Some of my fondest memories of the Christmas season, growing up, were the nights we'd gather as a family (usually on a Sunday evening) to decorate our tree. There was nothing especially unique about our evening, when compared to most families we knew, but it was still a special time. We had Christmas music on the stereo, discussions about how many lights to use (as many as possible), questions about which side of the tree was the straightest, varying degrees of participation (as we grew older and more teen-aged) and the same stories to tell every year about where each ornament came from.
Our food tradition that evening was simple. My mom would make a handful of our favorite appetizers and serve them with simple cut veggies and fruit, maybe a bowl of popcorn and sometimes a plate of Christmas cookies.
At the end of the night, after everyone else had gone to bed, I'd sneak into the living room (usually after snatching just one. more. cookie.) and turn off all of the lights except for the tree. Sitting in the silence I'd squint my eyes until all of the lights (which were colored, of course) blended together into one shiny blob of Christmas happiness.
Tonight, with the help of our just-turned-2 (!!!) year old babygirl, we continued an old tradition with our new family with a coffee table full of tasty treats and some shiny (also new) ornaments for our little tree. Most of the ornaments are only about 36 inches off of the ground (and we watched Dora's Christmas Carol rather than listening to Christmas Carols) but the tree is just as beautiful and the evening just as magical.
In honor of appetizers of Christmas Tree-Trimmings past, I combined two of my favorite dips into one ridiculously sinful pan of joy. You can serve this with toasted bread, cut veggies and tortilla chips but it is also just as good with only a spoon. I'm hoping to sneak one more nibble of it just before bed, with only the Christmas tree lights for company...
Also Known As,
Hot Artichoke, Crab and Spinach Dip
1 8 oz. tub whipped cream cheese
1/2 low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack
1/4 cup shredded Parmeson
1-10 oz can artichokes in brine, drained and chopped
1/2 10 oz. bag frozen spinach, thawed and well strained
1-6 oz can crab, drained
3 green onions, white parts only, finely sliced
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
dash or three of Tabasco
2 T shredded Parmeson
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly oil a 9 in pie plate.
Combine the cream cheese and sour cream together in a large bowl. Mix well. Stir in the cheeses, artichokes, spinach, crab, green onions, lemon juice, garlic salt*, mustard and a few (or more) dashes of Tabasco. Mix everything together well but don't stress over it. It's hard to mess this up. (Feel free to grab a spoon at this point for a wee taste of it while it's cold. You won't be sorry.)
Spread the whole, delicious mixture into the pie plate and even out the top a bit with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Use more if you feel like it.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Crank the heat up to 375 and bake 15 minutes longer or until the top is browned.
If you can stand the wait, let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
*Note: Seriously. Garlic Salt. This is supposed to be quick and easy so you can get to the decorating (okay, eating) part faster. I wouldn't screw it up by dealing with a sticky mess of minced garlic. Just saying...