @ Bake, Run, Live November 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

Most Red Velvet cake recipes do have chocolate in them, in the form of cocoa powder. It isn’t a lot, but it adds a deeper flavor to the cake.
For Christmas, it is a pretty boring meal at our house. However, my brother has requested a specific dessert that I think will leave us all in a sugar coma afterwards!

I also make a lot of cookies during Christmas! Starting December 1st, I will be posting 12 days of cookie recipes!!


Geosomin November 26, 2012 at 9:13 am

lutefisk is horrid. I had a roommate who loved it. Eventually she convinced me to try it. Blech.
Red velvet cake, made properly has cocoa in it, not just a whack of red food colouring. That milk looks horrible too.
I cracked up that they felt they had to add “artificially flavoured” to the white chocolate peppermit potato chips like we might not know! (that makes me queasy even typing that flavour out…)
For us, the holiday treats we have aremy gramma’s bread pudding with toffee sauce (yum) and my mum’s homemade nuts and bolts and my mum in law’s white chocolate dipped pretzels. I found an irish cream version of the bread pudding that I think I may risk holiday blasphemy and try making this christmas. Other than that, there’s a few cookies, but nothing really traditional for christmas – just favourites we don’t make very often, like mulled wine and cider, snickerdoodles and peppermint cookies. Since my sister in law became celiac the food part of christmas has gotten more complicated. Personally, I’m pumped because I made some blueberry wine that should be ready for christmas. :)
This year we’re going to have a family appetizer day on christmas for my inlaws side and I”m looking forward to it…no big meal and prepped ahead so we can spend the time relaxing and playing games. :)


Bethany November 26, 2012 at 9:26 am

Oh my gosh – I saw that milk at Target. The concept is deplorable, and yet I was curious… I did not purchase it, however!


Courtney November 26, 2012 at 9:32 am

Pretzel jello salad? Does that mean you are back on the gluten?


Crabby McSlacker November 26, 2012 at 9:45 am

Oh. My. Goodness.

Seriously, people eat this stuff on purpose!?

My regular diet is so weird to most people, that the fact that I continue to eat it throughout the holidays probably counts as crazy enough. Seaweed snacks, brownish-grey vegetable and fruit smoothies, coconut flour and egg-white cupcakes topped with chocolate frosting made from avocados cocoa and stevia… the list of menu atrocities goes on, but the good thing is at least I don’t have to make in large quantities to share with friends and relatives!


Abby November 26, 2012 at 9:54 am

Thanksgiving ended up being pretty healthy for me this year (if you call “healthy” not really eating anything) since the future in-laws family put bacon in the veggies, the vegetarian stuffing was mushy, and the pie was store-bought. Sigh. I love them all and they try but between not eating meat and having grown up with a mom who’s an amazing cook, I’m picky about Thanksgiving. My mom always cooks the same meal her mom did and it does NOT feel like Thanksgiving without it. For example, coleslaw for Thanksgiving? No thanks. I offered to bring stuffing but no go. I ended up having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich later that night. Ah well.

The thing that weirds people out is that since I grew up not eating turkey, my family normally eats trout for Thanksgiving. It seems normal to me!


Nicky November 26, 2012 at 10:28 am

For holidays, my family has an odd combo of French Canadian and Ukrainian food (actually pretty normal here in Alberta, Canada). The highlight–we put something called “sucre a creme” on our Christmas pudding. You make it with (are you ready for this) a pound of butter, a pint of heavy cream and about a pound of brown sugar. It also works well on pancakes (or just by itself).


Meghan@themeghamix November 26, 2012 at 10:50 am

Reading this made me think of a car accident…everything looks so gross but I can’t stop looking!


Alyssa (azusmom) November 26, 2012 at 11:24 am

(I think children have hollow legs. The bone, muscle, cartilage, etc. form after puberty. Hence the need to constantly be stuffing food in their faces.)
Every year my mom makes her green Christmas/Hanukkah cake. It’s basically a yellow cake with vanilla frosting, pistachio pudding, and green food coloring, with festive sprinkles on top. From a mix. But, hey, it’s good, so it doesn’t have to be from scratch, right?
Finally, the Jello thing. When I was a kid I had myriad stomach issues, and one of the few foods I was allowed to eat was Jello. So now I avoid it like the plague, as it makes me think of days spent sitting on our plaid couch, covered in a blanket, choking down Jello and hoping it stayed down. Happy holidays! :)


Dr. Mark November 26, 2012 at 11:34 am

My family is actually pretty hilarious with the holiday meals. My mother wants everything traditional…turkey, stuffing, etc., while my brother always makes something exotic and adventurous. He usually hosts so my mother cooks an entire 5 course meal and hauls it (or my father hauls it) to my brother’s house for dinner. It’s great for me, though. I get the best of both worlds :)


Kellyim November 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I proudly make Hoppin’ John every New Years Day. It’s a Southern tradition to eat black-eyed peas on New Years for good luck throughout the year. My very non-Southern husband LOVES it. Here’s a recipe, though I’ll sometimes add in diced chiles for some more spice: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Hoppin-John-104452

My parents and I (and now my husband) have an appetizer Christmas Eve dinner every year. Fancy cheses and crackers and little smokies re the basics, then we supplement with whatever fancy goat cheese/pate/mushroom turnover/bite-size quiches that Trader Joe’s has to offer. It’s a pretty low-key meal and tasty!


Naomi/Dragonmamma November 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Can’t believe nobody has mentioned fruitcake! Or does that not count because nobody actually eats the stuff?

No traditional meal in my family, but to me, the entire month of December is represented by plates of homemade cookies and candies, because my husband is a letter carrier and that’s what his customers give to him. He should start coming home with the goodies any day now!


malevolent andrea November 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Every year for Thanksgiving we have boiled pearl onions. This is the one and only occasion in the entire year that we eat this vegetable, but my 26 y.o. son would be bereft if they were not on the Thanksgiving table next to the turkey. I have no idea how or why this became traditional at my house.


Yum Yucky November 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm

my throat just seized up at the site of those holiday Pringles. I’m stickin’ with regular flavahh.


Aurora November 26, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Wait wait wait! Hold on! The Southern chick would like to say that Red Velvet Cake *does* have chocolate! It’s actually a chocolate cake with food coloring, not a standard yellow cake!

Sorry. I love Red Velvet so much. But speaking of funky drinks, Hood releases a line of eggnog every fall, and their Pumpkin Eggnog tastes exactly like *drinking pie.* Pie. Like, liquified pie. It’s so good I could drink entire quarts of it a day, and then I’d get super fat, but it’s just so delicious.

Anyway. What’s our tradition? Well, we have a pecan pie we make every year, but it’s special: it’s made from my late grandmother’s recipe, which she used for so many years that it became yellowed, greasy, and brittle from the age. We still have that scrap of paper, and we still use her recipe. I don’t like pecans, but I make it every year anyway, and now in her memory (she died 2 years ago).

Freaky foods for holidays? Hmm. I guess our Southern dinner tradition is somewhat unorthodox. We fry chicken on Thanksgiving and Christmas, alongside the turkey for the former, just as the main meal for the latter. We have cornbread and instead of stuffing, homemade dressing (basically a “bread pudding” like concoction of corn meal, onions, hardboiled egg, chicken stock, and saltine crumbs), dumplings (not the Asian ones, the strips of flour you boil into soft mushy piles), and sweet potato souffle.


Sylvie @ StruggleswithaFatA November 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm

The only way Pringle’s white chocolate peppermint .. uh … pringles, would be good is if they were pringle-shaped pieces of Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark. THEN I would eat them. However I wouldn’t be surprised if someone at my work tried them and exclaimed how unexpectedly awesome they are and everyone must try them! Also flavored milks like that are just plain weird. Talk about empty calories, you don’t even get to savor the cream cheese frosting!

I think it’s important to remember (which I’ve only just really, *really* realized) that a holiday is just a holiDAY. Not a holiWEEK. Or holiMONTH.


Sue November 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm

“They don’t have palm trees in Germany!” – True, except in greenhouses.
My Bavarian family’s traditional Christmas dish is boiled white sausages (Weisswurst) with sweet, grainy mustard and Silesian (Polish) potato salad, which contains bologna, pickled fish, and a ton of mayo. No, I don’t eat that stuff anymore. I’ll stick with Bavarian potato salad, which is made with a brothy vinaigrette, and a soft pretzel. Followed by lots of homemade cookies. Carbs for the win!
I don’t really care for the actual meal, but I love love love making Christmas cookies. That’s my favorite part of the season. Together with mulled wine or a non-alcoholic version.
Those pringles sound disgusting, sorry.


Amy H. November 26, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Have you ever had lefse? It’s probably fairly common in MN, as it’s a traditional Norwegian food. It’s basically a potato flatbread. You can put fish in it, but it’s best with butter and brown sugar, rolled up. YUMMY!!!!!!!!!

Red velvet cake cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory is a total splurge worth the calories. And yes, as others mentioned, it does have cocoa in it. A yellow cake with cocoa and red food coloring. It’s fabulous.


Matt November 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm

My sister’s mother in law makes a holiday treat I like to call “crack”.

It’s corn syrup, chearios, peanuts, peanut butter and M&Ms. It’s like a rice crispy square but 100X more gooey and sweet. But hey, it has protein from the peanut butter so it’s healthy right?


Jody - Fit at 54 November 26, 2012 at 8:10 pm

I am NOT going to say anything about some of those local fav foods you wrote about – don’t ant to offend anyone! ;) Yes, it is a crazy time of year & seeing all kinds of that craziness on the shelves! That BR turkey cake is just weird!

A lot of the family is either out of site or no longer alive so kind of hard. Tradition was more about the sweets, I hate to say! ;) One family member loved to make sweet potato souffle type thing with brown sugar & marshmallows & oh so decadent!

Me, I eat healthy & go for a couple planned sweets – usually cookies! ;)


Gym Buddy Krista November 26, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Tater Tot HOTDISH!!! Charlotte!! Come on, if you’re gonna trash my family’s beloved recipe, at least get it right!!! ;)


essbee November 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm

I’m so glad I moved to San Francisco. We used to have lamb (dried out, stiff, chewy) with mint jelly (sugary and slimy). Now that the kitchen is my domain and we live in SF, Christmas dinner is roasted Dungeness with baguette and butter, chased with copious amounts of sparkling wine. Preceded, of course, the prior day with Jew-mas: Chinese and a movie. Both my sister and I married Jewish men (to my mother’s everlasting dismay), so that tradition is an absolute requirement. Oh, and another SF upgrade: Strauss Creamery eggnog.

Sorry, that probably sounds like unadulterated bragging. But I’m so happy to have left freaky weird food far, far behind.


essbee November 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Oh, and we have a friend who does an epic New Year’s Day party every year, and his Hoppin’ John is a-maz-ing. I love it! He makes the okra separately, and that’s great too.


Cammy November 26, 2012 at 9:47 pm

My family CANNOT have a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without ‘Pink Stuff’. It’s tasty, simple, and the leftovers make for nice breakfasts the following day(s).

To make:
1 tub cottage cheese
1 tub Cool Whip
1 15 oz can crushed pineapple
Chopped walnuts (amount to taste, can leave them out if you’re not a nut fan)
1 packet Jello powder (can be cherry, strawberry, whatever as long as it’s PINK. Nana tried Orange Stuff for Thanksgiving one year, but it looked like vomit and there was nearly a mutiny).

Drain the pineapple, mix everything in a bowl, and you’ve got Pink Stuff!


Marcy November 27, 2012 at 5:34 pm

We make this too, but call it “fluffy duffy”. When my niece was young she turned in the recipe for the school cook book. She almost got in trouble because her teacher thought she was making fun of her. The teacher’s name was Mrs. Duffy — LOL.


Jess November 26, 2012 at 9:52 pm

We have a fairly standard Christmas dinner. My in laws do too, but they have some crazy traditions. They throw bread rolls at each other during Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner and they smash Easter eggs with bats at Easter time!


Katie November 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Peanut butter balls and peppermint patties. Every year. I make myself sick on those things and I look forward to said sickness. I know it will happen and I can’t wait for it!

Seriously with the jello pretzel salad? Have you ever had snickers “salad”. Someone made that last year. OH! And my aunt made this awful looking pudding-ish, jello-ish marshmallow….thing last year. I think it had several cans of mushy fruit cocktail, some pudding mix, and a bag of marshmallows. She said it was healthy because fruit, you know.


quix November 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm

We do a fairly traditional turkey day in our fam, but for Christmas, we eat lasagna (stouffers), salad, and garlic bread. Honestly, I dig that MORE than anything traditional.
And I would eat the CRAP out of those peppermint pringles. The way I’m actually getting through this holiday season trying to stay out of the treats is buying my faves and saving them for training season next year when I can actually use the calories (peppermint bark on metric century bike rides? HECK YA!)


Bek @ Crave November 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm

HAHAHA that ice cream turkey! I do tend to healthify a few things and give a few healthier options- but I don’t want to be a control freak for everyone’s dishes. We generally always have trifle! And chocolate snowball truffles- but that’s not odd at all ;)


Hanne November 27, 2012 at 2:12 am

As a Norwegian girl, I’ll have to advise you to stay far away from the lutefisk – it’s pretty disgusting. A stellar way of ruining perfectly nice fish.

Actually, I find all Norwegian Christmas foods to be rather disgusting (picky? …me?) – other examples are white sausage (“Medisterpølse”, literally translates to “sausage with fat”), ribs (prepared in the most boring and tasteless way), and pinnekjøtt (brined and cured mutton rack). The only edible (in my opinion) traditional Christmas food in Norway is fresh cod. Unfortunately, my family insists on ribs and white sausage – I tend to end up eating a lot of the sides, which are broccoli and prunes. I guess the sides were selected in order to help digesting the rather heavy main dishes :)


Tamara November 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

I’m strangely intrigued by the white chocolate peppermint Pringles (but then, I like white chocolate peppermint anything). The red velvet chocolate milk, on the other hand, is freaking me out. And I have never seen lutefisk, but I’d probably be afraid to try it, too. Unless a friend had made it, in which case I would grin and give it a whirl! But out of a jar? No thanks! I can’t imagine eating the jarred gefilte fish either.

I don’t think we have too many weird traditions in my family. The only thing I can think of is green bean casserole (with the creamy soup and the crunchy canned onions on top), but that’s not very unusual, I don’t believe. A friend loves and swears by that jello pretzel salad, which is okay but doesn’t really wow me.

Now, excuse me while I figure out where those Pringles are sold near me… ;)


Stacey November 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm

We don’t have any weird holiday foods in my family, although in my fiance’s family they love Wilted Lettuce Salad. Yuck! I started laughing when I saw the flavored Pringles at the top of your page. Huffington Post did a pretty funny (and not very positive) review of them back in October and seeing them again brought back the memory. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/pringles-pumpkin-pie-spice_n_1952104.html


Sarah November 29, 2012 at 9:11 am

Okay so i know everyone has already told you about the red velvet cake but a homemade version I make uses buttermilk and cocoa powder in it. I’m not a fan of red velvet but I end up making it every year for my MIL and she just knows when i use a box mix! lol


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